Micro Posts

6th September 2022

After some tweaking (which I will go into more technical detail in a later post), I've managed to add support for micro posts here on this blog.

Essentially, they're posts without a title. But they're usually the length of a tweet. So think more of a status update, or a small link, than a blog post.

These will start to appear on the website amongst the normal blog posts. But to keep the feed clean, I've decided to exclude these from the primary RSS feed.

However, I have added two new feed URLs, just in case you want to also add these micro posts to your RSS reader. The full list is now:

To top it off, these micro posts will also syndicate to Micro.blog. And thanks to the magic of Micro.blog, they will appear directly on the timeline as if it was written there directly.

Just to be clear, if you're currently subscribed to my RSS feed, you won't start getting my micro posts. But if you do want them, then feel free to choose one of the feeds above. Otherwise, they'll just be hanging out on the website.

The Friction of Security

23rd August 2022

Manton Reece:

I continue to think that my devices are now too secure. Face ID shouldn’t freak out multiple times a day, requiring a pin. Safari shouldn’t scrap cookies every week, requiring needless extra web sign-ins. Any security beyond unlocking my Mac is usually unnecessary friction.

I have to agree. While there are obvious benefits to security, the balance between being useful and just getting in the way, and adding more friction some times can feel a little off. Especially when you typically have to use some form of biometric authentication to even access a device.

Nick Heer:

I get why some of these measures are in place, particularly as tracking cookies are concerned. But I wish there were a way to simply tell my computer that I — me, Nick Heer — am sitting in front of it and have all the doors opened and locks unlocked without further inquiry.

A lot of friction would certainly be removed if that was possible.

I’m assuming that passkeys will help this issue in the future. But I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly complex problem to solve with what’s available right now. What annoys me the most is when websites suddenly forget who you are, even though you clicked “Remember me”, and the website surely storing a cookie on your device. It doesn’t seem wild to me, to have these cookies last just a bit longer?

Experimenting with DALL-E Image Generation

16th August 2022

I got access to DALL-E[1] the other day, which, of course, meant that I had to experiment with it straight away.

I did start a Twitter thread showing all of my generated images, but I thought it would also be good to post them here.

So after using my first 20 credits, here's what I came up with.

You will need to click on each image to see the full-size version. (I didn't want to auto-load >100MB)

First of all, I thought I'd start with something fun:

"A grassy landscape showing a Pikachu in its natural habitat

I got four images as usual, but I also decided to generate three more variations to see what that was like.

After that, I was thinking about creating some futuristic cities with trains (I'm a big fan). It didn't go how I planned but still went okay.

"A realistic photo of a planet where trains are the only mode of transport"

Then there were a few more revisions as I tried to figure out how to get what I wanted.

"A realistic photo of a city where trains are the only mode of transport and nature is abundant"

"A realistic photo of a futuristic city where trains are the only mode of transport and nature is abundant"

After a few changes, I finally came up with something close to what I had in mind.

"A futuristic city where trains are the only mode of transport and nature is abundant, digital art"

Once I had a bit of experience, I decided to go back to Pikachu.

"A macro photo of a realistic pikachu in a realistic landscape with a shallow depth of field, digital art"

Kevin Wammer asked if it knew about the Steam Deck, so I tried two descriptions out. I'm not sure they really worked.

"an abstract painting of a steam deck, digital art"

"an synthwave style image of the steam deck games console, digital art"

Then skateboarding came to mind.

"an abstract painting in a synthwave style of a skateboarder doing a kickflip over a set of stairs in a lush futuristic city, digital art "

"A 3D render of a skateboarder doing a kickflip over a set of stairs in a lush futuristic city, digital art "

Of course, I had to then add in Pikachu.

"A photo of pikachu doing a kickflip on a skateboard in london"

After that point, it really was a bit random. I was thinking about green cities, Pokemon, and cats, and I think you'll find the odd one out that came from my girlfriend (bubble tea).

