Tag Archives: social networking

More on positivity

If you recall, back in May, I linked to a post by Nick Miners about being positive. I linked to the post because it struck a chord with me about how it is so easy, what with everything going on around us and in the world generally, to be negative all the time. After a few years of things not going so well in my own corner of the planet, I had been generally trying to look on the bright side, and Nick hit home.

Nick’s been following up on the theme. Yesterday, he asked for examples of positivity from his Twitter followers. A mutual friend, Paul Dunning, responded. Paul, like me, is a designer by trade, and his interests are wide-ranging. In the past few months, he has been documenting the unique letterforms used by the local authority in his home town to name the streets. He is now creating letterpress blocks from the typeface, and I suspect a digitised variant won’t be far off.

I had a think, and while I am pleased the modelmaking work has taken off, I felt my positive contribution was Invicta Shutterbugs. I was really pleased with the way a regular local photowalk gathered interest, and how it’s led me to make new friends. Sadly, we haven’t figured out a way to share the resulting photography in a central place yet—something that bugs me and will need to be sorted out if the walks are to continue into another year. Anyway, Nick suggested the modelmaking would be more interesting, so I put some thoughts down and emailed him. You can read them on Nick’s blog.

I’d like to thank Nick for highlighting the need for positivity in our world. With the media churning out, and literally thriving on, bad news it is so easy to let yourself fall into the pit of despair. Realising there’s a lot of good about, and working away at making life better by having a more generally positive attitude to many things, can only make the world a better place.

Spot the difference

Let’s play a nice game for a Sunday morning. See if you can spot the difference between these two social media web pages.



Okay, the content is different, but otherwise there’s not much between them is there? The first is from my Diaspora* stream, and the second from my Google+ stream.

As you may be aware, my experiment with Facebook ended with deleting my account there. I was unhappy with the arbitrary changes to my security, the constant fight with advertising, and simply trying to keep up with everything going on. Facebook has become mainstream in the past couple of years, to my mind jumping the shark. Every manufacturer wants us to “friend” them, to keep up with all their advertising nonsense. I fell for that at first, but eventually I found I was spending more time fending off requests to join silly games, or managing my interaction with groups I had joined, than doing anything useful. I had entered into my Facebook world with my eyes wide open, knowing my presence there was simply to be sold on as advertising fodder, and even though I had locked down my account as far as possible I could’t ignore the sense of looming paranoia that simply having a Facebook account engendered. I left, and felt much happier for it.

Meanwhile, I had been following the progress of a new kid on the block. Diaspora* was launched as an open source community project to provide a better and more secure alternative to Facebook. Rumours of this new social media site began circulating more than a year ago, and eventually it entered what the developers call a “public alpha” stage. I registered my interest in joining, and finally got my invitation. It made a refreshing, if somewhat spartan, change to the cluttered, overbearing and frankly noisy space inhabited by Facebook. It’s been spartan ever since. While many of my online friends wanted invitations, and signed up, activity is rare. The problem, I think, is while Diaspora* is trying to be a better Facebook, the things that attract people to the latter simply don’t exist in the former.

The other problem is since Diaspora* has been in development, and has made some welcome improvements over the past few months, a big blue gorilla has entered the room and started throwing its not inconsiderable weight about. I’m talking about Google.

In a very short space of time, Google+ has taken the tech world by surprise. Initially only open to join by invitation, Google+ is now open to anyone with a Google account, be it Gmail, Blogger or just the web tools. I signed up yesterday, even though I had intended to sit on the sidelines and let things settle. 

Like Diaspora*, Google+ is still in a field testing phase, but it has already gained more traction in a week than Diaspora* has managed in a year. I can only attribute this to the fact that Google is a well-established—one might even say ubiquitous—presence in the online world. Google has video and photo sharing, maps, web stats, email, a web browser, office applications, and of course web search, already firmly established and available to back up a social media site. Crucially, it also has a growing mobile space with Android. Social media works best when it can be accessed via a smart phone, and Google knows this. Diaspora* has none of this to back up its venture, relying instead on developers taking such projects on and adding them to the pot as they mature. As I write, the sum total of such projects in the Diaspora* world is one, and I’m not even sure what it does.

Google tried a similar social media toy a while ago, launching what they called Buzz. On the surface, it seemed a good idea, but in practice, people found it simply too intrusive and confusing in many ways, and Buzz was consigned to Google’s digital Techno Drawer. You can still sign up for it if you want, but I don’t know anyone who has. But Google is one of those companies that exists to innovate. Ideas spread from Mountain View like sparks from a sparkler. Some fizzle out, others live briefly, yet others manage to hit the mark and grow into something bigger. I think Google+ is one of the latter.

Since the Google gorilla has so much weight to throw around, I wonder what will happen to Diaspora*. Sadly, I don’t think they will be able to muster the resources to overcome Google—Google has literally lifted the best features of Twitter and Diaspora* and built them into Google+. Diaspora* simply doesn’t have the momentum to take on such a behemoth, and I suspect the best outcome will be that Google simply buys them out, for good or ill.

Such an outcome would be sad, albeit inevitable. Diaspora* was launched on a wave of disaffection with the Facebook hegemony, and worries over personal online safety. Facebook has since grown ever larger, and seems unstoppable right now. If anything can take Zuckerberg’s empire on and have a chance at winning, it’ll be the other tainted empire of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Should I be worried? We’ll see. 

