ComMetrics weekly review: 3 cloud computing lessons for bloggers

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2011/02/07 · 23 comments 9,886 views

in e marketing 101 style matters,social media diary,white papers research,z uncategorized

The original story is below, while details about the updates can be found at the bottom.

    2011-04-21 – Update – Amazon EC2 services  – the outage of Amazon’s cloud services!

Whether you use Gmail, Picasa, Facebook, Tumblr or any other software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS, pronounced eye-arse) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS, pronounced parse), using cloud computing requires proper risk assessment and management.

Image - tweet from @ComMetrics - Pay Flickr: German photographer's 4000 fotos deleted http://su.pr/30g2nK AND http://su.pr/1ewcXI #Risk #Cloudcomputing  So what happened? This week saw another case in which a user agreement was used to close an account without much recourse for that individual. We discuss this in more detail below.

    Flickr fails customer relationship management 101

This week, Zurich photoblogger Mirco Wilhelm discovered that Flickr had deleted about 4000 photos from his account. Here is some background:

    1. Mirco Wilhelm has been a premium Flickr subscriber for over five years (costs $24.95 a year).
    2. Mr Wilhelm had previously submitted a support ticket complaining that another user posted some of his photos without permission, and wondered if the Powers That Be had deleted the wrong account.

Apparently, Flickr had made a mistake and advised Mr Wilhelm that,

    Image - tweet from @Stephtara - @ComMetrics it's also a story with a happy ending though #flickr “…I can restore your account, although we will not be able to retrieve your photos. I know that there is a lot of history on your account–again, please accept my apology for my negligence. Once I restore your account, I will add four years of free Pro to make up for my error…”

Understandably upset, Mr Wilhelm complained about Flickr’s response online. Various media outlets quickly picked up the story, forcing Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) to fix the problem and restore the deleted files.

Enter your email address to receive live blog updates in your email inbox… You’ll be glad you did.

Image - tweet from @Stephtara - @ComMetrics have many others suffered from the same mistake?In a tweet, Stephanie wondered whether Mr Wilhelm’s case was a common occurrence. The answer is, pretty much: in 2009, Scott Branch’s two-year-old account was also deleted, but his was never restored.

Mr Wilhelm sent me a follow-up email, translated below:

    1. Deletion of photos or entire user accounts happens quite regularly on Flickr for various reasons, such as copyright issues or objectionable pictures that have been incorrectly classified. Until now, such accounts have not been restored and Flickr’s canned response has always been ‘cannot be done’, as I was also first told.
    2. Of the cases I know about, the most that was offered was account reactivation and an extension of a Flickr Pro Account subscription. Consequently, many users have changed platforms or are now storing images on their own websites.
    3. My account was completely restored, so all links, comments and contacts are fully functional, which saves me from having to do any additional work.

By the way, Yahoo! sent out this statement to the media and others:

    Yahoo! is pleased to share that the Flickr team has fully restored a member’s account that was mistakenly deleted yesterday. We regret the human error that led to the mistake and have worked hard to rectify the situation, including reloading the entire photo portfolio and providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership. Flickr takes the trust of our members very seriously and we appreciate the patience shown by this member and our community. Flickr will also soon roll out functionality that will allow us to restore deleted accounts more easily in the future.

Incidentally, Flickr’s fine print shows you have no rights:

    Flickr reserves the right to deactivate your account without warning at any time.

This reminds me of WikiLeaks vs Amazon and EveryDNS.net – and the winner is?

Bottom line – lessons learned and takeaways

    Lesson 1 – You do not own your data, you rent it
    Data using cloud computing (like Google Chrome OS) means there is no local storage and you rent access (Kindle, Spotify music services, etc.). The only way around this problem is to download data and images to your PC. When it comes to user agreements, the devil is in the details.
    Lesson 2 – Data access can and will be canceled if your provider feels justified
    Amazon accessing your Kindle, Flickr deleting your account, Google blocking Google Chrome or Android users from accessing their data… all of this means having to store your data on your own PC, webpage or server to be safe.

What do you think? Did you enjoy reading this article? Consider adding a comment below!

By the way: Get the straight-forward answers you need to use social media tools more effectively, while saving time and improving your social media tracking and brand monitoring. Benchmark to improve performance right now:

UPDATES
Update 2011-04-21: Amazon’s cloud servers had an outage – EC2-disabled – this resulted in many cloud-based services being down for the whole day.

It appears that a network connection failed that Thursday morning at the Amazon data center near Dulles Airport outside Washington. This triggered an automatic recovery mechanism that then also failed.

Amazon’s computers are divided into groups. This is supposed to make them independent if one fails since others are supposed to stay up. But Tursday’s problems took out several groups at the same time – see list of systems that were out.

Another indication that using cloud computingrequires proper risk assessment and management (check also at Amazon’s EC2 status page)

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  • Urs E. Gattiker

    @stephtara asks: @ComMetrics have many others suffered from the same mistake = Flickr deleting account? Yes… http://su.pr/2Qzq7h

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  • http://climbtothestars.org Stephanie Booth

    “Happens quite regularly” doesn’t really answer my question, though. Numbers? Out of those, what proportion was due to a human error like in Mirco’s case, and not due to some kind of infringement?

