Life after Instagram: Photo App Reviews

I deleted my Instagram account this week. I was sad to go; Instagram was fun! It was social, I loved the rad photo filters and the ease of sharing my pics over various social networks without much fuss.

I went to San Diego this summer for a conference.

I went to San Diego this summer for a conference.

Over time, I also began to appreciate the integration with Foursquare and Facebook’s maps to document where I traveled to during the past year or so. I also happily set my photographs free with Creative Commons, allowing me to contribute to a rich, image sharing community. However, the changes Instagram proposed to their terms of service forced me to re-evaluated that relationship for the following reasons:

  1. Sharing is Caring. I use Creative Commons images a lot. The are the visual meat of my LibGuides and my teaching aids. I feel strongly that I should contribute to the corpora of open images myself. Instagram used to enable me to do so, but no longer.
  2. Teaching Moments. I taught a module on social media last semester in a course about theatre criticism. The experience made me think critically about how we talk about social media in higher education and what students need to know to be good stewards of their social media presences and how to effectively evaluate the information out there on the web. I thought this Instagram firestorm would be a good opportunity to see what else is out there and that my vision quest would be a good teaching moment.

Here’s what I found for iOS.

I read this post about Instagram alternatives as well as some other best of 2012 apps for the iPhone that included Camera applications. I downloaded them all onto my iPhone and began experimenting. Here’s the rundown:

  1. Anypic (free) This app has a cute interface and easy sharing options, but lacks the filters that made Instagram so fun to use. I appreciated that you can share previously photographed images into the app, but the dearth of traffic on the app coupled with the lack of hipster filters were deal breakers. Verdict: I deleted this app.
  2. Backspaces (free) This app is less of a photography app and more a visual storytelling app. You can’t take photos with Backspaces, but you can import photos from your Camera roll and create stories with photographs and textual annotations. Often when I travel, I take a fair share of photos with my iPhone. I’d take a lot of photos on Instagram that were all shared, sometimes out of context. Backspaces is a nice way to summarize a trip or an event without clogging your friends’ feeds or showing stuff out of context. I made a Backspaces story about my winter break and I enjoyed taking snapshots with various camera apps and then pulling it together to share on Twitter. Best of all, I was able to share the story with my parents via email. Verdict: This app stays on my iPhone’s home screen.

    We finished this rad puzzle over break.

    Used this image in my Backspaces story

  3. Camera + (.99) This app kept coming up in best of 2012 app lists for iOS. For under a buck, I thought I would give this app a shot. It has all the things I love: pretentious filters, easy sharing options, a slick interface, and some bonus features like a stabilizer and more user friendly zoom. You can take a nice snapshot, or put more work into staging something more complicated. It’s scalable. Verdict: This app won a place on my iPhone’s home screen.

    Lego Architecture at the Henry Ford Museum

    Lego Architecture at the Henry Ford Museum

  4. KitCam ($1.99) This app also came up several times of best of 2012 app lists I read over break. This app is a combination of Hipstamatic and Camera +. There’s a lot in this app for more sophisticated photographers, including film options and multi-exposure. There are nifty sharing options to various social media outlets and users can also decide to save images directly to Dropbox rather than saving to Camera Roll, which I like. However, the user interface is a little clunky; this is not an intuitive app. There is a definitely a learning curve, but if you are really into digital photography and want to do more than take quick snapshots with your iPhone, there is a lot this app can do. Verdict: This app is on home screen probation.
  5. OpenPhoto (free) OpenPhoto combines camera functionality with a sharing platform and web storage. It’s Hipstamatic meets Flickr. The OpenPhoto folks are interested in making a WordPress for photos with this service. You can take filtered photographs with the app’s camera AND you can sustain a gallery of photographs within the app as well as with photos taken from other camera apps on your phone. You can sync to Dropbox easily. It doesn’t duplicate images unless you prefer to duplicate an image. Open Photo users can control permissions of their images easily from their website. If you want to cross over from Flickr or Instagram or Facebook for your web collection, OpenPhoto offers a reasonably priced pro account, too. Verdict: This isn’t my go to photo taking app on the iPhone, but it does win a place on the home screen so I can easily access my images.
  6. Twitter (free) Around the time of the Instagram/Twitter dustup in late 2012, Twitter introduced hipster filters within its camera app. It’s a nice little feature that’s easy to use. I like the range of filters and the ability move and scale images. However, I tend to take photographs AND then decide to share them rather than tweet with images. If you’re workflow is the other way around, the Twitter photo set-up might work well for you. Verdict: Not my cup of tea, but I still love you, Twitter.

