Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Recently beloved SL builder Cory Edo had her Flickr account severely restricted due to violations of their TOS. She must have done something wrong, right? According to Flickr she did, but it's something that almost every other designer, blogger, and photographer in SL is doing wrong too because the rules that she broke aren't exactly shared openly by Flickr to begin with.
So what happened here, and what can you do to keep it from happening to you? If you post ads for your virtual products or services (or any products or services) on Flickr keep reading, for the sake of your pics and your business!
Cory Edo shared the above image on her Flickr after the debacle began, when Flickr abruptly restricted access to her account. It should be pretty common knowledge at this point that you're not supposed to link directly to a sales site in a picture's description, but there's a lot more to Flickr's no-commerce policy than they've openly let on, and it applies to both paid and free accounts equally. In her plurk on the issue, Cory clarifies that "according Flickr forums (because I couldn't get a straight answer from support after two requests), its not enough to not link to a sales site - you can't have pricing, you can't link to your blog."
And you can bet that covers SLURLs too.
For that matter, these rules may affect more than just designers. Cory continues, "I was told that linking to my wordpress blog (that I do not sell anything from directly) was still advertising. Bloggers usually link to the stores that they're featuring, sooo..." She's right. Plenty of bloggers will link to a designer's blog, the SL Marketplace, or give SLURLs right in the description of their picture -- even outfit notes, a list of every item being worn by a model, could be construed as advertising. Or simply naming your store or a store in general. And lets not forget about photographers (SL and otherwise) soliciting commissions on Flickr.
Now, Luna Zenovka has pointed out an interesting loophole in Flickr's slightly vague rules, claiming that "you can list you[sic] vendor photo without pricing or location for if you say in the description/comments/details that it is vendor are." If you truly love Flickr that's a good option... But it's not exactly a solution either. Wouldn't it be better to just find a platform where you could share links to your blog or your store (so that, you know, someone could find you) without the threat of losing your account, for example? Flickr's advantage is that it's packed with SLers, but with a majority of them actively (and innocently) breaking the TOS every day, maybe it's time that we all find an alternative?
Flickr has a few features that make it stand out for SLers: Groups, galleries, favorites, and being able to easily follow and keep track of your favorite folks as they post new work. Very few other services have all of those features, but there are two that come close (and both are far less restrictive.)
Tumblr is technically a blogging platform, but there are several free layouts available that are ideal for image-gallery style pages. People with Tumblr accounts can favorite posts, share posts they like, follow other users to have their content streamed right to their Tumblr dashboard, and even ask Formspring-style questions. Although not every layout allows comments on your posts, most do.
It's been a popular forum with teens for awhile, but it's seeing increased mainstream acceptance and exposure these days, and even real life fashion companies have started using Tumblr commercially and engaging with its community. Though it didn't originally have a large SL presence, many more SL-friendly Tumblrs have been popping up lately.
Pinterest is the super-sleek pin-board-style sharing service that tons of women (and some men) on the internet are in love with. It's geared towards posting and sharing content, even content from online shops with prices and all. Users can sort their pins onto boards -- like "Dresses", "Shoes", "Housewares", etc., and when you follow someone you can opt to follow all of their boards or just the specific ones you like most. You can comment, favorite, repost, or visit the source. Generally on Pinterest clicking an image will take you right to the link that it came from, and Pinning images you want to share is as easy as a couple clicks in your browser. It's a very elegant and streamlined solution that would be ideal for designers who also use a blog to share their brand. Pinterest is a bit more shopper-friendly than it is seller-friendly and their policy towards sharing your own items may change, but as it is now it's still significantly more open than Flickr.
On both Tumblr and Pinterest, sharing work that you like with other people is ridiculously easy and seamless compared to the rather useless sharing features on Flickr (and yes, both of them have apps.) But unless there is a major shift in where the SL community at large wants to be most of us will probably cling to Flickr for as long as possible, even if the service is ill-suited to our needs.
If you still want to use Flickr to share your virtual goods, spend some time with their Best Practices page to try to prevent potential problems... But please, take a look at Tumblr and Pinterest too. It's not easy to take that first step away from what's familiar and comfortable to you, but you might find yourself somewhere infinitely better if you do.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.