Two things have happened recently: I just returned from a trip from Portland and Seattle, and I've discovered flickr. Naturally, I took many many photos on the trip. Only a few of them have actually been uploaded.
It really is amazing how photography has changed. I'm a casual photographer. With film, I would have taken the photographs, and that would have been it. They would have been as my camera had taken them, as the film lab had returned them. The colors would be bad, the photos crooked, and I would never even have realized I've taken a bad photograph.
Enter the digital age. On flickr I can see many, many examples of composition. I can see how mistakes can be turned into something wonderful. I have an instant museum at my fingertips. (OK, so the photographs aren't all that good, but even the worst photographers seem to take good shots every once in awhile.) After I take a photograph with my digital camera, I don't have to fiddle with any chemicals to correct it. I have a piece of software, which cost $70 and never a penny more, that makes most common corrections I would care to make. No chemicals required. Sure, I could do better with Photoshop, which costs ten times as much, but it isn't necessary to what I want to do: turn a slightly bad photograph into a decent one. And even Photoshop is a fixed cost. Unless you choose to get upgrades.
I don't think I've appreciated until now just how powerful a social network can be, even one with which you aren't really communicating. Now I'm wondering if I should look into switching over from Picasa to flickr.