What TechCrunch Gets Wrong About Ello…

Pardon My Whiskers Mr. Mingus
Photograph of the hippest hipster cat around, Mr. Mingus, by hipster Daniel Krieger

Writing for TechCrunch, Josh Constine penned a hit piece yesterday announcing the end of Ello. I was disappointed to see TechCrunch, a publication that I long viewed as being supportive of the start up community, using their pulpit to tear one down. Not only do I think Josh got a lot of the story on Ello wrong, but the dramatic tone of his article was unnecessarily disparaging and that is disappointing.

I’m not sure how much Josh uses Ello, but I use it every day and it’s currently my favorite social network.

I thought I’d take a few minutes to address some of the things that Josh said about Ello and add my own commentary.

1. Josh says: “Here in September gone in September, Ello hoped to dethrone Facebook by … not having ads.”

I’m curious about Josh’s comments saying Ello hoped to “dethrone” Facebook. Nowhere have I ever seen the founders of Ello saying that they hope to “dethrone” Facebook. In fact, the founders have gone out of their way to say that Ello and Facebook are two entirely different things. Ello is a social network and Facebook is an advertising network.

If you pull up Ello’s mission statement, does it say that their goal in life is to “dethrone” Facebook?

On the “What is Ello” page, Ello states:

“Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers. We originally built Ello as a private social network. Over time, so many people wanted to join Ello that we built a public version of Ello for everyone to use.”

Huh? So why the wild hyperbole from TechCrunch stating that Ello hoped to dethrone Facebook? If Ello got even 1/10th of 1% of the users that Facebook has it would be an absolute home run. Facebook is a multi billion dollar advertising network. Ello is a fun place to hang out and share things in an ad free environment with interesting people.

2. Josh says: “But while hipsters had fun hating on Zuck’s creation for a few days, they all went back to it and promptly ditched Ello.”

What’s with the dig about “hipsters?”

Maybe I’m a hipster, maybe I’m not a hipster?

I’m just a photographer looking to share my photos on a cool platform and I’m still using Ello everyday, just like I did when I joined it.

Is Brian Nelson a “hipster” (they won’t let him share his fine art nude photographs on Facebook by the way, warning NSFW)? Is my photographer friend David Seibold a hipster? Is JC Little a hipster? Is foalsi a hipster? Is Greg Poulos a hipster? Is Japanese photographer ruylopez a hipster? Is Jessica Greene a hipster? Is Toby Harriman a hipster? Is dutch a hipster? Is my Italian friend Nicola Cocco a hipster? Is writer, journalist and photographer Marcus Hammerschmitt a hipster? Is Ugo Cei a hipster? Is Brad Sloan a hipster? Is Portuguese street photographer Ricardo Porto a hipster?

I know my friend Daniel Krieger is *definitely* a hipster — he shoots for the NY Times, lives in Brooklyn, used to have a moustache, drinks fine bourbon and has the coolest cat named Mr. Mingus. The thing is though, all of these people are still on Ello and still posting every day. Josh on the other hand made two posts on the site and then bolted. One of his two posts is of this hipster looking avatar with a moustache, beard and long hair that I guess is supposed to be him?

Is the hipster criticism just because a few of the Ello founders have beards? Whatever case, the “hipsters” haven’t “promptly ditched Ello.” I could easily come up with a few hundred more interesting talented people I follow on Ello that pretty much post every day.

3. Josh says: “Beating Facebook at its own game is like punching a wall 1.35 billion bricks thick. ”

Huh, who said anything about “beating Facebook at its own game?” Lots of people who use Ello also use Facebook. I know I do. Why does everything have to be about “beating” Facebook. Is that just for the clicks? Ello isn’t even playing Facebook’s game. How can they “beat” them in an advertising game that they are not even playing in?

4. Josh says: “So as soon as people realized they could either post to their few smug friends who joined Ello, or everyone they know on Facebook, they dropped Ello on its face.”

Why would Josh think that people who use Ello are “smug?” I’ve met some really cool and interesting people on Ello. I’ve made some great new friends and reconnected with some old ones. The mixture of people is like a really nice bar where people generally speaking are nice and thoughtful and creative and intelligent and interesting. Maybe Josh needs to spend more time actually researching Ello before labeling the community there as “smug” and saying that they “dropped Ello on it’s Face.”

I mean, I hate to say it, but I think Josh’s hipster TechCrunch article on Ello is actually way, way, way, way more “smug” than the people who are actually using Ello as a fun community every single day.