    Cinematic Filter on this Twitter Photo

    Cinematic Filter on this Twitter Photo

  7. Flickr (free) Lots of folks on my Twitter feed are going back to this oldie but goodie, which has recently come out with a very nice iOS app. Social and scalable, Flickr has long empowered users to control how their photos are used by others. It’s easy to set your images free with Creative Commons. Verdict: We are a proud Flickr Pro household, and I love that we can now access Flickr on computers and on mobile devices.

Summing up:I am still adjusting to a post-Instgram life. I am happy that when I take pics with Camera + or KitCam, it’s not a burden for my Twitter followers to see the image by clicking through links. I miss the Foursquare integration, but I am settling for the geographical approximation. However, I really excited about the OpenPhoto team’s vision for their service being an open platform for users to control their photographs and build other applications. I really enjoy being able to use KitCam and Camera + to take photographs, share those photographs and have a place to keep all of them and manage them accordingly.

Of course, in my role as an instructional librarian, I think this a great lesson in social media and data management about where your stuff lives and what control, if any, you have over it. As Ryan Block pointed out in his recent Bits post, not actively managing your social media presence can result in dead services selling your data long after you have abandoned them. As we instruct students about how to manage their social media presences and try to gain better control over what search results come up when they are Googled, the Instagram debate is an excellent object lesson to show students about how to make the best choices for them. Instagram isn’t going away; media outlets have been reporting that the service continues to grow in spite of the backlash from the terms of service change. I want my students to have all the information to make the best choices about where to live on the internet.

Social Media: Inventory & Reflections (Updated)

Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching a research education section on social media for a Division I tutorial class. The class will contribute to a Tumblr that compiles theater reviews from around the Five College consortium. Collectively, the class will write critical reviews that demand the serious effort and rigorous analysis that one expects in scholarly communication in a venue where many of them write for ‘anyone who will read’ or ‘their friends and family.’ It was fun to interrogate ideas of audience in social media and think about norms for different regions of the internet. We did some concept mapping that was quite revealing:

Of course, thinking about social media, audience, and scholarly communication got me thinking about why I write what I write where I do on the internet. Do I write different in different places, do I share different things on different channels? Where am I on the internet?

Hence, I thought I’d offer a social media inventory loosely defined as the social places where I create and share content with people – friends, colleagues, students, family:

Facebook the social media platform we love to hate. This is for my friends, a good cross section of whom are also colleagues. I’ll share photos, wish friends a happy birthday, occasionally throw in an article I really liked from Instapaper. I keep my privacy settings pretty locked down so people not in my immediate network can’t see my activity. It’s strictly personal.

Twitter: the social network some people hate. I love Twitter. It’s professional with some personal stuff thrown in, too. Cat photos, beer reflections, New England sports agita. Again, many of my friends are also colleagues. I live-tweet relevant lectures and conferences I attend. I love participating in robust back channel conversations. I love the second screen experience during elections, sporting events, and cheesy award shows.

Tumblr: the social network of gif aficionados. I used to post there more regularly before I transitioned to this space on WordPress,but I still share photos, occasional musings, and reblogs from different voices I admire. I read my Tumblr stream religiously in Flipboard.

Instagram: The emo, hipster social network. With photos. Sometimes with hastags. I favor individuals who post photos of CATS or other cute animals. But mostly CATS. Some of what I photograph for Instragram will end up on Twitter or Facebook. But nearly everything I photograph comes from my iPhone and Instagram. I really enjoy social photography with my friends. (Note: I deleted my Instagram account in Jan 2013)

Spotify: Music. All the time. I am strangely guarded about what I listen to at work, at the gym, at home when I’m writing or when I’m on the bus to work. Music has been a constant in my life whether it was performing classical music in high school, hosting my own radio show in College (holla 919.9 WOZQ!), or blasting in it in my car. Music is personal, so it’s not open for the world to see and discover. I social network with myself.

Zotero:See my research, comment on my research, share your research. I evangelize about Zotero on the regular. And the group element is powerful. What better, more expedient way to share information with collaborators than in the bibliographic management system I use to do research?

WordPress:The blogging place. I follow some sites on WordPress and I get pretty psyched when I see certain blogs’ freshly pressed content in my inbox. It’s where this site lives and where my professional voice feels strongest.

In all of these channels or contexts, I have an audience in mind. Audience pervades conversations around social media as our concept map in the above image conveys. Where and when you create/consume/comment on the internet matters. And we all have to evaluate what we are doing and what we are saying on the internet so we are not just howling at the moon.
It’s not JUST about GUARDING against our reputations as the conversation so often goes, but social media is also an opportunity to explore our voices, tell our stories, cultivate a room of our own, so others may find us.