Showing all posts tagged: social media

Alternatives to Instagram: what about Flickr?

1 August 2022
Smartphone filming, photo by Pexels

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Has Instagram (IG) jumped the shark? You’d be forgiven for thinking as much, following the stir-up caused by the latest (in a long of line of) changes to the popular Facebook owned photo and video sharing service. Long story short, IG wants to become more like TikTok. Whether their users like it or not. If you’re a content creator, this might be good news. If you’re a user, maybe not so much, especially perhaps if you’ve been using IG since the early days.

The IG of 2011, when I joined, and the IG of 2022, are worlds apart. Checking my IG feed the other week, I couldn’t see a single photo from the people — many of whom I know personally — I follow. Instead the feed was littered with “recommendations”, content IG seems to think I “might like”. But reposted memes? Footage of some influencer I’ve never heard of walking into an elevator? Cats and dogs doing funny things? I wouldn’t mind, if I wanted to see that sort of “content”. Otherwise, no thanks.

After pressing many x buttons, and silencing one recommendation after another, some normality was restored to my IG feed. But to keep up with the people I choose to follow, I often need to go directly to their IG page to see their latest posts. In doing this, I’ve found photos I’d not seen earlier, when previously they’d appeared in the main feed.

But recommendations, intended to “help you discover new and interesting things on Instagram that you may not know exist”, are here to stay, says Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, at Facebook/Meta. Recommendations “help creators reach more people”, and making them part of the IG feed, rather than lurking behind the explore tab, is necessary as IG “needs to evolve because the world is changing quickly.”

Mosseri is correct. The world is changing quickly. Video sharing app TikTok is encroaching on IG’s market share. Quickly, I might add. And this calls for drastic action. The solution appears to be, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Even if that means dragging a whole heap of IG users with no interest in TikTok, into a TikTok-like realm.

Accordingly, more video can be expected to feature in IG feeds, and precedence is now being given to creators, over users who just want to share photos with their friends. Like it or not, more content, in the form of recommendations, and other “interesting things”, you neither know nor care about, are coming your way.

That’s all well and good for the creators. Strictly speaking, I’m a creator. You wouldn’t be reading this if I wasn’t. But if you’re not an IG creator, and not interested in content from people you don’t know, what options do you have? If you’re looking elsewhere for an alternative free-of-cost, ease of use, IG copy, you’ll be disappointed. Even if an IG clone rose to prominence, it would likely follow IG’s path sooner or later. We might find a desert oasis far from the dark shadow IG casts, but not for long, alas.

Smartphone taking photo, by Yuliya Harbachova

Image courtesy of Yuliya Harbachova.

One possibility though may be Flickr, but there are a number of caveats.

Founded in 2004 by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, Flickr shared a trajectory similar to IG, being bought by a much larger company, Yahoo!, about a year after launching. One of the earliest online photo-sharing services, Flickr’s been around so long it pre-dates smartphones (as we know them) and smartphone apps. Like IG, the photos and videos you post to Flickr appear in a feed, which friends and followers can like and comment on. Unlike IG, you only see content from the people you chose to follow.

After early success though, Flickr suffered a near death experience several years ago. They were saved, virtually at the last minute, when California based image sharing company, SmugMug, bought them. Since then Flickr’s fortunes have been on the up. But does that make Flickr right for you?

For one thing, Flickr comes at a cost. While a free, ad supported tier, is available, members can only post two hundred photos or videos. To take advantage of Flickr’s full features, including, among other things, unlimited media uploads, you need a paid membership. A one-year plan costs about US$80. If you buy a two-year membership, the annual cost comes in at about US$72 per year. This works out to about US$1.45 a week, not even the price of a decent cup of coffee.

It’s worth noting the membership fee is not as expensive as it might seem. In a way, paid subscriptions can protect members. Should the company take a direction that upsets subscribers, they risk many leaving, and taking their money with them. Subscription free IG users meanwhile have no such leverage. You’re unlikely then to hear Flickr declaring the world is changing quickly, and they therefore must push tacky memes, and surely scintillating video clips of some self-indulgent influencer, upon you.

In that sense, Flickr is less a social network, and, while everyone is of course welcome, more a community of professional, and semi-serious amateur, photographers. Another difference is the size of the Flickr community compared to Instagram’s. IG is said to boast over a billion users. Short wonder content creators have an interest in the platform, and IG wishes to aggressively promote their work. Flickr, meanwhile, according to Photutorial, presently has 112 million members.