"A photo of a futuristic city full of nature where Pokémon roam free, digital art"

"a photo of london in the year 3000 except there are no cars and it is full of nature, digital art"

"a photo of a cat on a boat drinking bubble tea"

"a photo of a cat travelling to a lost city on a boat going through a river in a jungle, digital art"

"an oil painting of a cat travelling to a lost city on a boat going through a river in a jungle during golden hour, digital art"

"an oil painting of a group of animals resting by an open fire in a lost city in a jungle with a river, digital art"

"a photo of a group of animals resting by an open fire in a lost city in a jungle with a river, digital art"

"A Charmander sat on a tree stump in the middle of an open woodland at golden hour, digital art"

I think it's clear the images were getting better as I started to work out the type of language needed. I prefer the last few scenes myself, and I was surprised to see how they turned out. I'm definitely going to be playing with this again soon, but maybe after I've read a bit more about it, and try to come up with more advanced generations.

  1. A new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language ↩︎

Adding Comments

16th August 2022

As you may or may not know, this blog runs on Ghost. Well, Ghost has just added support for comments, so I decided to add them to my blog.

I've went through various phases in the past where I've had comments enabled/disabled on my blog, but I think with Ghost's implementation, it shouldn't have too many downsides.

The main factor being that you need to be a member to write a comment. Not a paid member. But you will need to sign up with a name and email address to write any comments.

However, I'm not going to think twice about removing comments or even disabling the feature entirely, if the conversations are irrelevant, toxic, or attract spam.

If you want to write a comment on a post, then you'll see a "Member discussion" section at the bottom of each post page (not on the main list of posts). You'll either get a text field to write a comment, or they'll be a link to either sign up for a free account, or to log in.

So starting from now, if you want to reply a to a post I've written, or maybe you have some extra information or context, please feel free to leave a comment.

My New (Old) Camera

12th August 2022

It’s a rather odd story, but I’m now in possession of a Minolta Maxxum 3xi camera. It’s an autofocus film SLR, launched in 1991, and from what I’ve managed to find online, it was the lowest range camera of it’s series[1].

Not that the quality of this camera matters too much. I’ve been shooting with a Dubblefilm SHOW 35mm film camera recently, which is essentially a toy camera. So, I’m not exactly one for having the best gear, or even taking it too seriously.

As for how I’m now in possession of the camera, that story actually begins around the year 2000 in Disneyland[2] in Florida. When, according to my girlfriend, she was on holiday and found a stray camera with no owners. And after having no luck finding who owned it, decided to take it home with them. I think then it was passed from her nan to her parents, who were just about to take it to a charity shop, before my girlfriend intervened and said that I would be interested in using it.

I was definitely interested. As I’ve wanted to get a new film camera for a while, although I was thinking of a manual SLR. Mainly because I didn’t know this type of autofocus SLR existed. And to be honest, this is probably the ideal film camera for me at the moment. I’m pretty sure that if I was using a manual film camera, then 99% of the shots would be absolutely horrendous. At least the camera is doing a bit of the work for me.


Anyway, I ordered a new battery for the camera[3], which has arrived today, and the shot counter is already at 14. Those could have been taken any time in the past 20-25 years, so it will certainly be interesting to see what was captured. I’m also going to use the rest of the film myself, which may also produce weird results, as I assume the film is at least 22 years old.

I already have one roll of 35mm film waiting to be developed, so once I’ve finished the current roll in my SHOW camera, and the one in this 3xi, I’ll send them all off to be developed[4]. If they’re any good, or spectacularly bad, I’ll be posting them here on my blog. So stay tuned!

  1. Read a few more details on Camera Wiki. ↩︎

  2. I know it’s probably not actually called Disneyland, probably Disney World or Disney Resort or whatever, but they’re all Disneyland to me. ↩︎

  3. It was a very strange battery as well, a 2CR5, which looks very much like 2 AA batteries joined together. ↩︎

  4. I’ll use Analogue Wonderland who I also purchased my film from. If you use that link and make a purchase, you'll also get a free roll of Kentmere 400 35mm film apparently. ↩︎

"Creating Content"

29th July 2022

I've always hated the word "content", or at least when it's used in the context of a "content-creator". I assume people use the term to refer to any output that their work may produce, such as a piece of writing, a photo, podcast, episode, etc. But when I hear the word "content" being used, I think of something ephemeral, something that is designed to be consumed and forgotten about in a few hours.

Charlie Sorrel seems to think similarly, and explains why words like "content" and "produce", diminish your work:

“Content” is what marketing folks, or platform builders, call video, music, text, and so on. For them, songs, movies, and stories are equal, interchangeable units, the purpose of which is to fill up their online stores.

