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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

The Best of 2019 as told by me

At the end of the year I like to sit down and make a rather random list of the “best” things I’ve seen that year. I do this almost entirely from memory but I also peruse my browser history and look through my Unmark archive in order to uncover some of the things I appreciated throughout the year.

You can review previous years: 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018.

At the tail end of December I sat down and made this list and since then I’ve taken some time to cull through it and make the list you’re reading now.

Best Blog: Gurney Journey by James Gurney

James Gurney, who I interviewed for The Watercolor Gallery, has kept a blog for a very long time. This past year wasn’t necessarily a stand-out year for his blog – it has always been very good – but I believe his blog and his YouTube channel deserve recognition this year.

Runners up: Waxy’s links, Kottke as always.

Best (new to me) Blog: AOWS

Since I’ve really been going all-in on my photography this year I’ve stumbled across a lot of photographers. In fact, I’m well over 100 photographers on my private Photography Twitter list (I’m @cdevroe there). I’m very glad to have found AOWS. See also the Instagram account.

Runner up: Chris Sale.

Best place: Kentucky

Jim Beam Distillery

Last year I said that we’d likely return to Kentucky and we did – that must say something about it. We enjoy the entire state, the distilleries, horse farms, and rolling hills. See posts.

Runner up: Cape Cod – This was our first trip to Cape Cod and I enjoyed the whole feeling there. Likely because so many people are either retired or on vacation. I’d like to go back and make more photographs in the future.

Best book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

I didn’t read nearly as many books as I’d like this year. But I’m trying not to beat myself up when I miss self assigned goals like number of books to read. I did a lot of fishing, photography, and even started a podcast this year. So I need not read books.

Dark Matter was a nice change of pace from other things I’d read this year. I always like a book that has time jumping. And this book sort of did.

Best service: OneDrive

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but OneDrive – for the most part – holds up very well for my needs. I have nearly half of a terabyte stored there and it isn’t skipping a beat. I use it mostly as a cloud-based backup of all my photos and videos. I also use it to transfer things to/from my computer and phone which worked well when I was on so many different platforms; Android, Windows 10, iOS, and Airdrop wasn’t possible.

Runner up: Disney+ just for The Mandalorian.

Best song for working: Morning of – Colin Stetson

According to Spotify I listened to this song, and the album it comes from, a lot while I was writing code.

Best album: Benton County Relic – Cedric Burnside

Love the old style jazzy/bluesy feel of this album.

Best company: Disney

I wrote a bit about what they’ve done with Lucasfilm since they acquired the company. But, when you look at the scope of Disney – and watch some of their documentaries about how it all came together – they really deserve a round of applause this year.

Runners up: Microsoft is still killing it and I think 2020 looks interesting for them. Apple for finally fixing their laptops.

Best hardware: Canon 400D

Me w/ 400D, recording my podcast

I shot nearly as many photos on this camera as I did on my phones (Pixel 2 XL until October and then iPhone 11 Pro Max) and the camera is 13 years old. It is rugged, has a lot more features than I ever knew it did, and I’m satisfied with the results I’ve been getting.

I have the feeling that next year a film camera may win this category and I’m very excited about that.

Runners up: iPhone 11 Pro Max – the battery life alone deserves an award, iPad Pro – I still use this every single day, in fact I’m writing this post on it right now and I’d say I do greater than 75% of my photo editing on the iPad.

Best desktop app: Firefox

Rather than keeping Firefox in just the browser category, I’m going to give it the best desktop app award. I really, really like Firefox and it has improved greatly this year in terms of speed, privacy, feature set. I simply cannot live without Containers at this point.

Runner up: Lightroom CC.

Best mobile app: Anchor

If it weren’t for how relatively easy it is to create a podcast using Anchor I don’t think I would have done it. Though I am looking forward to my podcast getting a bit better with some desktop-based editing apps. If you have an idea for a podcast I suggest at least giving it a look.

Runners up: VSCO, Twitter, Pocket Casts, Cash.

Best tool: Photoshop CC

Adobe has made very big updates to the entire CC suite of apps. I feel like they deserve a nod as a result of that.

Best podcast: BirdNote

The podcast is just so simple. I love it.

Runners up: ATP. I go back and forth on whether or not I should listen to ATP. Very good information, they were even nice enough to answer one of my questions, but the constant hypercritical (see what I did there?) take on things can sometimes be draining, and so I take long breaks from listening. But that is the entire point of the podcast so I don’t begrudge them of the style. I just always try to look at things positively is all. Also Cal’s Week in Review.

Best YouTube channel: Nick Carver

Nick has easily has the largest impact on my approach to photography this year. His channel is also very entertaining even when he’s discussing very nerdy photography topics.

Special second place: Joe Rogan Experience – I have to cherry pick episodes that I’m interested in, mostly with scientists and outdoorsy people, but the interviews and long form style are refreshing compared to the bit-sized bits we get through TV these days.

I watch a lot of YouTube. Probably too much. Not probably. Actually too much. It is how I learn, am entertained, waste time, etc. In fact, I watch a lot less TV because of YouTube. So this isn’t an easy category to choose.

