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.

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.

Ello, My New Favorite Social Network


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

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Why Blocking is Important for a Social Network

Earlier today Twitter reversed their decision to change how user blocks are handled after a backlash reaction on their network.

From the Twitter blog:

“Earlier today, we made a change to the way the “block” function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.”

In a way, the current block at Twitter is sort of ineffective. If I block someone, the only thing it really does is prevent them from seeing my tweets when they are logged in (which also serves as notification to them that I’ve blocked them). They can still open up an unlogged-in version of Twitter (as easy as cmd-shift-N in Chrome, or cmd-shift-P in Firefox) and see everything I’ve tweeted publicly. Still, Twitter’s reversal shows that users really do care about blocking functionality and want more control and powerful blocking tools, not less.

I would argue that there are three key benefits that come from strong blocking tools on a social network.

1. Users feel empowered when they are more forcefully able to deal with harassment on a network. If someone is saying something offensive, why shouldn’t I personally be able to take control over that situation? If someone is making me uncomfortable, why shouldn’t I be empowered to deal with that for my own personal experience?

2. More effective blocking tools encourage more civil interaction. The thing that most trolls, haters, griefers, offensive jerks, etc. want on a social network is attention. By making it super easy to mute them or diminish them (especially by an intended target) it provides a disincentive for anti-social behavior in general.

3. Empowering users with blocking tools provides immediate relief for a user. Since oftentimes harassment is happening in real time, this can be more effective than waiting for customer service / community management reps at a social network to respond to reports of community violations. It is frustrating for a user to have to suffer even an additional 12 hours of harassment while a complaint works its way through to a community manager.

As far as best practices go, I’d hold up Google+ and Facebook as the networks that provide users the best blocking protection on the internet today.

Like Twitter, on Google+ and Facebook when you block someone they cannot see your public posts.

Google+ and Facebook take it one important step further though. Not only do they prevent someone you’ve blocked from seeing your public posts, they *also* filter the blocked user entirely out of your G+ or Facebook experience.

On G+ and Facebook when you block someone they become completely invisible to you everywhere on the network. It’s like they no longer exist in your social utopia.

That second block function is even more important than the first.

Flickr by contrast has some of the weakest blocking tools on the internet. When you block someone on Flickr, all it does is prevent them from private messaging you or commenting/faving your photos. Because of Flickr’s weak blocking tools, I’ve seen many of the most active, social accounts on Flickr leave due to harassment. This is bad design.

What makes harassment even worse on Flickr, is that (unlike G+ and Facebook) they allow anonymous troll accounts. So if a Troll1022 is harassing you anonymously on Flickr, and you report them, and three days later that account is deleted, all they need to do is set up Troll1023 and continue with the practice. Flickr’s weak blocking function allows virtually unlimited harassment on their network by anonymous trolls.

Protecting users and providing more control over your experience on a social network is important. It’s your most social and active users who will most likely sooner or latter run into friction. These are the users that any social network should be striving to empower.

I’m glad Twitter reversed their block policy after user reaction, and hope all networks realize how important the block feature is.

Facebook Survey, May 2013

Facebook Survey, May 2013

Yesterday I was prompted by Facebook and asked if I wanted to take a survey on my Facebook page. I said yes and took the survey. Here are the questions that Facebook asked me. Maybe this survey gives some insight into what they are thinking about in terms of public perception and product development. I don’t know anything more about the survey. I don’t know who it was targeted towards, how many people were given it, or any other demographic or statistical data.

1. Do you manage the Facebook page or public profile you were just visiting?

Yes, I manage this page by myself
Yes, I manage this page along with 1-4 other people
Yes, I manage this page along with more than 4 people
No, I do not manage this page

2. What is your role in managing this Facebook page or public profile?

I am the public figure this Facebook page or public profile is about
I am an Account Manager — I work for a third-party management firm
I don’t manage the page directly — I make partnership and business decisions

3. Do you manage your Facebook page or public profile using the Facebook website or app, or do you use a tool such as HootSuite, CoTweet, or Seesmic?

I primarily use the Facebook website or app to manage my Facebook page or public profile
I primarly only use another tool such as HootSuite, CoTweet, or Seesmic to manage my page or public profile
I use both the Facebook website or app and another tool equally

4. Approximately how many fans or subscribers does your page have?

5. Approximately how often do you post from your Facebook page or public profile?

Multiple times per day
About once a day
2-6 days a week
About once a week
2-3 times a month
About once a month
Less often than once a month

6. About what percent of the time are the posts composed by the public figure this page is about (rather than another person or agency posting on the figure’s behalf)?

