Tag Archives: Twitter

On Instagram the Users are the Product

The outpouring of rage over the upcoming change of terms and conditions at Instagram, the mobile based photo sharing application snapped up by Facebook for $1bn earlier in the year, has been so big that the story ended up on the main news bulletins here in the UK. But is the change really a surprise?

The Guardian explained what has happened:

Instagram this week changed its terms of use to make clear that it will be able to display your “username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take” in connection with advertising without you being notified or reimbursed.

The entire legalese is, like the finest legal writing, somewhat vague and ambiguous. But essentially it means that Facebook, as the owner of Instagram, can use your pictures to promote anything from famous landmarks to food brands or festive onesies without asking your permission each time.

But think about it for a moment. On Instagram, as on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, the users aren’t paying anything for the service. These services have to make money somehow in order to pay their employees, pay for their servers, pay for any other costs involved with running a business. With Foursquare the company is building a database of locations across the world – users are encouraged to leave tips alongside check-ins or take pictures, so for example other applications can buy access to this Foursquare data for their own location aware applications.

With Facebook and Twitter the model is advertising. Regular Facebook users will notice adverts coming up in their feeds, sometimes associated with their friends. Based on pages you have liked, Facebook will show your friends adverts paid for by the owners of the liked pages but with your name alongside it, so be careful what you like!

Other photo sharing applications and sites try to make money through selling additional filters or photo storage – for example the excellent Camera Awesome charges extra for filters, but is also trying to encourage users to make use of the SmugMug photo sharing site that the application developers also own. Similarly the grandfather of modern photo sharing sites Flickr makes it’s money through paid options for photo storage, alongside targeted advertising.

Alongside news of the change, the Guardian presented details of some of the options for people who want to switch.

Having accounts on Instagram, Flickr, plus a couple of other photo app sites like EyeEm it has been interesting watching what has been happening the past couple of days. A rather unscientific look at what has happened with my contacts is that aside from a couple who have appeared on EyeEm those people who are switching are going for Flickr. I’ve had ten contacts in the past couple of days open Flickr accounts and in a lot of cases dump all of their Instagram pictures across before in some cases closing the Instagram accounts.

Instagram has always been able to cross-post pictures to Flickr, so in my case most of the shots are on there anyway. As yet I haven’t decided whether to switch, but longer term the Flickr model of paid storage seems a lot more sustainable that putting pictures on a free service. The fundamental point to remember is that if you’re not paying for a service you’re providing something else to the owners that they are able to sell. Instagram may have rolled back from the latest change, but they have to make money some how. If you want to try out Flickr instead of Instagram check out this set of ten tips for their excellent new iPhone app.

Tweeting in the Pews

Before I even get to talking about the sessions, one interesting point to discuss about the Christian New Media conference is that they actively encouraged people to tweet about the sessions and the conference.

This seemed pretty successful such that people unable to attend the conference could keep up with what was going on. Indeed given that they were using Twitterfall to show the traffic this produced a couple of amusing moments such as the point they switched the feed to the big screen just as Mum tweeted that she was going back to doing the ironing tagged with #CNNAC11!

However the encouragement to tweet was backed up with some grumbling from people about it being frowned upon tweeting in church – the implication being that it was fuddy-duddy type attitudes to object. But is it?

It’s useful to just revisit some of the reasons churches object to tech – the most common restrictions being please turn off your phone and please don’t take pictures during the service. Both have come about from experience, for example I can think of a number of occasions where times of silence and prayer have been interrupted by a mobile phone (on at least one occasion owned by the priest) and certainly several weddings that have ended up like paparazzi photo sessions with all the flash photography. From there we got to asking people to silence their phones and not use flash, but it was pretty quickly realised that many people struggle to understand their gadgets such that they don’t know how to silence them or disable the automatic flash. As a result it’s now all phones off and no photography at all.

I’d suggest that most techies can manage to enable silent mode and disable the flash – however given that we can do that should we then be live tweeting the sermon?

To be honest I’d say no. Part of the point of a service is to provide a separate space, away from the world outside to focus on the spiritual. Certainly you may consider outside through the sermon, or the prayers, but ultimately most people there are focusing on God. As was highlighted by some of the speakers the idea of a sabbath time away from work applies just as much as a time away from the noise of the online world.

As people who experience Taizé for the first time discover, silence is a very powerful way to focus, and it is something that is little used in many services, let alone in the Christian world online.

Does the Church of England Need a Social Media/Blogging Policy?

Over the past few days there has been rather a furore over some comments by the Bishop of Willesden, Rt Rev’d Pete Broadbent (@pete173).

He’s most definitely a republican, as many people in the Diocese of London already know. He made a throwaway comment on Twitter when the impending Royal Wedding was announced about booking a trip to France on the day, which was then duplicated onto his Facebook page and kicked off a discussion where he made a number of other comments. All of this is on a Facebook page that is viewable by anybody. Comments included describing Prince Charles and Princess Diana as “Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll”, and the impending wedding as a bit of “national flimflam” and added in various other comments about the monarchy in general, and in particular their previous track record with marriages, and gave this marriage seven years.