Runners up: Morten Hilmer, Jack Black, MKBHD, Kevin Nealon, Rainfall Projects, The Lion Whisperer, Zimri Mayfield.

Best Twitter account: Todd Vaziri

Behind-the-scenes and background information on special effects in TV and movies. Fascinating stuff. The amount of work for just a few seconds of video is amazing.

Runner up: Adam Savage.

Best Instagram account: Luke Beard

Luke shares a ton of photos via Stories from his town of Atlanta. It is inspiring the number of photos he’s able to take, process, and publish and has really gained a following in that area. He’s also super gracious in his responses whenever I’ve asked him how he did something.

Special second place: captain.solo – I can always appreciate when someone creates their own style and sticks to it – it isn’t easy to do either of those things. This account has.

You can also follow @cdevroe on Instagram where I frequently share accounts and photos I like via Stories.

Runners up: Dan Rubin, PPP Repairs, Clyde Butcher, Brad Baldwin.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s list. Whenever I sit down to make the list I always under estimate the amount of time it takes to create it. But I’m always glad that I do so that I can look back on it in the future. So this post is more for me than for you.

Twitter Lists are having a moment

Twitter recently released an updated UI that allows you to “pin” Lists you’ve created to your Home timeline view. This makes it possible to swipe between each List quickly. It is a nice feature – especially for those with only a few lists or for those just starting out with them*.

Since this update was released I’m noticing more and more people mention Lists. So I believe this update is working how Twitter wanted it to.

Here is something I wrote about Lists 7 years ago:

I suppose my favorite part about using lists is that I can check Twitter whenever I want without the feeling that I’ll be overwhelmed and distracted by tweets. I can choose when I want to be distracted. When I want to sit down and catch up on Twitter I can go through a few of my lists depending on my mood.

This remains true today. If I’m in the mood to catch up on some outdoor activity lists – fishing, hiking, kayaking – I can dip into that List and catch up. But if I’m in the mood to catch up on technology – I can scroll through that List. It sort of reminds me of reading a particular section of the newspaper, rather than skipping around the newspaper randomly. It allows me to focus a bit more.

Also, Lists do not suffer from the Home timelines terrible algorithm. For that reason alone it is worth building a List or two.

One List of mine that has stuck around is the idea of a “Scratch” list. Today I call it “Heap”. Call it whatever you want, but this allows you to add random accounts to this List and see if they stick. If they do, it is worth taking the time to categorize them.

Not all accounts fit into a category. People, for instance, tweet about all sorts of things. So I find that my relationship with them ends up becoming the name of the List. And for everything else, I have a List called “Lump of People”. I have no idea where I get these names.

I cannot imagine using Twitter without Lists. So I’m glad they are investing in the feature rather than removing or ignoring it.

If you haven’t tried Lists on Twitter I recommend you give them a spin.

Now, if only Instagram would give me some way do to this same thing I’d use it a lot more.

What I saw this week #58: March 22, 2019

Here are some things I’ve seen recently:

Twitter isn’t going anywhere

Stephen Hackett, at 512 Pixels:

Regardless of all of that, I think it’s clear the leadership at Twitter has no idea what they are doing, and I think the network’s time is ticking away faster than ever.

Not to be contrarian but I disagree.

Update January 24, 2019: I must have misread Hackett’s post. I thought he was writing that Twitter wasn’t long for this world as a result of their leadership. But, based on this comment thread, it seems more that he meant that he wasn’t long for Twitter. My bad.

Taken cumulatively, Twitter’s leadership has always been objectively bad. The product decisions have been objectively bad. The policies and the enforcement of them have been objectively bad. In a way, Twitter’s leadership has tried everything they possibly can to kill the platform and the business. And yet it still exists.

Somehow Twitter has embedded itself into the world in such a way that I do not think it will go away. It is nearly an internet utility.

It is unlike the other social networks. Facebook has diversified itself enough (Instagram, Oculus, WhatsApp, Messenger, and so much more) that it can survive based on its breadth rather than its depth. But Twitter’s depth is what will save it. I think as of today it is an indispensable tool for politicians, journalists, organizations, and even celebrities to share their message.

So while individual users may get sick of the leadership, the product, the hate — as a whole it is only becoming more important. I don’t know exactly how it will stick around but I think it will.

Is Instagram about to plummet?

When Instagram first started to hit popularity – long after their failed attempt at being a check-in service – the app was all about photo filters. Anyone could snap a photo with their phone and quickly add a filter to make it look “better” or at least more interesting. It made everyone feel like a photographer.

At first “true” photographers balked at the platform. But then they saw the power of the network it was building so they started to sign up. Which created a boon for the platform and its Explore page because whenever we opened the app we saw gorgeous photos of the people, places and things we are interested in.

But this created pressure. I dubbed it Instagram pressure. It meant that the “anyone” (those that do not consider themselves photographers but enjoyed adding a filter to their photos) I mentioned before felt out of place. Incapable of producing such high quality, and often composite, results. So their usage began to wane. They were still looking but not posting as much.

Then the algorithmic timeline. Which made for completely different issues. It meant that really great photos from people with less of a following were getting little to no attention. And like-fatigue set in. Instagram had a problem but they had smart founders. They new they needed to act quickly.

