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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Here is a photo of our Rose of Sharon bloom in the backyard. (Also, testing Sunlit.)

Marcus Peddle on Flickr

Marcus Peddle:

Creating portfolio pages is a hassle on WordPress even though there are a number of photography templates. Adding photos is time consuming and I am rarely happy with the layout. Making albums and browsing on Flickr, however, is easy. I can make an album in just a couple of minutes and the layout is automatic and pleasing.

I totally understand this perspective. The easier it is to publish any type of media on any platform the more you’ll do it. It is precisely why Instagram exploded. It was, and remains, one of the quickest and simplest ways to publish a photo from your mobile device to the world.

WordPress has made huge strides in the last few decades to make it easy to publish words, photos, audio, etc. (as I have done on my personal blog) but it is far from simple and light years from simple on mobile*.

Flickr, on the other hand, is a good balance between simple and feature-rich on all platforms. The iOS app is very good in my opinion and the desktop/web experience is robust.

It is why I’ve re-upped my long lapsed Flickr Pro account. I want to support Flickr’s ability to stay in business. I’m hoping to publish more film photos there for interacting with the film community that exists on that platform.

* Meaning, WordPress on iOS is still almost useless to me.

Gabz on Instagram

Luis Gabriel Santiago Alvarado, aka Gabz:

The main reason I keep Instagram is the same reason most people won’t quit Facebook, I have friends and family I want to stay in contact with. Somehow Instagram seems to be the less Facebooky way of doing it, or at least in my head it is.

I feel like there are many people that feel the same. That Instagram feels less like Facebook. I think the goodwill that Instagram had built up in its early days is slowly eroding and will disappear very soon.

Back to work after an excellent 10-day staycation. I need more coffee.

The warehouse team at work is playing License to Ill. Loudly. I approve.

I do not like Reels

Instagram has been the place that Facebook jams all of its cloned-app-features into for the last few years. When it copied Snapchat it jammed all of the features into Instagram. And now, as it clones TikTok, it is jamming those features into Instagram as well.

The Snapchat-like features are easy enough to ignore if you don’t like them. Stories can be muted by long-pressing on a Story and muting the user altogether. Simple. (Btw, I happen to like Stories.)

Reels, on the other hand, cannot be ignored as easily. When you open Explore/Search/Discover (or whatever it is called on Instagram now) you’re presented with a video that takes up around 1/3 of your phone’s screen and is usually some young teen girl “dancing”.

I do not like Reels. And I wish they could be turned off.

John Gruber:

But there has to be a limit to how much Facebook can cram into Instagram before it bursts at the seams, and Reels feels like too much. TikTok just doesn’t feel Instagrammy at all, so I don’t think the problem with Reels is execution, I think it’s just the basic idea of using Instagram to host Facebook’s TikTok clone. It’s a bad fit, and Facebook doesn’t have the taste to know it.

The medium of Reels may very well be fine. And Instagram’s execution of creating and sharing that medium may very well be better than TikTok’s (I don’t know) but their use by the community is simply not for me. And the fact that IG forces us to see them stinks.

So, with that I’ll likely be sharing less on Instagram. If you’re reading this you likely subscribe to my blog already (thank you). I’ll be sharing my public photos here and perhaps Flickr.

Yes, I’m old. Get off my lawn. I just mowed it.

What I saw somewhat recently #66: August 18, 2020

Great list this week. See other lists.

I wish somehow these lists were exhaustive and complete but they simply aren’t. There are so many great things I stumble across day-to-day and file away to get to. And I get to some of them. And I remember some of them. And these are those items.

George R. R. Martin’s mountain cabin

George R. R. Martin about his time writing in his mountain cabin:

My life up here is very boring, it must be said.  Truth be told, I hardly can be said to have a life.   I have one assistant with me at all times (minions, I call them).  The assistants do two-week shifts, and have to stay in quarantine at home before starting a shift.   Everyone morning I wake up and go straight to the computer, where my minion brings me coffee (I am utterly useless and incoherent without my morning coffee) and juice, and sometimes a light breakfast.  Then I start to write.   Sometimes I stay at it until dark.   Other days I break off in late afternoon to answer emails or return urgent phone calls.   My assistant brings me food and drink from time to time.   When I finally break off for the day, usually around sunset, there’s dinner.   Then we watch television or screen a movie.  The wi-fi sucks up on the mountain, though, so the choices are limited.   Some nights I read instead.   I always read a bit before going to sleep; when a book really grabs hold of me, I may read half the night, but that’s rare.