Less than 20%
Between 20% and 40%
More than 40%, but less than 60%
Between 60% and 80%
I don’t know

7. If you were to post something to your page, approximately what percent of your Facebook fans would you expect to have the post show up in their news feed?

Less than 20%
Between 20% and 40%
More than 40%, but less than 60%
Between 60% and 80%
More than 80%, but less than 100%
I don’t know

8. What percentage of Facebook’s engineering resources do you think are dedicated to increasing revenue (versus developing new products and improving on existing products for our users)?

Less than 20%
Between 20% and 40%
More than 40%, but less than 60%
Between 60% and 80%
More than 80%, but less than 100%
I don’t know

9. Relative to other initiatives, how important is your Facebook page or public profile in meeting your business objectives?

Not at all important
Slightly important
Somewhat important
Very important
Extremely important

10. Please indicate how important each of these metrics is to you when you are trying to evaluate the overall success of your Facebook page or public profile.

(Choices offered were: not at all important, somewhat important, very important)

Referral traffic (e.g. website visits)
Content engagement (e.g. video views, likes, comments on posts)
Increased reach (e.g. fanbase growth)

11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? My Facebook page or public profile helps me to accomplish my business objectives

Strongly disagree
Somewhat disagree
Neither agree or disagree
Somewhat agree
Strongly agree

12. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? I am happy with the level of engagement my fans have with my Facebook page or public profile

Strongly disagree
Somewhat disagree
Neither agree or disagree
Somewhat agree
Strongly agree

13. Overall, how satisfied are you with the rate at which you acquire new Facebook fans?

Completely dissatisfied
Very dissatisfied
Fairly dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Fairly satisfied
Very satisfied
Completely satisfied

14. Overall, how satisfied are you with managing a Facebook page or public profile?

Completely dissatisfied
Very dissatisfied
Fairly dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Fairly satisfied
Very satisfied
Completely satisfied

15. In your opinion, what amount of improvement, if any, is required to make the page or profile management tools Facebook provides you excellent?

Huge improvement
Much improvement
Some improvement
Slight improvement
No improvement

16. Do you manage a public page or profile on any other social media platforms?

No, I do not manage a public page or profile on any other sites
Yes, I manage a page or public profile on at least one other site

17.On what other social media platforms do you manage a public page or profile?

Other (fill in)

18. On which service do you most often post

Other (fill in)

19. Compared to your consumer facing experiences on other platforms, how satisfied are you with your experience managing a Facebook page or public profile?

More satisfied
About the same level of satisfaction
Less satisfied

20. How important is it to you to be able to manage your Facebook page or public profile from a mobile device?

Not at all important
Slightly important
Somewhat important
Very important
Extremely important

21. When you publish content from a mobile phone, what device do you typically use?

Tablet (such as iPad)
Windows phone
Android phone
I never publish from a mobile device
Other (fill in)

22. In your opinion, what amount of improvement, if any, is required to make the Facebook page and public profile administration experience excellent?

Huge improvement
Much improvement
Some improvement
Slight improvement
No improvement

23. In what ways would you like to see the Facebook page and public profile administration experience improve? (select the TOP 3 improvements you’d like to see)

I would like to be able to post additional types of content
I would like to be able to post more easily
I would like to know more about my fans
I would like my fans to share more of my posts with their friends
I would like to be able to test which posts perform best
I would like to drive more traffic to my primary website
I would like my posts to reach more fans
I would like to see everything my fans are saying about me/the public figure
I would like to see how the activity of my fan base compares to that of other public figures
I would like to be able to use hashtags
Other (fill in)

24. Please share any additional feedback you may have about your experience as a Facebook page or public profile administrator.

25. We would like to hear more about your experience with Facebook in the future. Would you be interested in receiving additional surveys on this topic?

25. Would you be interested in participating in a brief phone interview on this topic?

Thank you.

What Do You Think of Photos on the New Facebook Timeline?

The New Facebook Timeline

I had the new Facebook Timeline turned on for me yesterday. My wife got it about a week ago. Does anyone else have it? Do you like it? Anyone ever seen that movie Memento?

Photos feel larger — I like that — but I don’t really like the way that photos are cropped.

The old timeline forced everything into a square box by default so landscape/portrait crops were still problematic. You could reposition the photo after the fact (sometimes, when the reposition tool worked, which was probably less than 10% of the time for me) but your photo got stuck in a square crop. You could also “feature” the photo which would give it an extreme horizontal crop manually.