5. Josh says: “No one I follow has posted in three months, so I doubt they’re checking the site either. ”

So wait, because Josh’s 22 hipster friends on Ello aren’t using it nobody else could possibly be? Maybe he should do a little more research because many of the 778 friends I’m following on there are using it every single day.

I thought Josh’s take on Ello was pretty myopic and one sided.

Look, here’s the thing about Ello. Ello is not trying to be Facebook. Ello is not trying to beat Facebook. Ello is not trying to play a game of horse basketball with Facebook on the Facebook basketball courts. Ello is Ello. Ello doesn’t need billions of users. Ello doesn’t need creepy ads that follow you around the internet. Ello doesn’t need you to pay them to have your “sponsored” posts shown to your friends.

Ello just is a cool place where interesting, intelligent, creative people are hanging out and being all friendly like. Photography there looks better than on any other network on the web. The interface is easy and clean. The folks running the show actually give a damn and care about the place and participate and are transparent about where they are headed with the network. If you haven’t tried Ello yet, check it out. You might find it the friendly sort of place you might like to hang out. You can find me on Ello here.

Some good comments about this article here.

Update: Paul Budnitz, one of Ello’s founders, has a very insightful response to Josh’s TechCrunch piece here.

What Ello is to Me

Bob Ello

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs

Nathan Jurgenson is getting a lot of attention today for asking what was Ello? Link baiting headlines always seem to drive the most traffic.

This is what Ello *is* to me.

The other day I was having a friendly debate (on Facebook of all places) with my good friend Robert Scoble, about why I participate so heavily on Ello and not so much on Facebook. Robert told me that I should post what I write, or at least links to it, on Facebook.

I do post links to some of my Ello stuff on Facebook, but I don’t really participate on Facebook much except maybe to check in with a few friends who are on there from time to time. I do post to Facebook every day still, but I view Facebook mostly as a distribution channel for my photography and less as a social network to engage in. I post my work to a lot of places where it’s just meant to be displayed and enjoyed, but 95% of my interaction online these days is at Ello.

I’ve been thinking a bit today about why I like Ello so much more than the other social networks and because I like to make lists, I thought I’d share 8 reasons why I’m really digging Ello right now.

1. I have never met as quirky, creative, intelligent a group of people as I have on Ello.

I have participated *heavily* in social networks for over a decade. I was on Flickr the year it started. I was on Twitter the year it started. I was on Google+ the hour it started (and Google Buzz before that). I was an early friendfeed users before it was shuttered to Facebook. I would have been on Facebook earlier than I was, but back in the early days it was only for college students — but I set up a Facebook account once I could.

Elllo reminds me a lot of the good ol’ super early days of Flickr Groups when folks like Mr. Chalk were still around.

Ello is full of some of the most creative, passionate, thoughtful personalities that I’ve ever seen online. Some of it is fcuking nutz! You have to pay attention and really think about what’s going on if you have any chance in hell of understanding what in the world @bibles is talking about.

The other day I read one of the most passionate works of non-fiction I’ve ever read by @beneaththestars. She deleted the work the next day, because it was painful and intensely raw and personal, but it’s not something you’d ever have found on Facebook.

Every Ello day is full of creativity. What about the mad curation skillz of @diogovarelasilva? The writers, artists, and creative people that are setting up house there are really publishing fine work. I hesitate to name more names, because you ALWAYS leave so many people out… but…@dbriannelson (NSFW), @sylvia_plath, @kellylr, @girlmuse, @elisemesner, @cgwarex, @katatonic, @mtvinthe1990s, @x-files, @miranda_riordan (also probably not so safe for work)… Last night I read one of the most hilarious adult picture books by @theanimatedwoman I could just keep going…

2. I’m not afraid of adult content or the human body. I’m actually a big fan of the human body and think that it’s absurd that Facebook will take down photos of mothers breastfeeding their young.

The other day Facebook sent me a note letting me know that they had sided on my side about leaving up a photo of mine of a sculpture by August Rodin, probably the world’s most famous sculptor. To me it’s absurd that people would actually report a Rodin sculpture, but the fact that you even have to think about that at Facebook is dumb.

Ello, like Flickr, manages NSFW content much more intelligently. At Ello if you are going to be sharing content that is adult oriented you just categorize your work as NSFW. Likewise people then have a choice to either view NSFW or have this work filtered out of their Ello experience. NSFW and SFW content can exist side by side together in peace and harmony. Boobs are not necessarily evil, just ask Scout Willis.

You see, the thing is that in general the world’s most creative people dislike censorship. So *because* Ello makes a place for intelligent and creative NSFW content, it attracts a much higher percentage of these creatives than you will find somewhere like Facebook.

