By Jim Skea
There is a group on Flickr called FlickrCentral. When we first started, we
squirted people into encouraged visitors toward the FlickrCentral "chat room" when they first signed up. Luckily, Caterina and I were addicted to being witty and hilarious via synchronous internet environments, so we happily sat in this FlickrCentral chat room for a solid 3 months. We got a bit stinky towards the end, but the people we (apparently) charmed were in a different place, so everything worked out.
That's an early graph of the Flickr-contact-verse, provided for us in February of 2005 by a nice clever chap called GustavoG. Somehow, we managed to collect people to the group (though we're only obliquely involved now) and like a well-worn pair of jeans or sands through the hourglass, there are many, many memorable moments and wonderful voices and personalities shining through the ever-expanding grey of ever-increasing membership.
Growth came from that magnetic centre. I'm not sure if you've seen that Spiderman film where the crazy evil dude builds a bright shiny thing that can suck metal into it until there's nothing left, but some communities become their very own vortex, where stuff just whirlpools around a centre, with satellite flotsam only connected by gravitational, orbital force. (Oh yes, I studied a little physics almost 20 years ago.) I suppose it will eventually implode. That's what happens to a beautiful bright star, isn't it?
In a sense, stars are like [Ed.
peoplesocial networks]: they are born, they live and they die. A star "lives" by fusing lighter elements into heavier ones in its central regions. The pressure generated by this "combustion" holds the star up against the enormous gravitational force that its outer layers extert on the stellar core. The supply of elements that the star can fuse is limited, and when this runs out the star "dies": its properties change rapidly and violently, and a new astronomical object is created. Supernovae represent the most catastrophic (and picturesque!) of these stellar deaths.
- snipped from "Curious about Astronomy?"
FlickrCentral continued its trajectory as one of the popular spots that new visitors to Flickr could find because a) we drove people there and b) that created a positive feedback that made it one of our biggest groups - even as the whole place embiggened. Content coagulates Katamari-style thanks to that weird attraction.
To me, the fact that this thing has managed to attract 1,000,000 photos into one "place" just by sheer inertia is . The fact that Jim managed to make that picture a cat is worth even a wee bit more.
In the inimitable words of 7 Up's Lynn, "Christ. What 'ave I done?"