When an artist describes their work as “content,” they belittle the work itself. By referring to their creations in the terms of marketers and salespersons, they reduce it to a widget on a production line. Meanwhile, they reduce their own role to that of a factory worker, a cog that keeps the vending machine full.

Musicians call their work songs. Writers write poems or stories or articles, and so on. A painter paints a picture, and a filmmaker shoots a movie. They don’t “produce content”.

A factory worker, that's the metaphor that I've been trying to think of myself. That's what I see a content creator as.

Am I a content creator? I'm sure someone could argue that. I have various blogs, and multiple outlets for my photos, so you could say that as a result of my efforts, I am creating things. But I think it's much more honest and accurate to say that I write and take photos.

If you just produce content, what does that say about your intentions? What does it say about how you see your potential audience? Are you simply feeding a content machine, or do you actually want to produce something valuable, for yourself, and an audience?

More Thoughts and Links on Instagram's Switch to Focus on Video

29th July 2022

I wrote about Instagram yesterday and how I think there will be a new dominant photo-sharing platform soon, and quite a few others seem to have Instagram on their minds too. Probably because of the Kardashian's/Jenner's posts, the Change.org petition, the push to video, etc.

Firstly, Casey Newton wrote about Instagram in his Platformer newsletter, where he talked about how Instagram are reversing some of their recent changes, and also shares the transcript of an interview he had with Adam Mosseri, the Instagram CEO:

Instagram will walk back some recent changes to the product following a week of mounting criticism, the company said today. A test version of the app that opened to full-screen photos and videos will be phased out over the next one to two weeks, and Instagram will also reduce the number of recommended posts in the app as it works to improve its algorithms.

“I'm glad we took a risk — if we're not failing every once in a while, we're not thinking big enough or bold enough,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said in an interview. “But we definitely need to take a big step back and regroup. [When] we've learned a lot, then we come back with some sort of new idea or iteration. So we're going to work through that.”

The changes come amid growing user frustration over a series of changes to Instagram designed to help it better compete with TikTok and navigate the broader shift in user behavior away from posting static photos toward watching more video.

Nick Heer at Pixel Envy, also wrote about the decision to reverse the latest changes, along with some thoughts on Meta:

[...] look at the past few weeks of Meta news and it seems like the company has zero idea of what to do or why people use its products. It made drastic unlikable changes to Instagram; its leadership is panicking over TikTok; its latest public demonstration of its metaverse future is embarrassing and its educational value is less justified than the VR headset in a thirty year old Simpsons clip. Do these decisions look like the product of a focused company that has near-term goals for its future and innovative ideas beyond that? I am not saying Meta is dead in the water, but it sure looks like it is struggling to define what its future looks like for the next few years.

I must admit, when I wrote my thoughts yesterday about Instagram, I wasn't including the context of it being a part of Meta. And I think a lot of the problems probably stem from the constant engagement chasing and a seeming anxiety about every other platform on the internet.

Greg Morris, wrote about the platform from the perspective of a photographer:

So, where does this leave photos. As a photographer, I wholeheartedly believe that Meta does not give a damn about photos. It is a legacy which they would get rid of if they could. All the surrounding words were half-hearted and stale. Using words like “continuing to support photos” without actually showing any excitement or reassurances to those that are left out.

[..] Adam pointed out that even if they don't change anything else, more and more videos are being shared and that’s what the users like. This may be the case, but you only have to look at the volume of users that have to post videos to get the engagement they used to. My evidence is of course anecdotal, but I have not met a simple photographer that posts a Reel apart from that they have to, or they lose work.

It's probably obvious, but I would say that photographers will be some of the first people to switch to another platform. Especially since there's now a great platform for photographers in Glass. However, until there is a new Instagram-like platform where everyone can share and view photos, I would expect at least some kind of presence on Instagram would be needed for photographers trying to gain more exposure and potential clients.

Matt Birchler also seems to agree that the best place right now for photographers is Glass:

All this said, I think that people see Instagram and think their goal is to be the best place for sharing photos online, but I think that their ultimate goal is to be the place people spend the most time consuming visual content, and they will chase whatever trends they need to stave off competitors who challenge them. They started with photos, but their hart clearly isn't in them anymore.

If you want to use a social photography app, then Glass is the current leader in my book.