Chances are many people you know won’t be existing Flickr members, so you’d need to get your friends onboard, if you want to escape IG’s clutches. But if you’re looking for a place where you’ll only see content from people you chose, then Flickr might be worth taking a closer look at. Another option to consider is 500px. Like Flickr, it offers a free membership plan, allowing seven photos a week to be uploaded, to a maximum of two-thousand per account.

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Court battles loom after Musk cancels Twitter acquisition

11 July 2022

Few would have been surprised by Elon Musk’s decision to withdraw his takeover for Twitter, it seemed the writing had been on the wall for some time. But now the recriminations begin. Twitter directors have said they’ll commence legal action against the Tesla CEO to enforce the deal. At the least Musk may be slugged with a billion dollar fine. A billion dollars is probably coffee money for someone like Musk, but a slew of additional lawsuits may end up costing Musk far more than that.

In addition to the fine for the failed deal, Musk could face serious consequences from the SEC for his antics, which have had major impacts on the several public companies he manages as well as Twitter itself. Musk is an executive at the artificial intelligence firm Neuralink, the electric car company Tesla, the space travel company SpaceX, and the tunnel construction firm the Boring Company. He has in the past faced lawsuits from investors over his erratic behavior and its effects on the companies’ stocks.

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Security of Australian TikTok users data queried by senator

5 July 2022

In the wake of a request from the United States Federal Communications Commission that Apple and Google remove TikTok from their app stores, James Paterson, an Australian opposition senator, has raised concerns about the security of Australian TikTok users’ data, in a letter posted on Twitter.

Even though TikTok servers are based in America and Singapore, there are fears Chinese government officials may have access to the data of Australian TikTok users.

Australian users’ data is stored in servers in the US and Singapore, which raises questions about whether that data is subject to the same security concerns. Liberal Senator James Paterson has publicly put it to TikTok to address those concerns. “Australian TikTok users deserve to know whether their private information is equally exposed,” Mr Paterson wrote on Twitter.

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Notes feature will transform Twitter to content creation platform

27 June 2022

Social networking service Twitter looks set to make the transition from microblogging platform to content creation platform, with the trailing of a new notes feature. Twitter notes — currently being tested by users in Canada, Ghana, Britain, and America — allows posts of up to two thousand five hundred words at a time to be written.

It reminds me a little of the notes feature Facebook used to offer, that I used early on, when I still used Facebook. It’s a smart move on Twitter’s part, as it stands to significantly increase engagement on the platform. Presently users need to direct followers to external resources, such as their blog, if they want them to read posts exceeding two hundred and eighty characters.

Writers who do not have a website of their own look to particularly benefit from the notes feature, should Twitter decide to roll it out.

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Anonymous PRGuy17 Twitter account owner reveals identity

25 June 2022

Jeremy Maluta, speaking to Australian political commentator and You Tube host Jordan Shanks-Markovina, has identified himself as the owner of the PRGuy17 Twitter account.

The moves comes as a result of legal action by Avi Yemini, a conservative journalist, and a recent application to the Australian Federal Court, asking Twitter to reveal details of who was operating the previously anonymous account.

Yemini believed PRGuy17 was in the employ of Dan Andrews, the premier of Victoria, on account of tweets supporting Andrews, and his handling of the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns, but Maluta has denied the claim:

“I’m just a normal everyday person. I don’t want to be a celebrity,” he said. “This has meant being really careful about what I put online.” “I’m OK with putting my name out there, but I just … want to have a bit of privacy too.” “I can confirm I don’t work for [Premier] Dan Andrews or any political thing whatsoever. Those theories are completely cooked.”

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Mars Junction, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ new band

14 June 2022

If you know the Facebook origin story, and or saw David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network, then you’ll know who Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are. Long story short, they once tried to hire a young Mark Zuckerberg to help them build a social network called originally called HarvardConnection, but later renamed ConnectU.

Short story really short, Zuckerberg liked the concept, but didn’t think much of the Winklevoss twins, whom he studied with at Harvard University, and quietly began developing Facebook. The Winklevosses accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, and launched legal action against him. But watch The Social Network, it may not be one-hundred percent accurate, but it’ll give you an idea of what happened.

Following the Facebook debacle, the Winklevosses went on to establish Winklevoss Capital Management in 2010, a company offering seed-funding to start-ups. Several years later they founded Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange.

