Why We Shouldn’t be Surprised By Instagram’s ToS and Why I’m Leaving Instagram Unless It’s Changed

It’s been revealed that Facebook wants to be able to make money from the photos shared on Instagram, the company it paid almost $700m for in September (after a bid of $1bn in April 2012). Naturally, in order to do that all they have to do is add a few lines to the Terms of Service, which no one reads, stating that they can now sell your images with advertisers:

“We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates’ own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honor the choices you make about who can see your photos.”

There are a number of points to be made about this, some cynical, and some to be taken seriously.

On the cynical, half-truth, note: we all (100 million of us) signed up to a free service and willingly gave them our content. Our content. Our content And what did we expect them to do with the content? After all, they are in the business of making money, and believe it or not, the internet is becoming less “free” every day. That which is “free” is paid for by reams of advertisements, or indeed by you. If you want something, you must pay for it. You are the product etc.

Too many people are “scared” of the internet; the big social networks, search engines, services etc. But it’s really very simple: if you don’t want someone to know something, don’t put it on the internet. Or, find an alternative. Want a search engine without personalised search and tracking? Try DuckDuckGo. Fed up with Facebook? Why not migrate to Diaspora? Or maybe the revamped Myspace? But you don’t jump ship, you stay where your friends are, and you learn to accept that it isn’t a free for all, it isn’t a democracy, and if you want something to be private don’t put it on the Internet. Sure you can lock down your account — go private. But how “private” do you really believe that is? And what value do you get from it? Operate a covert operation of mouthing off to a select few people of whom you don’t know and will never have a real connection with. But then you could get a pen and paper and begin with “Dear Diary…”

For those truly interested Terms of Service; Didn’t read has rated a number of free online web services by the way in which they handle the terms and privacy policies. As is stated, before the recent update, Instagram’s terms included the right for Instagram to distribute through any media, whereas now this right is also transferred to Facebook.

Sure it’s not very nice of Instagram/Facebook to sell your pictures to advertisers, however this is nothing new. Twitpic made a similar move in May 2011 to prevent users from selling or distributing their own images which had been uploaded to the service. This was then changed and everyone was happy. But few are aware that most photo sharing service have similar clauses: they own your data. While it is often in the best interests of the company to ask for and get the rights they can in order to display and reproduce content, many will abuse this right.

I will, however, leave Instagram unless they alter these terms before they come into effect on January 16 2013. I was reluctant to join to begin with and it was fun while it lasted. I care about my public image and my data and I’m willing to pay for a service which will not claim my work as theirs, without comment or credit. As I do, and will continue to. While I understand that in order to be a part of the social web today some sacrifices must be made, but this crosses the line. My images are not “throwaway”, each one tells a story. Part of my story. And I don’t give them away for free. Believe it or not, there are a lot more interesting and useful images than pictures of lattes, cats and sunsets for Facebook to make money from.

Here are just a few of my own favourite images taken with Instagram:

I think I aptly covered all relevant clichés.


Oh Autumn

Untitled — Sunset
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V Log

youtube logoI never cared much for the word “vlog”, nor for personal vlogs themselves, that is until I started subscribing to a handful and watching them on a regular basis: ill Doctrine, Davey Wavey, The Fine Bros (Kids/Teens React), Wheezy Waiter, Charlie Is So Cool Like, and most recently My Drunk Kitchen by the incredible Harto. The people behind many of these “vlogs” put a lot of work into each one, through high quality cameras, script-writing and spending a lot of time working on each video. In turn, many get a surprisingly large audience, though often deservedly so.

I never fully understood the idea of addressing the “YouTube community” in a video, let alone where the “YouTube community” existed. Dr. Michael Wesch talked about this in his talk ‘An anthropological introduction to YouTube‘ in 2008. I still don’t know where the YouTube community is though I understand the need for a word, in this case one that sounds as silly as “vlog”, to describe the regular videos posted by regular, often very talented people. When said often enough it fits.

My latest favourite vlogger is Darren, not only because he is my favourite person, but because his videos are superb and make me laugh every single time. He has managed to capture the parts of him that I like into short, almost-daily, bursts; complete with snappy editing and poignant or funny underlying tones. Or just utterly pointless. Most importantly, real. And having only started 7 days ago he’s off to a killer start!

