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Social Media

Instagram Suggested

Instagram has featured me the last 2 weeks as a Suggested User.  You can check out this section within the app’s options under “People to follow.”

Instagram, like GarageBand, turned regulars into semi-pros. Once you have the recording and publishing tools, all you need is a good sense of quality and the willingness to practice every day.

But you also need to be an explorer. If the computer and the Internet tethered people inside, the mobile phone and apps like Instagram make you want to see the world around you.  All of a sudden the shadow in the far away concrete wall becomes oddly beautiful. You may have seen it before but capturing it makes it more memorable.

Photography is a lot like fishing, you never know what you’re going to get, so you take a lot of pictures to increase your options.  Sometimes you snag a gem, sometimes you end up with nothing.  But the more pictures you take, just like the more sentences you make as a writer, the more you have to play with and put out there to publish.

Instagram is one of the main reasons I started walking a lot to work.  Instead of looking down, I look up.  New York also happens to be a photographer’s gold mine too since there’s action, diversity, ruggedness, and richness on every corner.  But most people walk to and from work and miss these things.

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve presented my perspective of New York to a new audience.  The followers have doubled, as have the likes and comments.  If you don’t think Instagram is here for the long-run, just check out all the 11-year-old’s commenting on my images.  They’ll be using the app for years to come and soon take way cooler pictures than me.

A hobby is something you love a lot and do every day.  But sometimes it feels like more than that.  It seems like art.  Do anything enough, and you never know what’s going to happen.  Someone may just notice, and all you need to do is to continue remaining curious about the world around you.

Every photo you take communicates something about a moment in time – a brief slice of time of where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing. – Kevin Systrom

Follow along.

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Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s man of vision, now eyes up world domination

Increasingly, any new filters we make a bit more subtle because if you do too much to that photo you’re not necessarily going to want to look at it in 20 years.

I tend to scroll right through images that have been over-filtered to death. The point of a filter is to carefully augment the photo and the story, not to sensationalize it.  

#Nofilter is of course, the essence where nature determines your luck.

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Another Insta Lesson

This blog has been Instagram heavy the last week, a mixture of thoughts on the Facebook acquisition and my own personal Instagrammed photos.

So apologies, I guess.

Instagram can be analyzed over and over again from an app and business perspective. Many people had an opinion on Instagram last week. Even VC Semil Shah sold his collected thoughts on Gumroad.

But writer Nick Bilton made a point I haven’t heard before:

Even if Polaroid or Kodak could have developed Instagram, it’s likely that the project would have been killed anyway. What would be the reaction of almost any executive presented with a business plan to save the company with an iPhone app that had no prospect for revenue?

Big corporations like Walmart have developed technology labs to focus on innovation. CNN bought Zite just so it could bring Flipboard technology in house.

Big companies should hire or acquire creative entrepreneurial talent and cultivate new ideas. Owning the technology rather than just incorporating it is a strategic advantage.

Instagram is a great lesson in product creation, tweaking, scaling, and selling out.

Let the over-analysis continue.

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How Instagram Mastered The Details

I started a Pinterest board for quotes on my blog.

Instead of just plain old text I’m adding the extra element of imagery.

I think we all learn better when we see visuals, just ask Mark Zuckerberg with his $1B acquisition of Instagram.

Speaking of Instagram, please read this article this morning about Kevin the founder of Instagram and his search of the aesthetic in all walks of life.

He loved technology. But he looked at it as a toolbox for his imagination. If you talk about Michelangelo using marble, he used software.  

Kevin also seeks inspiration from the environment around him.  He may code in front of the computer screen most of the day but he also takes time socialize and observe the minutia around him.  In addition to the filters, the incredible and simple lighting and touch up details in the Instagram are clearly influenced by Kevin’s way of thinking.  He wants all of us to pay attention to the beauty that surrounds us.  And so I leave you with this, my favorite quote from Kevin at South By Southwest this year.

And with that, that was the first time I shook the hand of a billion dollar man. With good and popular work, life can change in just a month.

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The Instagram Effect

The most significant thing about Instagram is that it completely altered my mobile habits. It got me to brush aside Apple’s native app for its own app and it made me discover the world more.

