Apple has long been associated with the saying “it just works”. Well, sometimes it apparently works a little too well, to the point of allowing users to delete their entire Flickr libraries in one fell swoop without really meaning to. Oops.
The problem stems from the way Apple’s popular iPhoto software is integrated with Flickr. Recent versions of iPhoto allow users to sync specified albums with Flickr, which means they can automatically upload new photos as soon as they import them into iPhoto from their cameras, and change their captions for both at once. The problem is that iPhoto treats this syncing very literally: if you delete a photo from one of these albums on iPhoto, it doesn’t just remove it from the Set on Flickr — it actually deletes the photo from your Flickr account entirely.
iPhoto apparently informs users that when they stop sharing a photo album between iPhoto and Flickr, “The album no longer appears on Flickr, but the photos remain in your [iPhoto] library.” The wording is both ambiguous (Apple could just mean it’s deleting the photos from the Flickr set) and not nearly strong enough to suggest that it’s actually deleting data. And plenty of people have made that mistake.
Over the last several weeks this has led to a number of threads in Flickr’s help forum where some users are up in arms after accidentally deleting hundreds of photos at once.
Fortunately, Flickr is taking notice. A Flickr engineer has tweeted about how bad the design is, and a staff member in one of the threads wrote that Flickr was discussing the matter internally, and later followed up to say that they were discussing the issue with Apple. Hopefully this will be resolved shortly.
It’s worth pointing out that this is probably exactly how Apple designed the syncing functionality to work in the first place. After all, syncing with Apple devices and MobileMe works the same way: delete something on your computer, and it deletes it elsewhere. But there’s no way anyone should be able to delete hundreds of photos at once without knowing full well what they’re about to do. Apple (and Flickr, for that matter) have failed to to made it abundantly clear to users just what photo syncing really means, and that’s just bad design.
Photo via Flickr.