Category Archives: Computers/Internet

Why I have more confidence in Flickr/SmugMug than Tumblr/Verizon

Last month, Tumblr and Flickr both announced policy changes that will impact a lot of users, and upset even more. Flickr announced that they’d be shrinking the storage offered to free accounts while adding features to paid accounts. Tumblr announced that all adult content was going to be banned, and immediately set about flagging posts and accounts. In the clumsiest way possible. With a lot of errors.

I feel like Tumblr has been knocked out of orbit, and it’s only a matter of time before it goes the way of GeoCities (or at least LiveJournal). But I actually feel more confident about Flickr. Why?

  • Flickr was bought by SmugMug, a company that’s all about photos. Tumblr was part of the Yahoo! package bought by Verizon, a giant telecom conglomerate that’s searching for a way to monetize users’s content.
  • Flickr has had a freemium business model as long as I can remember.
  • The new free tier at Flickr may be limited, but it’s still big (1000 photos), and it’s still more than they offered before the move to “Let’s get people to host ALL their pictures here!” a few years back (200 photos, IIRC).
  • And that limit is both clear and non-judgmental, not a fuzzy, badly-implemented line that on other social media sites has frequently turned out to be the first step down a slippery slope (like the “Strikethrough” episode at LiveJournal that ultimately led to a lot of fanfic writers and fan artists leaving LJ in favor of, well, Tumblr.)
  • Flickr’s customers are the paying Flickr Pro users. Tumblr’s customers are the advertisers.

In short: Flickr is focusing on their core. Tumblr just jettisoned a huge segment of their users and gave the rest a big red warning flag.

I’ve been a paying Flickr customer for years now, and I’m happy to renew. I still post galleries there, and and my better one-off photos.

Tumblr…I don’t have anything that violates the new rules, but it seems like they’ve taken a step towards self-destruction. Between this, Google+ closing, and the ongoing train wrecks of Twitter & Facebook, I’ve decided to pull back. I’ve downloaded an archive of my entire blog, and I’m in the process of clearing out all my share-posts, reblogs, mirrored posts, basically anything that’s not either original to that blog or an actual conversation. And I’m starting to import the original content here, where it’s under my own control.

It’s clear that Verizon has even less idea what to do with Tumblr than Yahoo! did. When they finally give up trying to monetize what’s left of the user base, they’ll have no incentive to keep it going. Or to respect all the user data they’ve amassed.

The 2018 Social Network Experience

Twitter is like a train crashing into a burning dumpster, and the railroad owner won’t let firefighters in because they’re doing such a brisk business selling marshmallows.

Facebook is like a large family gathering where you can’t quite get away from your racist uncle/in-law’s soapboxing, and the TV keeps interrupting with commercials for things related to your conversations.

Tumblr is the weird coffee shop you used to hang out in but you’ve outgrown. You stop by occasionally for old times sake, but now it’s been bought out by a national chain and homogenized.

Mastodon is like a small party: not as many people as Facebook or Twitter, but you can actually hear each other talk.

Instagram is like checking out your friends’ vacation photos, but after a while you start noticing all the product placement.

Of course, all of them have people who will Judge You because You’re Doing It Wrong.

Who are phone notifications for?

Phone notifications aren’t just reminders. They’re interruptions, especially if you have sound or vibration turned on. That gives them a lot of power, and means they should be used responsibly.

In short, phone notifications should serve your interests as the person using the phone. Not the app’s. Not the service’s. Yours.

If someone you know sends you a message, you probably want to know that. If you put an appointment on your calendar, that reminder is going to help you. A shipping update, or delivery notice? Probably helpful as well. Completion of some long-running process that you requested or are waiting for? OK. App and system updates? You do want the phone to keep working properly, so there’s a case there.

If your friend tags you on a photo, or replies to your comment, or sends you a message, then yeah, Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Mastodon can justifiably notify you. It’s the start or continuation of a conversation between you and that other person. (Though you should still be able to mute it if you don’t want to talk to that person.)

