Friday, 10 December 2010

Hipstamatic vs Instagram - FIGHT!

Well I see that Hipstamatic has been named by Apple as the iPhone app of the year, even though Instagram is the retro photo app that everyone is talking about and, more importantly, using.

Hipstamatic and a slew of similar apps have been written-off by several sniffy photographer types as 'the comic sans of photography'. I kinda know what they mean.

On the one hand, these apps give any old novice iPhone owner the chance to create and share nostalgic looking square-framed photos with the minimum of effort. They spend a fraction of the time a professional photographer might spend trying to achieve similar (although obviously much more worthy!) shots. Trouble is, so many people are using the same apps with the same limited range of filters, that everyone's pics all begin to resemble everyone else's... sort of dumbing down the whole effect... hence the 'comic sans' slur.

Either way, given that the best camera is the one you have with you, the outcome of all this is that, of the millions of digital snaps taken on iPhones each day, an increasingly large proportion of them are at least beginning to look a little bit considered and, er, interesting.

As for, Hipstamatic, well, I have the app along with most of the in-app purchased lenses, films and flash-guns, but, to be honest, I rarely use it. Why?

Well, to be honest,I find it faffy and a little contrived. The whole 1970's Instamatic camera ruse makes the whole thing slow, clunky and hard to use. The excruciating wait whilst 'prints' are 'developed' only adds to the frustration.

By the time you've got to the sharing options in Hipstamatic, well... can you be bothered?

Now with Instagram, only a few short weeks on the App Store, there are even fewer filters available with which to achieve your effects... doubtless more will come, but does it really matter? Not really, because Instagram is not really competing head-on with photo-effect apps such as Hipstamatic.

For me Instagram is social network first, camera app second.

When I first started using Instagram I didn't bother creating a network within it, likening it to Location check-in apps like Foursquare and Gowalla within which you can build a somewhat pointless personal network. Why pointless? Well, more often than not, important check-ins will be shared with your Twitter and Facebook networks which, for many people, are much more established and important.

So, I thought, I don't need another redundant network within Instagram, when the app makes it so easy to share photos on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. This is when I realised that Instagram isn't competing with camera apps. The social network drives the whole thing, and whilst sharing across your favourite, established social sites is easy and important, nurturing an interesting network within the Instagram app itself is very rewarding.

Checking your feed, you'll see the latest shots from the contacts you follow and have the opportunity to comment on or 'like' their work, as well as reading and responding to comments from your own followers (notification that 'you've got comments' is a missing feature... expect it'll show up in a future release).

You can look at the most popular Instagram pictures too and it's here that you realise that many users seem to be playing the numbers game by creating vast networks. This 'gaming' of Instagram could make the whole experience somewhat joyless, as myexperience is that networks of sub-100 followers tend to encourage more conversation and community. I'm not averse to growing my network a little larger (certainly larger than the 50 limit insisted upon by even newer social photo app Path... which I don't understand either) but I'm not in a race.

I should say that there has also been some discussion within Instagram about whether photos created outside of the app should be allowed on the 'most popular' list.

This is because the app lets you select photos from iPhone library for upload, any of which can be take with other apps, other cameras or even be saved from elsewhere on the web.

Driving this discussion was a concern that people may be stealing other people's copyright images in order to get themselves onto the 'most popular' list. I'm sure at least one or two of the thousands of Instagram users have tried this. I haven't and neither would I.

However, I have used images taken by myself in other apps and using other cameras. Some of these I have edited in other apps before importing them into Instagram. Others, I have post-edited in Instagram itself before sharing. These, are my own work and a reserve the right to share them.

So there you have it. Turns out I had much more to say on Hipstamatic vs Instagram than I thought I did.

Do you use either of these apps? Which do you prefer? Why?

Does anyone prefer Path?

Top Ten Tracks of 2010

I'm conscious that this list of the best tracks of 2010 looks as if it was compiled by a different person to the one who put out an albums of the year list earlier on.

Well, I make no apologies.

Here is my list, in reverse:

7. Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit)
6. Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand
5. Cheryl Cole - Promise This
3. The Fall - Bury! PTS 2+4
2. Cee-Lo Green - Fuck You

1. Katy Perry - Firework

Top Ten Albums of 2010

In my head I'd put The Unthanks' Here's The Tender Coming as my Album of the Year for 2009. Looking back, I'd actually put it third, with Fever Ray and The xx above it. I'd probably swap them around now with hindsight.

Overall though, I was much more convinced by my Top Ten for last year than I am by this year's, other than my Number One.

Other than my definitive number one, Agnes Obel, these albums could be in any order.