So Instagram gobbled up Snapchat by stealing the medium of Stories and (in my opinion) improving on them. Which created another bolt of energy into the platform as there was now a way to create and publish far more content that didn’t need the same polish as a photo.

But then Facebook happened. True, Facebook purchased Instagram 6 years ago but it has only been the last 24 months that Facebook has taken a nosedive in public opinion. And with the founders of Instagram leaving the platform my own personal confidence in Instagram is at an all time low. In fact, I’ve stopped updating the app. I love Instagram as it stands right now. But I fear the next few updates.

Anyone that has been online for many years has seen the rise and fall of countless services for a variety of reasons. Mostly, though, the fall of a platform has something to do with some mass of individuals that originally embrace a platform eventually leaving a platform. Teens jump on Snapchat and move to Instagram and then move to TikTok or Musically. Tech people blog then tweet then blog again (yay!). Photographers use their own sites, then Flickr, then Instagram, then their own sites (and/or Flickr) again. At least, that is what seems to be happening.

Instagram has a huge backer, otherwise I think it’s decline would be as meteoric as its rise. So I don’t think it or Facebook will be gone any time soon. But I do have the feeling we will see photographers slowly leave the platform behind in order to publish elsewhere – whether that be their own web sites or Flickr or SmugMug or an as-yet-unreleased platform.

RSS is not dead. Subscribing is alive.

Sinclair Target, writing for Motherboard:

Today, RSS is not dead. But neither is it anywhere near as popular as it once was.

This isn’t the first nor the last article to cover the creation of the RSS standard, its rise to relative popularity with Google Reader, and its subsequent fall from popularity.

But the big point that many of these articles dismiss lightly or directly omit is that RSS is still used as the underpinnings of so many widely popular services today. Apple News, Google News, Flipboard (each with likely tens of millions of users or more) and many others use RSS it is just that people do not know it.

We should likely stop talking about RSS. We need to simply start calling RSS “Subscribing”. “Subscribe to my blog” is the only thing we need to say.

Also, tools like Inoreader, Feedly, etc. should create far better ways to surface content for readers from their active subscriptions. When people subscribe to more than just a few sites it quickly can be overwhelming to people that don’t like to wake up to “inboxes” with 300 unread count. People just abandon those. It is why Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. all use algorithms to select which content people should see when they open the app. I’m weird. I want to see everything in reverse chronological order. But “most people” want to see something interesting for the few moments they devote to reading their subscriptions.

RSS will never be as popular as Facebook. Let’s all get over it. But please do subscribe to my site. 🙂

Matt Haughey and I disagree about Instagram Stories

Matt Haughey, on this blog:

Instagram stories feel like work, like being forced to watch ads from my friends’ lives instead of casually browse stuff at my own pace. The feed: I can just scroll through quickly, and stop on interesting photos, but Stories slow down the whole process of popping into Instagram for just a moment.

Also? I understand it’s better to give people the right to forget their work, but when a true pro photographer does stories of their previous day with breathtaking shots, it makes me sad I can’t share those with others since they’re going poof in 24 hours.

Lastly, not being able to like or send some minor signal of support feels missing from Stories. I can only send them a DM, which feels invasive. I often want to send someone a congratulatory way to go! but sending them a direct message feels like too much contact.

I still like the main instagram, even though I can’t sort it by last uploaded and can’t pay to get all those ads removed, but I’m still tepid on Stories.

He and I disagree. We talked about it briefly on Mastodon. I understand his point of view. However, I really like Instagram Stories. I like making them. And I like watching them. For a good example of Stories take a look at my friend Dan Rubin.

Systrom and Krieger resign from Instagram

Kevin Systrom, former CEO and co-founder of Instagram:

We’ve grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion.

What a run! Talk about leaving while on top. A Seinfeld-esque move.

Leo Laporte leaves Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook

Leo Laporte:

Yesterday I deactivated my Twitter account and kicked Tumblr to the curb. A couple of weeks ago I did the same with Instagram. A month or so before that I killed Facebook. And I survived. No, thrived!

I had deleted my Twitter account in the past and lived. And while I haven’t deleted my account again I am on Twitter far less than ever. I spend much more time in my RSS reader (like in 2003 era), dabble on Micro.blog, and now on Mastodon a bit. It feels so much better even if decentralized.

Early thoughts on IGTV

Instagram launched what some are calling a direct competitor to YouTube, IGTV.

First, I’ll start by listing some reasons I think this is the perfect time for Instagram to have launched this product.

  • Smartphones are just beginning to get real horsepower and amazing battery life to enable this kind of experience and the amount of time people will want to watch longform video on their phones.
  • Portrait video is no longer thought about as terrible. Even by pros.
  • YouTube hasn’t innovated nearly enough with video formats. They’ve supported 180, 360, VR, etc. but haven’t messed much with things that work best on mobile phones like portrait video when maybe they should have been.
  • “Content creators” now have powerful mobile tool sets even more than they did before.
  • Instagram has 1B monthly active users. Content creators cannot dismiss this platform flippantly.

Second, I’ll list why I don’t think this will kill YouTube – but why it might move some of the content creators onto this platform.