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      @Stephtara, thanks about your comment and question “… loosing stored images on Flickr – what are the numbers.”nnIf you want percentages and absolute numbers, I am unable to give you these. nBUT in the larger scheme of things even if it were a few hundred users being affected annually, considering the Flickr user base this might be minor.nnNevertheless, my point is that if it does happen to you personally, you most certainly will not be amused. nnThis is why I suggest that each one of us must manage the risk that you take when depending on other services to store and make available YOUR content.nnThe only one that can tell us for sure the percentage of which number of customers experience this problem annually would be Flickr/Yahoo! nI am not sure if they know and if they would, would they want to share this information here or any place else on the web?nnStephanie, thanks so much for sharing and sorry that I do not have the numbers you like.

      • http://climbtothestars.org Stephanie Booth

        My point is that shit happens, and we only hear certain stories. Right now all we know for sure is that this happened to Mirco, and after initial difficulties (which I won’t minimize) it seems things haven’t ended /too/ badly.nnWe don’t know how often this kind of mistake has happened.nWhen/if it has, we don’t know what the precise circumstances and outcome was (was there a reason for deleting the account or was it an honest mistake? how much did the victim do to be heard?) — again, not saying it doesn’t happen or there isn’t a problem, just that we do not know.nnI think it’s a dangerous attitude to take one story and based on it, generalize to “omg there is a problem here”. Anecdotes trump statistics and as bloggers, we have a responsability not to blow individual anecdotes out of proportion and make assumptions about numbers that we do not have.

        • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

          StephaniennThanks for your reply. u00a0I find part of your comment particularly interesting:nn”I think it’s a dangerous attitude to take one story and based on it, generalize to “omg there is a problem here”. Anecdotes trump statistics and as bloggers, we have a responsability not to blow individual anecdotes out of proportion and make assumptions about numbers that we do not have.”nnYou might not know me well enough to understand that I rarely make such blog posts without having facts. I surely did not do this time either.nnAlso, as Mirco pointed out in his comment/reply to you above, there were at least 2 more prominent users that had their pictures deleted for no apparent reasons just last week. u00a0Worst is that their accounts were not restored like Mirco’s, because the media did not pick up their story. u00a0And since it takes too much effort for Flickr to do, the company chose to give a few years worth of Flickr Pro account subscriptions. u00a0See more here:nn==> u00a0Flickr deletions – around Feb 1 – 3 postings …nnAs well, I made a point that your rights as a Flickr user are limited if non-existent for all practical purposes. To illustrate, if Flickr gets a lawyer’s letter about something possibly illegal going on somewhere on its virtual territory, it takes your content, images or group postings offline without first checking with the accused:nn==> Lego: group on Flickr taken offlinennI have discussed this kind of issue before . For instance:nn==> u00a0KindleSpain versus CEDRO (The Centro Espau00f1ol de Derechos Reprogru00e1ficos u2013 u2018Spanish Reproduction Rights Centeru2019) and WordPress.com – and the winner is…nnStephanie, I hope that this satisfies better your demand for statistics. u00a0And no, its not one isolated case that got me to report about it here. All the cases I link to above and others Mirco mentions are such where Flickr has, in fact, admitted it was at fault… by providing the users with several years of free services to help compensate.nnThanks for sharing.

        • http://climbtothestars.org Stephanie Booth

          Point taken, thanks for the extra info. Remains, though, what I would liken to “survivor bias” (though in this case it’s not a question of surviving or not): let’s imagine there could have been cases where an account was taken offline, the user got back to flickr saying “wtf?!” and the account was put back online. The people involved would probably not talk about it — I mean, it’s not worth a blog post, right?nnI’m not trying to defend flickr at all costs here, but just to point out that we hear about things when they go badly, and not so much when they don’t (we also sometimes hear about the times when they go great). nnOne example: YouTube is also notorious for suspending accounts (and yes, it’s different from deleting). It happened to me. I faffed around a bit trying to understand what to do, sent them a notice for reconsideration, and some time later my account was back online. I didn’t write about it. If you missed my tweets at the time, this event would pass completely under the radar.nnMy point is that we’re working with incomplete data. We only see what people communicate about, and people are more likely to communicate about certain scenarios than others — so we cannot really use that info to draw conclusions about how a company /in general/ handles certain types of mistakes.nnI’m not saying there isn’t a problem here. Quite clearly there is. But I think we’re making a mountain out of a molehill here. Sure, it sucks when this kind of thing happens to you. And yes, storing your stuff int he cloud has risks. And no, these are still not statistics — only Flickr has those 😉

        • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

          Dear StephaniennThanks so much for replying again to my comment. I totally agree that we are working with incomplete data.nnMy point was not to claim that we know the whole story – we probably never will. Nevertheless, uploading your data in the cloud does not mean you must not backup your data. Mirco did so he got his data back.nnThanks for sharing..

    • http://www.bindermichi.de bindermichi

      This quite regularly actually means, that there where at least 2 other prominent user deletion during the last week. Unfortunately they weren’t noticed by the main stream media.nnAbout the numbers: Thomas Hawk (http://thomashawk.com/) made a quick collection of “deleted” threads in the Flickr community and posted the results on his blog.

      • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

        Dear MirconnThanks for putting forward this link to Thomas’ stuff. I added some more details in my reply further below.

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