Wednesday, July 31, 2013

@nel234: Instagram Update


Padlock, #TavernontheGreen Reconstruction, Central Park, New York City
Tavern on the Green: Under Lock and Key
(all photos in this post are from the reconstruction of
Tavern on the Green
In @nel234:  My Oh So Brief Love Affair with Instagram, I reported that @Instagram had locked me out of my account.  Since then,  I've tweeted "at them" a couple of times to no avail.  I also sent a couple of emails which just bounced back to me and there has been no answer to the queries that I've submitted to Instagram and Facebook (parent company) using their respective Web forms.  I even tried calling Instagram but the number I have is for calls about copyright violations only.

In the category of "picking myself up and dusting myself off," I've been trying out a super little app called StreamZoo -- it gets very good reviews from the technology types.  Here's my feed to date (to carry the analogy from the last post forward, I am in the early dating phase and taking things slowly so don't expect a lot of pictures).   Several things I like so far
  • way fewer brands using StreamZoo (so far, I've only spotted Nikon and since I LOVED their feed on Instagram, that is totally OK and I followed them instantly);
  • you aren't forced into squares -- photos come in all shapes and sizes and photos from cameras are welcomed;
  • you can make a collage right in the app; and (drum roll please)
  • it has customer service (as in live people who answer user questions!).
Of course, it's a little like having to do a "do over" of the first day of your freshman year in high school at a new high school.  It's not that I had a huge following on Instagram but I had a following!  Some people even noticed I was gone and thought I had blocked them.  No, I assured them, @Instagram (+Instagram here in Google land) had just determined I was persona non grata and kicked me out.  

One friend (a male) has advised that I should get over it -- that @Instagram doesn't deserve me.  Others (all women) have offered to mount a "Free Nancy" campaign.  Frankly, I'm somewhere in between these two camps some three weeks after my dismissal.  There is a part of me that is a little sad.  Mainly, as I put it to my friend (he of the "they don't deserve you" camp) because it's feels a bit like not being asked to the prom and then seeing how much fun all the popular kids are having.

A lot of my friends are on Instagram and I am woman enough to confess that I feel a little pain whenever I see a post or that they've liked a picture.  Somewhere I have a photo from my first ever trip abroad (France) of a little boy with his nose pressed up to the glass at Versailles.  For the record, he's inside and obviously longing to be outside which I find terribly amusing -- but I digress.  My point is that right now, despite picking myself up and migrating to StreamZoo, I'm that little boy with his nose pressed up against the glass longing to be outside playing with my friends when it comes to @Instagram.

I am not alone in this longing.  The Internet is littered with similar tales of woe, similar pleas about not violating "terms of use" and a similar lack of response from @Instagram.  Doing a search for "instagram + customer service" does yield other results of interest.

Most interesting is that Instagram's parent company, Facebook was on the list of world's worst customer service companies in 2012 and 2013.  In 2013 it actually dropped lower on the list and was joined by Twitter and LinkedIn.  Facebook ranks the lowest on customer service yet remains the largest social media network.  I find the rankings and the lack of a response from Instagram or Facebook interesting for two reasons.

#TavernontheGreen Reconstruction, Central Park, New York City
Tavern on the Green Reconstruction 
First, social media (at least for the moment) has changed how other companies approach customer service.  As an example, I tweeted to @JetBlue from a line at JFK and had a response within five minutes.  It's not that they could solve the problem (TSA delays) but that they responded was BIG to a traveler on the verge of not having time to buy her pre-flight coffee.  I thanked them and that's exactly what @JetBlue hoped to achieve.  Good customer service keeps good customers loyal to your brand.

Second, I am a part of the value in to investors in these social media platforms.  For sure, there is value in the programming but the real value is IN the users or, in other words, the advertising impressions that we represent.  In April 2012, Facebook valued me at about $5.00 a year as reported in Random Thoughts, Tulip Pairings.  Small change except when you multiply it by the number of Facebook users at which point you get some really big numbers.    If one looks at it this way, the argument that Facebook and Instagram are giving me something for free (a platform for sharing "stuff" for lack of a better word) so I'm getting the customer service I deserve (none) isn't very credible in my book.

I am hoping -- not holding my breadth mind you, just hoping -- that Facebook (and by extension Instagram) will improve on customer service soon.  In the meantime, I'm thinking about whether I want to spend the time and energy on sending a letter via snail mail to Instagram as promised in my last post.  It doesn't seem likely that there will be a response nor does it seem likely that I will ever know what terms of use I actually violated.