Bill Gates would do something similar during his time as CEO of Microsoft. He called them Think Weeks.

Gates’ Think Weeks started in the 1980s; the first ones were quiet visits to his grandmother’s house. As they evolved, no visitors were allowed to the cabin during Gates’ Think Week (other than someone who dropped off two meals a day at the cabin, and on year a Wall Street Journal reporter) and Gates’ cabin was stocked with Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke.

I would like to do something like this for my photography some time.

Nick Clayton on his pandemic photography experience

Nick Clayton, in a beautifully written and photographed post on Casual Photophile:

Walking with a camera is a moving meditation in which paramount importance is placed on being present in your surroundings. Each camera setup comes with a different way of seeing, as it were.

And:

I won’t lie, early on in the shutdown, with no real end in sight, I had a flask with me more often than not, and returned home with it empty. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I laughed, and sometimes I experienced a bittersweet combination of both. I thought about people I miss, and in my isolation the gap between those who were alive and those who were gone closed just a little – they were, in effect, equally accessible (or inaccessible).

Go read the entire thing.

Damage at Arecibo Observatory

Arecibo Observatory:

One of the auxiliary cables that helps support a metal platform in place above the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, broke on Monday (Aug. 10) causing a 100-foot-long gash on the telescope’s reflector dish. Operations at the UCF-managed observatory are stopped until repairs can be made.

Y’all know I’m a big fan of observatories. The photo in the linked post is gut-wrenching. My guess is that this repair work is going to take a fair bit of time. I tried to find a way to support the repair work but I haven’t been able to find anything. Perhaps it is still too early for that.

Finally took some time to look at Andrew Denty’s side-by-side screenshots of Catalina and Big Sur. I know these were early, and much has changed, but to my eye Big Sur looks pretty good.

My favorite #bisect photos from Micro.blog

This month Micro.blog is having a photo challenge to help spur some posts and creativity from the growing community there. When Jean asked for recommendations I threw bisect at her and she accepted it as one of the themes.

I thought I’d cull some of the posts as favorites.

The first photo is just beyond the scope of anything I thought someone would do with the theme.

w4ner takes it to 11
Grapevine leaf by Sam Grover
Grass and concrete by Bharath M
Cacti wall by Colleen Juri
Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness landslide by Ryan Mikulovsky
Bisect by Pratik Mhatre.
Bisect by Tor Einar Samdahl
Bisect by Joel Hamill

I should just include them all but I wanted to select just a few that I appreciated the most.

First lawn mow at new house. ✅

Latest spam emails ask “Prefer fewer emails from me? Click here.” Fewer? How about zero?

Marcus Peddle on using film or digital

Marcus Peddle, remarking on making Jim Grey’s aforementioned list of film photography blogs:

I’m honoured, but slightly embarrassed because most of my photography these days is digital. Still, a photo is a photo, right? I hope you won’t be disappointed by the paucity of film photographs if you came to this website by following the link from Jim’s list.

I understand Marcus’ humble acknowledgement here but it is crappy that anyone should defend what they choose to shoot photos with. A photographer should be able to use whatever tool she/he would prefer to use for any given project or at any given moment and they should never have to apologize for it.

His point is more so that he made a list of film photography blogs and isn’t sharing much about film photography lately. But, you can still read between the lines when he says “a photo is a photo, right?”. Right!!

Personally I use a myriad of “cameras”. A incomplete list of cameras that I currently use regularly are a drone, my iPhone, the Canon AE-1 Program, my now 14 year old Canon Digital Rebel XTi DSLR, an ancient Ansco Speedex, paper negatives shoved into just about any contraption I can find, MY BEDROOM, point and shoot cameras, and many many many more.

I hope everyone on that excellent film photography blog list does the same and shares what they make.

I need to share more photos and will soon.

