Bye bye Instagram

Instagram published their new terms of use yesterday going in effect on January 16, 2013, wherein they pretty much stated they can use the content you post on Instagram however they please, including selling it to advertisers. But don’t worry user, you still own the content. Brilliant, isn’t it?

Instagram started as a fun way to post-process photos with standard filters and share photos. I followed a bunch of people, and had fun looking through their photos, “liking” photos I, well, liked, or rolling my eyes when it was yet another photo of someone’s boring & bored cat, doing nothing exceptional or cute. (Cue the internet’s collective gasp in horror.)

But there came a point when things changed. Facebook bought Instagram for a cool billion dollars, but you knew the fun would end once facebook was involved. Starting last week Instagram photos were not being displayed on twitter streams, requiring clicking on the Instagram link to see the photo. And now the updated terms of use, which copy those of facebook, will make me stop using the service.

Yes, sure it is a free service, and they can have whatever terms of use they want. It is up to me, the user, to decide whether I accept them or not. And, sure owner facebook has to make money somehow. It is just that the way they are trying to make money is rubbing users the wrong way. It is a sneaky, indirect way. I suppose it would be OK if they just showed ads on my stream like FB does, but deciding they can sell my images because I am using their service is pretty disagreeable. Under the new terms of use, I am not using Instagram anymore. That simple.

I am now back to using flickr only. I’ve been using flickr much longer than I’ve been using Instagram, and I always posted my instagram photos on flickr too. flickr has certainly a different feel from Instagram. On flickr I am not that much into “faving” photos, or having too many contacts.  When I first started using flickr I didn’t use it as a social media tool, but rather as a central storing place. I see it more as a place to have all my photos I want to share with other people. I choose to pay for a pro flickr account. I pay $25 a year, I have unlimited photo and video uploads, unlimited number of photos in photostream, no ads. Plus the flickr app was recently updated with post-processing tools such as filters and basic edits, and there is an obvious turn to make it more of a social media and sharing site.

As I set my Instagram account to private and will never use again, I remember another service I liked a lot, but is not anymore, upcoming.org. That was a pretty cool free site where users were posting upcoming events and shows, and you could check what you were attending, as well as see what other users were attending. But then it was sold to yahoo!, and it got ugly and full of ads, and I don’t think anyone is using it anymore. On to the next thing.

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The Music of Super Bowl XLV

I didn’t care much about the Super Bowl, simply because I don’t really care about football. I don’t know the game, I can’t follow what’s going on, as I’m not familiar with the rules. Nevertheless, I found myself watching last night’s game between the Packers and the Steelers. I thought I’d be more interested in the game if I rooted for a team, and I chose team allegiance based on the team’s name: “Steelers” sounded more compelling, fierce and powerful than “Packers”. A both mildly lame and mildly legitimate way to choose a team, so there I was, a Steelers’ fan. I also managed to pick up the general idea of the game and some rules, and in the end I was somewhat able to follow the game.

Before the actual game started, Christina Aguilera sang the National Anthem. I could not tell what she was singing, as she sang in the irritating way of spreading every syllable over several notes (a singing style known as melisma). Not to mention her insistence on screaming the high notes. As it turns out, she mangled some words too: instead of singing “O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming,” she sang “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming” according to the NYTimes, or “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last gleaming” according to the BBC. Well, pretty awful either way.

In a statement after the performance she said “I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through (…)”. No, actually the true spirit didn’t come through, as she effectively destroyed a very beautiful song with her vocal gimmicks, unnecessary vocal embellishments and exaggerated belting. The way she chose to sing the anthem shows disrespect. During rehearsals somebody should have told her: “It is not about you and your ego, it is about the song and the nation’s pride”.

Then, it was the half-time show, where the Black Eyed Peas provided the entertainment. Honestly, it looked more like a  comedy show than a music show. They and their dancers wore ridiculous outfits. I anticipated singing, I got a screeching cat instead. I hated how they used the beloved song “Misirlou” as base for one of their “songs”, an act very close to sacrilege, if you ask me. And then they were joined by Slash of Guns N’ Roses, and Fergie sang “Sweet Child o’ Mine” in a badly-imitating-Axl-Rose way. Admittedly, rather a feat to pull off.

Rob Harvilla of The Village Voice wittily describes (and defends?) their performance. The piece reeks of defeat, basically admitting that the Super Bowl half-time show will always suck. The Fergie comment is spot-on:

[Fergie] [is] [t]errible in a stupendously charming way, like reality television, like Taco Bell, like chillwave. The perfect avatar for an era where pitchiness is a virtue, where amateurs are more famous than professionals, where to be too good at something is to invite accusations of elitism.

The reality of the last part of the sentence, that we live in an era, “where to be too good at something is to invite accusations of elitism” is awfully painful. But unfortunately, true as well.