  • Portrait video is intimate. So for things like “talking head” videos, make-up tips, and sharing an adventure, or vlogging it may even be better than YouTube for these things. For this reason, a lot of this type of content may move from YouTube to IGTV.
  • That being said, YouTube doesn’t make their bread and butter on these videos – nor even on vloggers. Though these internet celebrities suck up a lot of the oxygen around YouTube news (meaning, they get headlines)… by far YouTube is the video search engine. No time soon will you be fixing your toilets plumbing with a video from IGTV. YouTube’s business won’t be hurt much at all by losing vloggers or “Vine-like” funny videos to IGTV. In fact, it may help with issues like Logan Paul.
  • Tablet and TV — YouTube is saturated into the market of available devices. They are built into TVs, TV-connected devices like Alexa (I think?), Apple TV, Roku, etc. They also work on iPad. IGTV will never be on iPad and may not ever be on TVs. This is a smartphone medium.
  • Search Index – If you do a Google search for “Jeff Bezos interview” or “New Tesla commercial” or “Star Wars movie trailer” or “How Air Conditioning works” you will land on YouTube. And that will be that way for years to come.

Third, here are my general thoughts on the app experience:

  • Coming from Instagram Stories some of the gestures are odd. But I think I’ll get used to them.
  • I wish there was a quick way to pause or mute a video but it seems at least 2, if not 3, taps away from anywhere.
  • Discover-ability will need to improve. At current, you can only see the thumbnails for 4 popular videos at a time. Compare to Instagram’s Explore area, where you can quickly see dozens.
  • It eats battery. But, as I said above, I think the timing is right. Phones are going to greatly improve CPU which will help battery life.

Overall, I think IGTV is a great app and a good move for Instagram to make. I’m also happy that it is a separate app. While I believe that “creation apps” like Boomerang and Hyperlapse could have been strictly within Instagram’s main app – I believe consumption apps like IGTV belong outside of it.

Dan Kimbrough, a videographer, shared his thoughts on IGTV on his blog. I disagree with him on one point though. He says this is only important for those with Instagram or Facebook audiences. He writes:

Again, I’m talking about those who’s audience base comes from Instagram, not YouTubers or Facebook. If YouTube is your home base, this won’t matter to you today.

I disagree. And so does MKBHD who has 6M+ YouTube followers. Instagram’s 1B monthly active users (Dan cites 600M in his post but Instagram announced 1B MAUs yesterday) make it so that these creators cannot ignore this platform.

What I would write about Vero

Colin Walker wrote his hot take on Vero and it is exactly what I would have written (only his post is far more eloquent than mine would have been). Go read the entire post but here are a few highlights.

As soon as I saw what Vero was all about – the idea it “makes sharing online more like real life” using selective audiences I was immediately taken back to the promises of Google+ and its circles.

This is an apt comparison. As he rightly points out, managing ones Circles on Google+ and deciding who to share what with is exhausting to the user. On paper it seems like an excellent approach. But on every social network that has this feature – Facebook included – it is rarely used. Who wants to move people from one list to another only to move them back again when your relationship with them shifts?

Although Vero promises an algorithm free feed and no ads (it will monetise using subscriptions and charges for selling via the platform) I’m not sure that jumping from the frying pan of one silo straight into the as yet unproven fire of another is what we really need right now.

I thought about this when I signed up. However, it doesn’t take much for a platform like Vero to support the open web and be less of a silo than Facebook or Twitter. An open API, data portability, and support for one’s own domain are the main features. I can’t presume that no other platforms will support the open web eventually. In fact, imagine if Twitter did this like Medium has? Then what would people think of Twitter?

I wish them well and hope they prove me wrong but, while I think the noise about Russian developers and the CEO being the son of a former Lebanese prime minister is stupid and tantamount to inciting racial hatred, I’m afraid I won’t be signing up.

I’m very glad he brought this up. When I saw the drivel on Twitter about these details about this platform I was saddened. Are we saying all Russian developers are bad? Or all Lebanese billionaires? I would always urge caution when signing up to brand-new platforms but to think we’d all call these people out simply based on where they were born is… well Colin already said what it is.

Eliza and I poked around with Vero as much as we could while the app crashed and timed out. It won’t stick. Not because of the scaling issues – most platforms have those. It won’t stick because it will be far too noisy for users right out of the gate.

When Instagram pivoted from a check-in app to a filtered photo app it exploded because it made photo editing and publishing one simple step. It did one thing well. Slowly it has added other features but this primary feature is still the foremost one today. Vero has photos, music, links, books etc. Once the hype settles down people just want to post photos. Instagram should be scared of whatever comes next. Obviously people (including me) do not like the current algorithmic feed. But Vero is no Instagram killer.

Fred Wilson on owning your content

Fred Wilson:

I would never outsource my content to some third party. I blog on my own domain using open source software (WordPress) that I run on a shared server that I can move if I want to. It is a bit of work to set this up but the benefits you get are enormous.

The above quote is coming from someone who was a major investor in, and active user of,  Twitter. You can have both. You can tweet and enjoy using Twitter. You don’t have to boycott it to own your own content.