Here are a few to get you started before you subscribe.

Managing RSS – How To Organise Feeds

I read many blogs and websites every day. I consider it a massive fail if a site doesn’t have an RSS feed (I consider using feedburner important, especially if you’re in the world of marketing/tracking stats). Although the design of a website is important to me (yes those with blogspot default themes must be amazing for me to want to subscribe, or spent more than 20secs on).

I use Google Reader, and really like how it works. Most of how it works that is. One of the major downsides is how difficult it is to rename folders (or tags). As they are organised in alphabetical order, I put a number beside those I consider more of a priority. For instance, my folder for ‘Irish blogs’ is titled ‘1 Irish blogs’ as I always read these first, followed by ‘2 N. Ireland blogs’. I’m in the process of deciding how to organise the others for better priority reading too.

[I didn’t realise folders could be re-ordered by simply dragging and dropping, thanks to Donal for letting me know.]

Yesterday, for no apparent reason, all my feeds were removed from their respective folders, with some folders disappearing altogether. And this was shortly after I had culled and organised my feeds (down to a manageable(?) 500). As frustrated as I was at the time, it makes renaming the folders a lot easier.

See guide to renaming Google Reader folders.

Dilemma now is, what order? I subscribe to many feeds, and under many categories. Which ones to read first? Which to read every day. Here are the categories I have:

Comics, design, freelancing, Irish Blogs, Northern Irish Blogs, Irish photoblogs, journalism, meta (Kottke, boing boing, digg etc), marketing, movies, music, news (mainstream), photographers, photography (news etc), photo blogs, science, technology.

How do you organise your RSS reader? What folders do you use? Do you have a folder for those you read first or must read on a daily basis?
Would you suggest a better RSS reader to Google (not that I really want to change, but open to suggestions).

I was a web designer for a day

Today was the first of the Future of Web Design (pronounced FOWD) UK Tour by Carsonified; a company who love large type and are “love with the web”.

I’m not a designer.
I’m not a developer.

Why did I attend?
Well, I too love the web.
Unfortunately I’ve pretty much always lacked that part of the brain that’s able to comprehend what the fuck’s going on with code and the general infrastructure of the web and so am a little behind on my knowledge of CSS containers, line-heights (leading), web suitable fonts (sometimes I have to Google ‘Serif’ and ‘Sans Serif’ as I forget. Yeah, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to build a website from scratch; the best I can do is alter a WordPress theme.

I’ve been interested in the web for quite a few years; semantics, design, typography, trends, social media, social marketing, cloud computing, as well as the future of traditional media – which has quite naturally led me to attending various conferences, where such industry professionals teach other industry professionals (and would-be professionals) how to do it right, by their way of thinking anyway.

andy clark fowd presentation

Of course it wouldn’t be fun if there weren’t a few topics brought to the table that led to some healthy debate, the age-old ‘Kill IE6‘ along with one that is fairly new to me; designing in Photo Shop vs in the Browser – the browser being very well argued by Andy Clarke.

What did I learn:

  • Some CSS structure.
  • Leading/Line-heights.
  • Typographical hierarchy.
  • Using the correct glyphs.
  • Microformats (though largely irrelevant at the minute, a potential for change in the future).
  • That it’s possible to specify more than one class for an element.
  • Good website copy.
  • That Microsoft create awful applications/programming languages that are just like others available, and present them awfully, and make me think ‘are they sponsoring this event’ before I find out that in fact they are.
  • That I’m so very glad I no longer use Windows…

Though I do feel for Martha Rotter who got all the IE6 abuse directed her way.

With quite a lot to think about in the ways of the web as well as some inspiration for the new design I’m currently constructing for this blog, I hope to put much of it into action.

networking at fowd belfast 2009

As with many conferences, I did find that, there was a good bit of time spent on topics that were either not interesting, not relevant to available tech (Microformats) or end up being too basic (even for me) – but overall, I had a good day, and met plenty of interesting and talented people whom I hope to meet again.

It has made me look forward to Build even more.

Will you get bored of Twitter?

