The Future of How I Share Links

man wearing vr goggles
Photo by Harsch Shivam on Pexels.com

There’s a whole lot happening all over social media and this is giving me a chance to really assess what I use, for what reason, and what I want to publish into the future. I’ve walked away from enough social media services to recognize it might be time for another heavy adjustment in my life.

Twitter has long been key to my work and valuable in developing a professional profile. I don’t know that this kind of engagement will be quite the same moving forward. And, if I’m honest, a lot of my Twitter usage for the past several years has been to surface and circulate interesting (often cyber- or privacy-related) links or public conversations, or to do short-form analysis of important government documents ahead of writing about them on my professional website.

The issue is that the links on Twitter then fade into the digital ether. While I’ve been using Raindrop.io for a while and really love the service, it doesn’t have the same kind of broadcast quality as Twitter.1

So what to do going forward? In theory I’d like to get back into the habit of publishing more link blogs, here, about my personal interests because I really appreciate the ones that bloggers I follow and respect produce. I’m trying to figure out the format, frequency, and topics that makes sense; I suspect I might try to bundle 4-6 thematic links and publish them as a set, but time will tell. This would mean that sometimes there might be slightly busier and slower periods, depending on my ability to ‘see’ a theme.

The challenge is going to be creating a workflow that is fast, easy, and imposes minimal friction. Here, I’m hoping that a shortcut that takes the title and URL of an article, formats it into Markdown using Text Case, and then provides a bit of space to write will do the trick. This is the format I used to rely on to create my Roundup posts, though I don’t really expect I’ll be able to return to such length link blogs.


  1. I have, nonetheless, created an RSS feed with mostly links to privacy, cyber, and national security articles. ↩︎
Aside

2022.11.11

A whole generation of journalists and semi-public individuals (myself included) are watching one of the ways we communicated with one another, and developed as professionals, is negligently being burned down. And so a lot of electrons are being tortured into describing our collective experiences.

My question, though, is this: what is the next system or platform that younger generations will use? Will it be YouTube or TikTok or is there another, still very small or yet to be created, platform that will do the same? Will we see a recursion back to things like Tumblr or blogs and RSS more generally? Will newsletters or email become a thing?

I’m genuinely curious while, simultaneously, a bit sad that a service that I’ve very successfully used to propel my career is almost certainly in steep decline.

Glass in 2022

GlassProfile

I’ve been primarily posting my photos to Glass for about three months now. There have been several quality of life improvements1 but, on the whole, the app has been pretty true to its original DNA.

That’s been a bit frustrating for some folks, such as Matt Birchler. He notes that Glass seems to be populated by professional photographers and lacks the life and diversity that you can sometimes find on Instagram or other photography sites. I was particularly struck by his comment that, “I used to enjoy the feed because it was high quality stuff, but now I scroll and everyone is making photos that look like every else’s.”

I don’t discount that Matt’s experience has been seeing a lot of professionals making photos but have to admit that his experiences don’t really parallel my own. To be clear, the photographers that I follow are doing neat work and some are definitely serious amateurs or professionals. But perhaps because I’m more focused on street photography it’s rarely self-apparent to me that I’m following professionals versus amateurs, nor that everyone’s work looks the same.

That being said, I definitely do follow a lot fewer people on Glass. If I have a problem with the app it’s that discovering active photographers on the platform is difficult; a lot of people signed up for the trial period but aren’t regularly posting. The result is that it’s hard to develop an active stream of photos and a photographic community. At the same time, however, I don’t browse the Glass app like I would Instagram: I pop in once or twice a day, and try to set aside some time every day or three (or four…) to leave comments on others photographers’ work. I treat Glass more seriously than free photography applications, if only because I have (thus far) only has positive experiences with the other active photographers posting their work there.

The only other problem I have with Glass—annoyance really!—is that I think that you actually can see/display photographers’ profiles in a much more beautiful way on non-phone devices. The image for this post was a screen capture from my iPad which attractively lays out photos. In contrast, you just get a flat waterfall of images if you visit my profile in the Glass app itself. That’s a shame and hopefully something that is improved upon in 2022.

