The Web Giveth…

Earlier I posted about what I called “the Age of TMI“. The world is busy pouring their heart and soul out into publicly hosted websites such as MySpace, Flickr, WordPress, Blogspot — you name it.

But what happens when you cross a line that the site hosting your particular accumulation of TMI doesn’t care for? What happens if your site accidentally deletes your account, or suffers an outage and can’t restore your information?

Imagine your life’s thoughts, your pictures, your list of friends, obliterated without notice, without recourse, and in some cases without even a backup in case a mistake was made.

What happens when your particular Web 2.0 personality site goes out of business? Or in the case of users on PhotoNet, what happens when your account suddenly disappears, because you don’t see eye-to-eye with the new management?

Consider the case of Rose & Olive, whose Flickr account containing years of photos and thoughts about their photos disappeared without notice. Rose & Olive made controversial pictures – but had for a long time, creating traffic for Flickr along the way, and making many friends and contacts. They were not warned, they were not notified in any way — one day their account was simply deleted. When they asked if they could at least archive what was on their account so that they could move to another site they were told that their account was permanently gone and that Flickr could not retrieve it.

Now – I can’t speak to the question of whether Rose & Olive deserved to be turfed – but the poor quality of the deprovisioning processes are striking.

What responsibility do Web 2.0 companies have to provide recourse to users who have been disabled or deleted? How about portability? And is there a difference between voluntary portability (ie quitting a site but retaining your content) and involuntary portability (ie getting kicked out of a site, but having your content tossed out after you, to do with what you wish)?

On a more personal note, in writing this entry I was directed to this portrait.  I was surprised at the emotions it brought out in me. The story behind the photo is heartbreaking. The discussion around ‘flagging’ a photo (an action that could lead to deprovisioning of the photographer’s account) is also interesting. I think that this is an example of the depth and quality that community sites can have in our society, as long as we allow the controversial to exist and to affect us, one way or the other.

4 thoughts on “The Web Giveth…

  1. Pam,
    You bring up a great point that we should have some level of assurance that our on-line property (photos, videos, email, contacts, calendars, blogs, lists, etc.) will be reasonably protected by the service providers.
    Web 2.0 service providers should provide a standard set of assurances, or assurance levels, for things like:
    – Access Control
    – Protection against corruption/destruction
    – Portability
    – Typical Availability
    – Availability after relationship is terminated
    Is this an opportunity for creating “The LAWS of SERVICE” similar to The LAWS of IDENTITY?

  2. Without sounding too cavalier, isn’t this just another example of nothing is really free and people have to look out for themselves because nobody else (or at best, few others) will?

    Maybe all of our happy, fuzzy, warm and cuddly web 2.0 companies are just heartless, for profit bastards after all that will bough to the whim of the moral majority. ;-)

  3. Dave,

    I’d like to think that you can be warm and cuddly and still make a profit. In fact, I also have this idea that it would be more profitable to *treat* your users as if the content were the most important thing (instead of the ads), the extra respect that a Web 2.0 company might give a user around Odin’s “LAWS OF SERVICE” would correlate into extra loyalty, and therefore into more ad views, and therefore extra profit.

    (yes, I know – that’s why I’m the eternal optimist…)

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