15 December 2008

The dark side of “The Cloud”

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George Oates
Increasingly our personal records and social lives are being privatised, with normal people having very little recourse when these private services are being cancelled or the companies themselves disappear (as most companies eventually do).

Currently the country where I live (Italy) is in advanced stages of Facebook hype, with people entrusting large sections of their social lives and personal archives to a private company, which is not even profitable.

Putting your personal or corporate resources on a private company’s website therefore requires a leap of faith, which many are uncomfortable making.

Flickr is a much beloved private company, which was bought by Yahoo! in 2005. The site contains over 2 billion photographs and many, many “Web 2.0” implementations with people tagging, friending and linking to each other.

The highly respected Library of Congress took notice and decided to launch a highly successful Flickr Commons project, run by senior program manager George Oates, one of the site’s first employees before Yahoo’s 2005 acquisition.

The aim of Flickr Commons is to increase access to publicly-held photography collections, and to provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge.

The Library of Congress was exceptionally pleased about the pilot project, and even published a report on its success.

But a few days ago George Oates got downsized (i.e. she got fired), with no one ready in the wings to step into the running of the Flickr Commons relationships.

It makes you think.

My personal archive is now backed up on Apple’s Time Machine. What does that mean in terms of access in 10, 15, 20 years? I frankly have no idea.

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