To date I’m happy with Glass and incredibly pleased to no longer posting my photos to a Facebook platform. I really hope that Glass’s developers are able to maintain the app going forward, which will almost certainly depend in part on building the community and enhancing discoverability.

I’m currently planning to continue posting my work to Glass regularly. Even if the service doesn’t explode (which would be fine for me, though probably not great for its long term survival!) I find that the comments that I receive are far more valuable than anything I tended to receive on Instagram or other social sites, and the actual process of posting is also a comparative breeze and joy. If you’re looking for a neat photography site to try out, I heartily recommend that you give Glass a shot!


  1. Specifically, the developers have added some photography categories and public profiles, as well as the ability to ‘appreciate’ photos and comments ↩︎

My Glass Public Profile

I’ve recently written about the concerns that I have about Instagram, and my assessment of whether I wanted to port my online photo sharing to either Flickr or Glass. As of October 27, Glass has enabled public profiles so non-members can view the work that photographers have published on the service. You can check mine out!

I…really like how the profiles look on Glass at the moment. I’ve been posting with some frequency (all black and whites, with a focus on street photography) and the flow model to capture and then post photographs has been simple and seamless.

I also really like the experience of having to comment on other photographs instead of ‘liking’ them. This engagement strategy means that when I interact with other photographers’ pieces I need to leave at least some kind of meaningful comment. As a result, I need to slow down and think a bit more about a photograph and I think that’s a good thing for me–the viewer–and the photographer who hopefully gets more meaningful (if less frequent) engagement.

I like Glass enough that I’ve ponied up for a one year subscription. The developers are pushing out significant quality of life updates to the application and, on the whole, it’s currently pretty fun to use and is clearly intended to be used by photographers, as well as other individuals who are interested in photography and just don’t want to deal with the grossness of Instagram and want something a little fresher than Flickr.

Based on my experiences thus far I’d heartily recommend that you check out the service, as well as my public profile!

Photography and Social Media

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(Passer By by Christopher Parsons)

Why do we want to share our photos online? What platforms are better or worse to use in sharing images? These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering for the past few weeks.

Backstory

About a month ago a colleague stated that she would be leaving Instagram given the nature of Facebook’s activities and the company’s seeming lack of remorse. Her decision has stuck with me and left me wondering whether I want to follow her lead.

I deleted my Facebook accounts some time ago, and have almost entirely migrated my community away from WhatsApp. But as an amateur photographer I’ve hesitated to leave an app that was, at least initially, designed with photographers in mind. I’ve used the application over the years to develop and improve my photographic abilities and so there’s an element of ‘sunk cost’ that has historically factored into my decision to stay or leave.

But Instagram isn’t really for photographers anymore. The app is increasingly stuffed with either videos or ads, and is meant to create a soft landing point for when/if Facebook truly pivots away from its main Facebook app.1 The company’s pivot makes it a lot easier to justify leaving the application though, at the same time, leaves me wondering what application or platform, if any, I want to move my photos over to.

The Competition(?)

Over the past week or two I’ve tried Flickr.2 While it’s the OG of photo sharing sites its mobile apps are just broken. I can’t create albums unless I use the web app. The sharing straight from the Apple Photos app is janky. I worry (for no good reason, really) about the cost for the professional version (do I even need that as an amateur?) as well as the annoyance of tagging photos in order to ‘find my tribe.’

It’s also not apparent to me how much community truly exists on Flickr: the whole platform seems a bit like a graveyard with only a small handful of active photographers still inhabiting the space.

I’m also trying Glass at the moment. It’s not perfect: search is non-existent, you can’t share your gallery of photos with non-Glass users at the moment, discovery is a bit rough, there’s no Web version, and it’s currently iPhone only. However, I do like that the app (and its creators) is focused on sharing images and that it has a clear monetization schema in the form of a yearly subscription. The company’s formal roadmap also indicates that some of these rough edges may be filed away in the coming months.

I also like that Glass doesn’t require me to develop a tagging system (that’s all done in the app using presets), let’s me share quickly and easily from the Photos app, looks modern, and has a relatively low yearly subscription cost. And, at least so far, most of the comments are better than on the other platforms, which I think is important to developing my own photography.

