Category Archives: Computers/Internet

Flickr vs. Instagram / Who’s in Control?

Social media is a mess these days. Most of us follow too many people and organizations to keep up, so we need some way of narrowing it down…but the tools are typically built into each service, which has different priorities about what it wants you to see than you do. As they say, if you’re not paying, you’re the product.

I realized this is why I still prefer Flickr to Instagram: I’m still in control when I browse Flickr. With Instagram, the best I can do is pick from one firehose or another. Flickr has its issues, but I can find stuff there, and the timeline isn’t re-ordered to suit someone else’s priorities.

Ironically, I post more often on Instagram than on Flickr. Because I like Flickr more, I feel like I should take my time & curate my photos better. But I also end up posting many at a time on Flickr, and single photos on Instagram. I don’t feel like I’m spamming if I post twenty pictures to Flickr, but I do if I post that many* to Instagram.

I mentioned this on Mastodon, and my brother remarked that Flickr feels more like “adding to a collection,” while other sites are more “shoveling things at my friends/followers.” That’s true of most social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Mastodon are all about now. Going back to look at someone’s history feels like an accident. Or stalking.

On Facebook, it would be really weird to go through someone’s old posts and comment on them. On Flickr, that’s totally normal. If Twitter is like shouting into the void, hoping someone will hear you, Flickr is like building a gallery and hoping someone will visit. When someone finally does,** they’ll see it, and look around. But that scream on Twitter is already fading on the wind.

Especially if Twitter thinks your friends would be more interested in seeing a sponsored post instead.

*Instagram does let you post multi-photo stacks, but the stack only ever appears as a unit. Only the cover photo appears in timelines or searches, and the whole stack shares one description and one set of tags. Flickr lets you group photos into albums however you want, and people (including you) can find any individual photo and go from there to the rest of the album.

**Not that Flickr isn’t subject to the siren call of now either, but the long tail still exists there.

It’s not all here.

I talk about different things in different places.

Just because I’m not talking about something on one site, doesn’t mean I’m not talking about it.

Just because I’m not talking about something online doesn’t mean I’m not talking about it offline.

Just because I’m not talking about something doesn’t mean I’m not learning about it and trying to do something…or at least be better.

More on Facebook Re-Engagement: Accidental Post by SMS!

Facebook, like Twitter, has offered post-by-SMS for ages. That’s how you posted from your phone in the days before everyone had smartphones, before the mobile site was reliable, and before the app launched. And even after those options were widely available, it still takes a lot less bandwidth if all you want to do is post a short status.

Anyway, people are running into problems with it because…

  1. Facebook sends two-factor authentication-by-SMS from the same shortcode.
  2. They’ve has started sending re-engagement notices* via SMS to people who only wanted to use SMS for 2FA, not notifications.
  3. Hardly anyone remembers that Facebook does post-by-SMS.
  4. Everyone’s used SMS bots that react to “STOP” commands.

Replies to those re-engagement notices are going to the number used for post-by-SMS, so people are accidentally posting “STOP” (and the occasional more angry statement) to their profiles.

🤦‍♂️

Update (Feb 19): Facebook plans to deprecate post-by-SMS as a result of this fiasco. I wonder if they plan on keeping SMS notices for people who don’t want the app but do want alerts? ‘Cause removing that could also be a sneaky way of pushing holdouts to use the Facebook app instead of the mobile website + SMS notifications. (Hmm, can websites send notifications in iOS yet?)

*Facebook has always let you choose to get notices by SMS. Again, in the pre-app days, it was the only way you could get mobile notifications. Even now, if you don’t want to run the app on your phone for privacy or other reasons, but you do want notices for replies such, it’s a good fallback. But it sounds like Facebook has started sending extra notices as part of their win-back messaging.

Link Sharing and Source Trails

I read a lot of articles in one of two ways:

  1. Open a bunch of tabs and then read them one at a time
  2. Save a bunch of interesting-looking stories to Pocket and then read them one at a time

So by the time I’ve decided to share a link to the story on Facebook Twitter, Mastodon, etc., I’ve often forgotten where I saw it to begin with.

If it’s a site I follow regularly, or I found it through a search, or if it was recommended by Pocket, no big deal, but if someone else shared the link and I saw it, I feel like I ought to give a little credit.

Now, the share/retweet buttons do automate this trail…but only if you do it immediately on Facebook or Twitter, because they have a nasty tendency to update your timeline when you come back, making it difficult to find the post you clicked on.

(It took me 30 minutes to find this tweet, since I couldn’t remember who had written it, only who on my list had retweeted it.)

This encourages you to share articles before you read them, no doubt contributing to the problem of people sharing stuff that turns out to be total BS, sending it halfway around the world before the truth can get its proverbial pants on.

I’m not sure how much people care about the trail these days. Citing the original source? absolutely. Posting someone else’s idea as yours? Hell yeah, just search for “stolen tweets.”

But the intermediary? Whether you follow the person you retweeted, or you follow someone who follows someone who follows someone who retweeted them, it looks the same to the rest of the world. Back when reposts and linkblogging were done manually, it was a BIG DEAL. I remember people getting upset that big-name bloggers would share links to things that smaller bloggers had already shared without crediting them. (Admittedly, I don’t remember whether it was a common complaint or just a few people.)

On the other hand, if you’re studying the spread of ideas, opinions, information or misinformation, it’s invaluable. And if you’re trying to hide a propaganda operation, you might want to disguise the trail…

But social media users do care about share counts and like counts. Original posters want the validation. Viewers see high counts as social proof that other people find the post valuable. And the platforms themselves use it as a signal to prioritize display in the newsfeed algorithm du jour. So there’s a strong incentive to get people (or bots) to use those share, reblog, retweet buttons.

So when it comes down to it, the normal use case preserves that link trail (even if you only see the oldest and newest links in that chain)…and I’m just an outlier when it comes to the way I use social media.

Facebook Desperately Wants You Back!

Sometimes I’ll go a week or two without logging into Facebook. It doesn’t take very long before they start sending me reminders trying to bring me back.

“See Alice’s message and other notifications you’ve missed”

“Bob updated their status”

“Carol posted a photo”

It’s only been since the weekend and Facebook has sent me two of these today.

Some of them are straight-forward: You’ve got X messages, Y group invitations, Z notifications.

But the “updated their status” emails are downright manipulative. The message starts with a 40-character snippet from the status they think will get you interested, so it shows up in the preview in your inbox. But it’s styled with color: #FFFFFF; display:none; font-size: 1px so that you don’t see it when you open the message, just a giant button to go to Facebook. And once you’ve clicked, they’ve already got your attention. You’re engaged, and you want to see what this thing is that’s hidden, making you more motivated to actually click on that big giant button. They hope. Unless it makes you angry and want to delete the message out of principle.

*ahem*

Anyway, Facebook apparently gets more and more desperate over time, and after a few months people have been getting customer support messages about how you seem to be having trouble logging in, though Facebook swears they are “not a re-engagement tactic.” Given the manipulation in their actual re-engagement messages, I’m not so sure. (via Slashdot)

It’s all about keeping you online, so they can get more data, show you more ads, and keep their engaged-user numbers up. Understandable, but a bit excessive, IMO.

Oddly enough, LinkedIn is sort of the opposite. When I go a long time without logging in, their messaging slows down. Then as soon as I’m in, *bam!* every few days, another “people you might know!”