Bottom Line?  I think that lack of transparency around service violations is just emblematic of an overall lack of transparency about how Facebook and Instagram view their user base.  Collectively, we are an asset to be monetized.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

#TavernontheGreen Reconstruction, Central Park, New York City
Tavern on the Green Reconstruction

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Playing with Snapseed

Photoshop frightens me.  A lot.

And, I've been missing Picasa ever since switching to iPhoto upon purchasing a MacAir (sorry Sony).  In fact, I just may try switching back this weekend.  Something I never would have attempted when my library was resident on the MacAir hard drive.  Hmm, I have to take that back, I did try it but then Picasa started to create its own library and my very small hard drive almost crashed and burned.  But now that my library lives off site as it were, it may be time to go back to an old friend.

In the meantime, I've been having fun with Snapseed after first acknowledging that I was bored with iPhoto in Rainy Day Garden.  Sometimes I use Snapseed and sometimes I use iPhoto.  Depends on how I'm feeling at the moment and on how the originals turned out.  To my mind, it's the digital equivalent of old school dark room magic.  

Riding the rails from DC to NYC today, I had some spare time (long day, only so much work one can do).  So I took the last hour to edit a photo or two (or maybe even three).  With today's editing software, one can give a whole new look to a photo with just a couple of clicks.  Herewith a photo editing progression (so to speak) of Peaceful Spots.

For the record, this spot is not really peaceful in the truest sense of the world.  It is near the Gapstow Bridge.  I have a similar favorite spot near the Bow Bridge.  Both are just off well-traveled paths but if you turn your back to the path, you can get lost in the view before you.

Peaceful Spots - The Original
A perfect demonstration of my unfortunate habit of holding my camera a little crooked even when I am thinking I want to hold it straight.  Sometimes that is a good thing and other times, not so much.  Also a perfect demonstration of how poorly the Olympus does when there's some clouds and trees afoot (also previously noted in Rainy Day Gardens).  Just a little dull.
 
Peaceful Spots, Overlooking #thePond, #centralpark, #NYC, Original
Peaceful Spots - Original

Peaceful Spots - Details, Details, Details
Of course, I did not write down what I did to get these effects.  It's a virtual guarantee that I used the simple fix filters but whether I chose automatic or neutral or balanced or one of the other three is up in the air.  For sure I used details (how else to get such sharp leaves?) and then I must have picked a drama filter because the colors are a bit more faded then what my mind remembers the day being like.  Playing around iPhoto just now confirms that suspicion.  Oh, and lest I forget, there was some cropping and straightening going on as well.

Peaceful Spots, Overlooking #thePond, #centralpark, #NYC, Details, Details, Details
Peaceful Spots - Details, Details, Details
Peaceful Spots - Cue the Fog
Center focus is a wonderful thing.  Particularly if you move it off center and keep the mistiness to a minimum.

Peaceful Spots, Overlooking #thePond, #centralpark, #NYC, Cue the Fog
Peaceful Spots - Cue the Fog
 Peaceful Spots - Cue Black & White
You know, the day at that particular moment was a little grey and a little gloomy.  It was the exact moment where I was deciding whether to venture deeper into the park to one of my favorite spots or head home before the skies burst open (no umbrella).  I love this photo in black and white with a little fog thrown in for good measure.  It captures my mood and what I was thinking about perfectly.

Peaceful Spots - Cue Black & White

Saturday, July 20, 2013

@nel234: My Oh So Brief Love Affair with Instagram

Moose Reflections, Denali, Alaska
Moose Reflections - Denali
 Instagram broke up with me on July 9th.   It was the shortest "Dear John" letter I've ever gotten!  Apparently, I had violated the terms of use.

Hmm, you might be thinking, what exactly did Nancy do?

To be honest, I don't know.  I can tell you the last thing I did before I was summarily dismissed.  I had noticed that my short tag line had gone missing and had just finished adding it back in (having copied it verbatim from my Google+profile):

Advocate, writer, traveler, photographer, baker, collector of flotsam and jetsam. Any opinions are my own.
Within five minutes I got a notice about violating terms of use and that perhaps I should review those and the community guidelines.  The notice went on to tell me my account had been turned off and that anyone looking for me would not be able to find me nor would they be able to find any of my photos.  Not to put too fine of a point on this, there was no mechanism for retrieving my photos.  Fortunately, of the 600+ photos I had on Instagram, just over 400 were cross-posted to Facebook.  This included most of the photos from my expedition to Alaska with my niece Kristen (reconstructed on this blog in my last post, #thetravelingkristen).  I didn't have an opportunity to say good bye to my followers (all 88 of them) -- or to those I follow.  So, good bye gentle people.  I will miss your posts and your comments very much.

