Menu

Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Feedly, Micro.blog.

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.