Over the last few months I’ve found the right balance for myself. I’m not syndicating anywhere* but publishing on my blog. I tweet from time-to-time, I post some photos to Instagram and Facebook from time-to-time, but I do all of that manually. I do so full-well-knowing that any of that content can disappear at any time. And I’d totally fine with it if it did, because everything I want to last is here on cdevroe.com.

* All of my posts do end up on micro.blog but that service is simply ingesting my RSS/JSON feed. I do not have to do anything special for that to work. If Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram did that I’d likely turn that on there too. But I’m tired of trying to keep up with their platform changes to write my own plugins, or even use plugins to do so. So I choose to manually POSSE and keep my sanity.

Richard MacManus’s tech predictions

Richard MacManus attempts to predict some things for 2018:

We’ll finally get a killer app for AR in 2018. Maybe hope springs eternal, but I’d love to see an AR app with real utility – not just a game like Pokemon Go.

I suppose it matters how you define “killer app”. For me a killer app would be when “most” people begin to use AR somehow. And, if that is the definition then I would say AR already had multiple killer apps. Pokemon Go, Snapchat, Instagram, Google Maps, all of these are excellent uses of AR and hundreds of millions of people use them.

Mixed reality is tough to segment and define. When I talk about AR I think I’m mainly talking about moving our computing experience away from our screens and into the real world. I would love to have my workspace no longer be tied to my work office. To have any size screen I want, wherever I need it. As I’ve written, I don’t think that will happen for another 9 years. But perhaps that is a different form of AR and AR has already “made it”.

I wonder what MacManus’s definition of “killer app” is?

Best of 2017 as told by me

To create this list I sat down and wrote from the top of my head the things I could remember being awesome in 2017. The list isn’t exhaustive. It is just what made an impression on me as being “the best” in each category.

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

Evee consistently writes well-researched, readable, diatribes on topics that could otherwise be boring yet are fascinating and I hang on every word. Here are a few posts from 2017 to get you started:

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

When I awarded this to Jason Santa Maria so many years ago it was due to his use of color, contrast, typography. But design isn’t limited to how something looks but also how it works. Colin Walker has spend much of 2017 tweaking his blog’s features in subtle ways to work just the way he wants it to. I’m sure he’ll continue to fiddle with it throughout 2018 but I think we can all learn from Colin’s iterative approach. Keep tweaking.

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

I’ve known about Brand New for a long time and have stumbled across a post or two over the years. But this year I’ve been pushing myself to learn more visual design and one way was to subscribe to more blogs like this. I find these posts, and the community, to be an excellent resource.

Best service: Spotify

This year I’ve used both Apple Music and Google Play Music to see if I could move away from Spotify. Spotify is in a league all its own, the other two don’t even compare well. Spotify’s machine learning robots just do an amazing job at surfacing music that I would like. It is so good it is eery.

Notable mention: Google Photos. I’ve switch from Apple iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and I’m consistently being surprised by how much better it is.

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a tough call. I read some pretty great books this year. But the one that keeps coming up in conversations, the one I’m sharing the most is Ready Player One. I think it is the sci-fi novel that I read this year that most feels like it could happen within a few years.

Notable mention: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling has made the biggest impact to my productivity and cognitive load than any other app, technique, or method this year. My “version” is slightly different than the default but I’m loving it.

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

I’m cobbling together my notes for a “review” of the Pixel 2 XL in the coming weeks but I can say, unequivocally, it is the best phone of the year. For me. I know the Samsung Galaxy Note8 made many people’s list and of course the iPhone X deserves a mention – but for the price, the quality of the hardware, and the software the Pixel 2 XL is an easy winner for me.

Before I get email, know that I have an iPhone X (Eliza’s phone) and I’ve tried the Samsung models. For me it came down to the camera system (which is actually better than the iPhone X in everything but the second lens), the software (Android 8.1 – Samsung is way behind) and the price. The iPhone X will be better next year and, hopefully, iOS 12 will be much, much better than iOS 11. But, as of today, Google is killing it.

One other side note: Google as a personal assistant is so much better than Siri it is jarring. I may have used Siri a few times per month in the past but today I use Google about 10 times per day with nearly zero mistakes.

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

If you’re not a fan of The West Wing this choice may not land with you at all. So, for you I would suggest Song Exploder. If you haven’t yet listened to TWWW I suggest starting at the beginning and also watching The West Wing along the way.

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

When I deleted my social media accounts and didn’t even look at them for a few months the one I missed the most was Instagram. The platform continues to be one of the best and they continue to add great new features all the time while somehow keeping the app’s history in tact. The day may come when they add a feature that is terrible but so far they’ve done pretty well.

Side note: The algorithmic timeline almost pushed this one out for me. It is nearly inexcusable that this isn’t optional. I sincerely hope they find a way to allow users this option this year.

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

Perhaps this should be “most improved browser”? Quantum is a great name for the strides Mozilla has made with Firefox. They continue to improve the browser.

Oddly, Firefox is not my “daily driver”. I am using Chrome due to my switch to Android. (I’m ecstatic that I now can choose a default browser) I may, though, give Firefox a try across the board again soon.

Notable mention: Safari for turning off auto-play videos and ad tracking by default.