Yesterday morning Paddy Donnelly posed the question to Stephen Fry “Do you think you’ll eventually get bored of twitter?” Unfortunately Stephen hasn’t given a response, maybe he feels his answer is ‘yes’.

twitter owl

For me, I think it will be a while before my answer isn’t ‘no’. Having enjoyed Twitter as an early adopter since early 2007 I still get a lot out of it today, and hope that I give some back too – Although with many new users coming on board, I am feeling the need to curb my tweeting slightly so as not to constantly bombard their stream with that which they have no interest in. In saying that I don’t really care that much, for the reasons below.

I’ve made friends through twitter, used it as a communication tool between those I have and haven’t met, asked questions, got answers, gotten physical things, arranged meetings, kept up with events I’ve been at, or that I haven’t been able to attend, got my fill of news stories, kept up with the progress of certain group activities that interest me, learned of the latest technologies, chatted about all sorts of topics including lots of photography and got help with various technology woes, put out statements pertaining to my own frustration and happiness and share ideas with others.

Twitter has many uses, and everyone uses it differently, from the banal and friendly ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good night’ to breaking news reports, from major networks to citizens. The platform is simple, but with many possibilities – most far beyond with the new user is likely to grasp.

But, as many people seem to be moving away from Twitter, or at least talking about it, after much talk in recent weeks/months of how it has already peaked, how much life does Twitter have before something better comes along. Is it that it is talked about too much? When Myspace was in its prime people didn’t seem to talk about it so much as a platform, they just talked about it and got on with using it. Many used it badly, and some still do, but they just did it. As someone said recently “…When people chat on the bus they don’t only talk about buses.” How long before Twitter is simply used rather than talked about?

Facebook seems to be at that stage now, being so much better than Myspace every was it is difficult to use it ‘incorrectly’ with its targeted advertising, event pages, groups and clear distinctions between personal profiles for people you know and “fan pages” – with the ability to share almost anything via RSS and Notes. With it’s simple design and relatively easy-to-use-functionality, once you figure out the possibilities. Facebook is for connecting with people and maintaining a “personal” (I use the term loosely, it is the internet after all) – Twitter is the current leading source of real-time internet and communication.

It’s almost that Twitter is too simple that many people just don’t get it – but it’s for that reason that it works, and will continue to work for quite some time, unless they drastically change things resulting in a boycott, as always happens, or something much better comes along, but I doubt that will happen for quite sometime.

Are you bored with Twitter, and do you think the ‘real-time’ web will be short-lived?


The IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association) wants to block access to certain websites by Irish Internet users.

They have written letters (Michele at Blacknight has published one of the letters) to Irish Internet providers telling them, under threat of legal action, to allow IRMA to tell them what websites to block. Meteor and Eircom has already agreed to this.

Taking inspiration from the recent recent internet blackout campaign in New Zealand, Blackout Ireland has been set up to campagin against internet censorship in the Republic of Ireland.

Blackout Ireland believe that this deal could set a dangerous precedent of internet censorship by private companies, as it enables the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) to ban someone’s internet access without due legal process.

Under the terms of the settlement, Eircom will disconnect users suspected of illegally downloading music based on evidence supplied by IRMA and without the need for a court of law. IRMA have also revealed that they will seek to block websites such as the Pirate Bay that they suspect of providing illegal downloads.

What can I do?

  • Please contact your Internet service provider (ISP).
  • Please contact the TD for your constituency.
  • Please contact Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan TD
  • Take part in Blackout Week

Further Information on these points is on BlackoutIreland.com

What is particularly sinister about the Eircom/IRMA settlement is that it is based on

“Guilt upon Accusation” – no proof is necessary nor is it possible to appeal. (James Cooley.ie)

Get Blackout Avatars


Yes, Google, we know there is crap on the internet but…

For about almost an hour this afternoon Google screwed things up a little by labelling all of the internet as Malware. It was certainly a little alarming and a bit annoying as I would use Google *alot* and even in that short space of time. The link which resulted from every search result was a simple page staying that the “web site may harm your computer” and a few links, none of which were the site I wanted, nor did they work anyway.

After realising that it was affecting the whole of the Internets I thought, well, why not have some fun with it:

Shortly afterwards Google explained what happened on their own blog that it was simply a human error with the misplacement of a ‘/’ and all normality was resumed.