3. I hate ads. Facebook’s ads are “supposed” to be intelligent ads that are targeted just to my specific taste and liking. If this is true then why are they advertising dishlatino at me? I speak un poquito of Spanish, but certainly not enough to sign up and order dishlatino. Nothing against latinos who like to watch satellite TV by the way.

I don’t think Facebook’s ads are intelligently targeted towards me at all. I think that I am shotgunned ads just like I am on broadcast TV where I have to watch horrible pharmaceutical commercials over and over and over again. Ello has no ads and better yet NEVER will! Is starting a new social network without ads bold? Hell yes it is! I love it!

4. The founders that hack on Ello are right up there amongst the most creative of the Ello community. As much as their creativity though, I admire their transparency. Frequent updates about what’s up with Ello abound. If you have a problem with Ello’s service or something’s bothering you go tell @budnitz or @cacheflowe or @lucian or @todd or whoever. The team running the site are accessible and frequently let you know what’s up. Obviously they can’t respond to every crank anarchist with an axe to grind (nothing against crank anarchists with axes to grind), but they are pretty open about what they are up to.

5. I don’t need to be on the biggest social network in the world. I really don’t. I’d rather interact with a few hundred really interesting engaging people than 5 million strangers.

6. Ello is not just for artists. Although I have a burning passion for art and photography, during the day I have an equal passion for my day job, which just happens to be in the financial services industry. I don’t talk about this side of who I am very often, but I’ve been very impressed that Ello has seemed to have attracted some talent here as well. Respected writers in the financial industry like Bloomberg’s Joel Weisenthal are writing there. Bloomberg News has an active Ello account. Ello is not just for artists!

7. Did I mention *photos* *look* *great*? I love it when I see a photographer post the same photo on Ello and other social networks. Photos look so much better on Ello, it’s not even close.

8. I don’t want some corporation filtering out work by my friends and filtering out my work to my friends. The other day I was visiting with my friend Marc Evans. We were talking about Facebook and I told him that one of the things that I disliked about Facebook is that I NEVER see his work on there. He replied that it’s funny but that he NEVER sees my work on there either. For some reason Facebook filters his stuff out of my feed. Occasionally I do go to his individual feed there and like stuff, but he never appears in my public feed. I feel like Facebook wants me to pay them in order to let my images go out to my friends there. I’ve noticed that traffic to my images over the past several years increasingly has been dwindled down by Facebook’s almighty algorithm. I don’t like that.

I, for one, will spend most of 2015 on Ello. I love the way the platform showcases photography. I love the quirky creative people I am finding on there. I love the accessibility, openness and transparency of those who are hacking on it. I love that I don’t have to see ads. It feels like a beautiful, open frontier with the most interesting personalities I have ever seen on any social network.

For those of you asking about a mobile app for Ello, it is coming. I suspect we see one in early 2015. Don’t let this stop you from participating though. You can still use Ello on the web today on your phone and it pays to get involved with the best new things early on.

One final word of advice for those of you who find Ello as compelling as I do. You can’t just join a social network and expect to have things happen. The best social network happens when *you* put effort into it. Don’t just post to Ello and then run away. Participate. Engage with other users. Comment on compelling work that you like. Invite your friends and the most creative people you know to come join you. If you are interested here is a post I wrote on 10 tips for getting the most out of Ello. Oh and you can find me on Ello here.

The future is bright for Ello indeed!

Update: I posted a few respectful comments on Nathan Jurgenson’s original piece, What was Ello, linked above. Interestingly enough it would appear that he is deleting comments from his original blog post about Ello posted by people who respectfully disagree with him.

That feels intellectually dishonest to me and makes his original post feel even more like trolling. I certainly respect people’s right to moderate content, but in general I’m happy to let people post comments on my posts that disagree with me, as long as they can do it respectfully without attacking other people etc. It’s disappointing that as a blogger it would appear Jurgenson can’t handle basic simple, respectful disagreement.

Here is another example of a thoughtful, on topic, respectful comment deleted by Jurgenson. Deleting comments from people for disagreeing with you feels intellectually dishonest and cowardly. I’m disappointed that Jurgenson feels it necessary to delete comments by people who respectfully disagree with him.

Update 2: Another perspective: why @rumblepress likes Ello. :)

‘Tis the Season for Flickr Wall Art

Tis the Season for Flickr Wall Art

Look what showed up in the mail yesterday: a beautiful 16 x 20 premium photo mounted from Flickr’s new Wall Art service.

The photo is mounted on a one inch board and looks beautiful both on the wall as well as being held my daughter Kate, whose photo I printed.

The process of ordering the print was super easy and I was able to order it directly from the Flickr photo page.