Unlike when Pinterest pulled the iconic Annie Liebovitz photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Pincensured),  there was nothing about what my specific violation was so we (Kristen and I that is) reviewd the terms of use and the community guidelines.   They are, shall we say, pretty generic for a social media site.  No nudity, no spamming, don't mess with our computer code, respect others, don't bully people, don't stalk (mind you this is my loose translation of the terms of use).   The terms very much parallel the social media policy of the organization that I work for.  In a nutshell, #Instagram wants you to be a good citizen.  Perfect for someone like me who is a good citizen.   Oh, there's also a lot of gobbledygook about what Instagram owns and what you own and what rights in your photos you are ceding to Instagram by using the program to post photos.

Rusted Tools, Alaska, Fairbanks
So, like any jilted lover, I wrote the Instagram folks a note asking them why and if we could get back together again.  Instagram and me that is.  Radio silence.  Admittedly, they don't really make it easy to write to them online (I basically hijacked a reporting functionality of theirs that offered the opportunity to "write in" my query since the folks at @Instagram don't appear to want to hear from their users unless the user has a problem that fits into some pretty constrained descriptions).

After a couple of days of "nada, nothing, zilch", I wrote Facebook (the parent company) asking them what could be done to restore my Instagram account.  It's been almost two weeks and neither Facebook nor Instagram has responded.  Before anyone suggests that I do so, I did try setting up another account This time with the name of this blog (scribblesandphotos).  I successfully posted one picture, added my tag line, and within a nano-second, I was locked out for terms of use violations.  Again!

It's a little disconcerting to find myself in this position after I had just waxed rhapsodic about Instagram on this very blog in Vacation Mode:
  • Instagram:  Love it.  I think it is the most fun of the social media platforms I've been playing with -- or on -- since joining Facebook.  So many great photographers, so many beautiful images, and now video -- what's not to like?
Well, I guess I now know the answer to that last question.  I don't particularly like the way in which Instagram broke up with me!

A snail mail letter to the co-founders seems to be in order.

Dear #KevinSystrom (@Kevin) and #MikeKrieger (@MikeyK):

I am hoping you can help me out by telling me why you blocked my account.   I must confess to being a little sad.  You see, up until now, I pretty much loved your platform -- it reminds me of the Polaroids of my childhood (yes, I am that old) and the filters are so very fun to play around with.

I like to take pictures of lots of things (#thefreedomtower, #NYCarchitecture, #NYCbridges, #graffiti, #padlocks, #public art, and #NYCtaxicabviews.  There are slices from my daily life (primarily #NYCstreetscenes) and it's always fun to upload a vacation picture or several.  In fact, I was midway through documenting my Alaska travels with my niece Kristen (#thetravelingKristen) when you pulled the plug on me.  I even won an Instagram contest -- the #BGWindowsFollies (full Web address for whomever may read this in print is:  http://www.scribblesandphotos.blogspot.com/2013/03/wow.html).   A selection of photos from my brief #Instagram career is below (and attached if you are reading the printer version of this letter).

I am not 100% sure what I did to cause Instagram to break up with me but I promise to never do it again if you restore my account (@nel234).

Thanks in advance for considering this request!

Sincerely,

@nel234
(aka Nancy Lundebjerg)

There, I've done it.  I've written a letter to the founders of Instagram.  Now all I've got to do is print it out, find a stamp, and mail it to: 181 South Park Street, Suite 2, San Francisco, CA 94107.  If that doesn't work, I can call them at 415-857-3369.  Seems terribly old-fashioned but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Well I await their reply, I'll just have to satisfy myself with playing around with the Facebook filters when posting pictures.  It's just not the same though.

@nel234 #Instagram Photos:  A Sampling

#nel234 #instagram @nel234

#nel234 #instagram @nel234

#nel234 #instagram @nel234

#nel234 #instagram @nel234


#thetravelingkristen

@nel234 #thetravelingkristen #Seattle
#thetravelingkristen #graffiti #publicart #lovetravel
While I was on vacation with my niece Kristen, @Instagram terminated my account -- citing violation of terms of use.  More about that in my next post.  Here, I've pulled together the #Instagram photos (hopefully videos will follow at some point) that I had shared on Facebook or still had on my iPhone that were my contribution to Kristen's and my vacation #hashtag -- #thetravelingkristen (as referenced in my last post, Seattle Blue).

They are mostly from the city portions of our trip -- Seattle, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seward -- mainly because that is where we had Internet access (much to Kristen's delight I might add).

And, if you are wondering why I was terminated, I have no clue as to which Instagram term of use I violated.  Nor has  Instagram responded to my query (nor has Facebook for that matter).

