Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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976 words on

Dr. Zoidberg Now Zoidberg is the popular one, to quote my favourite lobster who had the vision to see the importance of ‘popularity’ as we know it on the web today. Whatever you do on the second Web needs to be ‘popular’ or ‘interesting’ (i.e. ‘popular 2.0’, the re-branding of an old label for the new time) and it needs to display some number to reflect that.

But to be honest, so far these numbers haven’t been too good to me. The most ‘popular’ pages on this site, for example, tend to be those which due to the whims or incompetence of Google happen to make it to the top of their search results and thus direct people to the most pointless and least interesting pages of this site. That’s a bit depressing.

Or look at my flickr account. Obviously I think it contains at least some rather nice pictures. But the ‘popularity’ of those pictures has very little to do with the beauty of those pictures. It’s more about adding many tags to them (my impression is that the ‘geotagged’ tag alone will give 50-100 extra viewers on the first day) or adding them to groups. Of course this isn’t really surprising and it could be argued that it’s ‘just as in real life’, but it’s still somewhat disappointing.

Last week I posted my smallest, dumbest and ugliest picture on Flickr so far. It’s not even a photo and looks like this:

Nikon ad in my metadata on Flickr

It has also become one of my most ‘popular’ images on the site. And that’s just because its ugliness is worth a good old geeky discussion which Chris was good enough to take to the public. And then we get people analysing who is seeing what when and where. Which for sure is interesting but mostly missing the point to me.

Somehow that image which differs by a few pixels and for some users from the image you would have seen in the same place a few days before manages to summarise many of the things that go wrong on the web. Flickr is a reasonably handy photo sharing site which is nice and simple (and which even fit in my browser window before they switched to their amusingly named γ layout). They need to earn money from their users’ content and so they’ll for sure welcome sponsoring by camera companies. It just makes sense.

And in my inner eye I now see marketing and advertising ‘executives’ together with some ‘creative types’   gathering and coming up with the clever plan to put up links to Nikon along any photo taken with a Nikon camera. And this isn’t even a bad idea. If you see that many pictures you like are taken with a certain type of camera, you may be more inclined to buy that one. You might be interested in learning more about that camera or see more photos taken with it. I.e. there are plenty of possibilities to use the data gathered by Flickr to the benefit of both the camera manufacturer and the user.

Great, isn’t it? It certainly could be. But as usual it’s not what the advertising and creative types ended up doing. Instead, they (A) offer a pointless visual distraction and (B) refuse to make their ad useful in any way:

(A) The icon Nikon puts there is much larger than it needs to be. And it’s yellow. You see, Flickr is white, blue and pink, so what is the yellow doing there? Ah, it’s the current logo colour of Nikon… but to me it looks as if that colour were in any way important for Nikon… it’s more like the colour of the year.

Very few companies have colour associated with them: Coca-Cola is red, Deutsche Telekom (aka T-Mobile or T-Whatnot) hijacked magenta and I even faintly remember Kodak being yellow and red. But Nikon? Well I’d associate black or grey or silver with them. Because, um, that’s what cameras look like. And judging from their D-70s they might have a weakness for red lately. But yellow? Nope. What’s the point of that? If it’s too ugly to but on their cameras shouldn’t it be too ugly for me to see on a website as well? Somebody kick those people’s butts please.

(B) Flickr have all the information you could dream of. They know the exact camera the photo was taken with. Thus – if they gave a rat’s ass, or if they were prepared to do their homework at least – they could hook Flickr users up with a web page specifically about the camera they might have been interested in. Highlighting all the goodies of it. But what do they do instead? They send you to Flash hell with pointless ads (they didn’t even have Kate Moss on there anymore the last time I checked…)

In particular that site will – particularly in the long term – be completely irrelevant to the photo where you found the link to it since advertising websites tend to have the broken feature of pushing the latest and greatest at the cost of hiding (or even deleting) information about whatever was hot two months ago. That’s not very helpful.

And – as illustrated in my screenshot – the full intelligence of IT workers was used by Flickr and Nikon to give me a link to a flash page on cameras when I was viewing what looked like an ad for a scanner. Errr, right. What was the point of that supposed to be? No more than to let me know that they want my money by being ugly and unhelpful? (Which incidentally just sounds like the concept of traditional German retail stores…)

So, yup it sucks. But it’s extra painful here as so many chances to do something reasonable and potentially helpful within the advertising were missed.

May 24, 2006, 0:00

Tagged as software.

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