Joseph Irvin on blaming your photo gear

Joseph Irvin:

Here’s a photo I took on a $3 roll of consumer film I picked up at my local grocery store, shot through a Pentax body that I paid $5 for at a garage sale, mounting a $25 lens from ebay. So never mind not having the top-of-the-line equipment, use what you have and stop making excuses.

“Use what you have and stop making excuses.” – Joseph Irvin

I wish that either Safari had Containers or that Firefox had Safari’s tab view. But I cannot find a way to make either thing happen.

A list of film photography blogs by Jim Grey

Jim Grey:

It’s time for my annual list of film photography blogs! A great joy of film photography is the community of people who enjoy everything about it: the gear, the films, getting out and shooting, and looking at the resulting photographs. Lots of us share our adventures on our blogs.

I am so very happy this list exists. So many great, active blogs by photographers focused on so many different things. I’ve subscribed to nearly every single one that has an RSS feed.

Thanks to Jim for putting this list together.

The R5 and R6 may very well save Canon. But then again, they may not. As a Canon fan this is worrisome.

Tim Bray on blogging

Tim Bray:

But aren’t blogs dead? · Um, nope.

Also, this bit:

Since most of us don’t even try to monetize ’em, they’re pretty ad-free and thus a snappy reading experience.

I’ve successfully monetized niche blogs in the past that made enough for a few incomes.

I’ve only tried to monetize my personal blog a few times over the last few decades of writing it. Each time didn’t really pan out. I cannot recall any singular month where my personal blog scored more than just a few hundred dollars per month. So I gave up. I’m so happy I did. The experience of both writing and reading my blog is better as a result. I do not plan to ever try to monetize my personal blog ever again.

/via Jeremy Keith.

Microsoft in talks to buy TikTok

Microsoft:

This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries.

I cannot tell if this is a bad decision or a great decision by Nadella.

I’ve already said that I believe Satya Nadella is the best CEO in Microsoft’s history. So I’m willing to concede that he can see this move, and its implications, with a wider perspective than I can – but I’ll just briefly comment on the good and bad.

The bad first. TikTok comes with a huge amount of baggage. Its ties to China, the issues with its algorithm, and its apparent – and obvious – promotion of “pretty” people over “ugly” people. Perhaps the first move by TikTok to eliminate some of this was this transparency push?

The other baggage is that the platform, young though it is, is being used as a political tool already.

The good is that TikTok is obviously the next “Story” platform. Or, perhaps it is already the “Story” platform. What SnapChat stole from others, Instagram and Facebook stole from SnapChat, and now TikTok is the latest place for mostly short entertaining ephemeral content.

TikTok could, however, have some issue monetizing. SnapChat has. It is clear SnapChat will never become Facebook. By Instagram implementing Stories even better than SnapChat did they squashed nearly all of their growth. Instagram could have done the same thing to TikTok but I believe the talent has left the building over at Instagram.

I’ve seen a fair number of social platforms come and go. Most do not make it. And a lot of times it isn’t because they ran out of money – though that is the reason a lot of the time. Many times it is because building a platform that takes off like a rocket ship and immediately comes under intense scrutiny is very difficult to navigate. Platforms become known for the users and content they attract.

Microsoft would be an excellent partner for TikTok. They have the platform figured out, security*, privacy, etc. they are well known for, and their reputation inside of the US may help bolster TikTok’s reputation.

However, they have zero experience running a social network at scale. Remember when Balmer was thinking of buying Twitter? Though I don’t think they would have been under Microsoft. To wade into the mire that is social networking on the internet – while it has been massively profitable for Facebook – is fraught with peril I think.

I’m beginning to ramble. Again, I cannot see if this is a great move or a terrible one by Nadella. However, as CEO of one of the largest companies in the history of mankind – this is what he’s paid to do. A few years from now we’ll see whether or not this was a mistake.

* By security I mean that Microsoft is very good at its services business being secure. The most secure businesses and government agencies rely on a ton of Microsoft software and services. So they’ve proven that ability many times over.

I’m noticing that I’m sending this link much more often these days.