It turned serendipity into an everyday occurrence, as I stumbled upon the amazing shot that could tell a bigger story than words. Instagram made me feel like a photographer just like GarageBand made me feel like a musician.

I set up an ifft rule so that all my Instagram photos got automatically saved. I started to share my photos through Twitter and Facebook. I bought other photo apps just to crop photos to the ideal square Instagram size and to touch up shades.

Clearly, Instagram got Zuckerberg’s attention even if the CEO used his Instagram account only once. My wife even said she stopped using Facebook because it was just her image laboratory. Images took to long to upload and she liked the beauty of Instagram as a replacement. I personally got the attention of my own network whom often wondered how I took such astonishing photos. I told them, I just have the eye, Instagram has the finishing touches.

It’s hard to say what I liked more about Instagram, the easy to filter interface or the rich community behind it. Even I became guilty of deleting photos after a few minutes with 0 likes. Instagram pushed me to take better shots and get wiser in my hashtagging. No one will see your photos unless you market them with a popular pound sign.

Instagram was and is game-changer. It makes stodgy people more creative. And most importantly, it teaches to think differently about the environment and to really appreciate the beauty around you. How Apple let this one loose we’ll never know.

The only ask of Facebook is to keep Instagram independent. Keep the sharing features open to all popular networks including Twitter. Don’t make me log in to the Facebook to use Instagram. Don’t rebrand it or even change the logo. And don’t make it hard to use. I know Kevin still cares.

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iPhone Smugness Over Instagram

Instagram for Android took a lot of heat yesterday from iPhone users.

One person said she felt like a senior amongst overexcited freshmen. Blogs made side by side comparisons of the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. The consensus was always the iPhone is way sharper and the Galaxy sub-par.

People forget how bad the iPhone camera was when it first came out. One of the main reasons I first used Instagram was to augment crappy photo quality.

Since then Instagram has exploded to a huge community of 30 million users and the iPhone camera pixelation is 10x sharper.

The iPhone camera and Instagram app is just going to get better and better, as will the Galaxy camera. Soon enough Instagram will double its user base and the iPhone users will be happy to get new followers.

Instagram is really the first app that felt exclusive and special. I really thought Apple may make it part of its native app ecosystem like Twitter.

It was only a month ago at SXSW that Kevin Systrom denied talking about Instagram on the Android. My gut tells me it’ll hit 60 million users in 3 months, and that’s playing it safe.

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Social Media Tech

Reward Psychology

On the human addiction for digital rewards:

Today, technology companies are creating new habits by running users through a series of desire engines—and variable rewards fuel the chain reaction.

Companies like Kiip, Zynga, and American Express drop pellets. Every time we use their services we get something back like points and even discounts.

A like, comment, or a badge on Foursquare create similar gratification. There’s even email games that test your inbox management against friends.

Every app, game, or company incentives us in one of three ways as Eyal points to.

The Tribe. Social networks fuel our emotions with constant positive feedback. We get annoyed when no one likes or comments on posts.

The Hunt. We need to find the next thing whether it’s through search or an article in our RSS feed. Discovery feels good.

The Self. Rewards keep us coming back. Any positive return even if it’s a point increases happiness.

Mash all three together and we’re in a never ending need for appeasement.

This is why I quit video games years ago. There’s not any substance to easy points. And this is why recently I’ve become just as doubtful over likes. They really are a passive way of affirmation and don’t really show commitment.

Many people delete their Instagram photos after getting no likes in the first minute of posting. We’re addicted to positive feedback even if it’s trifling.

Yesterday at the grocery store I saw $15 Facebook Credits. Yes, people actually subsidize their digital points.

I don’t think the rewards system ever stops in the digital world. It’s too easy and costs virtually nothing. The main challenge is really for the the company giving our the rewards. Do these rewards get people to use the product, create a memorable experience, and generate sales? That’s the end goal, anyway.

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SXSW Highlights (In Pins)

My trip is over but the learnings and memories will live on.

I’ve posted some of the highlights on my SXSW Pinterest board here.