Herewith, I give you #theTravelingKristen (last seen on July 9th on Instagram).

Seattle


@nel234 #thetravelingkristen #Seattle
#thetravelingKristen #thebluebear #Seattle #lovetravel #publicart #graffiti
Alaska
@nel234 #thetravelingkristen #loveAlaska #lovetravel #thebluebear
#PublicArt #Graffiti #thebluebear #thetravelingkirsten #lovetravel #loveAlaska #craftbeer #sohappy #foundart

@nel234 #thetravelingkristen #loveAlaska #lovetravel #thebluebear
#thetravelingkristen #publicart #murals #Seward #loveAlaska #lovetravel #ontheroad #motorcycle #fishing

@nel234 #thetravelingkristen #loveAlaska #lovetravel #thebluebear
#Seward #Murals #PublicArt #thetravelingkristen #lovetravel #loveAlaska

@nel234 #thetravelingkristen #loveAlaska #lovetravel #thebluebear
#airstream #publicart #graffiti #fishing #Seward #thebluebear #thetravelingkristen #lovetravel #lovealaska

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Seattle Blue


Mount Rainier, Seattle, WA
Mt Rainier and A Couple of Sports Arenas

It’s the third day of my great Alaskan adventure with my niece Kristen.   The adventure was a present to Kristen before she heads off to college.  Her honorary aunt Donna outfitted her with all sorts of things  -- including knee high bamboo socks, which I can hardly wait to see.  We just spent two days in Seattle – acclimating to West Coast time and taking in some of the city sights.

Space Needle, Seattle, WA
Space Needle from Below
I’ve been chronicling our journey on Instagram at #thetravelingkristen and #thebluebear (when the blue bear is in a photo a that is).  So far, we have discerned that Kristen manages her iPhone power better than I do OR that the 4S just eats more power than the 4.  I guess that’s why I’m carrying heavy battery packs around.  We hunkered down at the Sorrento Hotel for our Seattle sojourn.  Great little hotel – out of the fray of both the tourist hot spots (water front, public market) and business district (convention center). 

Our first stop in Seattle was to take in the Chihuly Museum and the Space Needle.   The Chihuly was nothing short of amazing with every room a glowing gem unto itself.  I included some photos from our visit in my last post – Vacation Mode.  The café was closed because they were filming a commercial – looked like it was a wedding and quite a production for a commercial if you ask me.  Lots of trucks, lots of key grips, lots of wedding extras.  All on a hot, humid evening in Seattle. 

After the museum, we headed up to Sky City for an early dinner.  If you figure that your ticket to go up in the elevator costs you $19/person, dinner at Sky City is quite a bargain.  The best parts of the meal?  The space needle pasta and the ice cream cooled by liquid nitrogen.  And, yes, all you Chopped and would be Iron Chef’s, liquid nitrogen does add a lot of drama to a dish.  The meal paled in comparison to the views from the restaurant.  The restaurant does a full rotation once very 47 minutes and we took it all in from our birds eye view over the city of Seattle.
 
Port, Seattle, Shipping, WA
Seattle is a Port
The next day brought a trip out to the Boeing Factory for a tour.  All I can say is wow.  Sadly, I have nary a picture of the factory floor to post given that they don’t permit cell phones OR cameras.  And, I had forgotten to purchase spy glasses (dang!).  They need to protect their trade secrets – or (more importantly), the people on the factory floor from getting hit by dropped objects.  It is quite amazing to
watch Boeing put planes together and we saw three different assembly lines from the viewing platforms that sit above the factory floor.  The factory itself is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest building by cubic volume in the world.  The last line was for the newest plane in the Boeing line --- costing just over $200 million (without the engines) – the 787.   Boeing makes parts of this plane in other countries and flies them in on its dream liner.  Not to wax rhapsodic or anything but the whole interior of the plane can be customized; the windows are bigger (not picture windows mind you), and you can control the color of the glass with a touch of your button (think transitions lenses on eyeglasses).  Both LAN and British Airways are flying these babies – just may have to take an excursion to Chile or London.

The Seattle Underground tour followed hard on the heels of Boeing.  This tour took us down under Pioneer Square for a walk through, well, hmm, what are currently the equivalent of old cellars and and storage areas.  The tour is the brain child of Bill Speidel who started it in order to save the old Victorian buildings that comprise the historic district.  The current day tour is a well-oiled commercial enterprise.  The guides do a great job with their well-rehearsed spiel and we easily whiled away 75 minutes taking pictures and listening to the stories of how Seattle burned and was rebuilt.  Who knew that one could do a controlled mudslide.