And in July 2021, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss formed Mars Junction, “a hard-hitting rock band”, and if this footage from a show recorded by Arch Nem a few days ago is anything to go by, they’re going off. The mosh pit is chock full of fans wearing Mars Junction t-shirts. Truly, how many other bands can boast similar such images from their gigs?

Between being at Harvard, their start-up experience, rowing for the United States in the 2008 Olympics, cryptocurrency, and now hard-hitting rock, it’s about time the Winklevosses were given a movie of their own…

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Legal bid to name owner of anonymous PRGuy17 Twitter account

7 June 2022

The Australian Federal Court has given social networking service Twitter fourteen days to hand over subscription information for the PRGuy17 account, that may reveal the identity of the anonymous operator. The order is in response to a defamation case being bought against PRGuy17 by conservative media journalist Avi Yemini.

PRGuy17, whose avatar displays Simpsons character Troy McClure, built a following during the pandemic, often in vociferous defence of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and critical of various conservative political leaders and mainstream news media. Yemini filed proceedings in the Federal Court in February promising to unmask the identity of the Twitter account. Yemini, a journalist at far-right media outlet Rebel News, was critical of the Andrews government’s management of the pandemic and clashed with the account on Twitter.

Subscription data includes any name and email address details used to create the PRGuy17 account, along with internet protocol (IP) addresses used by the account’s operator. It remains to be seen how useful any of this data may be in uncovering the identity of the person operating the page.

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SparkToro: almost 20% of active Twitter accounts are fake or spam

18 May 2022

No wonder Elon Musk, who has made an offer to buy Twitter, is questioning the number of fake and spam accounts on the platform. The social networking service had put the figure at five percent, but American software company SparkToro believes the number may be more like twenty percent:

SparkToro and Followerwonk conducted a rigorous, joint analysis of 44,058 public Twitter accounts active in the last 90 days. These accounts were randomly selected, by machine, from a set of 130+ million public, active profiles. Our analysis found that 19.42%, nearly four times Twitter’s Q4 2021 estimate, fit a conservative definition of fake or spam accounts (i.e. our analysis likely undercounts).

That equates to one in five in accounts which seems staggeringly high, but then again, unfortunately, no, maybe not. Musk may rightly be concerned about the actual levels of fake and spam accounts on Twitter, but as a seasoned and reasonably prolific user it seems odd someone so keenly interested in the platform would be unaware of the extent of the problem.

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Fake accounts temporarily delay Musk’s Twitter takeover

14 May 2022

Elon Musk has temporarily delayed his purchase of social networking service Twitter, citing concerns over the apparent number of fake and spam accounts on the platform. How far are we into the acquisition process, before Musk decides this is an issue? Some speculate he is looking for a way to back out of the deal completely, while others think something else may be at play:

“Generally speaking, people don’t sign merger agreements so they can walk away from them. They sign merger agreements so they can do deals,” said Donna Hitscherich, a professor at Columbia Business School. Zino said Musk could be using the question over fake accounts as an excuse to cut his offer price of $54.20 a share. “He is giving himself more options and giving himself more leverage,” he said. “It appears like he’s paying more than he needs to pay for this deal.”

Perhaps he could run one of his Twitter polls? Do you operate a fake Twitter account? Yes or no? If five percent of respondents answer in the affirmative, all will be sweet…

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Facebook doesn’t know what it does with your data

28 April 2022

Lorenzo Franceschi writing for Vice:

“We’ve built systems with open borders. The result of these open systems and open culture is well described with an analogy: Imagine you hold a bottle of ink in your hand. This bottle of ink is a mixture of all kinds of user data (3PD, 1PD, SCD, Europe, etc.) You pour that ink into a lake of water (our open data systems; our open culture) … and it flows … everywhere,” the document read. “How do you put that ink back in the bottle? How do you organize it again, such that it only flows to the allowed places in the lake?”

What are Facebook users meant to do here? Drain the lake?

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Elon Musk offers to buy all Twitter shares

16 April 2022

Not content with a nine-percent stockholding in Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made an offer to buy all shares in the social networking service. His intention is to take the company private so he can enact many of the changes he says are necessary for Twitter’s future.

His offer of US$54.20 per share values Twitter at some US$43 billion, meaning Musk would either need to borrow the money, or sell some of his Tesla shares, to complete the purchase. Musk is the largest shareholder in Tesla, owning about seventeen percent of the stock.

But CEOs selling down shares in their own company can make other investors nervous, as it sometimes signals difficult times ahead. Watch this space. I’m waiting to see what happens.

