Trevor Stone (flwyd) wrote,
Trevor Stone

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And then you find / Ten years have got behind

LiveJournal emailed me "What was on your mind 10 years ago?" because apparently #10yearschallenge is a social media thing. LJ then self-answered by quoting the post I wrote on Obama's inauguration day, "They Still Call it the White House, But That's a Temporary Condition" with links to thematic P-Funk and James Brown songs on YouTube (which are remarkably all still up and still have low-thousands of views, ten years later). The Obama administration was significantly less of a soul party than I'd been hoping, but that's a blog post for another day. My next post was on February 2nd to remind everyone of Shadow Boxing Day on February 3rd, a tradition I still try to keep.

I was already ahead of LiveJournal in the "What was I doing ten years ago" game, though.

I finally got the motivation to organize my decade and a half of digital photos into a modern web presence. This was instigated by Flickr's upcoming limits on free accounts now that they're part of small-internet-company SmugMug rather than we-somehow-still-have-loads-of-cash Verizon Oath neé Yahoo. [Ironically, the last time I was surveying the landscape of photo sharing options and wishing that Yahoo had invested in Flickr rather than letting it slide from "almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world" to "a social networking site for photographers that most people forgot about" several folks had suggested SmugMug.] After exploring the state of Flickr and reading the tea leaves about SmugMug's plans for the site, I realized that SmugMug itself was probably a better fit for "Here's all the interesting photos I've ever taken, organized into time and place" and a free Flickr account might be better suited to sharing photos I've taken that stand well on their own, distinct from a travelogue.

So thus it was that I found myself spending much of my January free time organizing fifteen and a half years of photographs. And thus it was that I noticed how much more focused on getting out and doing stuff I was in 2009.

Ten years ago this month I was working to improve the state of the entity name recognition code I'd written for Tyler-Eagle and handing it off to a coworker. I then quit my job (in the midst of the worst recession in over half a century, remember) to travel for two months in Central America, and hit three festivals and three national parks over the rest of the summer and then got a job at Google. And while it's easy to get nostalgic about that time you quit your job and spent six months having fun, the photos also provided evidence that even when I had a job, I spent more time hiking in the foothills, going for walks during the golden hour, snapping pictures of sunsets, and going to drum circles. Over the last nine years I haven't prioritized these as much, which made me sad. My social life over the last nine years has been dominated by work and Burning Man (and more recently climate activism), which are big and meaningful and fun, but also kind of exhausting. I need to change this.

I also got a feeling that the world is less fun than it was ten years ago, and not just because I'm in my late 30s instead of my late 20s. It feels like there's less cool stuff happening (though I don't use Facebook, which is probably where people find out about interesting events in the twenty teens). And the general sense of techno-optimism has turned into a collective future outlook of techno dystopia. I've long imagined running a Cyberpunk 2020 game in the year 2020. Now that we're almost there, I think it's interesting that the corporate dominance part of the story is more accurate than the technical advances that create the setting.

So hey, let's all remember some of the future we were hoping for in January of 2009 and see if we can't still create some of that.

Post script: Flickr was part of that techno-optimistic future vision ten years ago. Share your work with people around the world! Global search and discovery! Use a Creative Commons license if you want! Robust APIs and RSS feeds! Metadata and mashups! But then they missed the big future transformation: billions of people were about to have pocket computers with a camera and an Internet connection. Yet Flickr was stuck in a self-conception that most photos are taken by photographers because photographers are the primary users of cameras, so they didn't try to make a Flickr app that was "Almost certainly the best way to share what you capture with your phone." And they missed the insight that, for many people, who you share with is a more important axis than the media type you share. (I also suspect that MBAs at Yahoo! had already underallocated headcount to projects like Flickr with significant growth potential, so even if they'd seen this shift coming they would've been poorly resourced to adapt.)

LiveJournal also felt like part of that open techno future ten years ago. When I've occasionally gone LJ history digging, 2008/2009 seemed to be when LiveJournal hit its peak, at least in my friends network. I think most folks joined Facebook around 2009 and eventually stopped participating on LiveJournal by 2011. And the way Facebook has evolved is definitely not the optimistic techno future that I had in mind… though they'll make a good Megacorp in a Cyberpunk 2020 game.

This entry was originally posted at – comment over there.

Tags: #10yearschallenge, decade, flickr, internet, personal, photograph, reflection, retrospective, social, technology
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