By the way, I seem to be able to use the reposition tool again now with the switch over to the new timeline.

Part of me liked the old Facebook timeline format. I love the square photo. It’s my favorite crop of all. When I uploaded a square to Facebook it would then show perfectly on my timeline page. If the other crops suffered, oh well.

The new timeline page goes back to a traditional landscape crop. So now when you upload your landscape oriented photos to Facebook they fit and look great. Unfortunately though, now both the portrait and the square crop are squashed into a landscape box.

Why on earth doesn’t Facebook just display BOTH landscape and square crops in their original crop? This is what they do on mobile btw, so it would seem more consistent. This would mean that square photos would be even bigger on the web version of Facebook, but everybody wants bigger photos anyways, so why make our square crop photos suffer in that landscape oriented box? This is what Flickr does by the way. On Flickr the square crop is king. I love that.

Of course portrait oriented photos get butchered even worse now with the new Facebook timeline — now they are squeezing a portrait photo into a landscape orientation instead of a square. Some of these just look awful.

It does feel like Facebook is trying to somehow more intelligently decide which portion of square and portrait photos get shown in the landscape box. Maybe their algorithm is looking for the eyes and focusing on that. I’m not sure, but it feels like the auto cropping is a little smarter and more intelligent.

Google+ takes a different approach. They retain the photographer’s original crop… but then you are stuck with those damn grey bars on the sides of your square and portrait photos on G+. For the life of Kevin, I’m not sure why G+ doesn’t just let the square photo have the entire envelope. It would look much better than those tiny little gray bars on the side and it’s just giving square photos an ensy weensy more real estate.

Which is what Facebook should do too, by the way. Square crops sort of fit into the landscape envelope, but why make the square suffer that way? Just liberate it. Make the square the king. I thought Facebook was doing this on the newsfeed a couple of weeks ago, but I think they switched back to cramming a square photo in a landscape box with both the new newsfeed and timeline now too.

Is there an answer to this perplexing problem about how best to display our images on the web? Why can’t we just have one big, gigantic mosaic wall on both Facebook and Google+; that’s actually my favorite format of all, I think.

Other changes on the new Facebook timeline, include moving your follower count over to a smaller, less prominent place on the left. They also give the actual number now, instead of something that just gave a rounded estimate, such as 300K, before. You can add/remove remove certain modules out of the smaller left side column if you want.

Despite the photo crop issues, overall I like the new timeline a lot. I like it better than the old version. It feels more fluid and slick. I do like that, overall, photos do appear bigger. Landscape oriented photos especially look great there now.

The new comment system drives me a little batty though. I can never figure out who is talking to who and I feel like I’m trapped in some sort of web version of the movie Memento — but that’s a whole other topic entirely. I can never understand who said what in what order to who. I feel like I’m trapped in some sort of online version of that old movie Memento.

Unfortunately, as usual, with the new Facebook timeline we’re still stuck with the damn ads. I wish Facebook’s ads weren’t so especially vulgar. Why is Facebook trying to get me to join some lawsuit about unpaid wages at Brooks Brothers? I hate lawsuits — plus I’ve never worked at Brooks Brothers. Shouldn’t Facebook be smarter than that in terms of what ads it shows me? Why does Facebook think I worked at Brooks Brothers? Next thing you know some other ambulance chaser is going to start advertising at me just in case I’ve ever had Mesothelioma. Facebook should let us pay for a Pro account and exempt us from bad advertising.

By the way, anyone ever seen that movie Memento?

On Facebook, The Square Format Photo is Now the King

On Facebook the Square Photo is Now the King

I’ve been using the new Facebook News Feed for a little while now. One of the things I noticed about it today (and maybe new even since the News Feed launch) is that square photos are now king on Facebook.

What do I mean by this? Square photos are the largest sized photos in the new Facebook News Feed. This is similar to how Flickr shows photos in our Flickrstreams.

Google+ on the other hand tries to squeeze a square photo into a horizontal photo envelope, which makes the square photo on Google+ have little side bars on it and looks awkward, smaller and ugly.

I, for one, welcome the new square format as the king of Facebook. The square crop is my favorite. What’s your favorite crop?

You can find me on Facebook here. 🙂

Unboxing the New Facebook News Feed

The New Facebook Newsfeed

I got the new Facebook news feed last night. The screenshot above is what it looks like. It’s super awesome. A very small minority of people will hate it — because a very small minority of people will hate EVERYTHING. I’m not kidding. The way some people love to bitch blows my mind sometimes. Haters gonna hate.