In addition to ordering your own photos as wall art, there is also a huge library of wall art photos that you can purchase from other photographers on Flickr. Flickr recently revised this fine art program and now shares sales proceeds with all photographers involved in their wall art project.

What a wonderful way for Flickr to partner with their photographers who make the site a more beautiful place.

Ello vs. Facebook for Photographers

Ello vs. Facebook

Are you an artist or photographer? Do care about the integrity of your images? Do you dislike ads and sponsored posts shoved in your face? Do you dislike having 99% of your feed filtered out of view for those who follow you?

Look at the above and answer this question: where does my photograph of the St. Louis Arch look better, Ello or Facebook?

By the way, Ello is not just a social network for photographers. I’ve met some amazing creative writers, thinkers, and purveyors of all sorts of culture there.

There are communities there building on things like finance, tech, science, politics, etc. It’s an open inclusive community.

It’s also where I spend almost all of my online time these days. So, if you notice I’m quiet on Facebook and other networks, it’s not that I’m being quiet, per se, it’s just that I’m hanging out over there at Ello.

Like most new communities online or IRL, it takes some time and energy and effort to make Ello work for you, but it’s a far more rewarding experience and worth it and I’m happy about doing my own part to participate in something better.

If you are new to Ello here are some tips for you.

You can find me on Ello here.

Mophie… the Best thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone

Mophie... the Best thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone

I’m a huge fan of Mophie. I started using the juice pack plus about a year and a half ago and since using it have never once ran out of battery power on my iPhone 5s. Even using it during a long day out shooting, somehow the I always end up making it through an entire day of heavy use. The great thing about the juice pack plus is that it is also a case for your iPhone. I’ve dropped my iPhone a few times and was happy that I had my juice pack plus on it to help protect it.

Last week Mophie sent me one of their new powerstation plus charging units. You connect this device up to any USB port and it holds up to 2 full charges for your iPhone. It’s super small and lightweight and is another perfect complement to my iPhone. Even though I’m not worried about running out of power with my juice pack plus case on, it will be convenient to have this unit around in case my friends (right Mr. Mingus?) run out of juice on their phone while hanging out with them.

It will also be a convenient thing to have around if I’m too lazy to go plug my phone into the regular wall charger. I will keep this new Mophie powerstation plus in my photo backpack and take it with me everywhere I go.

Like a lot of places, Mophie is having a black Friday 40% off sale today. Use the code POWER. If you’ve been waiting to pick up a Mophie, today’s the day. :)

Thanks Mophie, you guys rock!

The Controversy Around Flickr Selling Creative Commons Licensed Photos

Douglas MacMillan has an article out in the Wall Street Journal today about the controversy surrounding Flickr selling prints of Creative Commons photos and not paying contributors for these images. It should be stressed that Flickr is only doing this on Creative Commons licensed photos where free commercial use is permitted by the license. If you license your photos Creative Commons Non-Commercial, this does not include you.

In the article he quotes Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield: “Yahoo’s plan to sell the images appears “a little shortsighted,” said Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who left the company in 2008. “It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill.”

In addition to the Creative Commons photos that Flickr is selling and not paying photographers for use (legally), they are also handpicking other photos for this sales effort and here they are offering photographers 51% of the revenue on sales of these images who have agreed to participate.

My two cents:

I think it’s important that each photographer fully understand how the license that they are using with their photos online works. It is first and foremost the photographer’s responsibility to understand licensing. Creative Commons is a wonderful and liberal way to share your photos. It’s not for everyone though. You choose how your photos are licensed on Flickr though. By default Flickr licenses images “all rights reserved,” the most restrictive license available. So only photographers who have gone in and changed their license to a more liberal license would be affected by this.

I license my images Creative Commons Non-Commercial. This is one of several variations of the Creative Commons license. This means that people can use my images for personal use or non-profit organizations can use them, but folks like Yahoo/Flickr and others can’t sell them commercially without my permission.

If you are going to license your photos Creative Commons with no restriction, then you ought to be prepared for this type of use. If it’s not Flickr selling them, anyone else can, legally. If you are uncomfortable with this idea, then you should not use Creative Commons without any sort of restriction. If you like the idea of Creative Commons but are uncomfortable with commercial use without being compensated, then consider changing your license to Creative Commons Non-Commercial like I license mine.

I think a lot of people though don’t consider the full implications of the license that they choose and like Stewart I wonder if the revenue is worth potential lost goodwill in this case. Some people will inevitably be put off when they see that the community (and Flickr is as much a community as a company) that is hosting their photos for them is now selling them without sharing the profit or asking for permission. Reminding people to read the fine print of their photo license that they chose without really considering it thoughtfully might not be the best answer to that complaint. People on Flickr LOVE to complain about anything and everything.