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

Though I’m now using Android I have to list Apollo as the best app. If you ever kill time by looking at Reddit (which I do a few times per week) I have to suggest you try this app. It is so well made you’ll wish it’s developer made every app you use.

Notable mention: Snapseed and Google PhotoScan (search App Stores).

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

VS Code has improved a lot over the last year and has now overtaking Atom as my default text editor and code editor for all projects. While I still build native apps in Visual Studio most of my web work and text editing happens in VS Code.

The shared workspaces are the big feature for me this year. I can combine several code repositories into a single workspace and use Spotlight to launch all code related to a particular project in less than a second. It also has git and terminal integrated so I’m usually able to do all of my work in a single window.

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

Specifically, Hot Ones. First We Feast has an interview show called Hot Ones that I just discovered this year and I can’t get enough of it.

Notable mention: MKBHD

Those are all of the categories I wanted to feature this year. Again, I simply pull this list together from the top of my head. Just like all years I saw so many amazing things it’d be very hard to create a real list. I suggest following my blog for all of 2018 because whenever I see something worth linking to I do so.

There are, however, some other companies, people, and products that I think deserve a shout-out. Here they are in no particular order: SpaceX, Khalid, Tom Hanks’ lost gloves tweets, The Last Jedi hype, Chris Stapleton, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE Podcast, Amazon Kindle and library loans, letgo, Google Maps, OK Google, Logitech MX Master 2S, USB-C, cast iron pans, Amazon Prime.

See you next year.

 

 

Repost: Nitin Khanna re: Instagram hashtags

👉 Nitin Khanna:

I am LOVING Instagram’s new hashtag follow feature! It makes perfect sense and makes my feed that much more interesting! Now if only other social networks understood this simple idea.

Follow Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram:

Today we’re introducing the ability to follow hashtags, giving you new ways to discover photos, videos and people on Instagram. Now it’s even easier to stay connected with the interests, hobbies, passions and communities you care about.

This is an excellent feature. I won’t even go into all the ways Twitter should have been first to things like this (seeing as the hashtag was invented there).

If you’re building a platform that supports hashtags you may want to consider doing something like this too.

What comes after Instagram?

Victoria Wright on Twitter:

Photo friends// are you regularly sharing your work somewhere other than on @instagram? I’m so over them deciding what I see and don’t see

The thread is interesting. Most photogs point to VSCO.

I think Instagram still has a long runway ahead of it. And I still think it is very, very good. However, if I had a single complaint it would be the algorithmic timeline.

If photographers begin to jettison Instagram than normals will follow 24-36 months later. I don’t see that happening with Instagram – at least not to a service like VSCO since that isn’t social enough. The masses need likes and comments (sorry Micro.blog). But there is room for something to come along and upend Instagram and it will likely be a network that is simple*.

* This is how these things work. A new app or service is created. People flock to it because it is simple. Then it grows. It tries to address the needs of a much broader audience. Then people beg for even more features. Until the breaking point. And then it starts over again somewhere else.

Regram

Matt Navarra for The Next Web:

Instagram appears to be finally working on a native Regram button. It’s a feature many users have been waiting for for some time. Currently, users wanting to reshare content have to either save the image or video to their device and re-share it from their own account, or call upon one of several third party apps like Regram, a popular Android option.

I know some may think this would ruin Instagram but frankly I believe it could allow for things on the network to reach a much broader audience. I welcome the addition and I’m sure if Instagram ever puts this public they’ll do it as tastefully as possible. They’ve proven themselves to be able to do this with all other features so far.

By far, I believe Instagram to be the best social media sharing app going.

Recent grams

I’m trying my hand at Instagram again. This time I’ve created my own filter using Snapseed which I’ve named ColinGram2018. I’m taking some photos I’ve published here and re-editing them with some cropping, blurring, and using ColinGram2018 and then publishing them on the gram.

Here are a few example images I’ve posted so far.

Independent interviews Mike Krieger of Instagram

Adrian Weckler interviewed Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, for Independent.ie out of Dublin. Regarding longer form video Krieger replies:

What we have right now is a minute. If we introduce longer video, we have to make it fit into the flow of Instagram in a way that makes sense. I think what might point the way is the people who use video today on Instagram. I meet these digital creators who are producing video for Instagram and they’ll often do a short cut for their Instagram feed or for Stories and point to a longer video. Often that lives on other platforms because you just can’t post them on Instagram. But the idea of a teaser plus the full piece of content, if you were interested in it, might be a future piece.

I don’t know exactly what would make sense for longer form video on Instagram but so far they’ve been making great choices. I think just being able to play videos full-screen would be enough for me. I think it’d be just fine to see longer form video on my timeline with, perhaps, the first 15 seconds as a preview or something. But I’m unsure.

Another takeaway from this interview is how Instagram has always talked about how it ripped off Snapchat. I really love the candor. They have always come right out and said that Snapchat was first. And then they back up why they’ve brought that medium to Instagram. The reason he gives is both obvious and apt; because people were already doing it by creating second accounts to share more regularly on. Now they don’t have to do that.

 

Share Instagram Stories via Direct Message

Instagram:

Starting today, you can share stories with your friends in Direct.

