TWiP #199 – An Interview with Heather Champ

On this special episode of TWiP, Frederick sits down with Heather Champ – a life-long camera junkie, former Director of Flickr Community, and co-founder of JPG Magazine.

Frederick and Heather discuss a variety of topics including her career with Flickr, the meaning of community, Heather's views on censorship, the best ways to use Flickr,  thoughts on mobile applications such as Color & Instagram, and the complexity of the infrastructure behind Flickr.

In addition to her work with Flickr, Heather also co-founded JPG magazine and discusses how it got started, how it evolved, her involvement with the publication, and what online sites to watch when it comes to photography.


To learn more about Heather, you can check out her Flickr feed, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @hchamp

To learn about Frederick Van Johnson visit his website at or follow him on Twitter at


Show notes by Bruce Clarke or

Bandwidth provided by Cachefly

Intro Music by Scott Cannizzaro


  1. The interview was interesting but left a lot unanswered.

    Flickr’s reputation for censorship under Heather’s watch was only addressed briefly in the broadcast and not really delved into at all substantively.

    Where it was addressed Heather seemed to dismiss censorship charges by saying that it wasn’t Flickr really doing the censoring, but rather overzealous individuals reporting real and actual account violations that were responsible.

    She seemed to specifically address the great flickr LGBT purge of 2009 and suggested that it wasn’t that Flickr had an anti-gay agenda, but rather that some unidentified person reporting abuse cases may have led to the impression that gay oriented accounts were being unfairly targeted.

    What Heather’s explanation failed to address though was the illegitimate account deletions that took place during that time. I don’t think anyone has a problem where someone clearly and distinctly breaks a rule and is dealt with. But rather it was the multitude of cases where someone didn’t really do anything wrong but got punished anyways by losing their account.

    During the LGBT purge that Heather seemed to be alluding to, for example, Edelson Flores account was deleted. Edelson violated no Flickr rule. His photos were all taken by him. They did not contain nudity. But they were of beefcake men (fully clothed). There is no flickr rule against a professional photographer taking clothed photos of beefcake men. And yet he lost his account.

    Similarly many “man on the street” sort of groups were deleted in their entirety. Even though these groups were of fully clothed men in public and no different than any other street photography.

    Famous photographer Garry Winogrand’s second book was entitled “Women Are Beautiful” (originally the title was supposed to be “Men are Pigs”). It was a voyeuristic book of women on the street in public. Would Winogrand’s group had been destroyed at Flickr simply because it was reported? I doubt it.

    It wasn’t the clear violations where someone posted their raw erect manhood without properly filtering that people were upset about. It was Flickr’s abuse of the rules and broad interpretation of the subjective “don’t be ‘that’ guy” clause where community was being mismanaged at flickr. Accounts were being deleted that should not have been.

    Community Management is hard, very hard. Heather had a very difficult job no doubt. But I think to simply dismiss the fact that there were bad deletes under her watch and sweep that under the rug doesn’t do the conversation or users justice.

    Unfortunately an honest conversation about many of these issues does not seem to be something that Heather or Flickr has any interest in discussing on the record.

    Public debate should not be something to be afraid of. Critics shouldn’t be banned simply for holding critical opinions about community management.

    When Heather nuked an entire group that I was admin of over a squabble between two members (one of who was myself) she nuked thousands of unrelated threads. Thousands of hours of completely inoffensive works by people completely uninvolved in that squabble. Rather than deal with a sliver of what she felt was offensive material, her choice was to instead nuke the entire group permanently erasing hours and hours and hours of user contribution to the site.

    Certainly that was Yahoo and her right to do. The data was on their servers. But it doesn’t mean that just because Flickr can act that way that they *should* act that way. There were many cases that could have been handled much more diplomatically than they were.

  2. Methinks she dropped the F bomb intentionally, for some sort of cred. You should find one of her accounts (anywhere) and delete it for that offense, Fred.

  3. Heather did delete Pierre Honeyman’s account once when he used the F word with Flickr staff.

  4. C’mon, couldn’t the F-bomb have been edited out? Some of us listen to these shows in the car with out kids.

    Besides, why is she talking about people not properly categorizing their adult content photos and then throw out an F-bomb herself that came out of nowhere.