I think Flickr does have to figure out how to pay for a free terabyte of storage for every user and maybe this is one way to do that.

I haven’t been asked to participate in the online print marketplace, but if I was and was offered a 51% payout, I’d probably say yes. Anything 50% or better feels pretty fair to me. I create the image, but Flickr is driving the traffic to it for sale and handling fulfillment, etc. If I were to have a physical gallery sell my works, I’d probably be looking for a similar cut.

The idea of selling Creative Commons images and getting to keep all of the money is interesting to Yahoo I’m sure, but maybe Flickr would be better off instead focusing on more of a total revenue share model for the entire effort and treating CC images like they treat CCNC and all rights reserved images. I bet people who license their work CC would be pleased if their images too were handpicked for inclusion and they got paid for use. Even if it were a small amount, it would be a positive affirmation to them about their photography and that would feel good.

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Ello

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Ello

Ello is the most exciting new social network to appear in years. It’s a vibrant place full of interesting thinkers and artists — I spend more time on Ello than any other network right now. Every day new and interesting people are signing up, plugging in and joining. Although Ello is a social network like many others, it is also unlike many others as well. Ello has it’s own way of organizing things and after spending a few months on the site I thought I’d share some best practices for getting the most out of Ello.

1. NSFW. As a community with a lot of artists as early members, Ello seems to have a healthy tolerance for all forms of expression, including fine art nudes and other adult oriented material. I’m a big fan of the human body as form and expression and think this is great.

You won’t be bounced off Ello or censored (like Facebook) because you express the beauty of the human body in your art. If this sort of work is your thing, then Ello asks that you set your account as NSFW. I’m guessing that if you don’t do this voluntarily, they can/will do it for you.

Similarly, it is up to you whether or not you want to *see* this sort of work on Ello.

These are two independent settings.

So there are two things for you to consider. Do you want to see NSFW content AND do you yourself in fact post NSFW content. A lot of people get this setting wrong. They check NSFW for both when they produce work that is entirely SFW. Be sure to understand the distinction and manage your settings (you can do that here: https://ello.co/settings) accordingly.

If you are not posting nudes or other adult oriented materal, then make sure the “post adult oriented content” button is checked no. You can still check yes that you want to view it, but more people will see your stuff if you manage this setting correctly.

2. Don’t overshare. I see a few people posting 10, 15, 20 photos in a row on Ello. Most people won’t want to see 20 of your photos in a row. They want variety. They want to see other stuff by other friends too. If you overshare, there is a very good chance that people will move your account into their noise bucket and a lot less people will see your work. The right number of items to share on Ello per day is probably a matter of personal opinion, but realize that every time you post you give people an option of moving you into the noise bucket where your work will be much less (if at all) visible to them going forward.

I’d say anything over 4 or 5 posts a day on Ello is probably too much and starts to feel spammy. Save your very best work for Ello and self edit a bit more. I probably post 1 – 3 images there a day depending on the day. That might even be too much.

3. Quality counts. Never has quality been as important. Again, people can easily move you into the noise category so consider that in what you post. Post your best work for others to see. Nothing makes me want to move someone to noise like thoughtless, mediocre work.

I probably sound like a broken record with my dislike for watermarking and signatures, but on Ello it’s more important than other places to avoid these distasteful aesthetically displeasing nuisances. If you put ugly watermarks and signatures on your photos people will move you to noise (if they follow you at all) and your work will not be seen. Even your best friend might do this and you will never know. So put your best foot forward and only share what you consider to be your highest quality content.

4. Be social. Ello is a *social* network, so be social. I see people already complaining that it doesn’t feel like they are getting enough attention on Ello. You shouldn’t expect to just post content and have people flock to your brilliant work. You need to engage with others. The best way to do this is to participate in conversations on other people’s posts. Find some interesting people who are engaging on the site and jump into conversations that you find. Ello is a place best served by meaningful, articulate dialog. Offer up considered thoughtful contributions to other people’s work and I think you’ll make friends fast there. Lurk and you will be alone.

If you are new and are looking for some interesting and engaging people you may find some here. Also, don’t forget about the invite button. Do you know some really great people who should be on ello? Then make sure you send them an invitation to your new party. Inevitably people will start saying that “none of their friends,” are on Ello. This is your fault. It’s up to you to get them here. It’s also up to you to make new friends. :)

Post about Ello on your other networks and encourage people there to come join you. Tweet, FB, G+, Flickr, etc. letting people know that you are hanging out there and offer to get an invitation to anyone who wants one.