Olbermann And I

On Friday, January 21, 2011 my Twitter stream was flooded by this breaking news with two slightly different points of view: “Keith Olbermann is leaving MSNBC”, and “MSNBC is ending its contract with Keith Olbermann”. It was repeatedly re-tweeted by almost everyone, and one tweet perfectly described the sentiment: “Keith Olbermann is overtaking my twitter stream again!”, a reference to another Olbermann story, his suspension from MSNBC in November, because he had made donations to Democratic congressional candidates, in violation to MSNBC’s ethics policy. Back then, everybody was tweeting about the suspension, now everyone is tweeting about the contract termination.

The news of the contract termination surprised me a little bit, I thought his show “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” was getting good ratings, and I can appreciate his liberal views, sharp comments and humor. There has been much speculation about the reasons of the termination, with some analysts pointing towards the Comcast-NBC merger for “political reasons”.  I like how they stop at the “for political reasons”, without explaining what those could be. I suspect Olbermann’s liberal & unpredictable views are considered as a thorn in Comcast’s controlling side. I cannot imagine the end of a show being a pleasant experience, and as I understand he had some die-hard fans. For me, though, this didn’t really mean much. I am sad that he doesn’t have his show anymore, but my TV viewing habits will not change because of this.

I discovered Olbermann in a hotel. Not that he was hiding under the bed or in a closet, but I first saw him on TV at a hotel I was staying. I don’t have cable TV, never got it, simply because I do not watch TV, save for the news and occasionally, PBS shows. My intellect is eroding fine without TV, thank you very much. But whenever I stayed at a hotel, I would turn the TV on and flip through the cable channels to see what the big deal was about. No big deal really, but I do remember once while flipping through the channels I stopped at the image of a middle-aged man, wearing glasses, talking. Attractive face, attractive voice. It was Olbermann on MSNBC. He was quite funny too. I don’t remember exactly what the was talking about, something about George W. Bush, I think, but I approved of the liberal tinge and the acerbic wit.

It became a ritual. Whenever I was out-of-town staying at a hotel, I would try to watch as much Countdown as I could. I would always be amused. Then I read his profile in the New Yorker, and I thought this was an interesting man, although angry at times. Handsome, passionate, opinionated. It’d be awesome if we could hang out together. I could see us having passionate arguments, analyzing things, disagreeing about things.  I thought he was like me, but an improved, beta version of me, smarter, funnier and more articulate.

Then Olbermann joined Twitter and I was a happy follower. It was quite amusing how in the beginning he was trying to figure things out. Then he would get in arguments with haters, or get obsessed with baseball, sunsets, un-plowed New York City streets. His showplugs were the most boring of his tweets for me, because, you know, I don’t have cable to watch his show. But there was always a tweet that would make me smile, so I never unfollowed him, like I did Roger Ebert, who managed to get pissed off at the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and shamelessly promotes and advertises crap on Amazon. Olbermann had twitter-dignity, together with a cute childish behavior (That’s it, I’m quitting Twitter, OK, I’m back on Twitter etc etc).

I last saw Countdown in December when I visited Washington D.C. It was good to see Olbermann again, he made me smile again. Then after that, I watched a little bit of the Rachel Maddow Show. Well, that was underwhelming. It felt like her sentences were unfinished, the point not quite made, there were pauses that felt like she waited for applause. I didn’t watch for long, because I couldn’t. But I’m glad I got to watch Olbermann again for a couple of days.

Little did I know that would be it. The last time, Olbermann and I at a hotel, connecting. I’m sorry I missed the final Countdown (cue that Europe song). The truth is, staying at a hotel will never be the same again, something will be missing. But maybe he will get another show soon, and we will reconnect, soon.

Things You Do On Twitter That I Hate

Oh yes, I really like twitter. I love looking at my stream updating with new tweets, I love clicking on links, I love tweeting about things most people don’t care about, I love sharing photos and news. Sometimes I catch myself oversharing or tweeting something extremely lame like “I’m having lunch at Joey’s Diner”, and then I hate myself for that, but overall I would call my relationship with twitter “a sizzling hot love affair with a time waster”.

Enough though with the love. There are things on twitter that annoy the crap out of me. Now, if you know me, you know that this is not very difficult to achieve; nonetheless, allow me to share the things I don’t like on twitter:

– Twitter is full of social media experts: sorry to break it you, but having a twitter account, a facebook account and 300 followers doesn’t really make you a social media expert. I mean that’s like 80% of twitterverse.

– Unbalanced numbers of following/followers: Sometimes I’m like “wow, cool, this person has a 1,000 followers”, and then I see they follow 4,000 people. Well, not so cool anymore.

– Indiscriminate use of hashtags: #some #tweets #read #like #this. I like hashtags and all, but I like keeping it in check too. Oh, and btw, I really like making up hashtags like #ihatemylife #omgyouareasdumbasyoulook etc etc

– Twitter stream that looks like your rss reader. Yeah, are you going to actually write anything about something?

– Unlimited use of haha’s and text emoticons: Once I stumbled upon somebody’s profile and every single tweet included one of the following: haha (in various multipliers of the “ha” syllable), heh heh, heee heee,  “:)”  “;)” or “:P” All I have to say is :-! zzz zzz

– A tweet every five minutes: Unless you are a news organization, you don’t really have to do that. Somebody once said “What do you call these people who apparently do nothing but tweet non-stop?” “Unemployed or underemployed.” Ouch.