Finally, there’s my blog here! And while I like to host photo series here this site isn’t really designed as a photo blog first and foremost. Part of the problem is that WordPress continues to suck for posting media in my experience but, more substantively, this blog hosts a lot more text than images. I don’t foresee changing this focus anytime in the near or even distant future.

The Necessity of Photo Sharing?

It’s an entirely fair question to ask why even bother sharing photos with strangers. Why not just keep my images on my devices and engage in my own self-critique?

I do engage in such critique but I’ve personally learned more from putting my images into the public eye than I would just by keeping them on my own devices.3 Some of that is from comments but, also, it’s been based on what people have ‘liked’ or left emoji comments on. These kinds of signals have helped me better understand what is a better or less good photograph.

However, at this point I don’t think that likes and emojis are the source of my future photography development: I want actual feedback, even if it’s limited to just a sentence or so. I’m hoping that Glass might provide that kind of feedback though I guess only time will tell.


  1. For a good take on Facebook and why its functionally ‘over’ as a positive brand check out M.G. Siegler’s article, “Facebook is Too Big, Fail.” ↩︎
  2. This is my second time with Flickr, as I closed a very old account several years ago given that I just wasn’t using it. ↩︎
  3. If I’m entirely honest, I bet I’ve learned as much or more from reading photography teaching/course books, but that’s a different kind of learning entirely. ↩︎
Link

The Answer to Why Twitter Influences Canadian Politics

Elizabeth Dubois has a great episode of Wonks and War Rooms where she interviews Etienne Rainville of The Boys in Short Pants podcast, former Hill staffer, and government relations expert. They unpack how government staffers collect information, process it, and identify experts.

Broadly, the episode focuses on how the absence of significant policy expertise in government and political parties means that social media—and Twitter in particular—can play an outsized role in influencing government, and why that’s the case.

While the discussion isn’t necessarily revelatory to anyone who has dealt with some elements of government of Canada, and especially MPs and their younger staffers, it’s a good and tight conversation that could be useful for students of Canadian politics, and also helpfully distinguishes of of the differences between Canadian and American political cultures. I found the forthrightness of the conversation and the honesty of how government operates was particularly useful in clarifying why Twitter is, indeed, a place for experts in Canada to spend time if they want to be policy relevant.

Link

A Clubhouse for Whom?

(Photo by Stephen Crowley on Unsplash)

Mark Stenberg has a good assessment of the challenges facing Clubhouse, the newest ‘hot’ social media app that involves individuals having audio discussions in real-time with one another in rooms that are created on the platform. He suspects that Clubhouse may work best in quarantine:

A glimpse of Instagram brings a fleeting burst of serotonin, but a second’s worth of Clubhouse is meaningless. Will you then, at night, leave your family in the other room so you can pop your headphones in and listen to strangers swapping their valuable thoughts on the news of the day?

When commutes and daily life return, people will once again have a few parceled-off periods of the day in which they can listen to audio entertainment. If there are no good Clubhouse conversations at those exact times, the app is far less valuable than a podcast platform or music-streaming service. The very characteristic that makes it so appealing — its real-time nature — will make it challenging for listeners to fold it into their lives when reality returns.

Whether a real-time app that depends on relative quiet and available time, and which is unsuitable for multitasking, survives in its current form as people emerge from their relative isolation will be interesting to measure in real-time once vaccines are widely spread throughout society. But, equally interesting (to my mind) are the assumptions baked into that very question: why not just ask people (e.g., essential workers) who continue to commute en mass and inquire about whether they are, or will be, using Clubhouse? Why not ask those who do not have particularly fungible or quiet lives at the moment (e.g., parents who are homeschooling younger children while working their day jobs) whether the app is compelling during quarantine periods?

To put it another way, the very framing of Clubhouse presupposes a number of affordances that really mostly pertain to a subset of relatively privileged members of society. It’s lovely that some tech workers, who work from home, and journalists who have similar lifestyles are interested in the app. But that doesn’t mean that it’ll broadly interest people, just as most people are dismissive of text-based social media applications (e.g., Twitter) and even visual-based apps (e.g., Instagram).

