A List of Thoughts and Feelings that Cannot Be Expressed on Twitter

What are the limits of expressing thoughts in Twitter?

Here’s a powerful but inefficient (when run) thought that can be expressed on Twitter, a quick sort in Erlang in 126 characters.

qsort([]) -> [];
qsort([Pivot|T]) ->
   qsort([X || X <- T, X < Pivot])
   ++ [Pivot] ++
   qsort([X || X <- T, X >= Pivot]).

Also strcmp implemented in C can be tweeted:

int bstrcmp(char *s1,char *s2) { while(*s1 == *s2++) {if(*s1++ == 0){return 0;} } 
return (*(unsigned char *)s1 - *(unsigned char*)--s2);}

A lot of Perl one-liners can fit into a tweet – powerful and useful ones.

You can also propose the concept of a hash tag in a tweet:

hashtag proposal

However, there are many thoughts that seem to be difficult to fit into a tweet:

The Pythagorean Theorem and one of its many proofs
Anselm’s Ontological Proof for God’s Existence
Merge Sort in Ruby
Merge Sort in PHP
Why you should or shouldn’t outsource
What qualities make a great tech hire
The logical fallacy in another person’s tweet
How to subtly tell someone something in an indirect way with the only others knowing being those in the know

Twitter encourages the laconic expression of thought.

Automation and Gaming of Instagram

NOTE: If you are reading this in May 2017, this was written in January 2017. I now have a decent crew of folks to shoot with, and am not using any marketing on my account anymore.

Instagram punishes users for experimentation unless it’s through its stories. Basically when you create an account the more photos you add, the more locked into an audience and style you get. If you deviate from that style, like I did for two weeks in 2015, you can lose 25% of your followers. The right response to this is to-heck with those followers. A more thought out response is why doesn’t Instagram just send users that would like the change your way?

After experimenting with street photography for two weeks, I went back to the old style of landscapes that I used to post. It’s interesting to note that at this time, Instagram was really freaked out about Snapchat, who rebuffed a $3 billion dollar offer from Facebook. People were posting less and less on Instagram. “It became a place where people kept raising the bar on themselves in terms of the quality of what they had to achieve to post,” says Kevin Weil, Instagram’s head of product, “We didn’t want that.”

I changed my style because after a nasty fall doing photography in the rain, street photography reflected the broken-ness that I was feeling. I wasn’t only broken physically but broken in other realms of my life. I had and still have a long standing feud with a photo stealer currently running a huge community hub. This person abuses the position and the prestige as a community manager for personal gain – the Donald Trump of the photo world that threatens people that call out photo theft with police action.

Demoralized, I had nowhere to turn. Nobody wanted to shoot with me back in 2015, and it’s 2017 and I still have a ridiculously hard time finding people to shoot with. Maybe I should just isolate myself and focus on my art. Maybe life’s different at 20,000 followers I thought. Maybe it’s worth doing anything I could to get there, and my life would be different?

In August of 2016, I set about learning everything I could about marketing my Instagram account. I found an Instagram knowledge-base of sorts in Liz Dean’s InstaRevealed marketing Facebook group. Instarevealed is just one of many businesses promising account growth, and to be honest, she delivers. You basically are funneled into following their IG account, and join a Facebook group where folks share their success stories on reaching 1k, 5k, 10k followers and up. You can join a “comment pod” which has a bunch of guidelines. Comment pods are for folks like me that got betrayed by their crew, got dropped by other IGers, or never had anybody to shoot with in the first place. They grow your likes by making sure 14 people comment on your post within 15 minutes so that it grows. They are also for the shadiest people I’ve ever met on a social networking app.

Here are the motley types you will find:

1) The diva of awful photographs, who so believes they’re entitled or owed 100,000 followers, and all they shoot are pixelated, blurry photographs of the worst sort. This person will bitch in the group about not getting enough likes or that the algorithm is somehow biased against them. I’ve cursed this person out with, “Why don’t you level up your photography?”

2) The person that you thought grew their following authentically but never did. After reading this article you’ll be able to tell which of your Instagram heroes aren’t heroes at all. You’ll see them saying shots are killer for the 14 or so folks per pod that they are in that have the crappiest photos, or the photos might be decent but their comments’ enthusiasm in no way matches the photo. A photo of Grandma’s Grave will get “Killer shot dude! Lit!”

