Dec 19 2012

A Year Of Instagram

Ever since I killed my accounts on LinkedIn and Odnoklassniki social networks, I was extremely reluctant to try anything similar. Loads of spam, unnecessary contacts, and data mining companies extracting my personal data to publish it, or sell to advertisers… Lots of unrequired and uncontrollable exposure – I hated it.

But Instagram caught me hands down with its funny square-image format. That was smart, making one think and see things “outside of the box”. We got so accustomed to the stretched wide images of computer screens and TV, that looking at the same stuff through a square hole appeared to be truly innovative and inspiring.

Besides, they’ve got an actually working tag-driven discovery structure. As soon as I’ve started to tag my photos, followers begun popping up out of nothing. My account had no links to any other social network, not even Twitter, yet fans were coming in, slapping “likes” and commenting positively – that was helping a lot to go for more!

Popular Page was an obvious piece of junk, promoting already promoted celebrities together with some weird stuff expected to demonstrate “no bias” and motivate the beginners. Tag-based communities, though, were truly awesome – intentionally misleading tags never strong enough to kill their utility. On the other hand, stealing and reposting other people photos, tumblr-style, was ever present.

And then there were filters. Mind you, photoshop experts may have done the photo editing way more professional, but hey – getting a lame snap almost shine with just a few movements of your finger was definitely cool! I’ve started with generic Instagram filters, which were ok, but rather vanilla – and soon got completely hooked on Pixlromatic and Snapseed. Funny, but Photoshop Express never quite cut it to me – greedy and inefficient sibling of the old good monster…

Creating fancy pics, adding smart tags – carefully selected to match the image and be within popular trends – and here we go, within less than a year I’ve got half thousand followers on just about a hundred photos! That was a clear success, keeping in mind that I never thought of my creative abilities as being anywhere beyond average.

Instagram almost rehabilitated a concept of social networking to me… just to be swallowed by a basic instrument of privacy invasion, Facebook. They obviously started with common BS about users’ privacy – while doing their usual job of collecting as much personal information and identifiable behavior, as possible. That’s what FB was created for – data mine voluntarily provided personal info, organize and analyze it, then sell results to advertisers, government, and government-contracted agencies.

I was right in the middle of my experiment, account and popularity growing steadily, so decided to keep it going further before they’d kill all the fun. Obviously, cleaning up all my previous search results and completely stopping to use search except for a totally innocent cases. That eliminated much of a “social” utility of Instagram to me, but at least it was still working as a photo-sharing and tagging platform.

And the fun was cut short real quick. Zuckerberg knows how he earns his money – and he gives his corporate buddies an opportunity to gain some, though these are not as bright and efficient. Instagram idiots, for example, jumped up with a stunning idea – let’s grab the user-produced content, and start making money on it in the most pathetic way – sticking ads within photo streams, or sticking photos within the ads, or tracking what people like to spam them with “relevant” crap!

Sure, dumb asses wanted to “monetize” on their platform, but they’ve already made money by selling it to FB – yet, their greed was not satisfied with that. As if a greed could ever be satisfied…

The simple and fair way would have been – sell our photos and give us royalty. Do that with explicit permission and clear-cut definition of the copyright. Wipe out the flourishing content piracy and give people an opportunity to get their 15 minutes of fame – all so easy, obvious, and reasonable! But no, Instagram bosses decided to push into the spam market, then kinda withdrew, then kinad push again in a different way, wagging their asses with ever changing statements, apologies, and consequent pushes in a slightly different direction… Even the infamous “homeless” dude to whom the cop gave free shoes did not look as pathetic.

Well, enough was enough – I’ve sent a nice thank you message to my followers, killed the blog content, and cancelled the account. Obviously, there is no guarantee that whatever was ever stored (and backed up) on the external, privately owned server, would’ve been actually deleted. There are more than enough fancy clauses in the user agreements which may allow doing things not really expected by the one hitting the “I agree” button. Go sue them then. But that’s the reality, and we have to take it as is – or dive deep into the legal hooks, nooks and crannies – only to realize how bad we were screwed.

Instagram experiment concluded my latest and unexpected affair with “social networking”. Web 2.0 concepts, declared as a sweet idea of the users generating, sharing and discovering free content, grew up into yet another data-mining tool used by marketing morons and shady enforcement entities – and I see no place in it for my content. Not that I’m feeling too entitled, but I perfectly know what my shit is worth.

Bye-bye, Instagram – you was a nice toy, smartly designed and with good potential. This world is changing, corporate greed and rigidity sealing its fate – such a pity you were an early victim, but oh well. See you in another life!