Most of you will love it though. I think it’s the most significant improvement made to Facebook since Facebook started. If you’re a photographer, you especially will love it. Photos are bigger. Bigger photos have more impact. Bigger photos look better.

When you’re eligible for it you’ll notice a little “coming soon, less clutter, more stories” box on your news feed. There is a green button to press to give it a try. If you press that green button you get the loading message. I think there was one other notice window that popped up telling me that I couldn’t go back if I went forward with it, but I can’t remember 100% on this. After this loading box the new news feed pops up.

The Invite to Try the New Facebook Newsfeed
Woah! What’s this?

Loading the New Facebook Newsfeed
Almost there!

I’ve only played with the new news feed for a few hours, but here are just a few early observations.

1. Content in the new news feed feels ALOT like Google+. I’m not saying Facebook copied Google+ here, and imitation is, of course, the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but check out the two content envelopes side by side in the photo below. They are pretty darn close.

The New Facebook Newsfeed Feels ALOT Like Google+
Separated at Birth. Facebook new news feed on the left, Google+ on the right. Or wait, is it the other way around?

Personally speaking I have no problem with this by the way. I love competition on the web. With competition users win. Everybody should rip everybody off and make everything look as awesome as it possibly can.

2. Pictures are bigger and stand out more, but unfortunately so do all of those crappy memes and worse, sponsored posts (ugh! advertising — the new advertisement for McDonald’s new fish McNuggets feels even more intrusive). Please Facebook, let us pay you for a Pro account and let us opt out of all the horrible ads.

Photos Look Bigger and Better, but Unfortunately so do the Ads
That’s an awfully big advertisement for those new Fish McNuggets that McDonalds is selling.

The meme’s are really my own fault though. When I started Facebook years ago, I simply accepted every single friend request, whether I knew somebody or not. Hey, I’m a friendly guy. I now realize that was a mistake. I think as I unfriend the most egregious of the meme sharers this should improve a bit for me.

Sometimes though there is just that one person that for whatever reason you CAN’T unfriend. You know who I’m talking about. They’d take it really hard. Yet it’s that one person who keeps sharing the crappiest meme things on Facebook 50 times a day. If you’re that guy, knock it off. Sometimes I wish there was an easy way to permanently hide someone’s content without actually unfriending them.

Attack of the Facebook Killer Meme's, Now Bigger Than Ever in Your Timeline
Attack of the killer Facebook meme’s, now even bigger than ever!

Hey it’s a dog, hey it’s stripping. AWESOME!!!! I think I’ll reshare this on Facebook!

3. The hide button is broken. One of the things that I like about Facebook is their move fast and break things moto. Sometimes though this means that everything doesn’t work so well. I haven’t been able to reposition photos on my timeline for weeks now. My wife can’t upload photos directly to Facebook at all. She has to upload to an album and share from the album.

What I’ve found on the new news feed is that when I hide content, it doesn’t stay hidden. It stays hidden for that session, but if I refresh the page it comes back. I don’t know if this is just a bug for me or for everyone, but if I actually HATE something enough to hide it, I really, really don’t like it — and after I went through the pain of a two click effort, I’d really like it to stay permanently hidden from my news feed.

4. I still haven’t figured out exactly how Facebook is repositioning photos that are less ideal for their new envelope. It seems like some portrait aspect and square aspect photos are being stuffed into a landscape frame. It also seems like some are not though — it’s weird why some are and some aren’t. I wonder if there is some sort of algorithm at play here as well, because when photos are repositioned, a lot of the time it’s a pretty smart natural reposition. Like Facebook is focusing on the eyes in photos of people.

The apple screensheet below is from my friend Kelli Seeger Kim. It’s actually a portrait oriented photograph of two apples in a basket. If you click through the image you’ll see it correctly, but in the news feed the crop is less than ideal. So sometimes this feels a little awkward.

Sometimes Facebook Does Not Get the Repositioning for Portrait or Square Oriented Photos Just Right

Overall the new design is clean and light and lovely. It feels very smooth and really nice. Photos really pop now that they are bigger. I’d give this redesign two thumbs up!

Congrats to the Facebook team on the great work! You can find me on Facebook here. Come find me and let’s be friendly.

