If the Digg HD-DVD encryption key fiasco taught us anything, it’s that you can’t make rash top-down decisions and expect your community to be okay with it.
But, it seems Flickr (or it’s parent company Yahoo!) has been very heavy handed with Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, a prominent photographer in the community. Rebekka found that a company was stealing her photographs and selling them through their website and eBay. She posted to Flickr about it, and gathered hundreds of comments. However the Flickr Staff have seen fit to delete that photograph, giving the reason
Flickr is not a venue for to you harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others. If we receive a valid complaint about your conduct, we will send you a warning or terminate your account..
Never mind that there weren’t any threats made by Rebekka at all, it seems Flickr got a little pressure from some lawyers about the public humiliation of a company and decided to blindly follow it rather than risk legal action. This is a sure fire way to drive a community to the edge, picking a company/lawyers over them when clearly the community is in the right and the company is wrong.
Flickr has since apologised for it’s rash decision to delete the photograph, although unlike Rebekka, I view this as no amends for it’s actions. My opinion of the Flickr Staff and Yahoo! have been reduced substantially, and I will probably not recommend their services as eagerly as I did before. This is not the end of Flickr by any means 1 and I hope it will continue to thrive and improve. But most of all, I hope it learns that you must respect your users and the community, and realises that while it may be relatively easy to get users and build a community, but make one wrong move and it might just come crashing down on you.