Slightly exhausted, we walked over to the Public Market in time to catch some fish throwing and before the vegetable and fruit stands closed up. 


A half hour later we were armed with “berry” tomatoes (the sweetest tomatoes ever grown), fresh cherries, awesome cheese, and fudge for dessert.   The best meal of the trip in Kristen’s opinion!  I couldn’t agree more.

#BusterSimpson, #publicart, Seattle, WA
Buster Simpson - Laundry as Art
Fish at the Public Market, Seattle, WA
Fish at the Public Market

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Vacation Mode


Maybe the first sign of vacation mode is when your mind goes so completely blank that you can’t remember all the really cool things you thought you wanted to write about.  Well, I can remember them; they just don’t seem worthy of a whole post so here is a random smattering of thoughts written well on a plane from NYC to Seattle accompanied by photos from today's excursion to the Chihuly Museum.

#Chihuly, #Seattle #ChihulyMuseum

Instagram:  Love it.  I think it is the most fun of all the social media platforms I’ve been playing with – or on – since joining Facebook.  So many great photographers, so many beautiful images, and now video - what’s not to like?  

 Game of Thrones:  The perfect saga to read slowly over time.  If you tackle it, keep in mind that all characters appear to be disposable.  Indeed, some are so one dimensional that one wonders why they are even in the book.  Oh, wait, I know.  Someone has to die periodically to keep things interesting.

#Chihuly, #Seattle #ChihulyMuseum

Getting out of Central Park:  I’ve committed to getting out of Central Park every once and a while for forays to other parts of New York City.  It’s been fun and I’ve chronicled some of my excursions in Expedition KeithHaring, Art. Sofa. Rope., and A Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge.  In the process, I’ve seen some of the great public art that graces New York City including the summer 2013 installation at Rockefeller Center, Human Nature and the Noguchi cube in lower Manhattan.  

Canon or Nikon:  I am an Olympus girl, have been since forever but it may be time for an upgrade and I’m thinking of switching.  Maybe a better way of putting it is that I’m thinking of adding to my camera collection since the “time for an upgrade” is a bit of a mind game I’ve been playing with myself.   The reality is that the only thing the Olympus does not do well is low light.  This makes it not the ideal camera to take with you to photograph, let’s say, the Aurora Borealis.  Not that I have a trip to photograph the Aurora Borealis planned but one never knows.

#Chihuly, #Seattle #ChihulyMuseum

The #Bergdorf Mannequins:  I’m still waiting for some sign that David Hoey over at Bergdorf’s actually read That Place between Youth and Scattered Ashes (on GeriPal)  about how cool it would be if the mannequins in the #Bergdorf windows showed some diversity in terms of age and functional ability.  So far, the only sign that he might have heard about the post was a quote from him that was up on Facebook on the same day that I went live on GeriPal:  “The Mannequins are Sacrosanct.”  That is unless they are headless as is often the case.  The demographics are on my side on this one and I’ll just keep patiently waiting – it’s not like I mind stalking the #Bergdorf windows or anything. 

#thebluebear: Alice, a friend and colleague brought me a miniature of the Blue Bear sculpture that gazes down into the Denver Convention Center.  I have been having fun photographing him and posting to Instagram (#iameasilyamused).  So much fun in fact, that #thebluebear is coming to Alaska with me to continue on his #thebluebearadventures.  I can still see my brother Peter scratching his head as he posed with a Barbie doll at the Grand Canyon and saying “and Mom thinks I’m the crazy one.”

#CandyCrushSaga:  Stuck on level 159 for two weeks now.  Argh.

#Chihuly, #Seattle #ChihulyMuseum

#Ispeakinhashtags:   I am surprised that none of my friends have drawn an analogy between speaking in #hashtags and #speakingintongues.  After all, they are both an involuntary manifestation of being taken over by spirits.  In the case of #ispeakinhashtags, it is the spirit of the medium.  No, not the medium of many a séance but rather the social media medium.  #Twitter, #Instagram both demand some versatility with hash tags and now Facebook does too.  Soon we’ll all be speaking in run on sentences with no punctuation!

And that, my friends, is that for this particular post which is being written somewhere over the United States as my niece Kristen and I hurtle towards our grand Alaskan adventure.  But, first a few days in Seattle as a warm up and to accommodate a visit to…

The Boeing Plant:  Since I will probably never make it to the Paris air show, this is the next best thing.  It’s a tour of the Boeing plant – so big that I’ve heard that the employees ride bikes from one end to the other.  Should be fun! 

#Chihuly, #Seattle #ChihulyMuseum