Almost two weeks ago I came to have some trouble with the knowldgeable work of some Yahoo!/Flickr support employee. For those of you, that actually haven’t heard of it until now: You can read through the whole story here.
The kind and mass of attention, was something I haven’t had to deal with before, so the first week was kind of exhausting to me. Furthermore the majority of media involved was based in the Us with a 6-10 hour time diffenrece, keeping me up until 3 a.m. to answer questions, emails and comments. Not to mention I still had to work during day time.
In one of my comments I lightly made a joke ,that now, after havng succeeded in my quest I could write a short manual on how to actually get your Flickr account back after it has been dleted by accident or some dubious reason. To be quite honest, I believe the accident part helped me a lot in getting this volume of media attention, since I couldn’t have possibly done anything wrong in this case and already had received an apology from Flickr for this incident.
I’m not totally sure this is reproducable with Yahoo! or any other company, but here’s a small summary of what happened from my perspective.
After returning from work I started my routine email and web check, which includes reading through new comments on my Flickr account. I had to login with my yahoo account, so I first guessed the cookie had expired… until I was asked to create a new Flickr account as well. I typed in my own account which was already taken. Opening the public profile page revealed to me that my account had indeed been deleted.
I had been in contac with Flickr support on Friday, after I had been added as buddy by someone collecting all kinds of Lamborghini pictures in his account, that clearly weren’t his own. So to prevent him from also taking my photos I blocked him and send a short report to Flickr (bad mistake, actually).
My first though was: „Maybe they just mixed up the two accounts“ and so I wrote a short email reply to the supporter that accepted the report
Unfortunately, I have mixed up the accounts and accidentally deleted yours. I am terribly sorry for this grave error and hope that this mistake can be reconciled.
Here is what I can do from here:
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.
Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.
Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.
Ok, so I’d been right, they screwed up… big time. At the time I believed to have around 3900 photos in there, not all of them public. No problem, since I always just uploaded small versions of my pictures to Flickr, keeping all the files at home.
But: Most of the public photos had been linked by various blogs, websites and some magazines. This was trouble, since I’ve been working for years to curate this account and generating a constand stream of visitors each day. With the account actually gone I’d have to start from scratch again.
But, I’m not the one to sit down and start crying, If I’m still able to stand up and kick someone in the balls.
The weapon of Choice: Posterous
For a very obvious reason. I configured Posterous to be a publishing hub. Everything I send here ends up in Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Soup.io is aggregated in various RSS feeds by some international outlets and combined I can reach a few thousand people without being forwarded.
This is something I couldn’t get from my „normal“ private blogs since they have specific topics and don’t draw as much of a crowd.
The Result: You have to be fucking kidding, Yahoo!
Words of advise: If you’re f***ing mad about something and you want people to know, spell it out. It helps creating an interest in what you want to tell. 57,000+ readers and 150 Tweet forwards can’t be that wrong.
I now had the information out, but that still isn’t enough. You need someone with influence to adress people you don’t even know yet. I knew of Thomas Hawk for a few years now. He’s a US photographer with a reputation of sticking his fingers where it really hurts, especially when it’s about Flickr.
Luckily he was on twitter posting something similar, so I could easily answer him and attach the link to my text to the post. … And within an hour all hell broke loose, at least I thought so. I was suddenly mentioned multiple times on the Flickr help forum, the New York Observer asked for additional information and made this into multiple stories, including a short photogallery, during the next days. Over night newspapers and blogs from all over the world picked up on this story. But I should only find out about this on the next morning.
Three hours of sleep simply aren’t enough. I was tired, my mailbox was overflowing, but I still had to go to work. To make thing worse I had to go to Bern and catch a Train at 8:00 a.m. … well I was too tired and missed it, so I took the one at 9:00 a.m.
My iPhone kept pinging with new emails every few seconds and this didn’t stop the whole day. I told my manager about the situation. After all I couldn’t actually focus on much besides the meetings I had to attend the the emails coming in, and the call from the local newspaper for a statement on what happened.
In the evening I sat down to get an overview of the news about my case and wrote a small summary. By now Flickr was actually working on getting my account back. This actually was the most surprising information I got that day. But I guess, If you have The New York Observer, CNN, The LA Times, TechCrunch and other major new outlet on your bad PR count everything that help getting out of this kind of news is suddenly possible.
On one of the websites, I found that day they had a small chart with web mentions of word „Yahoo“. It had a sudden 25% increase on Tuesday night. I’ve looked at this chart and couldn’t think of how my little problem may have led to this result. But if it was telling the truth and that actually made Yahoo/Flickr move off their previous „sorry, but who cares“ policy it had been good enough for me.
Later that night I could see parts of my account being functional again. Well, in the way, that all of the public photos where brought and the links started working again. Some of the text contents had gone due to using the wrong format, but that wasn’t that important at the moment. I received the info, that I will get access as soon as all the rebuild account data had been checked.
By now, half the company knew what had happened… as long as they’d read the morning news. The good news was, although I had to get to Bern again, this time we were car pooling and I didn’t have to get up that early.
Today I only had to make some final statements to a few newspapers about the state of the reconstructed account. I reserved the comments and emails for Friday, since we had a company party event that evening.
After almost a week without much sleep I really needed that extra strong espresso at the office. But it didn’t help much, so I went home earlier that usual. the Flickr account was working again … mostly, and all of the pictures, descriptions and comments had returned.
The downside being, that my pictures still remember being in different groups, that had thrown them out after they weren’t available anymore. I can’t fix this, since I cannot tell the photos to remove themselfs from the groups without ending with some error messages. Using the Organize feature isn’t helping either. Since nothing works here. Groups are empty and my sets produce error messages preventing me to edit them.
Sounds like another email to the support staff.
Someone fixed the problem with the Organize feature over the weekend. This acually very good news. I still have the group issue, but that’s not as important at the moment.
After all: I achieve something, nobody did in the past. I actually got my Flickr account restored. The buzz and pressure on Yahoo for some reached such a level this time, they had to openly anounce that it is possible to restore account data and that they will roll out this feature later this year!
… oh.. and the gave me a free 25 years of Flickr Pro subscription.
Not that I would have paid a Dollar for any of their services again in the future, but there is still no viable alternative to Flickr on the internet.