3) The photo stealer is someone in your pod who just posts photos by other people. The way they explain it is that by using purely viral photos from other people they can grow their account the quickest. This is absolutely true, and it seems Instagram HQ doesn’t care about fixing this except for a broken DMCA process.

4) Real friends. Yeah, this sort of surprised me but I met a bunch of folks that I’d actually want to hang out with.

5) Oh, and there’s me. A person who used to run a San Francisco community account, gave it to a bunch of folks to run, and got back-stabbed by them. This person was bent on some sort of way for getting justice from this but realized their ruined and sad lives were justice enough. Occasionally reporting stolen photos to Instagram and having Instagram take them down is enough.

So comment pods will get you likes, but to grow followers at a rate of 5000 or so a month, you need to do something different. I signed an NDA and so can’t go into what this is. Let’s just say I did this for 6 months, and at 20,000 followers still find myself shooting alone. There’s an automated way of doing this where you can just set it and forget it. There’s the manual way of doing this, where folks will spend 8 or more hours a day blowing up their accounts. It was truly sad seeing people game Instagram for 8 hours a day or more when they could actually just learn a bit of photography, photo editing and web development.

I decided to stop growing my account because I felt, “Hey, this is where I’d probably end up if I did become a suggested user.” I also stopped because lots of folks started spreading the false rumor that I was buying followers. Marketing for follows, and buying them aren’t the same in my book.

What I want to do now has nothing to do with marketing. Instead, I’d rather just go back to using my account the way I used to – posting whatever I want and connecting with whomever I want. Also, I want to focus on creating a photography book. After that, I eventually want to create an app, because owning your own social networking / photography app:
“It’s like a final club. Except we’re president.”

How To Do A Free For All

I’m two years too late on doing a free for all on Instagram.

A free for all is when you give out for free a set of photos. By free, I mean without copyright using perhaps at most an attribution license.

Here are the steps:

1) Create an image announcing the Free For All. Make sure the age has the hashtag of your event on it.

2) Recruit Ambassadors to promote your free for all using the image you created in step 1. Be sure to give them copy that states where they can find the free images, and that they need to use the hashtag to participate.

3) Be sure the ambassadors have a clear post date, start date & end date for the free for all.

4) Put your free images publicly linked and accessible on Dropbox or a similar service.

5) Announce the free for all along with your ambassadors.

6) During the free for try to give a shout out each day to edits you liked from your collection of free photos.

7) At the end choose a winner and runners up if you want.

I really messed up on recruiting ambassadors for my free for all. If I had gotten 20 ambassadors I would’ve gotten more followers. I had only a handful and so ended up with 134 new followers in a week when I usually only get 10.

IMG_4471.PNG

Lightroom Workflow

This is my Lightroom Workflow for making photos for use on any social media.

I will show you a before and after that I use primarily for landscape photos.

First, I export out the RAW files from something like iPhoto into a folder.

I drag the contents of this photo onto the Lightroom icon or open up the folder in Lightroom. I then select the photos I want to import. Then, I select a photo to edit.

I will start out with this photo.

1_before

Next I do the following:

  • click on “Enable Profile Corrections”,
  • adjust white balance (This can really make or break a RAW photo but won’t do much in JPG),
  • adjust contrast and exposure,
  • adjust the tone curve, and
  • adjust the sharpenss.

The first and last step are key. When you take a photo with a DSLR, the photos are not sharp but softly diffuse in RAW format. Without post-processing you cannot get the same kind of sharpness that you might from a film camera with the same setup as your digital camera. Here is a before and after showing just how important the sharpening step is.

1_without_sharpening

2_with_sharpening

Enabling the profile corrections will adjust any distortion that your lens causes, e.g. a curved instead of a straight horizon. In the past this was a painstaking process to fix that might take hours. Now you can fix it with the click of a button.

Here is the final image.

2_after

I Lost at Instagram

I lost at Instagram in all the ways possible when you think of social media.

Let me first say that I had real friends before the Internet and before cell phones. We hung out almost *everyday*. To me that was / is real friendship. When did having a light capturing device become a pre-requisite for friendship? It is now. You also need to have a cell phone to have friends in the 21st century. Doesn’t this strike anybody as totally wrong? Am I the only one?