Anyway, here goes, in reverse:

10. Sleigh Bells - Treats
9. Teeth Of the Sea - Your Mercury
8. Smoke Fairies - Through Low Light and Trees
7. Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In
5. Tracey Thorn - Love and its Opposite
4. Jane Weaver - The Fallen By Watchbird
3. Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy
2. Max Essa - Continental Drift

1. Agnes Obel - Philharmonics

As suggested by @futurebehaviour, here is a single Spotify playlist of my Top 10. Tracey Thorn's album isn't on Spotify for some reason, despite the fact that the singles drawn from it are, so I've included them instead.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Lost Art

When I'm not working on my work laptop which lives behind a corporate firewall and allows me to access internal systems and services, I'm usually using my iPad.

In pre-iPad days, I'd generally be found using one of several PCs around the place, desktop, laptop, netbook etc. Now, other for than specific tasks, they're generally gathering dust as I try to maximise my use of the iPad.

The iPad has changed my behaviour, changed my consumption habits and expenditure patterns. It has provided me with new ways to carry out all of the important things I used to do on different machines.

In the main, these new ways of working represent a distinct improvement on what went before. One changed behaviour which I regret though is the gradual tapering-off of my blogging habit.

Yes, yes,I know there are blogging apps available for the iPad, but they are all flawed. Usually, if you are able to attach a photo to your post at all, it'll be dumped somewhere incongruous in the post, which will be sprawled or centred in some bizarre machine font.

Not good.

By the time you've got on a PC to correct the mess, people have read it and gone away, thinking you're a complete amateur.

So, after a long lay-off, I'm blogging on PC for a while. Good idea?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

One Tool To Rule Them All?

Lost something?

I don't know about you, but depending which PC, mobile device, app, or website I happen to be using I end up saving interesting items in different places depending one what's available...

I might add something to my Twitter favourites, add a social bookmark to Delicious, create an Evernote entry, or save it to either ReadItLater or Instapaper... all great cloud-based products, but then I can never find what I need....

Isn't it time for one tool to rule them all and aggregate all my stuff together via search?

Am I missing something?

Photo Credit: Jannem (cc)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Dear Prudence

I've disciplined myself to using Spotify for my music acquisition needs, reducing my average spend on music from about £120 every couple of months to £120 per year.

Using Spotify lets me listen to the new releases I would have bought as well as those I might well have dithered over. My overall music consumption in term of listening, rather than purchasing, is well up. What's more, I'm no longer shackled with the guilt of not listening to a new record more than once. Similarly, I can take a listen to the latest critically lauded releases without having to fork out for them or the necessity of having to ever listen to them again.

Not quite all new releases are available on Spotify, but it picks up most things, even many of the rarer 12" single and edits I was paying up to £10 for on vinyl. I'm better off and better informed. I make notes (in Evernote) of interesting reviews from online newspapers and magazines, from retailers recommendations and from social word of mouth and then go track them down.

A little discipline has now become a fun routine. All my stuff is available on the move and available to stream throughout the house.

It works... I'm sure someone somewhere is losing out... but let's be honest, making music is cheap and easy and there is more and more and more available all around us in every micro-genre.

The Spotify stuff I supplement with great live and session stuff from places like DayTrotter, Wolfgang's Vault and the great NPR iPad app, as well as from an endless array of Internet radio stations. Hell, I even get an old CD of LP of the shelf and play it now and again.

Having forced myself to get over the need to have packaging that I can touch, read and put on a shelf to gather dust, I can't see myself going back. I don't consume pirated tunes, all my listening is legit. I've reduced my listening costs by about 90% whilst increasing the amount I actually listen to by a similar amount.

Everyone can be an artist if they want, from DIY chillwave to queueing up for X Factor... Who's lost out? Where is the leak?

By the way, I'm just listening to the new Elvis Costello record on Spotify. If I'd purchased the CD I'd feel some sort of personal obligation to listen to it again. Thankfully, I don't have to.

Location:Attercliffe Common,,United Kingdom

Saturday, 4 September 2010

3 Things I Learned Today

1. Trainers tossed over a telephone wire means "the drugs have arrived"

2. Fireworks in the middle of the daytime means "the drugs have arrived"

3. Teeth marks in rubber playground swings means roughnecks have been training their pit-bulls to maul.

Pic credit - Chris Devers (cc)

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Well I had completely forgotten that I'd set up this catch-all blog, but it might be useful for a little project I'm kicking off to restart my writing engine, having had a little time off.

The picture, by the way, is a little shop in the small fishing village of Moelfre on the island of Anglesey of the north-west coast of Wales. I tinkered with the colours in the Colour Splash app and then sorted out the appropriate border effect in Camera+.