Nudity on FriendFeed: What Are Some Sensible Rules?

An interesting issue cropped up on FriendFeed. Nudity. Specifically, some of the Flickr pictures that come through on FriendFeed contain topless or fully nude models. It’s an interesting tension between user generated content and community norms.

This is an issue that has been raised numerous times in the United States, where community norms are more conservative. Europe seems to have been celebrating the human body since the Renaissance.

On FriendFeed, there’s a good discussion around a (not safe for work) set of Flickr favorites by Michael Hocter. The set includes pictures of topless and nude models.

There were several people applying ‘Likes’ to the set, including me. Hey, I liked the pictures, what can I say? They are artistic and beautiful.

The way FriendFeed works is what has caused some discomfort. If you subscribe to Michael Hocter, you’ll see his photos come through your feed. If you don’t subscribe, you won’t see his pictures initially…

Until someone to whom you subscribe Likes or Comments on them. Then they hit your FriendFeed stream via the friend-of-friend feature. As Michael Hocter himself says:

I photograph nudes, so I tend to favorite nudes on Flickr. A lot of them don’t show up here because most of us nude photographers mark our photos Moderate or Restricted. But sometimes when the photographer doesn’t do that, they end up here. I’m sure the majority of people who subscribe to my feed are aware of it and don’t mind, but the friend-of-a-friend feature is problematic.

This problem is somewhat unique to FriendFeed. You can publish photos on Facebook, but only people who are your friends will see them.

One female FriendFeeder who is subscribed to me, edythe, had this comment with regard to the photos:

yeah, i have some mixed feelings about the topless women. we had a discussion a couple of weeks ago about nudity appearing in flickr favorites. no one liked it when it was male nudity. I don’t object to this. i just have mixed feelings about it. (yes, i know i can hide it. πŸ˜‰ )

Being an adult means you get to see things that you wouldn’t have when you were a child. I don’t want Victorian winds blowing through the feeds on FriendFeed. But I also recognize that there are sensible guidelines that govern the type of pictures that are appropriate.

A Few of My Own Guidelines

So I propose a few guidelines for nudity on FriendFeed:

I know it when I see it. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Both content submitters and those who Like or Comment need to use some common sense as to what constitutes porn. It’s particularly incumbent on those who Like and Comment to be reasonable.

Artistic vs. exploitive. This is one that probably varies by person, and really good arguments can be made on both sides. Here’s one way of thinking about it. Michael Hocter photos = artistic. Penthouse photos = exploitive. Playboy pictures = in the eye of the beholder. Want a better description of artistic? Here’s female photographer Dawn M. Armfield:

I don’t photograph nudes (obvious to anyone who follows my photography), but I really appreciate great nude photography, male or female. The contours of the human body are just as beautiful as any other shapes we photograph.

Sexual acts. Nope, don’t go there. Over the line.

Gender. Male or female models.

Anatomy. All normally visible parts of the human body (e.g. no goatse).

Frequency. Oh, this is a good one. If you’re an originator of content (e.g. Flickr favorites), I don’t think there should be any restrictions on how often you add content. Fire away as much as you want. If you’re a Liker or Commenter, use common sense in your frequency. Your subscribers probably aren’t looking for a high volume of nudity. If they want that, they can subscribe to the originator.

Don’t Be Afraid to Like or Comment. One of the great things about FriendFeed is you can give feedback to content submitters. I just said that Likes and Comments shouldn’t be overly frequent. But don’t stop giving feedback altogether…that would be another form of censorship.

Use the Hide function. Those who are offended by nudity should make good use of the Hide function. Assuming folks follow some of the guidelines above, the initial view of the pictures hopefully won’t cause cardiac arrest. After the initial shock, click that Hide link. No more of the offending pictures.

Final Thoughts

The hell if I know whether these make sense to others. I’m not a First Amendment public policy expert. I’m not a professional photographer. I’m not a woman who might feel excluded or offended by interaction around these pictures. But they make sense to me, a regular dude.

What do you think?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.


Subscribe or Not? Toluu Just Got Better at Helping You Decide

A couple months ago, I had a chance to review Toluu, the blog recommendation site. The site is great, and has gotten really good uptake. In that review, I did write this:

I’d like to get a little more info about some of these blogs in a summary fashion, without having to click each one.

Well, Caleb Elston and team have delivered some nice new features that do just that. Here’s what is new at Toluu:

  • View the most popular posts from a blog
  • Who else has subscribed to the blog within the Toluu world
  • What other blogs those same subscribers have subscribed to recently
  • Posts now have datestamps
  • The contact page loads 5 times faster

The new features providing context around a blog are particularly interesting for me. Let’s look at those.

Toluu Before and After

Here’s a screen shot of the page for a blog before the updates. The most recent post for the blog is shown, without any date information.

Next, the same screen with the updates. Below, you’ll see new tabs for the blog: Recent, Popular, Subscribers. Also, note that the post for the blog now has timestamp information (“Yesterday”).

With the addition of the tabs, you now have quick access to more information about the blog.

Popular Posts = Better Insight into the Blog’s Best Stuff

As you’re checking out whether to subscribe to the blog, you click on the Popular link. This is pretty nice. The blog’s most popular recent posts are shown. At a glance, the user can see if the blogger’s top stuff is interesting. A good way to gauge what animates the blog.

According to Toluu founder Caleb Elston, the determination of what’s popular for a blog is “a combination of our own data mixed in with some data from AidRSS and soon a few more sources.”

The list shown for this blog is a pretty good indicator of popularity.

Subscribers = Who Else Likes this Blog?

This feature is really cool on a couple fronts. As a user deciding whether to subscribe to a blog or not, the list of subscribers provides a reference of sorts. Who feels like there’s enough “there” to warrant a subscription?

You can see what other blogs the subscribers have added as well. For example, I see that Corvida added Blogsessive. I checked it out, and decided to add it myself. A really nice way to leverage the filters of others in finding blogs you may like.

In fact, in terms of human filtering, you now have three ways in Toluu to handle that:

  • The algorithm-based matches to others
  • Your selected contacts’ additions to their feeds
  • What are the other feeds of people who subscribe to your blog

As a blogger, I also find this feature very nice. You may know your number of subscribers, but do you know who they are? Well, with Toluu, it’s pretty easy to see who some of them are.

Nice Job

These changes are a great step forward in helping you decide which blogs warrant your subscription. Better sense of the blog’s content. Better sense of the crowd that likes a particular blog.

My wishlist still includes better macro, summary recommendations for blogs. But all in due time. Hats off to Caleb and team for adding these excellent features.

Also – I invite you to check out my Toluu page: If want an invite, just leave me a comment.


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