What I saw somewhat recently #65 – July 28, 2020

  • Papyrus SNL – This skit recently came back to memory during a meeting at work.
  • KEKS Lightmeter – I have a few cameras that I need to use my iPhone to meter light with. I think I’ll be ordering one of these.
  • WindowSwap – See the view’s of others from all over the world.
  • Gigaleak – What a smorgasbord for gamers!
  • If birds had arms… – 🙂
  • 8×10 My First Exposure – Jason Kummerfeldt’s parody about large format photography. Pretty on point.

When I first read that Slack was taking Microsoft to court I thought it’d be too much of a distraction for Slack. Reading Stewart’s tweets makes me think they had no choice.

I think we may look back at many of the brand identities that Pentagram has redesigned lately as misfires. If you’re going to remove all personality from a mark it needs to end up being iconic. They are hitting somewhere in the middle in my opinion.

If someone could please make ear hair fashionable you’d be saving me some of my precious morning time.

What I saw somewhat recently #65: July 16, 2020

Unfortunately I haven’t published one of these lists since April. I enjoy looking back at the archives so I need to post these regularly more-so for me than for you!

This list should be three times as long. But I didn’t keep good records.

Decentralizing all of my data

A few days ago I came across Ton Zijlstra’s post about trying out Obsidian. I didn’t have the time to read it just then so I quickly stored it in Unmark (shameless plug alert) to read later.

After reading his post I realized he is attracted to Obsidian for the same reasons that I was to give it a try. It stores your notes in a format that keeps the data local, readable, and accessible to any text editor. I really like Simplenote but it only stores notes in Simplenotes cloud service and not as local files (although, it did before Automattic acquired the service many years ago).

As the capabilities of cloud services get more and more robust I find myself drifting back to the early days of my computing where I wanted complete control of all of my data. Even though I can have all of my data accessible from any device, anywhere in the world, doesn’t mean that I want to rely on those services to provide me that data. And, I certainly don’t want the data to be locked into any single app.

Web 2.0 addressed this issue by pushing for accessible APIs that allowed data to be imported or exported in a variety of standard formats. Which is great! However, I find that it is the storage that should be standardized and not the method by which you can move data around. And text notes are just one example. I’ll give another example in a moment.

Zijlstra links to another one of his posts regarding “networked agency” that leads to a super interesting post by Ruben Verborgh titled Paradigm shifts for the decentralized Web.

I need to spend more time digesting Verborgh’s post (which I somehow missed when he published it late last year). However, the principles that are mentioned within it really land with me. One that stands out:

As apps become decoupled from data, they start acting as interchangeable views rather than the single gateway to that data.

This is exactly what I want for so much of my personal data. Any note taking app should be able to read notes written in any app – making the app’s interface simply a view into my note data. Like email. I can choose any email app for any email address. And switch whenever I want.

I’m currently working at building the very same capabilities for my photo library. In the past, I’ve written about why Photos for Mac isn’t a good long term storage solution for our photo libraries. As I write this I’m creating a set of tools and a workflow for my photo storage that allows me to store my photos in a readable format and structure while retaining the ability to use an app like Photos for Mac as a view into that library.

I still have more work to do, and I plan on writing a post sometime in September on what I’ve made so far, but it is a challenge to be sure. My overall goal is to have a photo library that does not require an app, but that an app enhances the experience of browsing my library. And, that all metadata related to a photo (EXIF, tags, faces, etc.) are stored within the file itself and not only within a photo management tool’s database. This will not be easy but I’m determined.

Notes and photos are not the only data that I wish I had in a standardized readable format. My links from Unmark are important to me. Unmark can already import from a variety of services and formats, and it can export into a JSON file. But I’ve recently started working on an export process for Unmark that will spit out a standardized HTML file so that people can export their links to be ingested in any browser or app they desire. This is, of course, the Web 2.0 approach.

I’m glad I read Zijlstra’s post. It has reinvigorated me to continue my effort to decentralize as much of my personal data as possible.

Shattered window panes – July 2020

I haven’t been shooting very many photos in the last few weeks. Partially because life is very busy and also due to the pandemic. This photo, taken on a nature walk, was shot on the iPhone of an abandoned railroad building from the early 1900s.