The way things used to be
According to some flickr forum discussions (where others are reporting similar occurrences) Yahoo/flickr has known about this particular culprit for a year or so. And they’ve failed to implement sufficient countermeasures, technical or otherwise.
Phishing typically targets banking and PayPal information, obviously for financial gain. In my case, someone left a comment on a photo, with a link. And clicking on that link led me to this sad situation. Why did Yahoo let someone post a link that was harmful?
Sure, the forums are also filled with smug posts (not from the flickr staff; they have been instructed to use a soothing tone, while not providing any resolution) from people who insist that the victims of these scams are to blame for not knowing better. I would have thought I did know better, actually.
This miscreant deleted my account, just for fun. And Yahoo can’t restore it. We all know there are backup copies all over the place, but they can only recreate my account, blank.
That means that my 5000 photos are gone. Those I can upload. But all the people I’ve linked to are gone (I’ve spent a few hours trying to reconnect with those I can remember). Anyone who watched my photos via their contacts has lost me (and I’ve lost much of my audience). All the photos that were marked by others are gone. All the groups which I participated in by contributing illustrative images are gone. All the titles, tags, geotags, view counts and comments are gone. All the descriptions and stories and dialog with others is gone.
My document, my story, my part of the community, is gone.
But the whole social media movement that we can’t ever stop hearing about is asking us to contribute content to their websites; we’re building the value for them. YouTube wouldn’t sell for $1.65 billion without our videos. Flickr has our photos. LiveJournal has our stories and pictures.
But is it ours? Do we know who owns it? If the data is on our hard drive, we know where it is, we may even take the trouble to back it up (I’ve got an external backup at work, at home, and online). But if the data is on someone else’s site, how can I keep a copy of it? It may be against the site rules for you to do that, in fact, as the high profile Scoble story demonstrated.
flickrbackup is a tool that lets you save the photos, but how does one download all the metadata? Flickr should have an export feature that creates a .flk file on your PC with all the good stuff. LinkedIn lets you export all your contacts in a variety of standard formats (and if you are nervous, maybe you should go do that right now: LinkedIn->My Contacts tab->Export Connections button near bottom), Google Reader (and any of the other RSS readers I know of) exports an OPML file (Google Reader->Manage Subscriptions ->Import/Export).
DataPortability is a movement to create these tools where they don’t exist. I hope someone creates something for flickr soon.
As for me, I don’t know how to proceed. I was just beginning my Tokyo story, which reached about 1500 pictures (not all worth posting, of course). I’ve got several hundred from Taipei (November/December) and I had a lot of Bali pictures and stories – the cool cultural stuff, the signs, all that great stuff – still unposted. But I’ve also use flickr as a storage for images that I’ve referenced in bios, conference presentations, this blog, other blogs, etc. It’s overwhelming and I don’t know what to do first. Or if I should even do anything. I can’t imagine going to the trouble of writing stuff only to have it disappear again. Maybe one should see it as ephemeral, but I am not there yet.