Everyone here at the Powerhouse Museum was shocked today to hear that George Oates, the architect of the Commons on Flickr (and former designer behind Flickr), was laid off by Yahoo. Only last week was she presenting to our staff.
George was the conceptual mind behind the Commons – her ideas, passion and drive to expose and connect collections has created a large body of evidence that has been sorely required by the libraries, archives and museums sector. There now exists, thanks to George, solid evidence that obscure photographic collections are of interest to a wider public and worthy of digitisation and preservation; solid evidence that admitting that there are things that those in our sector don’t know about doesn’t damage institutional reputations; and that rather than diminish revenue form image sales, wider free access may actually increase them.
George was able to bring collections (and people) together in the past 12 months that we, within the sector, have found difficult to achieve in the past decade. She was and remains a cultural connector.
She will be sorely missed by all of us at the Museum and we hope that her work in establishing the Commons does not go to waste, and is not forgotten.
On a personal note, I am especially shocked and saddened by this news because just a few hours before George found out, she and I were presenting a joint workshop to delegates at the Culturemondo Roundtable. Here in Taipei, she has inspired people from Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world, to do more with and think more of their collections.
At Culturemondo we were not unaware of the political economy of the Internet. Geert Lovink had, only yesterday, reminded us all of the problems inherent in the way that many Internet companies have been founded and funded. A little later we were discussing the need for data portability in cloud computing. That this news would come on the same day was cruel indeed.
I’m sure that the company or organisation that George works for or establishes next will be as equally impactful as Flickr, but right now I’d like to send the most positive vibes possible to George in this difficult time.