Leave that thing alone

I recently re-joined Instagram. That wouldn’t really be worth writing about because there’s probably hundreds of people who join the service every day. But some readers may remember my announcement that I wouldn’t share these retro-styles phone photos any longer.

But it turns out that there are things that I “see with the phone”, and more importantly of course, photograph with the phone, that I wouldn’t really photograph with the “real” camera. And don’t we all have the need to share these things?! πŸ™‚ This one is a good example:

That’s the door of a truck with sticky tree sap and leaves and seeds on it. For the life of me, I would never even think about raising my camera to make a photo of this, but with the phone and all its restrictions, I really like it. Well, maybe it’s a mistake to not think of using the DSLR to make such a photo. But anyway.

As I thought about it more (now we’re getting to the topic of the post;-) it dawned on me that there’s one thing that Facebook did absolutely right: they left Instagram alone after they bought it. They didn’t dismantle it and integrate it into their main product. Even today, you can sign up for Instagram with just an email address – you can use your Facebook account of course, but you don’t even need to have one to use Instagram. And Facebook probably connects stuff in the background. But it’s a specialized, stand-alone service, and (for now) they kept it like that. And it’s the same with WhatsApp so far.

Facebook seems to be fully aware that their “main” product is not attractive to everyone. That people don’t want to “have Facebook” just to use Instagram, or WhatsApp. That is highly unlike Google, which not only seems to deem it unthinkable that someone would not like them, but also tends to gobble up, dissect and digest other products and services, and turn them into… yes, what exactly? Eventually, a discontinued service/product perhaps… πŸ˜›

But for now, lets assume that Google wants everything to be Google+ (because that’s how it was for the last 2 1/2 years or so). Imagine all the things that Google could’ve just left alone, and “soft-integrate” into Google+ instead of using an axe and a sledgehammer. Most of all, Picasa Web Albums and YouTube, of course. But also the Android Market aka Play Store (why the F do I need a Google+ account to rate and review an app?!), the location sharing that once was in Google Maps, Google Talk. The manifestation of that comes in the shape of the dreaded Google+ “eye of Sauron” notification icon in Mail, Drive, Calendar… everywhere, to notify you that some complete stranger from Islamabad has added you to their circles. That’s great!

When I share a photo from Instagram to Facebook it gets displayed quite nicely on the site, and I can click through to see it on Instagram. Google could have done the same with Picasa Web Albums, for example. But the other thing is – I only occasionally share an Instagram photo with my Facebook friends or Twitter followers at the same time. This “total cross posting” approach where everything you share has to be on every platform you use is a failure that creates enormous boredom on all channels that you’re using.

And I can’t help but notice/think that Google, in wanting Google+ to be everything, everywhere, it is not really successful at anything instead, either. Well, it’s successful at creating fanboys that will fiercely cry out when someone says “ghost town”, okay, I give you that… πŸ˜‰ The thing is – Google already had a nice “sharing” service that nicely integrated all kinds of other services (including even Flickr, for example). It’s name was Buzz, and it failed because it was integrated into GMail instead of being a stand-alone product. That led to the privacy blooper which basically doomed Buzz.

I’m happy, using Instagram as a stand-alone application.Β Thank goodness Facebook left Instagram alone!

PS: yes, lets be grateful that Snapseed and the Nik Collection set of plugins for Lightroom still exists as standalone products – but Snapseed has received nothing but a couple of bugfix updates, and the remaining Nik engineers at Google managed to create two iterations of Analog Efex (I used it once, and if it hadn’t been a free update, I would feel exactly zero incentive to buy it) and some bug fixes, but not much else.


  1. I think this is my main reason for getting a good P&S. The Fuji X100S is on my birthday wish list. Even though I’ll snap an iPhone pic on occasion they tend to remain on my phone for ages before I either delete them or import into LR. I think I take iPhone shots just to be using a camera at those time when I feel I should be using a camera; not necessarily to be making a quality image.


    1. I’ve long been thinking about getting a P&S but in the end, it’s too similar to a cellphone for me (image quality would always be lagging compared to the DSLR), but without the perks of a cellphone, namely the connectivity and instant sharing.

      Just an idea: if you’re using Dropbox, turn on camera uploads. Every photo from your phone will be synced to Dropbox instantly, or as soon as you have a WiFi connection (configurable). Then in Lightroom, set up an auto-import that watches Dropbox’s Camera Uploads folder. That way you have your phone photos in LR immediately, for further usage/editing …or deletion. πŸ™‚


  2. “Evil eye of Sauron” LOL! Great analogy. I am about done playing Google’s game. I know the G+ is not a meritocracy and I know I don’t need the plusses or comments to judge my work. Still it really bites sometimes when I see mediocre photos getting all kinds of love-mostly because the person posting is playing the “game” . I don’t use a lot of SM , only FB and G+ , I simply don’t have the time or energy for most of it. So yeah I’m glad too that Facebook has left Instagram alone and cheers Alexander. Good blog :))


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Maria. Happy to hear that you like the blog. Regarding the “game” and popularity, my older post “Pop Culture” picks up on that (and the sting it creates to see mediocre stuff thrive) and may very well resonate with you. πŸ™‚


      1. Thanks for that link Alexander. It totally resonated . Should have read it when it first came out and I might have saved myself some thoughts of “am I the only one”. Very well written and am marveling at the metaphor πŸ˜‰


  3. It is interesting you write this just as we start hearing noise about Google separating photos from G+. If this results in a more usable Picasa (or a new thing entirely) that will be great. They have also said they are backing away from the G+ for everything model they’ve previously had. While I think G+ could be one of the options for logging into Youtube and other services, it shouldn’t be shoved down people’s throats like it was.


    1. Really? I haven’t heard any such noise, but then again, I’m not too connected on G+ “these days” I think. πŸ™‚ I totally agree on the “shoving down one’s throat” part as you know. I’d like to share a YT video every now and then on G+ for example, but the fact that my post on G+ appears as a “comment” on YT is just too weird. Ever since they integrated YT so heavily into G+, I haven’t done anything on YT except watching. I never interact with people there anymore.


      1. Well, Mashable wrote an article on the Photos thing but everyone else has just been quoting that article (http://mashable.com/2014/08/01/google-separating-google-plus-photos/ ). The whole scenario sounds plausible though. As for Youtube I’ve had an account there for years, and posted a few videos. I tried to do that again last year but the integration was so confusing that I can’t tell now if I have two accounts or what is happening – so I just avoid the whole thing. With Google’s inability to handle illegitimate copyright complaints in a reasonable manner, I think I’ll be posting to Vimeo once I get my next video ready. A weird post/comment thing happens with Blogger as well.


      2. It would be a huge plus if Google created a new photo-sharing service from the ground up, getting rid of all the dated limitations that were brought along from PWA when it was mangled hastily into Google+. I doubt that’s going to happen, but let’s wait and see…


  4. Hi Alex – We originally met through Buzz and G+. I am gradually starting to see it all in a different light too. I am using Twitter more than with Facebook or Google+, it seems to fit my trade best as a developer. Instagram is great and I love it just the way it is too. There are all sorts of people on there, especially those who I care about. I am now leaving the “big” camera at home and just using my iPhone 5S for instagramming. I had great fun yesterday doing that and will do again today πŸ™‚


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