– Plagiarizing: I know, it might sound shocking to talk about plagiarism on the interwebs, but there are people who instead of re-tweeting something interesting they read and add a comment, they just post a brand new tweet of theirs that virtually steals the original one. That’s very obvious when it’s very local news, and we all in the community know who broke the news.

– Tweets that consist only of one link: You’ve probably seen those, it’s only a link, without any other text to explain what the link is all about. The Boston Herald does this all the time. Sorry, but I’m not clicking on it.

– Oversharing / Too personal: some things should not be broadcast. Period. And, sometimes you should DM someone, instead of telling the twitterverse.

– Botched English language: Sometimes you see tweets that have very creative abbreviations so you have to read them twice to figure out what they mean. Srsly. Anyway, on twitter we botch the English language routinely, yet sometimes we have slightly higher expectations from certain users, like newspapers, authors, literary magazines, bookstores. I really can’t get over the fact how bad Harvard Bookstore’s tweets are; looks like they don’t really like using capital letters, and sometimes they don’t make any sense at all. ‘Cause, you know, nothing says esteemed bookstore better than this one “we have a gorgeous, luscious, like 3 foot book of the best of flare magazine, used & new. amazing design, fold out pages, postcards, style!” Say wha????

– The Fail Whale: ‘Nuff said.

Also, for the time being I’m being skeptical about foursquare, but who knows, I might embrace it in the future. As I recall, a year ago I was a twitter skeptic too…

Short Documentary

Oh, neglected blog, chin up, here I am. I’ve been very busy lately, but that’s not a reason to stop writing, isn’t it? Well, what can I say? Among lots of other things going on, I have been working on a short documentary for Cambridge Community TV (CCTV) with three other people and our instructor. We are doing a short doc on the Out Of the Blue Gallery on Prospect Street in Central Square in Cambridge. It will air on CCTV when it’s done, and it will be on their website as well. This has been a new experience for me, and a mixed bag.

It’s been interesting to see the process of a short documentary film making, from pre-production to production and post production. In the beginning we raced through interviews and got too much b-roll footage, which of course is good. During editing we came to realize that a big part of the material was not good enough to use. One of our interviews turned out only 1 minute of usable material out of the 30 minutes we shot. The lesson learnt: when the interviewee is less than stellar, your questions have to be specifically and tightly phrased, so there is no room to roam. The camera handling was OK, but our shots seem kinda dark to me. I like the way it looks on the computer better than the way it looks on the monitor.

The most tiring thing, of course, was the editing process. It seems to be taking forever. We watch and go over the footage, try to decide what we like to use. After the decision is made and we sort of put everything together, watching the whole thing makes me think that something is missing: all of a sudden I like the material we didn’t use. And sometimes we forget exactly what material we have, and what could have been perfect for a certain scene. Back on the drawing board, back to talking about it, cause we’re a team and we have to agree and move on. The moving along process has been elusive at times. When I am on doing something I want to concentrate and I want to be done with it. Some people in my team tended to sidetrack the process, which is actually very tiring. I mean not all times are good for jokes, especially when we have to finish the damn thing in a week.

During editing one sees the things that one fails to see during shooting: the microphone playing pick a boo at the right corner, the unfortunate sitting of the subject with a bird painting in the background, in a way that it looks like the bird is picking on the talent’s head, the less than perfect sound, with lots of ambient sound and distractions, the setting on the camera that makes the heads look distorted. Did we screw up every way possible? I don’t think so, but we learnt a lot.

There are still many things to do. It’s essential to adapt and change strategy as soon as possible and of course we should not have left anything to the last minute. So, we still have a narration piece to do, and edit and edit some more and then wrap up. We have only three hours tomorrow and that’d be it. I know it’s not going to be perfect, I know it’s not going to be the way I had envisioned it to be, but I hope it turns out to something watchable and not too painfully horrible.

Dreams

Once again Gail Collins puts things into perspective in her NYTimes Op-Ed:

And some people feel it was sort of weird for Barack Obama to throw himself into the fight with such ardor. They may have a point. But if the president is going to take a flier on an improbable and possibly delusional quest, I would prefer that it involve lobbying the Olympic committee rather than, say, invading a country.

A Judge Can Be Funny

This is a little bit old, but back in the April 20 issue of the New Yorker, Lauren Collins wrote “The Vertical Tourist”, a piece on Alain Robert, the Frenchman who likes climbing skyscrapers. Robert is one of these people that are obsessed with climbing tall New York buildings. At some point Collins writes about Robert and Renaldo Clarke, a computer technician, climbing the Times building last year. This is an excerpt from the article

The daredevils, in tandem, irritated civic officials. Mayor Bloomberg pronounced them “stupid”. Peter Vallone, Jr., a city councilman who is the chairman of the city’s Public Safety Committee, suggested that Robert add “the walls of his jail cell at Rikers” to his list of conquests.  (…) Five weeks later, a third man attempted to climb the building.  He stalled at the eleventh floor. At his arraignment, a judge said, “If you want to kill yourself, find some nice quiet bridge in Connecticut in some hick town”