But when Facebook starts pushing friend suggestions, or “did you see so-and-so’s comment on this conversation that you’re not part of,” or choosing to promote some subset of people’s broadcasts? That’s not in my interests, and that’s not in the other person’s interests. That’s Facebook advertising itself, because they’re desperately afraid they’ve lost my eyeballs.

It’s no different than the Black Friday through Cyber Monday ads that Amazon pushed into my notifications over Thanksgiving weekend.

We can pare down notifications, but it takes time, and not every app offers fine enough controls over which notifications it sends. And of course you have to re-do it every time you get a new phone, and every time you add a new app.

Advertising in an alert is, IMO, an abuse of the feature. We’re bombarded by so many demands for our attention as it is. Phone notifications should stick to those that help us do what we want, not those that distract us from it.

Possibly Out-There Federation Idea

Now that Pixelfed federation and Pterotype are taking shape, I can hook up my photos and blogging directly into Mastodon and the Fediverse, but you know what would be even cooler?

Connecting them to each other.

A lot of my blog ideas grow out of photos or statuses that I’ve posted previously, as I find more to say or a better way to say it. And while it’s always possible to just post a comment or reply with a link, imagine posting them into the same federated thread.

Here’s a scenario we can do today:

  1. Photo of something interesting on Pixelfed, boosted to Mastodon. I believe we’re one update away from Mastodon replies and Pixelfed comments appearing together.
  2. Blog post on Plume or WordPress with Pterotype going into more detail about the photo. Comments and Mastodon/Pleroma replies can interleave right now. (Try it, if you want!)
  3. Another photo on Pixelfed as a follow-up. Again, comments and replies can interleave.

This is already pretty cool, but it still creates three separate discussions. The best I can do is add a “Hey, I wrote more on my blog over here: <link>” to the first discussion.

What if there were a way to publish the blog entry as a reply to the PixelFed photo? Or to publish the second photo as a reply to the blog?

And that opens up other possibilities where people can reply to other people’s photos and blog entries with their own. (Webmentions sort of do this, but they’re not going to create a single federated discussion.)

I’m not sure what form this interleaved discussion would take, or what the pitfalls might be. (Visibility might suffer, for instance.) Blogging and photo posting tend to be platforms for an original post that can have comments, rather than platforms where a top-level post can be an OP or a reply, and this would change that model.

Delicious Irony

While looking up importers that I could use to move various third-party archives into something self-hosted, I found an add-on to pull Facebook posts into Keyring Social Importers, an extensible WordPress plugin. At the top of the list of built-in services: Delicious.

“Hey, I used to have a ton of stuff on Del.icio.us! I don’t know what percent of the links still work, but I should at least export it!”

delicious.com is gone, but I remembered they moved back to del.icio.us at some point, so I went there, and found…

The delicious site is temporarily offline while we move servers. We'll be back!  Your bookmarks are safe and sound. The site should be available again on Monday, July 24.

Yeah, so I guess that’s not gonna happen. It turns out I exported my bookmarks in 2016 (into one big HTML file), which is probably as current as it needs to be.

The maintenance page mentioned Pinboard, so I looked up some articles. Apparently Pinboard bought Delicious in June 2017 and put it into read-only mode. I know I was able to look up bookmarks on Del.icio.us as recently as January, so it’s at least this July they’re talking about, but I’m guessing the server migration probably failed and it never came back.

The Fanfic Connection

In an interesting twist, I discovered that there’s a fanfic-related history in the past rivalry between Del.icio.us and Pinboard.

TL;DR: Delicious was once extensively used to categorize fic on LiveJournal, but an overhaul left it unsuitable. (Among other things, “/” became an unsearchable character, making it impossible to search for pairings.) There was a mass exodus of fanfic writers and readers, many of whom ended up at Pinboard…and Pinboard’s owner put in extra effort to address their needs.