Before there was Facebook and before there was Twitter, the internet was filled with anonymous strangers. Many of them knew each other by their websites and by their nicknames, though, even if they didn’t know each other’s real names.
When I moved to Switzerland, I started using my blog more and more and I got to know a few other like-minded souls here. We exchanged comments on our respective blogs and it wasn’t long before we started organizing “blogger meetups”. My first one, if memory serves, was in Vevey at the end of 2003. The first meetups polarized me, as many of those attending were much more interested in the subject of blogging than in non-technical topics about which one would blog.
Discussion revolved around blogging, software and computers: topics which I didn’t find all that interesting. Because the “scene” was very new, we even had a journalist attend one meetup in Basel, to find out what it was all about and to take notes for a newspaper article.
My interest was photography, and what would quickly come to be called photo blogging.
Through gaining a better idea of our individual interests, we started to organize meetups which tended more towards photography. Many of them lead us to wander the streets of Bern, Zurich, Basel and Lausanne to take snaps, exchange tips, and eat pizza. The meetups starting in 2005 were the most successful, I think, as we’d begun to get to know each other well enough to look forward not just to meeting up, but also to seeing friends again. Jo even joined us all the way from Scotland in the winter before she moved over, making her the attendee with the longest ever “commute”!
In a meetup in 2005, the (then new and still independent) photo sharing website Flickr came up as part of a discussion with Matthias, Habi and Stephanie. (Stephanie’s long-running blog even has an old blog entry with a list of those who were there.) I’d been sharing my photos on my own website using a self-developed system until then, coded by hand… and as it turned out, pre-empting the very ideas which Flickr would introduce, like photo sets, categories and tagging. (Detailed EXIF data was still a mirage on the horizon at that point.)
After the discussion, I switched over from posting photos using my own CMS to using Flickr as the main destination, switching from the free account to a Flickr Pro account.
Back then, this allowed me to remove the limit on the amount of photos I could share online and allowed me to have more than three photo sets. The first photos I’d posted in March 2005 were from the first internet-capable phone I’d owned, and I’d posted them in terrible quality via email whilst out and about. The very first one was of Manarola in Italy, taken in 2004 using a Sagem MY X-6.
These meetups – and the community of photo-sharing bloggers in Switzerland – were what fanned the flames of my self-publication to become a passion. Where countless others have abandoned and closed down their blogs and stopped sharing photos online, I have continued to enjoy sharing photos, joining common interest groups in Flickr, and starting a few of my own. (The Switzerland group has been running since 2004 and I took over the admin role in 2005; the Swiss Strobist group is still going strong after its initiation in 2008.) I made friends in the days of the meetups, with whom I am still friends now, and we’ve collaborated on various projects and ideas down the line.
Without Flickr, I don’t know whether I’d still be publishing photos online. Thanks to Flickr, I have a career developing solutions for CMS, I have long-term friends both online and off, and I have been able to contribute to and lead workshops and meetups for over a decade. My account remains online and regularly updated to this day, and I’ve posted over 7,000 photos since I started. I even posted straight from my phone after getting married in 2007. That’s a sign of how much a part of my life the site has been since I joined, and what it means to me to be part of a community of members here in Switzerland.