But, at the same time, this may not matter. If the founders are aiming for growing and sustaining the existing platform and not for the typical Silicon Valley viral growth, then their presently suggested modes of deriving profits might work. Specifically, current proposals include, “tipping, subscriptions, and ticketing” which, if adopted, could mean this is a social networking platform that doesn’t rely on the normal advertising or data brokerage models which have been adopted by most social media platforms and companies.

Will any of this work? Who knows. Most social media companies are here today, gone tomorrow, and I bet that Clubhouse is probably in that category. But, at the same time, it’s worth thinking through who these kinds of apps are designed for so that we can appreciate the politics, privilege, and power which are imbued into the technologies which surround us and the ways that we talk about those technologies.

The State of Instagram

(Rise Up! by Christopher Parsons)

I owe a lot to Instagram. Starting in January 1, 2017 until October 2017 I began a project of uploading a photo a day (or thereabouts) and, in the process, I learned an awful lot about how to use my cameras, shots that I tend to prefer taking, and the cool stuff you could do by looking at other photographers’ shots.

It was pretty great.

But for reasons I’ve previously written about I’ve drifted away from regular postings to Instagram or even taking photographs with the regularity of the last year. Specifically, I wrote:

… something is changing in how I approach photography itself, at least right now: I don’t want as many amber memories, and instead want to enjoy the development and unfolding of certain memories, and feel more comfortable in the knowledge that the ‘final’ memories I’ll have will be even more subjective than those associated with photographs. Some will even vanish in their entirety.

In fact, from November 2017 – April 2018 I didn’t post a single photo to Instagram and only logged in once or twice.1 But my not uploading photos has been nagging me because I know that part of why I was taking shots — and getting good ones! — was because I had been actively trying to upload stuff on a regular basis. Instagram was a method for pushing me to practice my own skills and, occasionally, receiving feedback on the shots I was getting.

So I dipped my toe back in, with a fresh upload, and then started to browse my feed. As usual, there were great photographs from the photographers that I follow.2 But there were also a lot of ads. I mean, every 5-7 images was another ad. That really, really, really sucked because it made the platform a lot less enjoyable to browse and look at; it was less a network of people, and more an ad network that was interspersed with real people’s photographs.

So what I’m going to do is upload a photo a week, or so, to Instagram because I’d like to keep my profile alive. But I’m not going to invest the time in the platform that I did in the past. And, instead, I’m going to reflect on where I want to put my content, why I want it there, and with what regularity I want to upload photos to the public Internet. That’s part of an activity I’ve been undertaking over the past year but I’d honestly thought that Instagram might remain a fun place to interact with people. Sadly, it looks like that might not be the case after all.

  1. I was, however, taking photos during that period though not with daily-regularity.
  2. I don’t tend to follow people, including friends and family, unless they take shots I find aesthetically pleasing. So there aren’t a lot of family photos, breakfast shots, or other site such material that make their way onto my feed very often.

Facebook Isn’t Going Anywhere

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there are calls for people to delete their Facebook accounts. Similar calls have gone out in the past following Facebook-related scandals. As the years have unfolded following each scandal, Facebook has become more and more integrated into people’s lives while, at the same time, more and more people claim to dislike the service. I’m confident that some thousands of people will delete (or at least deactivate) their accounts. But I don’t think that the Cambridge Analytica scandal is going to be what causes people to flee Facebook en mass for the following reasons:

  1. Few people vote. And so they aren’t going to care that some shady company was trying to affect voting patterns.
  2. Lots of people rely on Facebook to keep passive track of the people in their lives. Unless communities, not individuals, quit there will be immense pressure to remain part of the network.
  3. Facebook is required to log into a lot of third party services. I’m thinking of services from my barber to Tinder. Deleting Facebook means it’s a lot harder to get a haircut and impossible to use something like Tinder.

Now, does this mean Cambridge Analytica will have no effect? No. In fact, Facebook’s second-worst nightmare is probably an acceleration of decreased use of the social network. So if people use Facebook hesitantly and significantly decrease how often they’re on the service this could open the potential for other networks to capitalize on the new minutes or hours of attention which are available. But regardless, Facebook isn’t going anywhere barring far more serious political difficulties.