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Elon Musk pushes for Twitter free speech and edit button

6 April 2022

Space X, and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk recently bought a nine percent stock holding in social networking service Twitter, and has been given a seat on their board of directors. Concerns about free speech on the platform may have been behind the move:

On March 25, Musk posted a Twitter poll, writing, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”

Musk is also keen to for users to have the ability to edit tweets, a feature many people have been repeatedly asking for. Twitter say they are currently testing an edit button, which will soon be available for all members.

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Twitter bots surge following Russian invasion of Ukraine

31 March 2022

Tim Graham, senior lecturer in digital media at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Digital Media Research Centre, has detected a significant surge in Twitter bots, being automated accounts on the social networking service, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month. It seems the purpose of many of these bots is to boost, or amplify, other Twitter accounts that are disseminating propaganda supporting the Russian invasion.

The massive spike around February 24, the day of the invasion, indicated some were probably bots, but was not conclusive. Next, Dr Graham deployed a specialised software called Botometer, which uses a machine-learning algorithm to distinguish bot accounts from human ones by looking at the features of a profile, including friends, social network structure, language, and sentiment. The model gives accounts a score from zero to one, with one showing it’s certain the account is a bot. “When we ran this model and checked the result, there was clearly this huge spike of accounts which had almost a perfect bot score,” Dr Graham said.

Twitter remains unconvinced by Graham’s work though, suggesting aspects of his research may be flawed, and asserting they have more information at their disposal in assessing whether or not accounts are automated or genuine.

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The Oscar for the best Twitter nomination goes to…

7 March 2022

Last month I wrote that the Oscars were, for the first time, allowing the general public an opportunity to participate in the 2022 awards. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had decided to hold a popular vote, a people’s choice award, if you like, on social networking platform Twitter.

This “fan favourite” vote was one of two initiatives the Academy introduced this year, to bolster interest in the awards. In recent years television audiences have been abandoning the annual celebration of film in droves. A mere 9.85 million viewers tuned into the 2021 ceremony, compared to 23.6 million in 2020.

That’s an alarming decrease in anyone’s book. But it’s not only the Oscars who are struggling. The Emmy Awards, and the Grammy Awards, are also seeing significant declines in their television audiences. But, in the case of the Oscars, with past ceremonies clocking in at well over three-hours in duration, is anyone surprised?

While I’ve always been interested in the Academy Awards, I’ve not once sat through a televised broadcast of the event. Or I should say, an entire broadcast. I watched once, but alarmed at the glacial pace of proceedings, switched off the TV, and wandered around to the local cinema to see a movie.

When I came home, the Oscars hadn’t even reached the Best Picture award. To counter this indulgent run-time, the Academy has promised to slim down the event, and will omit certain awards all together from the live broadcast. How that will help, if at all, remains to be seen. The fan favourite vote, on the other hand, has been an overwhelming success.

Well, kind of. The proposal certainly drummed up interest, though not perhaps quite what the Academy envisaged. Twitter members residing in the United States were invited to tweet the title of their favourite film from the last year, and or a scene from a film of any age, appended with a particular hashtag.

People without Twitter accounts had the option to participate at OscarsFanFavorite. Voting for the fan favourite on Twitter seemed a little out of hand though, with the likes of Taxi Driver (from 1976), Apocalypse Now (1979), and No Country For Old Men (2007), being selected. All great films, albeit they were released well before 2021.

At least they were actual movies. Karl Quinn, an entertainment writer for The Sydney Morning Herald, spotted a film called Rochelle, Rochelle, sitting among frontrunners for the fan favourite award. Fans of nineties TV sitcom Seinfeld would be familiar with Rochelle, Rochelle, but year of release aside, there was another problem: the film does not exist.

While soon removed from the listings, its inclusion highlights the need to set firm parameters when opening the doors to everyone online. A few years ago, the Hottest 100, an annual music poll run by alternative and indie music Australian radio station Triple J, was swamped with votes for a track performed by Canadian singer Justin Bieber.

While Bieber’s nationality was not at issue — artists from across the globe feature prominently in the Hottest 100 countdowns — Triple J listeners took exception to the way some Bieber fans, spurred on by a large betting agency, were attempting to manipulate the vote. Ultimately the efforts of Bieber fans failed though.

But the question stands, was the Oscars fan favourite vote a folly on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Again, while the final answer remains to be seen, if nothing else, the idea started people talking, and taking action. Perhaps the interest stirred up may yet make a difference.