5. “I think everybody should be nice to everybody.” — Andy Warhol It goes without saying that you should be nice to others. This is one of the most important things that Andy Warhol ever said. Especially on Ello where there is not only a block function, but also a noise feature, people who are antisocial assholes will quickly be marginalized out of the experience. Being nice does not mean being bland, uncontroversial and boring. It just means that when you disagree with others, try to do it as respectfully as possible. Don’t personally attack people. Rise above that. Great ideas can be discussed on Ello and people can disagree on things, but respect is the key.

6. Be visible. Make sure you have an avatar, a profile, and links to your other sites as the *very first thing* you do when you join Ello — then add some interesting content of your own. You only get one chance to make a strong first impression. When someone new follows me, a lot of the time I’ll go look at who they are by clicking on their profile link. If I’m taken to a blank page with a blank avatar and minimal description, I probably will not follow them back or engage with them. On the other hand if I find a thoughtfully written profile, links to other places where I can check out your work, and some compelling content already uploaded to your Ello account, I just might try to make friends by adding you back.

7. Be active. If you want to get the most out of Ello, you should consider making a meaningful contribution to the site. Especially after you first join you should plan on spending some time on the site every day. Post content yourself daily, but also participate in posts by other people every day, and this means more than just typing “nice photo.” If you post a few photos and then disappear for a week, when people look at your account you’ll be passed over as a dead account.

8. Understand Ello’s advertising position. Ello does not have ads on the site. Also, they don’t profile you and sell your personal data to advertisers (like they do on Facebook). This does not mean that brands are not welcome on Ello though, they are. They just won’t be able to advertise to people by paying Ello. Brands may not fully understand this and think that they need to stay away. One of Ello’s founders Paul Budnitz spells this position out clearly here:

“Because Ello doesn’t have ads, the only way for brands to be on Ello effectively is to post interesting things that people want to see.

Another way to say it is, the worst way to for a company to use social media is to advertise, because that is essentially paying money to show us things that we don’t want to see. Brands are welcome join Ello, but if their content sucks, nobody will want to follow them.”

Budnitz’s own company Budnitz Bicycles has a brand page on Ello. And you know what, it features kick ass beautiful artistic quality photographic works of their bicycles. That’s a pretty good example of how you should think about Ello if you are a brand. Just because the anti-advertising ethos runs strong on Ello, this doesn’t mean your business/company/brand should not be there. It just means you are going to really have to work to get people’s attention by providing them interesting content and not typical advertising crap.

9. Watch your activity. Click on the little lightning bolt frequently on Ello. Are new people following you? Go check them out. Did someone make a meaningful comment on a photograph of yours or ask a question? Go respond to them. Did someone mention you in one of their posts somewhere else on Ello, then acknowledge that and go say hi back. It’s important that you use this tool regularly. While you may not be able to get back to everyone who mentions you or look at everyone who adds you as a contact, be sure to spend time on your activity when you can and participate.

10. Understand and respect both imagery and text. Are you a writer? Consider adding an interesting photo to your post (or borrowing one from an image creator with attribution and permission). This will make things more interesting than just a wall of text.

Are you a photographer? Consider using the strong text function on Ello as a way to tell people more about you and your work. I’m sharing more about myself personally on Ello than I ever have on any network. When I post a photo, frequently, I write about where I was when I took it, how I made it, what my feelings are/were around the image. And I use my space on Ello as a sort of personal diary through text just as much as a visual diary through my imagery of America.

A lot of people don’t get Ello yet. Many never will. It’s so early for Ello, but I do believe that Ello has the potential to become the most substantial social network going forward — bigger and more important than Facebook or Twitter or Google+.

Being early there, you have an opportunity to participate in shaping this important new community — what it will be today and what it ultimately will become.

You can find me most days on Ello here. :)

Ello, My New Favorite Social Network

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I just spent $40 on a t-shirt.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent $40 on a t-shirt in my life. The t-shirt is a limited edition threadless Ello t-shirt designed by @nopattern.

I’ve been given t-shirts in the past by many social networks and sites. I have a Google+ t-shirt, I have a Facebook t-shirt, I have a Flickr t-shirt, I have a friendfeed t-shirt from back in the day. Twitter never gave me one, but that’s ok. The Ello one I bought for myself though. I like to think that this is some small way that I can help contribute towards the ad-free social experience that quickly has become my favorite of all the networks.

Over at the Atlantic Alexis Madrigal has an article out today titled “The Fall of Facebook.” In the article he describes a certain “soullessness” of Facebook and writes about the unease that people increasingly have with Facebook’s advertising network.