This is a meaningful update. Stories sucked a lot of the activity out of the feed. Being able to share Stories you find – whether they are about a place, event, an interest, a celebrity, or from a friend – means that a lot more eyeballs can be pushed around the network. In other words, a Story can now “go viral” within Instagram (and, rumor has it, soon on Facebook).

Of any of the social platforms I miss Instagram the most.

Multiple photos and videos in a single post on Instagram

Instagram:

With this update, you no longer have to choose the single best photo or video from an experience you want to remember. Now, you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in one post and swipe through to see them all.

Fantastic update and finally one that is different than most, if not all, other platforms.

Live streaming video, by the numbers

Dan Kimbrough:

Facebook makes sense as the leader. More people use Facebook than YouTube. And by that, I mean we consume a lot on YouTube, most of its traffic is viewing videos, not creating. I think that most companies and influencers have a big enough audience that they can stream anywhere and their followers will…follow.

Facebook should be able to hold this top spot for some time. Their live video platform is easy to use and very, very good. Couple that with the massive audience and they have the killer live video product for a while. Also, a little birdie told me to expect Instagram-like Stories coming to Facebook soon as they are already testing this in smaller European regions. If they do that “Stories” video is going to go through the roof.

YouTube, on the other hand, is still only dabbling with live video. It seems they care more about live video for events than pushing live video from users. I’m sure this is a conscious choice. Perhaps, they’d prefer their live video to be of higher quality when they promote it. However, I just recently noticed their app has a tab (not a navigation item) for live video. I used it to watch to a few “radio” stations and someone playing a game. It was a very good experience. If, like Facebook, YouTube added that navigation item (and allowed directly sharing through Facebook and Twitter) I’d bet their numbers would sky rocket.

Dan also mentions the absence of Instagram Stories in the numbers:

Another note, I’d of thought Instagram would at least make the chart, but it’s live functions are only two and half months old. I think that they have the potential to move into third place, maybe even second.

He’s right (as always). The charts in Dan’s post are from polls conducted in November 2016. Instagram Stories hadn’t even existed yet (can you believe that?). EDIT: Instagram Stories launched in August 2016. It was Instagram Stories w/ Live video that came later. Thanks Leni. END EDIT. Already Instagram is crushing Snapchat so I expect the live video numbers to be also representative of that. By the time these polls are conducted again I’d expect Instagram Stories to rank very highly.

Another thing to note is that Twitter’s Live Video numbers are skewed slightly due to the fact that the feature for users is only available through Periscope and not yet a first-class citizen. Their live streaming video numbers — aside from Periscope — are likely due to their deals with large broadcast organizations and the NFL. If Twitter opens up live streaming video to users I’d also expect their numbers to climb. Historically Twitter hasn’t been very good at running separate brands so I think to do this they should bring Periscope into Twitter.

It is good to keep an eye on these trends as viewership shifts back and forth. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers overlap somewhat but I’d love to see some statistics on how many separate and distinct live streaming video platforms users are getting their content from.

This post edited on February 15, 2017.

Josh Ginter on Instagram pressure

Josh Ginter re: my Instagram pressure post:

I tried to fix this by unfollowing just about everyone I know personally and following as many talented photographers as I could find. The result of that decision: enormous inspiration to get out of the house and travel, but also to a confidence-shattering reflection on my own photos. Now, instead of posting what I thought was one of my best photos, I opt to hold back because it doesn’t measure up.

His example of how his neighbor’s photo of their morning coffee garners more likes than his carefully curated vacation photo is also another type of pressure or anxiety that can come from using networks like Instagram. It is why I hate “likes”. I’ve always hated likes. When I post to Instagram I turn off commenting (same for my blog). If I could turn off likes too I would.  “Likes” create a false sense of value. I’m still struggling with whether or not I want to be pulling the “likes” and “shares” back to my blog from Twitter and Facebook like I have been using the Indieweb Backfeed. I have it on right now but I’m considering turning it off. I may also turn off POSSE soon but I fear my audience will shrink substantially. This is a topic for another post.

If I could turn off commenting on Facebook I would. It isn’t because I don’t want to read people’s comments, on the contrary, I want quality comments (like the one I’m linking to from Josh right now or the one from Chris Aldrich on this same topic). Open network discussion hasn’t fostered quality discourse.

One other note about Instagram and “likes”; their feed algorithm is wreaking havoc with people’s expectations when posting to the service. People that used to get 10,000 likes per photo are now getting very disparate results. One will get a few thousand, the next 10 thousand, some nearly zero. The algorithm is choosing which photos get popped into people’s feed. Some photos are never seen by your followers. So if you were valuing your work based on “likes” you no longer can. And if you think this isn’t a problem imagine someone that makes their living based on having 7M Instagram followers that suddenly cannot guarantee their sponsors any metric at all.

I think this is why I like Instagram Stories so much. When I post to stories I see exactly who viewed each post (good) and if someone wants to reply their reply comes to me privately (also good). The drawback, however, is that the discourse that happens in private isn’t of any value to the public. I’m not sure how to fix that without reintroducing the issues we see on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Chris Aldrich on Instagram pressure

Chris Aldrich:

While in some sense I do miss the beautiful Instagram feeds of yore when it was mostly professionals, it’s more interesting now with friends who use it to capture small snippets of their lives.