When Instagram first launched, I thought it was the best thing ever. It was the app that Flickr should’ve made. It boggles me that you can have 5000 people at a company doing nothing. Facebook is like that now and Instagram is headed there, too. When I heard Kevin Systrom and Josh Riedel were headed to a bar in downtown LA to meet LA users, I jumped at that chance. I remember talking to them about startups and the potential for a big startup in LA. I told them I was the lead developer at an app company. There were two ladies that they were more interested in talking to so I don’t blame them. This is how I first lost. I knew the potential of the app, and I failed to connect in anyway meaningful with these innovators.

A few months later, I had a chance to apply at Instagram and be employee number 7 or 8. Some douchebag recruiter from Twitter who was now working at Instagram never gave me a chance. This pissed me off to no end. I ended up working on an app called Via.Me. It ended up being the number 2 uploading app, so I definitely had the chops to do the work there. This is the second way I lost at Instagram.

The biggest and most painful way I lost at Instagram is like the 50 or so actors and actresses that never got an Oscar but should have. Yes, Gary Oldman, I’m looking at you. You totally deserved one in so many films. I never became a suggested user, and never will. When I found out that it was a word of mouth thing where suggested users could suggest other users, I thought I had a chance. In fact 3 friends asked that I be suggested, but this never panned out. I’M SO FUCKING SORRY I NEVER WENT TO STANFORD YOU DOUCHEBAGS THAT MANAGE “COMMUNITY.” I remember the first time I met Sam Graves. I gave him a ride to a meet up in Tennessee Valley. A photographer I knew was talking about needing a second for a photo shoot while I was walking with her. The moment Sam heard this he literally pushed me out of the way so that he could try and take this job from me. Sam Graves is the biggest douche bag ever and is destroying photography. He makes photographers think that if you do social media well, that is doing photography. He has turned Instagram into a Hollywood club populated by sycophants and whores. He also buys followers, too.

Yet, this guy, a total douchebag, beat me, and became a suggested loser. I played it on the straight and narrow and utterly failed to touch the heart of anybody at Instagram with my personality or art.

Where do I go from here? I can only continue to push myself further and harder. Although, I totally despair of getting the recognition I yearn for, I think I can learn to be my own ultimate source of validation. Like the old prophets of Israel, I will renew myself in the wilderness. This is a wilderness where folks with 20k followers on Instagram don’t want anything to do with you anymore even though you used to be “friends.” This is a wilderness where you are no longer competing with other Instagrammers but with the great photographers and artists of the past. Compared to Ansel Adams, I am a loser and am okay with that.

Should You Unfollow on Instagram

The short answer is no. Do not unfollow anybody you are following on Instagram because it will reduce your follower count.

If you look at this historical chart from IconoSquare, you can see that anytime I did a mass unfollow of “Followings who don’t follow back,” there was a huge unfollowing back of those who followed me or those I had reciprocal follows with.

follow_chart

The key take away is that you should be really careful about who you follow. If you do unfollow a large group of people, 25 or more, there is a ripple effect to people that are your reciprocal followers!

Instagram Celebrity

When I was living in Venice, California, a really good friend gave me some great advice. “Stay away from the film industry and you’ll stay sane.” I followed his advice, and I still have very positive memories of Southern California. Unfortunately, for my sanity, celebrity has come to Instagram. A gossip and celebrity magazine, Enstarz, has declared that Dan Bilzerian is an Instagram celebrity. This should be no surprise to anybody that has followed Youtube or Vine which have produced their own celebrities. In fact if you are a top 40 Youtuber, you make at least $1 million (USD) per year.

The film industry is pretty brutal for its stories of backstabbing and allegiance to the bottom line at the expense of art.

Hollywood and everything bad about it has come to Instagram. The more money that brands pump into Instagram marketing will only make this more true. Instagram has rooftoppers – one died from a fall – and selfies at Auschwitz as a trend. The only thing missing is an annual awards ceremony replete with red carpet and paparazzi.

Most actors in Hollywood only make $5,000 per year, and have a second job. Most photographers are doing a bit better at $28,490 per year. But at the upper tier, the rewards are very great. This is why competition is so fierce. Competition is so fierce that editors at influential fashion magazines have to compete for Instagram likes.