Whilst it was public on the Facebook page it took a couple of days before it went beyond that, unfortunately what then happened was the Daily Mail found the discussion and wrote a front page article on it , and that article was picked up around the world. The Bishop issued a full apology on Monday, which many thought would draw an end to the matter. However he was absent from General Synod this morning and shortly afterwards his boss the Bishop of London, a personal friend of Prince Charles and rumoured to be a possibility for taking the wedding issued a statement saying that despite the apology he had asked Bishop Pete to withdraw from public ministry until further notice.

There has been much outrage online over the response of the Bishop of London, many feeling that he has overreacted, but is that justified?

The situation is not new, indeed the Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) and Shel Israel (@shelisrael) book Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers talks about exactly these kinds of situations in a corporate context. If you look at the Church as a corporate structure, Bishop Pete as a senior manager described the son of the Chairman of the Board (the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England) as “Big Ears”, poured scorn on a number of their marriages and was just downright rude. In any corporate situation he would be sacked, no question about it. As a senior representative of any organisation there is an expectation that even if you have some latitude to publicly express personal opinions, you publicly represent the organisation and are expected to act as such.

The real problem is that again like many corporations the Church doesn’t have a formal Social Media and Blogging policy – many organisations don’t get one until something like this happens.

My current employer now has such a policy, under which I can’t say who it is I work for. The policy was introduced amongst other things as a result of a newsworthy event that I blogged about here, but was subsequently asked to remove the post. Employees were also discussing working for the company on Facebook and elsewhere. As a result the most recent revision of the internet guidelines introduced a blogging and social media policy that banned employees from blogging about or talking about the company on social media. Hence I cannot say who I work for or give any details as to what I had posted about and was asked to remove.

The church has no such policy but plenty of members, clergy and several bishops blogging and actively using Social Media, Bishop Pete being only one such example.

So does the Church need a social media and blogging policy? I don’t think so. Whilst Bishop Pete is a high profile case, up to now there hasn’t seemed to be much need, the Church of England is so broad that there is always a breadth of opinion on many topics, and a good deal of debate goes on online. Whilst a policy would maybe give clearer lines for those of us blogging within the Church and on Church matters, up to now common sense has seemed to prevail. As a Bishop there is that same expectation of common sense, as someone who is supposed to be a uniting figure it is obvious that there will be a diversity of opinion amongst the people he represents. Whilst there are many who agree with his opinion of the Royal Family, equally there are those for whom the Royal Family are an important part of both our country and the Church of England, a Bishop sometimes has to put aside or restrain his personal opinions for the good of the whole. Probably the most high profile example of this is Archbishop Rowan who much to the frustration of many on the more liberal wing of the Church is steering a path for unity rather than following the agenda one would expect given some of his previous writings.

So was Bishop Pete fairly treated? It may not be a popular choice, but I think he was. He’s kept his job which is more than someone in business would have, indeed some were calling on him to resign anyway. Cranmer explains in much more detail the vows that Bishop Broadbent took, and as a senior representative of the Church of England whether or not you think it is right that church and state are so closely intertwined, having taken those vows it is quite right to expect that he should uphold them. Swearing allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors, doesn’t really sit well with referring to one of them as “Big Ears”. When you accept the post of a Bishop you give up some of your freedom to express your own opinions, you become a Bishop of the Church of England, and there is an expectation that you’ll toe the line. You have a lot of latitude to express your own opinons, but it’s not unlimited.

Finally, if anyone in the Church, particularly someone senior is considering becoming active in the blogsphere or social media, should this put them off? I’d say not, but it is a salutary warning. You need be aware of what is public and what is private. Certainly in any public forum you need to be watch what you say, it’s very easy to relax into thinking that you’re having a private conversation when in fact anybody in the world can see it – that is precisely the trap Bishop Pete fell into. You can bleat about how unfair it is, but ultimately people know what the British press is like. Certainly there is an argument to be had over controlling them but it’s very difficult to argue that from a position where you are under attack by them. I’d also recommend having a read of Naked Conversations, the book has plenty of examples of bloggers, Scoble included publicly disagreed with their organisations and survived, but also plenty who didn’t. Ultimately it all comes down to common sense, know your role, and know what your superiors will accept, and stick to it. By all means try and push the envelope, but referring to the next Supreme Governor of the Church of England as “Big Ears”? Not a good idea.

Twittering on an iPad

As with most other app categories, accessing Twitter from an iPad has been playing catch-up. The big missing player before this week has been Twitter itself, who whilst they had been providing a well regarded and popular iPhone application, and had been giving hints at what we might expect from the iPad, hadn’t as yet put anything forward.