A few weeks ago, when the San Francisco Giants clinched the World Series, my wife took a photograph of our children and family celebrating the win. Not being particularly privacy conscious when it comes to social media, she added a name for the location, “Hawkville” without realizing that through this process she was creating a new permanent “place” on Facebook that was geotagging our home.

Friends quickly liked both the post and the new “place” and in a matter of hours we were much more public on Facebook than I wanted to be. After realizing that she’d made this mistake, my wife removed the location tag from the photo – but what she couldn’t remove was the new permanent “place” on Facebook, “Hawkville,” which geotagged our home’s exact and precise location against our wishes.

Because I’ve had issues with impersonation on Facebook in the past and I suppose because I have a larger than average social media following, previously I’d been given a link to a special sort of VIP customer service area at Facebook.

Although I was disturbed that there seemed to be no way to remove my geotagged home from Facebook, I figured it would just take reaching out to this VIP customer service group to get the geotag deleted — unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. The Facebook employee who responded to me told me that she was unable to delete the page “Hawkville” or remove the geotag of my personal and private residence.

I next made a post on Facebook about the unfairness of this. Just because my wife made a mistake and geotagged our home, why should that mistake be irreversible? Shouldn’t I have more control over my personal residence on Facebook? Does Facebook believe in doxing? Why were my wife and I locked out of this page, unable to control this personal data? Why had Facebook created a “place” of a personal residence in the first place and why wasn’t my wife warned at the time that by geotagging our home she was permanently and irrevocably adding our location data to Facebook with no way to remove it?

After several posts and further attempts to contact the Facebook VIP customer service department, about a week later I went to a group of Facebook employees who I know personally and I was able to get the geotag removed (although not the place). I really appreciate the personal help that I was given to get this done (I really do), but the fact of the matter is that I shouldn’t have had to go that route to have my personal information removed from Facebook.

I’ve been increasingly disappointed with my experience on Facebook. I find that fewer and fewer of my friends are seeing what I post and engagement is increasingly going down.

I’m seeing more and more “sponsored” posts and advertising crowding out organic content, which probably plays a part in this… or maybe my photography just sucks and is way less interesting to the people who follow me there.

Sponsored posts are the worst as far as I’m concerned. At least with an ad over in the right hand column, I can try to ignore it. A sponsored post shoves itself right into your face though. Time and again I’ve caught myself reading the first few lines of a sponsored post before realizing I’m reading one and then have that terrible feeling I get when I realize I’ve just been suckered for few seconds into an ad.

More than this though, I feel like Facebook doesn’t really care about me. I feel like I’m being targeted and manipulated and probed and studied. I don’t feel like my content there is valued. There *is* a certain soullessness to the place. I’m not sure what can be done about that, it’s just what it feels like to me.

I also feel like photography doesn’t really matter at Facebook. Photos are super small and optimized for mobile, rather than big and glorious and optimized for the web. I get that Facebook has to pay for storage for our photos, but with all of the advertising and personal data they collect to target us, don’t they have even just a few nickels or dimes to make the photos just a tiny bit larger in the feed? Yes, I know that someone can click through and see it larger, but most people don’t and won’t and so your art is presented in an unfavorable small way to the 0.1% of your followers who might actually see it in their feed.

My experience so far at Ello has been the opposite.

At Ello I’ve found an idealistic group of artists, photographers and thinkers who dare to imagine a different, better way. I’ve found some of the freshest, most creative and most interesting art that I’ve seen in years online. There are no ads. Ello is not tracking my information to try and sell it to advertisers.

The founders and operators of Ello come across as creative, innovative, accessible, enthusiastic and engaged. I feel respect for my content on Ello, which is shown large in full high res glory. This is why I put more of myself into my art and photography on Ello than any other site. The respect feels greater.

I’ve met so many new and interesting friends on Ello. I’m settling in there realizing that this will be the place that I will share and communicate online with people going forward more than anywhere else. It feels like I’m hanging out with some really interesting artists in a nice cozy little café in Marfa, Texas with amazing coffee and music — rather than being lost, wandering aimlessly around the world’s largest Walmart, being told not to take photos in the store by some security guard.

Forbes says that the number one social media marketing trend that will dominate 2015 will be the rise of Ello. Rather than rely on crappy paid advertisements on Facebook going forward, Fashionista writes about how brands will actually have to create interesting, creative content to be seen on social networks like Ello in the future.

So is this new network worth $40? You’d better believe it is. Plus I get an awesome new t-shirt to go with the Marfa Public Radio one I bought just last week.

