Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Creepy Guys on Flickr

One of the few ugly things about Flickr, or any type of photo-sharing service, is the creepy guy.

I know several folks who have encountered creepy guys when posting pictures of people. And I myself have posted a few pictures (including one picture of a very athletic guy) that have attracted unwelcome attention.

My comments are going to be oriented towards dealing with this on Flickr. I assume other photo-sharing sites have similar problems and features.

The problems are:

1. Ewwww!
2. The subject's mother looks at the picture and then looks at the people who have favorited the picture or made comments. She gets massively offended and freaks out. Back to ewwww!
3. It violates the implicit trust the subject has put in you, the photographer. They don't want those creepy guys around. Again, ewwww!

Identifying the creepy guys

1. They sometimes make it really easy. I once had a guy comment on a picture and his name was "fetishwink." Duh. It's more likely that the name will not be unusual, but he will make a comment or place a note on the picture that is in some way sleazy. You've identified a creepy guy.

2. If he comments on or favorites a picture, have a look at his photostream and profile. The photostream may display some creepiness. And the profile will show other pictures he's favorited. Look for a pattern. Look at his contacts and what groups he belongs to - creepy guys like to hang out together.

Profiles can be interesting. I've come across more than a few guys who had normal, snapshotty types of pictures in their photostreams, but the groups they belonged to were...unpleasant. I don't think creepy guys are terribly smart, and they may not realize that the profile shows these things. You wonder what their families think when they look at their Flickr pages.

What do you do?

1. Whenever someone comments on a picture that you would consider creepyguyable, check out the person - look at their photostream, favorites, contacts, and the groups they belong to.

2. Block them if they're creepy. On their profile page, you'll see a link that says Block this person. Click and then confirm that you want to block them. By doing this, you will remove all of their comments and notes from all of your pictures, and remove any favorites they've made. It takes Flickr a few minutes to do this, so don't worry if the effect is not immediate. Blocking prevents them from doing any of those things in the future.

Please note that blocking doe not prevent them from seeing any of your pictures, but by removing the comments and favorites, they won't be able to easily relocate your pictures.

Before you block, read number 3.

3. If they're really creepy, consider reporting them for abuse. This link is WAY down at the bottom of their profile page. If you choose this path, do not block them! The Flickr staff have to be able to see the abusive behavior, so you need to leave the sleazy comments and notes, at least until the matter has been resolved. Blocking removes those things, so don't block the person yet.

Preventing the creepy guy problem, or at least mitigating it

1. Post a picture that is no larger than 500 pixels on the longest side. This lets people see the picture (which is the point of a photo-sharing service), but makes it less interesting to the creepy guy because it's so small. By the way, I've read about hacks that allow people to see larger sizes, even if you have set things up so that people can't see them. So only upload a 500 pixel picture.

2. Consider putting a sizable watermark on the picture...not just one in the corner, but at least one more in the middle of the picture. See the pictures below.

3. Never provide any identifying information. Other than fellow Flickrers, I almost never identify the person in any of my photos, other than with an occasional first name.

4. Consider whether you want to use tags that might attract the creepy guys, like cheerleaders, teen, girl, etc. You know what I'm talking about. Obviously, you may want to use them, but recognize what the tags will attract. And be prepared to take the action as discussed above.

Shamu and Friend

For example, this picture has received over 2,000 hits. When I started writing this article, I happened to come across it in another search. I discovered that one of the reasons for all of the views is that people are searching for wetsuit and girl. Makes you wonder doesn't it?

5. As mentioned above, whenever someone comments or faves one of your creepyguyable pictures, quickly research the person's profile and block if necessary.

6. Make the picture private - viewable only by friends, family or friends and family. This limits the fun because it's nice to get comments from new folks. But it is safe.

7. Make the image public for only a short time, say two weeks. Then make it private. This lets the public see the picture, but only for a short time.

It's not really a general solution, but it may give you some ideas. I administer a group on Flickr called West Suburban Chicago Flickrers. People join the group at a manageable enough pace that I can review all of the new members pretty quickly after they join. I take a look at their profiles to check the things I've mentioned above. If they're creepy, they don't get to stay in WSCF. If you belong to a group like that, you can add private pictures to the group and only members of the group can see them. And since creepy guys can't be in the group, you have a measure of protection.

This is all very depressing. Let's brighten thinks up around here. Flickr is supposed to be a happy place!

Autumn Fairy Makes Memories

But it's good to know where the potholes are.

Jim Frazier

COPYRIGHT 2010 by Jim Frazier All Rights Reserved. This may NOT be used for ANY reason without consent. See www.jimfrazier.com for more information.


Scott Lewis said...

You realize I now have to go through my images again to resize and watermark now? All because of ewwww!

Jim said...

Sorry about that. Something to do on a cold, winter night. ;-)