When we first got our iPad I had been using the venerable Twitteriffic, which much as they had with the iPhone made it to market early providing a very nice looking and slick advert supported experience. I’d certainly recommend Twitteriffic if you’ve got fairly straightforward requirements for your tweeting, but for my purposes it lacks a couple of important features, in particular the ability to manage lists.

As a result I started to look around for an alternative. I found that in the form of Osfoora and it’s iPad version (currently withdrawn from the app store) which provided an impressive iPad experience giving the full gamut of Twitter features in a nice interface. Being a later arrival they’ve obviously drawn inspiration from the many existing clients, taking the best features of each. However the big problem is the robustness of the application, a good example of this being what happened a week or so ago when the Twitter API on which all third-party clients rely started periodically returning nulls in it’s datastream. Whilst longer established clients such as Twitteriffic and Twitter for iPhone didn’t have a problem Osfoora just crashed totally once it encountered one of these nulls and would then crash on opening. A reinstall would solve the problem up to the point it encountered another null, at which point it would fall flat on it’s face again. There are similar glitches and hiccups at other points, and it does have a propensity to crash when it encounters a problem, however until this week it has been my client of choice on the iPad and iPhone. If you need the advanced features I’d certainly recommend giving it a look – aside from the stability hiccups, the other annoyance with it is that unlike Twitteriffic and the Official Twitter app, Osfoora and Osfoora HD are sold and charged separately rather than being released as a universal application.

This week that changed when the Official Twitter app updated to a universal app providing an iPad interface, not not quite universal acclaim. Whilst some people loved it, others like Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) really didn’t.

I’ve been using it on the iPad for the past few days, and to be honest I rather like it. Swapping back to Osfoora HD with it’s more traditional buttons I miss the new style interface.

The iPad interface on the Official Twitter app makes heavy use of multitouch gestures, so the pinch gesture is used on tweets to see the conversation that the tweet is part of, or to view more detail about the person who has sent the tweet. The other interface innovation is a system of sliding panels. Starting with the basic account details on the left hand side, as you click on firstly a stream, and then individual tweets new panels slide in from the right, and can be slid back to the right as required. It’s a bit different to the other clients that tend have fixed panel areas, and does take a little getting used to, but it does seem a lot more fluid within the environment of the iPad. The panel idea even extends as far as linked content – pretty well everything that is linked to a tweet is shown in an embedded browser panel that can be slid in and out as with any other panel.

The main downside so far is that it is lacking in certain features, again proper list support. It is a bit of a surprise considering that as a universal app the iPhone version that includes the self same missing features is part of the same executable. However as those features are there but not enabled it does seem likely that they will be added in the near future.

Having said that, whilst the missing features are an annoyance, a really big advantage is that the the Official Twitter app is really stable – it hasn’t crashed once, whilst Osfoora HD which I’ve gone into a couple of times to manipulate lists managed to crash even with that small amount of usage. The other advantage of course is that it’s free.

In the medium term, I suspect I’ll continue as I have done on the iPhone with a couple of Twitter applications installed, currently the Official Twitter app and Osfoora HD – whether I can cut that to only one longer term once the missing features in the Official Twitter app are enabled remains to be seen, but for the moment the Official Twitter app is my twitter client of choice.

Facebook Knows Best

n27233634858_8547As the Facebook management continues their ongoing march to make up for failing to buy Twitter by copying features from Twitter and FriendFeed, there seems to be a grim inevitability about the way each new change is greeted.

First off there is usually a cheery posting on their blog explaining how they’ve made it a whole load easier to use the site, this is usually swiftly followed by loads of complaints, and protest groups. However, this is generally to no avail, the changes stay, as do most of the people complaining – which is after all what Facebook and their advertisers are interested in.

So what is the change this time? They’ve updated the friend pages to make it even easier to group your friends into lists, which you can then use to filter the home feed. The problem being that in doing so they’ve taken out two tabs that showed recent status updates, and which a lot of people used to get a quick overview of all the statuses of all their friends. Neither Twitter or FriendFeed have such a page, so obviously Facebook doesn’t need one either.

The Facebook argument is that you should be getting this information from the home feed – the problem of course is that the home feed is so full of application spam that you can barely find status updates, and whilst you can spend time going through the filters to try and get a simple status list it’s not nearly as convenient as a single page list of everybody.

What is bizarre about the whole thing is that in terms of numbers, Facebook far outstrips Twitter and FriendFeed (even combined) in terms of users – users who like the Twitter or FriendFeed ways of operating have set up accounts over there. Trying to turn Facebook into one of those services, sacrificing popular features and annoying large numbers of users in the process seems nonsensical. Whilst the changes thus far haven’t produced a wholesale exodus, it’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that if they keep doing this they will.

Facebook claims they are listening to their users, but the fact is that the vast majority of their users aren’t the ones who participate in feedback groups. Essentially it seems they are following a minority who want a Twitter clone, at the expense of those who want Facebook as it is. If they had any sense Facebook would be looking at how the average user uses the site through their stats – it seems that there are a large number of users who come in and used to go straight to the recent status updates page.