BP has ordered staff to stop manipulating photographs of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill response, as the row over its public relations campaign intensifies. The oil giant was forced to issue new guidelines to staff to “refrain from doing (sic) cutting-and-pasting” after several official company images were found to have been doctored. BP admitted on Thursday that it “Photoshopped” some of its official images that were posted on its website and vowed to stop the embarrassing practice. For the second time in two days, the company was identified to have doctored images posted on its official website that were supposed to show how it was responding to the oil crisis in America. In the latest image, a photo taken inside a company helicopter appeared to show it flying off the coast near the damaged Deepwater Horizon rig. But it was later shown to be faked after internet bloggers identified several problems with the poorly produced image that contradicted the appearance that it was flying. The image was posted on the official BP website but later removed. It has since been posted to the company’s official Flickr account under the heading “BP altered images, which also includes a further two faked pictures. The disclosures have created further embarrassment for the oil giant and is the latest blunder to hit the company.
Flipboard, a start-up that is unveiling its iPad app on Wednesday, builds a personalized magazine full of updates, photos and articles shared by a reader’s friends or by people they choose to follow on Twitter and Facebook. Soon it plans to incorporate material from other sources, such as Flickr, Foursquare, Yelp and perhaps e-mail messages and attachments. “It’s something print figured out years ago, how to visually declutter,” said Mike McCue, chief executive of Flipboard who founded the company with Evan Doll, a former iPhone engineer at Apple. When people visit Facebook or Twitter today, they see a long list of status updates, often with shortened links on Twitter or a thumbnail photograph on Facebook. Twitter in particular has never been especially aesthetically pleasing and its founders have spoken about the need to make it more accessible and easy to navigate. Flipboard arranges status update so they look like pull quotes and it prominently displays photographs. Instead of a link to an article, Flipboard shows its first few paragraphs. People can comment, just like they can on the social network, and if they want to dig deeper into an article or a user’s account, they connect to that Web page. Eventually, Flipboard will also have advertisements that are reminiscent of print, Mr. McCue said. Flipboard also plans to make money by offering certain content in exchange for micropayments or subscriptions and sharing the revenue with the publisher. Flipboard also announced Wednesday that it has raised USD 10.5m from investors.
Flickr has given a makeover to the layout of its site’s photo display page, making the default picture size larger, revamping the navigation scheme and consolidating capabilities and information under fewer menus and sections. The overall goal of the changes is to improve the photo-sharing experience and approximate it as much as possible to the real-life scenario of showing friends or family one’s latest pictures in person, said Tara Kirchner, head of marketing at Flickr. Users will find that photo metadata, such as the photographer’s name, the camera’s make and model, the picture location and the time it was taken, is now more prominently displayed. The navigation controls have been rearranged to make it easier for people to flip through photos, geotag them and access other albums, photo sets and groups. Some key capabilities have been packaged under a new Actions menu, including the ability to add tags and notes, identify a person, and place the photo in a specific gallery. Flickr, owned by Yahoo for the past five years, drew 85.6 million unique visitors and almost 200 million visits in May, according to comScore. The site has 50 million registered members, who upload about 3 million photos and videos every day, according to Yahoo. There are 4 billion photos and videos stored on Flickr.
Flickr’s 40 million registered users are being given the chance to make money out of their snaps. For the two years, Getty Images has tapped into more than 100,000 photos taken by professional and semi-pro photographers who post on the site. Now the doors are being opened to all Flickr users as Getty takes advantage of a library of four billion pictures. Neither Getty nor Flickr were forthcoming about actual rates saying they vary from job to job but are industry standard. It is generally thought the average rate for an image is between USD 150- USD 240. The agreement extends one that has been in place for the last year with photo library Getty. Under that deal, Getty built up its stock or archive photography base with pictures taken by pros or semi-pros posting on Flickr. These were then sold on to the firm’s commercial clients and photographers were paid the industry commission rate when their images were used. Users wanting to take part in the project will be asked to opt-in to the scheme.
Yahoo and Facebook are to tie their services closer together. The tie-up means people with a presence on both sites can have updates to one service mirrored to the other. It also means that it will get easier for users of Yahoo’s other services, such as Flickr, to share what they do with friends on Facebook. Alongside the Facebook deal goes an overhaul of Yahoo’s Profile service to make it easier for people to control what they share. The deal means that people who maintain profiles on Yahoo and Facebook can link the two pages and cross-pollinate both with one update. It will also mean that those who use Flickr, Yahoo Answers or the social site’s video and music services can pipe any media or data they create to friends who use only Facebook. The account linking deal deepens the relationship that Facebook and Yahoo struck in 2009. That made it easier for people to build a contacts book that spanned both services. The refresh of Profile will see it re-named Yahoo Pulse. It will also get improved privacy controls so users can fine tune who gets to see their updates or view the media they put on the web.
