Year of the Social Media Purge

In the last few months:

And Google+ has less than two weeks left before Google pulls the plug on it.

Back up your social media accounts! Most sites have some sort of archive utility, and even if what you get isn’t suitable for moving to another site, at least you’ll have a copy in case they change their business model, screw up a data migration, get washed away in a flood or just shut down.

And if you can, consider donating to the Internet Archive to help protect other sites you rely on or would just like to see again. Websites go offline every day. Sometimes even the big ones.

Quick thoughts on Twitter’s prototype changes

As you’ve probably heard, Twitter is planning major changes, and is testing them in a prototype app.

Threaded conversations are good, though I think the UI here still needs polish.

Hiding the interaction buttons until you click on the post: Yeah, it might make people think a little more. Putting some friction into sharing can improve the signal-to-noise ratio. (Also, I could swear I’ve seen something discussing this UX choice somewhere before, not necessarily for Twitter, but I can’t place it.)

Hiding the like/retweet counts: I know it was a deliberate decision to do that on Mastodon to discourage timelines from being too much of a popularity-contest. But it’s not clear how effective it’s been. In fact Mastodon recently added reply counts to its timeline (though boost and favorite counts are still behind a click). There is some value in social proof. Even if in a lot of cases it just amplifies how popular (or unpopular) something is to start with.

It’s not clear whether Twitter intends to hide the like/retweet counts completely, or keep them with the buttons like Mastodon does. Either way, I can’t imagine they won’t keep those numbers visible at least to the original poster. At some level they’re all about the metrics. And as Slashdot pointed out way back when they introduced karma: if you provide an actual number, people will try to optimize for it. Update: Buzzfeed indicates that the metrics are visible when zoomed into a specific tweet. In that case, you can still gauge its popularity or awfulness ratio, you just have to be motivated by the tweet to look for them. Essentially, it’s on the title page instead of the cover.

Camera features: There’s not really much I can say about these, since I tend not to post directly to social media in the first place. I like to take a picture (or several), then wait until I have time to crop, adjust, think of a caption, etc.

So on balance, these things might help a little.

But if Twitter is still going to be driven by showing you a timeline in most-likely-to-engage order — especially if those hidden replies are chosen in a way to encourage engagement — it’s still going to be a train wreck. Just, maybe with fewer things on fire.

Waxing and Waning Moon

Tonight’s waxing crescent moon, taken with the really long telephoto lens. It’s passing in front of the Hyades star cluster right now, which I’d love to get a photo of, but the moon is just waaay too bright to capture the background stars! Plus I’m still getting used to the controls on this camera.

And here’s another moon shot I took in January, about a week after the lunar eclipse. I used a different camera, while it was in a different phase, on the opposite side of the sky…

Same moon, though! 🙂

Weighing alternatives to Facebookified Instagram

Like many people, I’ve moved away from Facebook over the last couple of years. I haven’t deleted my account, but I only visit once or twice a month, and it’s been a long time since I’ve posted there. And like many people in that survey, I’ve come to prefer Instagram to Facebook. Friends and family seem a bit more relaxed there, and I follow interesting photographers rather than “brands” that are trying to sell me something.

But lately, it feels less like a photo sharing space and more like an ad delivery mechanism. Less like its own thing and more like Facebook Lite. Every time I visit, I remember Facebook will cheerfully squeeze every drop of monetization potential out of it and keep going. Every time I post, I remember that I’m handing personal data to a company that has been caught misusing it over and over again.

It just doesn’t spark joy anymore.

Where next?

Instagram has been where I post in-the-moment* snapshots, alongside Flickr for albums and my better photos, and my blog for topical images. I don’t want to flood either of those with random snaps. Twitter and Tumblr aren’t terribly appealing at this point, either.

Mastodon takes up some of the slack. I’ve found a great community of photographers at Photog.Social, but it’s more of a place for curated shots. I have a general account at Wandering.shop, and I’ve started posting amusing pictures there, but it doesn’t feel like the right place to post snapshots.

I was an early adopter of Pixelfed, jumping on as soon as it went into public beta. It’s designed to fit the same niche as Instagram, only with a decentralized volunteer model instead of attention-based ads. Even better: I can post photos on Pixelfed and boost them directly into Mastodon instead of cross-posting duplicates. But the community is still small. It’s at the stage where it feels like you’re shouting into the void because there aren’t a lot of people listening, rather than because there are a lot of other people for them to listen to.

At this point, I’m cross-posting photos across way too many accounts. I need to simplify. What I think I’ll do is reduce the number of places I post, and then pare down who I follow on each remaining site to the point where I can check in once in a while and it feels like I’m checking in on the people, not the service.

You can find me as KelsonV on Flickr, on Instagram, on Pixelfed, on Wandering.shop, and on Photog.Social.

*More or less. Sometimes the moment was three days ago.