It seems he has had the opposite experience to the one I mentioned in my previous post; that it started out with unprofessional, filtered, photographs and has now become a network full of professionally edited photos and videos. Interesting.

Instagram pressure

Kevin Weil, Instagram’s head of product, within a piece by Kurt Wagner for Recode regarding Instagram:

“It became a place where people kept raising the bar on themselves in terms of the quality of what they had to achieve to post,” explained Kevin Weil, Instagram’s head of product, who has been working to fix this problem since joining Instagram from Twitter in early 2016. “We didn’t want that.”

I can say I’ve felt this pressure. Amazing photographers are on Instagram and the more of them I follow the less I want to post – thinking I cannot compete.

Instagram was to be a place where anyone with a smartphone could post images that looked good because you could easily apply a filter to make your photo more appealing.

M.G. Siegler covering the yet-to-be-launched Instagram in September 2010:

More specifically, Instagram is a iPhone photo-sharing application that allows you to apply interesting filters to your photos to make them really pop. The app will be launching in the coming weeks, but as a longtime Burbn user, I’ve had the opportunity to try it out over the past few weeks. And I’m happy to report that it’s very good.

Burbn being the name of the app prior to Instagram.

I remember when people used to be called out as frauds for posting photos to Instagram that were taken with a DSLR. These days you see edited professional masterpieces.

Take a look at this video, for example, from itchban. This is a single video that was created using Adobe Premier to cut the video in half; the top is a time lapse, the bottom is slow motion. It creates a stunning effect. I really like it. But 90% of Instagram users could never pull that off – even though itchban very nicely shared this technique through their Instagram Story.

Instagram has been a tear lately. They are putting out new, and very substantial, updates very regularly. And it seems they’ve managed to decrease the pressure to create masterpieces and increase the amount of Story activity. Which, according to the above linked piece, it appears was their goal. I do fear, though, that posting photos from a smartphone to Instagram is waning rather quickly. I’m seeing so many Stories posted (which I like) but I’m seeing far less activity in the photo area.

It will be interesting to see where Instagram goes next and whether or not photo posting will still be important going forward.

The slow web and POSSE

David Mead:

This year all of my posts, replies, and retweets on Twitter will be coming from this blog and not using the Twitter app (#OwnYourData). That probably means doing it at the end of the day. I’m hoping that will make them more considered (something we may all want to be in the coming years).

I have most notifications off (and have for years). And I plan on keeping it that way.

But, I’m not doing so well on what he’s talking about in the quoted bit above. POSSE, as the indiewebbers call it, is posting on my site here and then syndicating it elsewhere. My blog posts are syndicated to Twitter the way I’d like but not Facebook or Instagram (the other two networks I use the most). And I also find myself lazily posting directly to Twitter rather than through my site because the apps are so easy to use. I wish I did better.

Here is what I would need to do to pull this off personally:

  • Post status updates, posts, audio bits, and photos to Facebook
  • Post photos to Instagram
  • Be able to retweet or quote tweet posts easily from my site (no idea how to do this)
  • Show Twitter likes, replies, retweets, quote tweets on my site
  • Show Facebook likes, replies, shares on my site
  • Show Instagram commends and likes on my site

I wouldn’t have to do all of these to be happy, but I’d at least like to push the content to those networks. Maybe I’ll start there.

Thomasz Furmanek, Kayaker, Instagrammer

I’ve been following Thomasz Furmanek on Instagram for a few years already (right around the time I got my first kayak, the Oru Kayak, which is the same one Furmanek uses).

I liked this bit in his photographic interview with Daily Mail:

The kayak enables me to travel to remote places and show people these places from a different perspective than they are used to.

I think this is one of the reasons people enjoy my photos too. I have people come up to me and say “I love your photos, please keep sharing them”. And I think it is because they are seeing places they go to and have seen (parks, recreational areas, rivers) but from a completely different angle. I will keep taking them and sharing them because I love doing it.

Regarding Furmanek’s photos, though… he’s cheating. Norway is just stunning from any angle.

Instagram’s new look

Ian Spalter, Head of Design at Instagram, on Medium:

The evolution of the community has been inspiring, and we hope that we’ve captured some of the life, creativity, and optimism people bring to Instagram every day. Our hope is that people will see this app icon as a new creative spark — something to have fun with and make their own. We’re excited for where this will take us.

The knee-jerk critiques were flying all over the place yesterday; both online and off. Obviously Ian and his team have had a lot more time with this new icon, and app design, than we have and we should allow it some time to sink in before forming any firm convictions.

My first reaction was that I loved the app design (though I feel some of its personality has been stripped like most iOS 7+ apps) and that the icon will need more time to settle in.

The one piece of context all of us on the outside are missing is what Instagram’s vision for the future is. They likely have an idea for where they’d like their community, application(s), and platform to be in the next 3 to 5 years and I’m sure this re-branding exercise plays into that. So give Instagram a year or so and then see how this new icon sits.

Either way, well done to the team at Instagram for putting something out in the world.