Photo Sharing


I’ve been a Flickr user for some time. It’s my first choice when uploading new images and when pointing folks at what I do with my camera gear. I quite like Flickr, with all its faults. 

My friend Gavin, on his Techbeast.net blog, commented about Flickr thus:


Flickr can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Some use it for sharing their holiday snaps, or pictures of their new baby. Some use it to host their portfolio and others will like to get involved in the group discussions. It is also a very useful place to host your pictures for embedding into a blog.

For all of its benefits, there are a few glaring drawbacks for the keen photographers among us. The first thing that springs to mind is the way things are organised. There is no useful way to display a portfolio, aside from in a set or collection. The white background is not the best backdrop for most images and it is very easy to get lost in the sheer volume of images that are uploaded every hour. The slide show function is really handy, but it is Flash-only, so pretty much out-of-bounds for the millions of iPads out there and a veritable battery killer for the Android tablets that have Flash.



I have to say I agree with most of what he said, but I still choose Flickr for displaying my new images first. Which isn’t to say there might not be a better solution. It was Gavin who suggested I take a look at a new photo sharing site—500px

If you want to read Gavin’s take on 500px, from where I also lifted the above quote about Flickr, then you can find it here.

I am always a bit sceptical about adding more social networking and sharing to my already cluttered online life. I’ve already given Facebook the elbow, mainly because I didn’t trust it, I wasn’t enjoying the experience, and felt it was time to trim things back a bit. I remain a Twitter fan, and enjoy blogging and an active forum life in a couple of places, but Facebook was just too intrusive for my satisfaction. Nevertheless I visited 500px, found I was impressed, and signed up for a free account.

Rather than try and explain here why it’s different to Flickr, take a look at the 500px “about” page. They can explain it far better than I can.

Anyway, after I’d signed up, found out how to upload images, discovered the limits to a free account (restricted numbers of uploads per week), and figured out I couldn’t afford to make myself “awesome” just yet (“awesome” being the 500px take on a Flickr Pro account), I found I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the experience. I had uploaded 20 of my better images, and literally within seconds had comments coming in. This, if I am truthful, scared me a bit. I am used to a delay before having anyone comment on uploads. It seemed the 500px community was incredibly active—and full of photographers from Russia!

I felt a bit like the new kid in school. I only had one friend, Gavin, and didn’t feel at all comfortable just accepting all the new commentators on my photos as friends without getting to know them first. With thousands of new potential friends, how the heck could I get to know anyone at all? Overwhelmed, I had a change of heart, and searched for a way to delete my new account. There wasn’t one, although the site developers say they will add one eventually. They suggested I just log out and leave it for now, which I did.

Time passed, and I began to see more references to 500px appear among Twitter friends. I logged back in, and tried again. Starting by following a Twitter contact, I then decided to add some more photos to my collection. Again, I got comments and favourites almost straight away. Only, this time, I didn’t feel quite so overwhelmed.

I have tweaked my account settings so I don’t get a flood of email notifications. I feel a little more in control of things. I’ve also decided to be a little more adventurous by following some of those who have chosen to follow me, or made comments on my images. Making new friends seems to be the way to make such sites work, and it seems so much easier to do this with 500px than with Flickr. I’m still not ready for being “awesome”, and I shall only upload the images that I decide are the best of my best work, unlike my Flickr account.

If you want to see my 500px portfolio—though if you know my Flickr photostream or have visited my MobileMe galleries, you’ll have seen the images already—search for Snaptophobic. Although I am unsure of the URLs as I am logged in most of the time, you could try this direct link: http://500px.com/Snaptophobic 

There is still a nagging doubt about spreading my photo portfolios across so many outlets, but then it’s really a case of being out there to be seen. Limiting myself to selected images on 500px will help me manage things, and being limited to 20 uploads a week will also help me keep things in trim and avoid overload. 

While there are plenty of photo sharing sites out there, Flickr has had the high ground for some time. I think 500px is a worthy, quality contender to take on the big kid on the block. Competition between two quality sites is a good thing, I think.


Dear Mr Zuckerberg

“Thanks for your feedback. Over time, this information helps us deliver more relevant adverts to you.”

I don’t want relevant ads. In fact I don’t want ads at all. You’ve managed to provide me with even less relevant ads each time, so why even bother to provide me with that platitude when I explain why I don’t want the stupid ads? If I dismiss an ad for a poxy mobile phone I don’t desire, why serve it up again? Who are you to tell me I need to lose weight? Do you really think I’m at all interested in credit cards, foreign holidays, satellite television, or a million-and-one other things? None of the ads you’ve ever served up have been relevant to me, ever.

I realise I’m just advertising fodder to make you even richer, but please just stop it. I have an adblocker installed in my browser. Sadly, you keep circumventing it, and it’s beginning to wear my patience thinner. Every time I refresh the page, I have to block the same ad again. It’s boring, but I refuse to kowtow and let you litter my home page and profile page with adverts for stuff I don’t want.

I know you’re not listening to me. If you were, you’d have deleted my account for me due to the expletives I’ve showered across the comments box each time I dismiss an ad. I’m only remaining a member of your stupid social network because all my friends are there and I enjoy the company. If it wasn’t for my loyalty to my friends, I’d never have joined in the first place.

So, don’t take me for granted. I may just be one tiny fish swimming against the tide, but I’m sure I’m not alone. Eventually, we might turn on you, and you’ll be left with the smoking remains of a social network and only your billions of dollars for company.

Well, I can dream.