Pakistan has blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube indefinitely in a bid to contain “blasphemous” material, officials said on Thursday. The blockade came after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directed Internet service providers to block access to social network site Facebook indefinitely on Wednesday because of an online competition to draw the Prophet Mohammad. Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims. Wahaj-us-Siraj, the CEO of Nayatel, an Internet service provider, said the PTA issued an order late on Wednesday seeking an “immediate” block on YouTube, which is owned Internet giant Google. YouTube was also blocked in the Muslim country in 2007 for about a year for what Pakistan called un-Islamic videos. Some other websites, including Wikipedia and Flickr, have been inaccessible in Pakistan since Wednesday night. But the authority’s spokesman said those sites had been blocked for technical reasons and no orders had been issued against them.
In July 2005, Clay Shirky, one of the web’s leading thinkers and a professor at New York University, kicked off a talk at the TED conference in which he asked a simple question: “How do groups get anything done?”
The simplicity of the question veiled how radical his answer would be.
In a talk that would best described as prescient, Shirky outlined how the traditional model of group activity, that is institutions, will be supplanted by a more inclusive, nimble model based on collaboration.
To makes sense of that, let’s back up a bit and take a look at some of elements. The institutions that Shirky was talking about that summer are the classic public and private institutions that spring to mind when you think of government departments or corporations; large monolithic organizations, often with layers of management and bureaucracy.
So how to institutions like these get anything done? As Shirky explained it, they hire a bunch people that understand how to do what needs to be done, and go about doing it. For hundreds of years this model has worked just fine. In fact, it forms the framework of the capitalist economy.
But it is beginning to erode.
Now with the advent of the internet and the dramatic drop in the costs of communication a new model has emerged. And it is both more efficient and more inclusive than the old model, in fact it even threatens the existence of the old model.
The new model is based on collaboration.
In his presentation at TED, Shirky used the example of Flickr, the photo sharing site, but there are hundreds of similar examples sprouting up today, and I’d like to focus on one that is particularly relevant to anyone living in just about any city in the world.
How do you get a pothole fixed?
If you’re trying to fix potholes, the first thing you need to do if to find the potholes that need to be fixed. So how do you do that?
The classic response to that would be that you organize a municipal department, give it a fancy name, say the Municipal Department of Pothole Vigilance and Remediation, hire a bunch of people and give them their marching orders; troll around the city and find potholes that need to be fixed.
But there’s an inherent problem with this model. The problem is that it’s exclusionary; when you create an your pothole department, you have to limit access. You can’t hire everybody. So in order to focus your efforts, you have to pick and choose between between people who can find and fix a pothole, you have to select some and reject others, in short you have to create an exclusionary institution.
The problem with exclusionary institutions is that very often they get their priorities mixed up. So once you’ve hired all those pothole fixers, put them in a room together and set them to the task, their first priority is no longer finding and fixing potholes. It’s making sure the institutions survives – making sure they keep their jobs. “One of the first things that happens when you institutionalize a problem is that the first goal of the institution immediately shifts from whatever the nominal goal was to self preservation,” Shirky said.
That problem is a paradox of institutions. But there are other problems too. There’s management problems, you have to manage your employees, there’s legal problems, accounting problems, and even physical problems – you need an office for all your employees, you need phone lines and washrooms, pensions, unions, equipment, uniforms. It goes on and on. In short the act of creating institutions bakes in a lot of overhead into the process.
But the internet, and more specifically advances in the way we collaborate and communicate has lead to a different approach.
Instead of having an army of pothole fixers trolling the city looking for potholes to fix, some cities like New York for example, are turning this task over to residents.
In New York, residents with a smart phone can submit select quality-of-life complaints, like a pothole that needs fixing, with a photo, to a 311 service, which will be able to identify the location of the complaint based on the phone’s GPS locator, and then, hopefully, send someone to fix it.
The different approaches illustrate what Shirky calls the difference between and institutional approach and collaborative approach.
In the collaborative approach, the pothole fixers don’t have to troll around trying to find potholes to fix. The resident do that. And they get nothing in return. The residents don’t get paid, they don’t get uniforms or pensions or offices. In fact they don’t get much of anything. The inefficiencies in the institutional approach have been stripped out of the process. And yet they contribute to the process simply because they want the potholes on their streets fixed.
The efficiencies are obvious. But there are other advantages as well, once the process of finding potholes has been moved to collaborative structure from an institutional structure you’ve dramatically increased your field of vision. Now instead of having say twenty employees trying to find potholes, there are potentially millions of residents doing the same thing. The system is based not on the high performance of a handful of employees finding lots of potholes, but on the low performance of hundreds and even thousands of contributors doing little things, like finding one pothole. It’s like aggregating rain drops to create a river.
So the next time you’re asking yourself ‘How am I going to get this done?’ You may want to give some thought to using a collaborative approach to the problem, and keep an eye out for the potholes.
Editor Notes – why stop at potholes? Once local people see how this works you can include: grafitti, fly tipping, sex or drugs litter, vandalism – the list is endless. This’ll stop councils trying to find grandiose schemes that no one wants to justify their existence and get them starting to think how to solve real problems in people’s lives at minimal cost in near real time