Hey, here's a long rambling post I just left in the comment stream over on the Brothers-Brick:
Hey, here are a bunch of random, unconnected thoughts:
As to community survival, back in the day, everyone posted their photos on Brickshelf, chatted on Lugnet, and attended BrickFest (not really, not even in the US, especially not in other places, but that was the conventional wisdom). Then, as other options appeared, people kept saying how much those options would destroy the community. But they didn't. I was an early member, and later an admin, at Classic-Castle, one of the sites that was part of the migration away from Lugnet, and statistics showed that a few months later there were many more castle-related posts on Classic-Castle than there had been in a similar time period the year before on Lugnet.castle. While I've not done the research, I think it is obvious that the same sort of analysis could be done on convention attendance, or photos posted, or whatever. Is it fragmented? Yes, undoubtedly - if there are five major AFOL conventions, you are less likely to see all of the same people at a given venue than if there were only one or two major cons. But you'll see other people. If I only have five friends, we can all meet in a booth at McDonalds. If I have a hundred friends, they will necessarily be 'fragmented', in that I'll see them at different places, and this friend may not know that friend, but I'd say it's ultimately healthier. As the AFOL community moves into different forums/photo sites/conventions, I suspect it will continue to thrive.
That said, I do hope that people don't quickly fly off to a myriad of sites. I'd hate to miss the cool MOCs. Also, Flickr has become a central site for many contests and other community activity. Some segments of the community are living largely on Flickr now. So a quick flight would hurt those things in the short run.
On monetization, first, we probably should have seen this coming. I'm a non-pro user (i.e. a freeloader), and at Christmas they 'gave' me, and presumably all free users, a 3-month pro account. Then I got lots of messages on how I should subscribe as a pro to continue the benefits. To me this says they just weren't getting enough subscribers, and were out to drum up more. So the days of Flickr continuing to exist based on a subscription model were probably numbered, regardless. If them moving to an ad model helps them survive, it doesn't really bother me too much. If you're going to leave Flickr because they are making money off of you, you're also going to have to stop using Google or any other search engine, cancel your free e-mail account, stop watching TV or listening to the radio, etc. You should also stop reading the Brothers-Brick, which has an ad over there.
On a LEGO-specific site, they do exist (Brickshelf, MOCpages, YouBrick, MOCshow, BrickBuildr, ReBrick). As of now these each have their limitations. Also, I always thought that one of the benefits of largely migrating away from Brickshelf and MOCpages (aside from the potential cancellation of the former and the slow server speed of the latter) was that it took us away from being a completely insular community - both to promote the LEGO hobby to others and to find those other lone wolf LEGO builders out there who weren't tapped in to the AFOL community.
On the change itself, I see three aspects of the 'new Flickr' - the impact on Pro users, the look of the home page, and look of the page when you view an individual photo. I can certainly understand why people might be irked if they paid for a Pro account, and if Flickr doesn't offer some sort of prorated refund you should be mad. As a freeloader I can't say what the impact is if they take away your stats and other tools. Heck, I run eight LEGO-themed blogs, and I'm sure I look at those stats at least once or twice a year. If they took away my stat tools I might even notice it. Okay, maybe I'm being overly sarcastic, but perhaps some Pro users might help educate the rest of us on the importance of the stats tools. On the look of the front page, I completely agree that it looks awful, though I'm not sure I'll be jumping ship any time soon over this. They did pretty much the same thing to the Groups photo pages about six months ago, and I don't remember hearing any complaints. On the look of the page when you view an individual photo, my biggest complaint is the black background. I hope they listen to all of the rants/feedback and at least they give us an option to choose a black or white background. Until then it will mean an extra click for me to get to 'view all sizes' to see photos they way I want to. I'm not sure what the shouting is about to 'click to view 20 more comments'. I sit in front of a computer for much of the day, and I spend my day clicking. A few more isn't really noticeable.
So, in the end, I hope people don't all run away, but on the other hand I'm not too worried for the community in the long run. I think some of the changes are nice (especially from the perspective of a freeloader rather than a Pro user), but whatever consultant told Flickr that the new layout looks better must be half blind (we need Mirsky to come out of retirement and slap them up side the head). I also think that everyone involved in Flickr's PR department for this changeover needs to start looking for a new career. But we'll live. Take a deep breath and ... OHMYGOD! THEY MOVED THE TAGS TO A DIFFERENT PORTION OF THE PAGE! OFF WITH THEIR ... um, sorry, move along, nothing to see here.