I think this is the main problem. Instagram just isn't a photo-sharing platform anymore. You could say it's evolved, although I'd argue that it's simply reacting to every other online social platform, but nevertheless, it's changing to a more video-focussed platform. And while photographers won't like that, given what Instagram used to be, it's not as if we're being forced to stay.

I Think There Will Be a New Dominant Photo-Sharing Platform Soon

28th July 2022

This is primarily a feeling that I have, based on my experiences, and what I’ve seen both on social media, and from other people. So don’t expect any scientific studies or extensive market research. But for a few years, Instagram has clearly been getting worse as a platform.

I have no idea why Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) keeps posting his rants on Twitter where he tries to explain that clearly everything they're doing is what users want. I know it’s unreasonable, and probably stupid, to keep Instagram how it was originally without ever trying to improve the platform. However, for an app that most people use as a social network to communicate and to share photos and videos, they sure have gone about it in the most complicated way.

They eventually removed IGTV, which was essentially just another type of video. But now along with the content on your Feed, and ephemeral content posted to your Stories, there are Reels. Which is their attempt at capturing users back from TikTok, where you have an endless stream of algorithmically selected content. Just how Stories was them doing the same thing to Snapchat.

When you’re scrolling on your Instagram Feed, instead of it being a list of content from people that you follow, you’ve also got sponsored posts, recommended posts from people you don’t follow, products that are for sale, people you should follow, and a few reels sprinkled about. There doesn’t seem to be much difference nowadays between your Feed and the Explore section.

Anyway, I think it’s clear now what my thoughts are on Instagram. And I’m sure there are plenty of other people that have been feeling the same for a while. However, more recently, I’ve noticed muggles “normal” people starting to grow a bit tired with Instagram’s self-bastardisation. Where their main goal is engagement, not a good service, just “how can we get more people’s eyes looking at our app for longer periods of time”.

There are two apps I’ve personally noticed people using recently to share photos with friends. The first one being Dispo, which I used a while ago, and just played with again today. I know it used to be about “living in the moment”, as you’d choose a camera (essentially a filter or style), and then took your photos, which you’d then have to wait until the next morning as they were “developing”. From what I’ve seen, they have also expanded this to become also a photo sharing platform, with a simple feed of your photos, more camera effects, and also an instant “develop” feature. I think it’s clear they want to try to poke their nose in a potential Instagram-sized hole at some point.

The second app I’ve seen grow recently is BeReal. Which is based on an interesting concept, where everyday everyone on the platform is notified at the same time to capture and share a photo of them in that moment. You get a 2 minute window to post what you’re up to, and you can only view other people’s photos once you have shared your own. Although you can capture a photo after the time, it will just have a “posted 2 hours late” mark on it. I don’t think this will replace Instagram, in a way where it does the same thing. But I certainly think it will start to grab people's attention away from Instagram, and this may be some people’s platform where they share their life with friends and family. Similar to how Snapchat isn’t an Instagram clone, but that certainly has its own place in the world.

I have to also give a mention to Glass, which is a (paid) photo sharing platform. It’s probably the most essential version of Instagram. However, it’s specifically for photographers, so while I think it will grow, most people aren’t photographers.

I’ve been thinking for a while that there needs to be a new dominant photo-sharing service, but it’s definitely starting to feel like more people are thinking that way too. Although I doubt they’d use those words. Just ask the Kardashians and the backers of this Change.org petition.

When a Website Redesign Gets Out of Hand

22nd July 2022

Michael Lynch on his experience using an agency to redesign his business' website:

Two years ago, I created a website for my business. By combining my terrible design skills with a decent-looking template, I created a site that looked okay. I told myself that if the business took off, I’d hire a real designer to make it look professional.

A year later, the business was generating $45k/month in revenue, but my website still looked like a college student’s hobby project. It was time for that professional redesign I’d promised myself.

There were only three pages I cared about, so I expected the redesign would be straightforward. Maybe a few months and $15k.

[...] Except it didn’t take a few months and $15k. It took eight months, $46k, and a lot of headache.

Now that the project is over, I’m revisiting what mistakes I made that let this project spiral so far out of control.

It's a relatively long read, he has it marked as taking around 20 minutes, but it was a certainly a fascinating and insightful story.

Even though I don't run my business, or work for or with agencies, there's still a lot to be learned here about scope creep and producing actual value.