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Twitter users to get Oscars vote

16 February 2022

Twitter users have been given the opportunity to participate in the Oscars/Academy Awards voting process this year, though it looks more like a people’s choice vote, rather than a say in the regular award categories.

From February 14 to March 3, Twitter users will be able to vote up to 20 times a day for their favorite film and favorite film moment of 2021. The winning film and scene will then be featured during this year’s Oscars broadcast.

Talking of the Oscars, Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes, and Amy Schumer, look set to be named hosts of the awards ceremony.

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TikTok, sharing your videos and your personal data?

14 February 2022

I thought of setting up a TikTok page for Oblong Obsession on Book-Tok, but with the Instagram and Twitter pages, plus a little used Facebook presence, another social media channel seemed liked it’d be too much work for now. It might have been the right call though, given the concerns some privacy advocates have with the popular video-sharing app.

The study found that YouTube, which is owned by Google, mostly collects your personal data for its own purposes — like tracking your online search history, or even your location, to serve you relevant ads. But TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, mostly allows third-party trackers to collect your data — and from there, it’s hard to say what happens with it.

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To all the people who’ve blocked me on Twitter

11 December 2021
For everyone who blocked me on Twitter, book dedication, Debra Soh, book cover

“For everyone who blocked me on Twitter”… I can’t tell you much about the book itself, but there’s a book dedication you don’t see every day, as seen in The End of Gender, by Canadian sex neuroscientist Dr Debra Soh.

Via Paul Dalgarno, on Bookstagram.

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It’s time to think twice about Facebook, right?

6 October 2021

Tim Biggs, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, on yesterday’s Facebook outage:

The fact that the impact was so wide may cause you to ponder what we all already know, that Facebook has inserted itself into as many facets of our online lives as possible, for the purposes of the collection and cross-referencing of our data, to drive its experimental advertising machine. And though outages like this are rare and the hyper-connectedness of Facebook services is unlikely to become an ongoing problem in the sense that they’re falling over all the time, it is timely that we’ve been forced to reckon with just how ubiquitous the company is, if only for a few hours.

I don’t use Facebook too much, but was alarmed I couldn’t access Instagram for several hours yesterday. But am I going to look for alternatives? Yeah, right…

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Twit Face route your Facebook status updates to Twitter

18 August 2008

Dylan Davis published a method of routing the Facebook update statuses of both you and your friends to Twitter a few days ago as a Facebook note. I thought this was something people might be interested in trying out, and Dylan was happy to let me republish his update status routing recipe. Enjoy!

Here’s a recipe for routing all your and your friend’s Status updates from Facebook to Twitter. See also my post about doing the same with Ecademy and other services.

Things you’ll need:-

  • An Open ID
  • An RSS feed for just your Facebook status updates. Go to your profile, click on minifeed, see All. Click on Status Stories. There’s a Subscription link bottom right.
  • An RSS feed for your friends’ Facebook status updates. Friends – Status updates from the drop down at the top of the page. There’s a Subscription link bottom right.
  • A dummy Twitter account. Create a new Twitter account and follow it from your main account.

Route your Facebook updates so when you post it also posts to Twitter.

  • Login with your OpenID into Twitterfeed.
  • Create a new entry. Put in your main Twitter account ID and Password and the RSS for your status updates.
  • Update 30 minutes, Include title only, Include Item link, Prefix each Tweet with FB.

Now each time you post a status update on Facebook, within 30 minutes it will create a Tweet from you on Twitter with a link back to your profile on Facebook.

Route your Friends’ Facebook updates so when they set their status on Facebook, you can read it in Twitter.

  • Login with your OpenID into Twitterfeed.
  • Create a new entry. Put in your dummy Twitter account ID and Password and the RSS for your friends’ status updates.
  • Update 30 minutes, Include title only, Include Item link, Prefix each Tweet with FB.

Now each time any of your friend’s post a status update on Facebook, within 30 minutes it will appear in your Twitter Friend’s timeline with a link back to their profile on Facebook.

You can use the same basic technique for any service that has one or both RSS feeds. It works better with services that include the name of the poster in the title. So Facebook, Plazes, Jaiku but not Pownce. AFAIK, Twitter is the only service with an API for updating a status externally and a 3rd party RSS to post service. Which means Twitter ends up as the best aggregator for all your services.

So the next question is which service you should use as your main update. I’m finding myself doing most of my updates on Twitter with occasional updates on Facebook and Ecademy to keep my profile on those services fresh.

Thanks again, Dylan.

Originally published Monday 18 August 2008.

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