Naeem Mohaiemen on Fri, 19 Dec 2008 15:11:40 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> George Oats Firing & Flickr Commons

From: Ravikant <>

What happens when a corporate giant like yahoo lays off people? Who is
the first to be fired? Never thought it would be somebody working with
its so-called commons project! It was just the other day in Taipei we
celebrated George's efforts at bulding the flickr commons. Read this
account in her own words and follow the link if you want to explore
more.- ravikant

December 15, 2008

Not quite what I had in mind.

by George Oats

I wrote this 3 days ago on a plane.

I've been cooking up an end-of-year blog post, feeling like my 35th year was
one of the best so far. I've been unbelievably fortunate to spend quite a lot
of it traveling the world to tell people about The Commons on Flickr. I've
spoken in front of hundreds of people, sat in meetings in the bowels of
museums, pored over a photographic archive in person, sent a ton of emails
that I enjoyed writing (wtf?), met too many fascinating people to list, made
lots of new friends, and been honestly excited about what I'm doing.

After giving the opening keynote at the National Digital Forum in Auckland on
November 27, then presenting at the Powerhouse Museum and the National
Library of Australia, visiting with Commons members the State Library of New
South Wales and the Australian War Memorial, I headed to Taipei for an
exciting Culturemondo Roundtable event I was invited to attend. This
Wednesday, I shook the hand of the Vice President of Taiwan, who was at the

The next day I presented with Seb Chan, about our take on "Search & Find."
That evening we all went to a lovely dinner at one of the best Taiwanese
joints in Taipei. (Thanks to Tien Sing, Shadiral, Christina and Aleksandra
for being such entertaining dinner conversation.) Then off for a wander in
one of the massive night markets. I decided to jump in a cab back to the
hotel with Jackie from NZ Live and Jock from Te Ara. It took a slightly long
way home, we suspected.

When I got up to my room, I saw a text message from my manager, asking if he
could call me on Friday at 9am. I wrote back to say I was going to be on a
bus full of people at that time, and that I was awake now if he wanted to
call. The phone rang.

"I'll just get straight to the point. You've been affected by the layoffs."

He told me he was reading from a script he was required to follow, and that he
needed an address to send some sort of "Agreement" to me in Australia, and
needed it sent back by December 19. Before I'd even finished the call, I
twittered (to my private account):

"Wow. I just got fired." I was immediately distressed.

I stayed up until about 2:30am that night, chain smoking and talking to
friends who saw my tweet and had responded - THANK YOU. I sent a formal
request for time to transition The Commons program to whoever is to take it
over: "A week should do it," I said. It was denied.

(It would be unfair to give anyone affected by the lay-offs special
treatment.) It's not just my treatment I worry about here. Such a sudden
movement makes it especially hard to continue the program effectively, at
least for a while. So silly. I sent a few tersely helpful emails before my
email account was closed. Couldn't resist. Don't let The Commons die, you
buggers! Can't you see how wonderful it is?!?!?

Finally needed sleep. I woke up fairly early Friday and was immediately awake
and tired. I got up and jumped on my laptop.

I was very upset. The speed of the lay-off began to sting. I asked Seb to
cover for me at the conference. I couldn't find my brave face - THANK YOU.

Sent a quick, unsatisfying goodbye to the team. I watched as my access to
various parts of the guts of Flickr fell away. I noticed how naturally I
searched for any and all bits I could think of, just in the hope that it
still existed. But no. I was shut out entirely within about 14 hours of the
phone call.

Support from friends kept coming - THANK YOU. I spoke with my mum and dad.
Very upset.

Watched The Net. It is that bad, but I didn't care. Ate some odd Taiwanese
baked goods. Run out of smokes.

I declined Seb's kind nudges to head out with the conference peeps for dinner.
I just couldn't face the idea of being cheered up. I was beginning to feel
humiliated, particularly given what I was up to. You know, being in Taiwan at
an international conference to talk about my work. Stayed in. All day. Plus,
I'd cried so much I looked like a boxer who'd just woken up the day after a
fight. Not exactly game face.

Realised I hadn't made it out of Denial yet. Packed to leave. Had to wake up
at 3:00am to get to the airport.

Woke up on time. Was given some fruit by the people at the front desk - what a
nice gesture! Drove for an hour through the empty Taipei streets. Got on the
flight to Hong Kong. Now on Hong Kong to Sydney, where I sit now, annoyed by
everyone. Still shocked. So fucking brutal.

Not what I had in mind at all.

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