Do you like art and photography and architecture and design and creative thinking? Then come hangout on ello. You’ll find me most days online over there at http://ello.co/thomashawk

The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM, My New Favorite Wide Angle Canon L Series Lens

My Friend Chihuly Says Hi

I almost didn’t purchase the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens. I remember a conversation when I bought it a few years back on Google+ with my good pal Gordon Laing where I was really debating buying it. It was in pre production and I had an order in with B&H but it hadn’t shipped yet. At around $1,400 the lens felt expensive for what I worried might be an oddball lens, a lens useful for making a few high impact fisheye shots but not good for much else.

I’m happy to say that I did buy the EF 8-15mm fisheye lens and that I couldn’t be more happy about that decision.

My main dilemma with the EF 8-15mm fisheye was that I already owned the excellent EF 24mm f/1.4 lens and EF 14mm f/2.8 lens, and so I felt like I had the whole wide angle world covered. Now I find that I use this lens at 15mm much more than either my EF 24mm f/1.4 lens and EF 14mm f/2.8 lens and get what feels to me to be a remarkable more normal non fishy looking wide angle shot. Yes, you can tell it came from a fisheye lens at 15mm, but barely and I love the slightest degree of distortion I get there artistically speaking.

Welcome to Caesars

Of course I have way more fun shooting this lens at 8mm and have found that beyond traditional fisheye subjects, this lens has opened up a whole new world to me when it comes to shooting more abstractly — especially with architecture. I find these days my EF 14mm lens stays in my bag and instead I put on my EF 8-15mm fisheye lens for almost every ceiling photo I take.

I find this lens gets me my highest impact shots. Shots that make you go wow and make people notice.

Underground

On a full frame lens this lens gives you a perfect circle at 8mm. I love the square crop format and frequently shoot it at 8mm and then crop square afterwards.

The lens is super sharp and great if you want to get the entire ceiling of Chihuly’s amazing sculpture at the Bellagio like in the photo with this post.

While it’s not the best portrait lens, it can be fun to use as well with photographing people in new and creative ways (like this version of the human eye that I used it on).

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them.

Meet You at the Cosmopolitan

You Give Your Hand to Me

If You Can Find Her

Your Love is My Favorite Color

Time for a Beer?

Your Love is My Favorite Color

Penchant

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM lens — One of the Fastest Canon Primes You Can Buy

Sunrises Are Best in Las Vegas

It doesn’t get any more bokeh than f/1.2.

The first thing you notice when you hold the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens for the first time is how significant the weight of this lens is over the less expensive EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens or EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens(both also excellent 50mms lenses). You can feel the quality as you weigh it in your hand. A big, solid, piece of glass allows this super fast f/1.2L lens to get the shallowest depth of field possible.

If you are going to be shooting in the darkest of environments, this is the lens for you. I use this lens a lot at night time parties or indoor events, where getting closer than you need with the EF 135mm lens is not a problem. I use this lens to take amazing photographs of paintings in museums and other places where you want a near perfect technical image at closer range. It’s a wonderful portrait lens of course.

Verbena

I like to take this lens with me if I’m going out to dinner at a restaurant or out for cocktails as it does a remarkable job at capturing food/cocktails in low light. As an aside, the cocktail in this post that I photographed with it is called the verbena and is a secret drink off the menu at the Cosmopolitan Chandelier bar in Las Vegas. The cocktail contains an edible flower called a Szechuan button that you chew before drinking the cocktail. It actually alters your tastebuds and feels like an explosion of pop rocks in your mouth as your entire mouth goes numb. As you sip your cocktail after chewing the flower you taste it in a whole different way. I’d definitely recommend checking it out at the Cosmopolitan on your next trip to Vegas.

Back to photography, the only drawback of this lens is the price. You do pay up a bit for quality here. It’s not that this lens is not worth the money (a little over $1,500), it is, it’s just that the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is such a fantastic value when you compare the two (at around $400). While I like this lens much more than my EF 50mm f/1.4, if you are on more of a budget, you may find that the EF 50mm f/1.4 lens is the better 50mm lens for you to buy. On the other hand, if you really must own the best at 50mm lens, this is it.

Sit Over There

It should be noted that at f/1.2 this is currently the fastest (lowest aperture) lens in production by Canon but that it shares this distinction with the EF 85mm f/1.2 USM lens, another excellent Canon portrait lens that I do not own yet, but that is on my list to consider soon.

There is another f/1.0 lens that Canon made, but that lens is no longer in production that I’ve never tried.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them. More on Canon prime lenses here.

I'll Hold You

Through the Years

Through the Years

I Felt This Way Before

Just Wait and See

Turn Me On

A Reminder to Myself


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