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

“Whatever kind of victory all those protests achieved, it wasn’t one for consumer rights — if anything, Instagram is the real winner here. The company just managed to score a round of positive press for retracting an unpopular change and give itself the ability to actually use photos in ads.” — Nilay Patel, The Verge

Over at the Verge Nilay Patel makes a case that the backlash earlier this week against Instagram’s unpopular TOS update was actually a loss for consumers, not a gain. He argues that Instagram’s current TOS is broader than their more explicit proposed one and so consumers are worse off, not better off. This is because Instagram technically still holds the rights to sell your photos under their current TOS, and even more broadly — the consumer backlash was misguided and really did more harm than good.

I disagree with Nilay and actually feel that this week’s backlash was one of the more significant movements yet for photo sharing on the web.

It’s not that Facebook (whose TOS is equally broad) and Instagram couldn’t legally sell your photos on the web under their broad TOS in the past or in the future, it’s that *politically* it is now far more difficult for them to begin selling your photos out from under you on the web using their broader TOS.

Who cares what the TOS says — the message that Facebook got loud and clear this week is not to f*** with our photos. Our photos are important. We care about them. They are much more personal than Facebook may have previously considered. They have emotional importance and significance and collectively users will rise up and bash you in the face if you try to exercise terms of your TOS that your lawyers have written to allow you to screw around with our photos.

Whatever your future monetization strategies might be, they will not be based on a loss of control over OUR creative efforts — even our duckface creative efforts.

No, there is no question about it. Instagram lost this week, and they lost big. This is in no way a positive for Instagram. People trust them less now and they had to turn around and eat crow — they gained nothing.

Flickr won big at Instagram’s expense and Google+ won a little. Flickr won more, because like Instagram, their site is 100% about photography. They also just released a pretty awesome new iPhone app that is, in fact, even slickr than what Instagram currently offers.

Flickr also went out of their way last year to really drive home the ownership rights of your photos. This old forgotten post was revived with new life as a stark contrast to what it felt like Instagram was trying to pull. Kevin Systrom eventually even had to parrot back some of that “yes, we know your photos are your photos” stuff in his awkward non-apology apology.

Dan Lyons wrote a post that talked about Google+ winning some here too. Google+ smartly has a provision in their TOS that specifically limits their rights to your photos to basic operational use. Google+ is probably the most active community of photographers on the web today and are a natural beneficiary from what Lyons’ refers to as “Facebook Greedheads.”

The biggest winner of all though was you, the photographer. Whatever Instagram’s original intention was with the new language in their TOS, it backfired on them. The idea that they could/would profit off your emotionally significant photos without your consent, authorization or, most important, sharing the dough hit a nerve with photographers and likely won’t be tried again by anyone for a long time.

The thing is, this didn’t have to be such a painful learning experience for Instagram. There was/is, in fact, a HUGE opportunity for some smart social network to make a ton of money off of your photos. Instagram just went about it wrong.

As much as Flickr’s deal with Getty sucks (photographers get a miserly 20% payout) photographers on Flickr still went bonkers for it when Flickr released it. The idea that you could actually get PAID to post your photos on a social network, paid ANYTHING, had most users on Flickr clamoring to get into the program, not out of the site.

Even though Flickr/Getty’s call for artists group is now closed (due to overwhelming demand) almost 90,000 photographers joined this group hoping to get selected by Getty for the right to sell their photos for the paltry 20% payout.

The difference with Flickr’s deal though is that 1. you CHOOSE to opt in and 2. at least you get paid something.

What if, instead of Instagram saying, “hey, we might sell your photos without your consent and pay you NOTHING,” they said, “hey, do you want to sell your Instagram photos and, if we sell them for you, split the money 50/50”? Instead of losing accounts and becoming the scourge of the internet for three days, they would have had photographers rushing to sign up and begin marketing their images on Instagram.

Although there are sites out there like 500px and SmugMug that let you sell your photos now, Flickr is the only larger social network that has a selling program. Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter all have a major opportunity to become the first large social network to allow us to license our images through their service and share in the revenue with them. This is a multi-BILLION dollar industry dominated at present by Getty who is not paying creatives enough for their work. What the internet does best is get rid of middlemen when they are being unreasonable, and an 80/20 split with photographers is unreasonable.

Instead of stealing our work and paying us zero, how about using your significant reach in reputation, marketing and search to partner with us and empower us to sell our work together. I guarantee you that whoever comes up with the best program first will have some of the best photography on the web flooding their network. Even if 99% of us never sell a single photo, simply giving us the feeling that we have the *opportunity* to sell a photo would be a powerful incentive to get us active and humming on your network.