Get Ready for Some Pictures, Folks

A wine we enjoyed last weekend.

I’ve become increasingly troubled by the “data traps” springing up all over AppWorld and the Internet, and while I’ve been pretty vocal about their downsides, I also use them quite a bit – especially for photos. That, I hope, is about to end.

However, I’m afraid it means you, dear reader, are going to be seeing a few more pictures of Mount Tamalpais and my favorite wines here on Searchblog.

Allow me to explain. I have done a pretty good job of partitioning my life digitally, posting utterances and stories that I’m happy to share with anyone on Twitter, leaving a few sparse comments and “Likes” on Facebook (I’m not a huge user of the service, I’ll be honest), and sending any number of photos to thousands of “followers” on Instagram and Tumblr.

The fact is, none of these services comprise what I call the Independent Web, as I describe it in this post: Put Your Taproot Into the Independent Web. And over time, it’s come to bother me that my content and my usage has been aggregated into a deal that feels out of balance. These companies are getting huge valuations (and exits) on the back of our collective usage (often with little or no revenue model). And what are we getting back? A free service. One that is constantly taking data from our interactions, and leveraging that data for ever higher valuations.

The Lobby of AT&T, where I visited last week

If you’re a professional content creator, as I am, there’s only so long you can go without feeling a bit…used.

I’d be OK with this tradeoff if these services made it easy to export my data outside of their walls, but so far, that’s not been the case. I’ve got hundreds of shots stuck on Twitpic, for example (and I know, you can runs some kind of script, but I’m not really going to figure out how to do that). And about that many on Instagram. Plus scores on Tumblr, which I used, briefly, as a kind of photo blog (the 500K image limit in email stopped that habit).

So as a way of putting my money where my mouth is, I’m going to start sending all photos that I care to share publicly to this site. WordPress has a new version of its app that promises to make photo uploads pretty easy from my phone (fingers are crossed, I haven’t used it yet). Consider the shots “Unicorn chasers,” if you will, respites between my half-baked predictions, long rants on identity, or musings on antiquities from the future. If the spirit moves me, I’ll then push those same photos to Tumblr or Instagram (or whatever comes next). At least this way, the photo “lives” on my site, and whatever initial pageviews and data is created stays on this site, where I can leverage it to support my work (IE, show ads next to them, and/or understand consumption in some way that helps me create a better site).

Mount Tamalpais from Bald Hill, Marin County - quite literally my backyard.

This approach, for example, will allow me to “pin” these photos to Pinterest, and any traffic from Pinterest will come back to this site, rather than Instagram or Tumblr.

Now, I can’t exactly replicate what Twitter and Facebook have created here on this blog, so I’ll continue to use those platforms as I have in the past. For me, I mostly use social services to point to things I think my “followers” may find interesting out there on the web. Going forward, that will include my public photos – on my own site.

I hope seeing the odd photo now and again – even if they’re a bit out of context – won’t turn you off as a reader. I figure I’ll only post shots that I’d be happy to send to Twitter anyway, where I have a very large and very vocal audience in any case. As always, tell me what you think….and forgive my technical lameness as I get started. I’m working out the kinks (anyone know how to make sure I get proper right margins on photos in WordPress, and stylized captions?!).


11 thoughts on “Get Ready for Some Pictures, Folks”

  1. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’ve always thought from the beginning that Social Media would be like extensions of one’s main site. In the 90’s I ran a physical store. We ran ads in the local paper. So I thought of it like that: My website was my “store” and Twitter, Facebook, et al were like the newspaper. I still think it’s a good metaphor, but in reality, I’ve found my self more and more posting things I would normally have posted on my blog, simply to these sites, so like you say, more and more value pumping into these sites, instead of my own. And when you really feel the pain is when you try to search for something you wrote or bookmarked on one of these sites. That’s when you really feel naked. And sort of like a fool.

    I remember years ago reading Joseph Campbell saying something about “the imprisonment of the ‘now'” and how one of the challenges of life was avoiding that. Boy, do these services seem to deify the “now”! I’m afraid it’s causing life to lose much needed perspective and a sense of continuum.

    1. I think we’ll find a nice balance between these services and our own “identity” online, the one that we control. At least, that’s my intent!

  2. Hi John, you can always configure WordPress so some categories aren’t automatically put into your RSS feed and even hidden from the homepage. So you can create as many photos and articles as you like, and not feel like you’re going to overwhelm your audience.

  3. I’m always happy to see a picture of Mt. Tam.  We have nothing like it in the Chicago area.   That aside, you make a good point regarding the content and value users are handing free services, who all have pretty aggressive terms and conditions. Most of the players mentioned are in the ‘pre-profit’ stage.  It will be interesting to see what happens when the chickens come home to roost, and the service providers start really using the data they’ve gleaned in a way that is visible (and impacts) their masses of users.  Something has to give, these services won’t be ‘free’ forever.

    1. I’d like to see content creators rewarded with more than traffic – because small content creators can’t make money on display boxes and rectangles.

  4. Thanks John! Very much sympathize … and feel similar.

    It seems there needs to be some “trade-off” for a service if we are not paying money, but increasingly it seems the “pay off” is quite large in terms of what our attention needs to put up with (particularly as now we have ads in our Twitter stream). But as someone in advertising, are you mainly concerned that blogs will get less traffic … sounds like it is a mixture of things, including portability.

    Personally, I would like to see more of a CraigsList model in social media (it makes money but that is not the main focus), and add to that ownership of our content.

    I tend to be more corned with the stampede of ads grabbing for my attention (at times, relevant, yes, but more “in my face” each day) when I am on social media … all just so I can communicate with friends and followers? Seems there must be a better way. My sense is likely the companies will push control and expand the ads as much as they can, until people revolt and something new is created … but appreciate your first step in this.

    I am not against ads, but they need to reasonable, and I am losing my trust that the main players will hold to that.

  5. I think the payoff of attention can be beneficial. For example, I am happy to find out that you enjoyed one of our wines last weekend, which drove me to your site via your link on Google+ based on a search. Glad you are a fan and good luck with your photos. Cheers!

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