Can you have community when everybody is dead set on a Hollywood kind of success? It’s really tough. I won’t say no since I did make one friend in Hollywood. However, people move to Los Angeles for the weather and to be famous, not for the community. You could say the same is true of Instagram with its popular sunset hashtag and stories of overnight fame. In fact, a brand paid $5,000 for a photo to be published on Instagram.

The problem with chasing fame is the same thing as the problem with chasing money. No matter how much you chase, you need more. It’s really hard to be happy with what you have. For my sanity, and for yours, too, dear reader, I totally recommend staying away from the trappings of celebrity.

Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Shoot film – shooting film slows you down. You have to be more careful about your shots. There are no redos.
  • Give yourself a photo assignment. Instead of focusing on getting more likes and follows, shoot a series of photos as part of a photo assignment. I really liked the book and movie versions of Solaris, so I shot a series of black & white photos with the hashtag, #solarisbw.
  • Take a break from social media. This is tough, but you actually find that at least some people missed you.

Social Media Marketing Is Not Photography

A photographer produces photographs. These can be sold, and if you sell one, you are a professional photographer. Photography is a trade. A photographer uses sales and marketing skills (now often in the form of social media) to sell photographs. What Instagram makes you forget is that photographs are used by brands to sell.

Many Instagrammers are the unwitting branders, marketers and sellers for companies that make millions, and they all do this for free.

Instagram is a private enterprise. If you have photographs that are at odds with their TOS, they can – with totalitarian silence – remove you from the “community.”

If you feel someone in the IG “community” was very nice to you and then backstabbed you, and they do photographs related to brands, it is because how paid social marketers are in Instagram is the same way actors are in Hollywood. They have a nice side they show to the world, but they are ruthless in order to get the fame and wealth they want.

What is the optimal strategy then? Personally, I do not think people who do Instagram or photography for a living are really happy, or are artistically satisfied. As a professional social media marketer on Instagram, your client wants photos of rather ordinary stuff, *and* puts you in conditions with crappy lighting, *and* wants those Instagrams *NOW*. The optimal strategy is finding something that supplements your *real* photography which has standards outside of likes and follows.

I was inspired to write this piece based on what Ken Rockwell wrote as well as Jenn Herman whose latest blog post shows that there are 3 types of Instagram accounts: brand, business and personal. The key to being happy is knowing which kind of account you are running. You cannot be all 3 without running into conflict, e.g. you can’t have a personal account be fully authentic without sometimes coming into conflict with your account as a brand. The brand will always demand a message for marketing.

If you are not running a personal account, and you are in America, Instagramming as a social media marketer means presenting happy, fantasy images with sublime landscapes of a mostly middle-class and young America that does not exist, so that capital can move. (Most young people are poor here and have been since the Great Recession.)

Photography has always depended on spaces like Instagram. It has also always depended on public spaces, too, like museums. But more and more photography is being oppressed by capital and law enforcement. Lots of young photographers think street photography is illegal, which it’s not in the United States. Many police officers treat photographers as criminals. The thing to ask is, “Who is your photography serving? God? A state police? A free peoples?”

Milling About Court in Instagram

Following people on Instagram is very similar to what you would find at the Tudor court or in at a networking event in Silicon Valley.

The people in corners do not need to mill about. They have the power, and like the king or queen, their focus is limited to a few.

20140622-234745-85665609.jpg

The people not at the corners nor seated are milling about. They are working for some sort of gain by working the room. This can be seen when people follow lots of other people.

Ultimately this means that photography, the art, has become conflated with the machinations of courtly ambition.

This offends democratic sensibilities on so many levels. Being a queen’s favorite should not make you a better artist than someone else but this sort of perversion of aesthetic judgment is built into Instagram.

No suggested users have followed me back

Yesterday I decided to try to follow all the suggested users by liking really good photos and leaving genuine and sincere comments. At least one of them would follow back, right?

Zero followed back. I am ok with this because I already have an audience I love. But if you are a new user what are the chances of getting a follow back?

As it turns out Instagram wrongly detects a genuine interaction as comment spam. If a suggested user is following 100 or so people or less & you try to leave a comment you get this:

20140619-083551-30951710.jpg

I eventually stopped following suggested user accounts because the ones left had photos with just text in them. I was really boggled by one of the suggested users that was just selfies with text.

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