Aug 30, 2005

Flickr, Yahoo!, and 'The Koolaid Point'

Wired News is running a story that lots of folks are linking to and talking about: Flickr Fans to Yahoo: Flick Off! "A splinter faction of Flickr photo-sharing community members is threatening a symbolic 'mass suicide' to protest closer integration with the website's new owner, Yahoo."

Some people scoff and say the users are just too complainy and they should use a different photo sharing site if they don't like it. Others might try to dream up the *perfect* ID switching system that nobody could ever possibly find fault with. They are both wrong.

These users are what Kathy Sierra calls "passionate detractors" and they are a sign of success. "If you create passionate users, you have to expect passionate detractors. You should welcome their appearance in blogs, forums, and user groups. It means you've arrived. Forget the tipping point--if you want to measure passion, look for the koolaid point."

Steward Butterfield published answers to the burning questions about Flickr and Yahoo! IDs at the official Flickr blog. Anyone planning on attempting an ID switchover similar to that of Flickr and Yahoo! need not jump through additional engineering hoops or insult passionate users. The answer can be found in Stewart's simple observation: "We screwed up in not having better answers and a better explanation up before the changes went live ... if you don't know why it is happening or how it works, it is easy to let your imagination run wild and come up with a pretty bad scenario."

A better explanation in advance. It's not fancy, but it just might do the trick.