Yahoo! – Tumblr, Flickr and then some… ?

If you think Facebooks acquisition of Instagram involved an incredibly large amount of money, think again: As of yesterday, Yahoo! has announced to acquire Tumblr for an amount of money even larger. Things to follow are more or less as expected: Y!’s Marissa Mayer promises to not screw things up and some sites, such as wordpress.com, obviously sees the first users fleeing from Tumblr in course of that.

Hmmm. I am not sure what to think of that. Leaving the amounts of money involved here aside for a moment: I am curious to see how this will, in the end, turn out for both Yahoo! and Tumblr. Especially, I wonder whether it will keep running Tumblr the way it used to run by now, assuming that, these days, it seems Yahoo! is perceived by many as “just” a large corporate structure, and this also can be seen all along the lines of the Tumblr acquisition: In the past, many people (including myself) obviously used Tumblr as sort of a digital representation of a napkin for collecting images, snippets of text, quotes and anything else that in some way seemed worth noting or collecting. There wasn’t a real understanding of or identity associated with Tumblr, it just was “Tumblr”. By now, all of a sudden, it is next to Yahoo!, and the message that comes across is a whole load of analysts talking fuzz about Yahoo! utilizing Tumblr to “extend its service offerings to that younger target group so far attracted by Tumblr yet not reached by Yahoo!s other offerings” – yes, maybe Yahoo! will benefit from people perceiving Tumblr as “fresh”, “innovative” and “creative”; but maybe, worse, Tumblr will suffer from people perceiving Yahoo! as a business-first operation that didn’t feel “innovative” or “fresh” at all throughout at least half of the last decade..

In the end, it’s just guessing, and we’ll see what will happen to both. After all, if there’s anyone out there likely to push Yahoo! forth, it definitely might be Marissa Mayer. And, maybe, in the end, they’ll do well after all, as the Tumbl acquisition wasn’t the only thing that changed at Yahoo! yesterday: It seems that, without too much ado, Flickr has seen a major update technically, both the web version and at the very least the Android app (can’t comment on the iOS one). As to be expected, there’s already quite a dispute going on in the Flickr forums on whether this is or ain’t a good thing visually. In the end, it seems the first major update in quite a while, and by now it finally is on par with what other inferior photo sharing communities tend to offer these days. Visually well done, at least, and I am sure this way they got all it takes to attract new users.

Unfortunately, all along the way, they removed their original “Pro” / paid subscription model, turning it into an annual fee to “just” keep you from seeing any advertisement in your stream. I seriously hope this will see reconsideration as, before, “Pro” was all about paying for service and getting something in advance, and be that just for being a “paying customer” and not completely at the mercy of a commercial provider. I just refreshed Flickr Pro a while ago, and thought I’ll keep doing so in the future, too. Again I am unsure…

instagram on Android. And now?

So, here it is. After being highly anticipated for quite a while, the instagram folks a few days ago finally launched an Android version of their imaging / photosharing app so far only available for Apples iOS platform. As I am pretty much into using my Android phone for imaging, too, I couldn’t help having a look.

And, to cut things short and starting out conclusion first: Though Instagram (on Android) is nice, I so far failed to completely get what its “sweet spot” is all about. I am not completely sure why, but possibly, in the end, this is also caused by false expectations caused by seeing Instagram images floating around for quite a while yet never having worked with the tool so far, at all. So, just to pin down a few points:

  • First and foremost, my major misconception about this was that Instagram mainly is a camera / imaging app backed by a small photosharing site. After my first test-driving the platform, including posting few pictures, I came to the conclusion that it actually is exactly vice-versa: It’s a photosharing network accessible via a smartphone app that provides camera and some basic imaging functionalities as well. Generally, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I had something completely different in mind. So, by now, Instagram is not likely to have to compete with Autodesks Pixlr-O-Matic (my #1 imaging app on Android ever since), Magix’ Camera MX, smaller apps like FxCamera or LittlePhoto or paid ones like Vignette. No, it rather is likely to compete with the photo capturing and sharing facilities provided by apps like the official Twitter app, Snapbucket and, most specifically, Flickr. As stated, this is anything but bad, but of course it needs a bit reconsidering what use to make of it.
  • Especially comparing to the official Flickr application, I am a bit surprised: Though not offering magnitudes of additional features, the Instagram app is in any possible way bulkier, heavier than the Flickr one: Download of the Instagram app is at least four times the size of the Flickr one. Other than while using the Flickr app, Instagram seems to seriously eat system resources on my phone, and, by now, it also happens to be the first imaging app I ever used that made it into the percentual battery consumption statistics so indeed it seems a wholly different kind of beast on the phone. So far I blame this to being the very first version they do for Android, so maybe this is likely to change in the future.
  • With focussing on providing a social network backing the imaging stuff, it didn’t take me long to stumble across pages like this: “iPhone fanbois enraged by Instagram’s Android triumph”, which leaves me with a rather bad feeling about Instagram. So, is it actually Android folks now about to invade some sort of “elite” social network so far exclusively limited to iOS users? Well, I am sure by now there will be a wholly new load of users in and on Instagram, and so will be a whole new load of photos – some will be crap, some will be “good” in whichever way you might want to put it. But having all this tied to a special kind of device seems pointless, and from this point of view, I am glad to actually see there is an Android app. Which still, however, makes Instagram lag behind Flickr or the image sharing stuff in G+ or Twitter a bit (because in all of these platforms I am able to manage my timeline, pictures and all that using an ordinary desktop web browser, too, which is something Instagram either seems to missing or seems not to be all about, after all).
  • In some ways, I am a bit reluctant to having even another social network. I mean, after all, what about it? I’m on twitter, I am in G+, I do have accounts in most of the social networks you might imagine (yes, including tumblr), and by now once in a while I see all these networks sort of “partitioning the WWW” into a bunch of more or less disjoint subsystems, knowing that users in one of these networks do have difficulties communicating with users in other networks without too much effort. Sure, I can cross-post from tumblr to twitter, from Instagram to twitter, from Flickr to twitter and all that, but in the end, in most of these situations it’s “monodirectional”, as feedback (if any) ain’t posted back to where the content came. Using Instagram is likely to add even another “insulated” world with rules of its own.

So, ultimately, I think the Instagram folks technically have done a decent job providing the first version for Android, and I am glad they did. As far as I am concerned, I possibly just have to find a meaningful thing to do with Instagram, or eventually consider that staying out of this also might be a valid option (same as I stepped out of other platforms, like Path, for the same reason). We’ll see.

music to code to, #2: Blame and sounds of water

Depending upon the very mood, I am into different kinds of music throughout my (working) days, and for quite a while, all kinds of electronic stuff has been close to top my my list, including both a couple of more familiar names and stuff which might be considered pretty much “unknown” these days, for whichever reasons. Blame definitely belongs to the latter kind of artists on my list, a band/project I just discovered a couple of weeks ago and have been excessively listening to ever since. Based in Belgrad, Serbia, Blame so far has released two albums (“Water” and “Convergent Fields), both digitally available via the projects bandcamp.com page and (at least “Water”) as CD release as well.

water

I don’t think there’s really much needed to write about either of the two albums: Somehow, Blame mastermind Boris Posavec manages to find his musical way somewhere amidst Covenant (especially the “Sequencer” album), Angels And Agony, at times later Dust Of Basement releases and maybe a couple of other musicians in between dark electro, “future pop”, with an emphasis on “future” not “pop”, and the kind of music they have been selling us as “ebm” in the early 2000s. Down that road, Blame is pretty good at finding the right balance – creating dark, futuristic “soundscapes” which are accessible yet inspired, intense and strong without being overly aggressive or harsh (which goes for both the music and – male and female – vocals), musically somewhere near the artists mentioned above yet not just mere copies or clones of anything in existence, original throughout both albums yet filled with smaller pieces of reoccurring sounds, melodies, rhythms to create a certain musical identity amidst a genre which, these days, doesn’t really suffer from a lack of new album releases at least in quantity. All this is topped by a very strong production, an overall audio quality at least on par with some of todays major releases in this field of music.

Overally, both of the Blame albums are strongly recommended and, as far as I am concerned, one of the most interesting discoveries in this field of music in the last years. And, given the albums are freely available, checking out this music is almost mandatory if your musical collection and/or musical interests span any of the bands or genres mentioned earlier. Of course, though, you are encouraged to eventually buy them through bandcamp.com or any of the other sites offering CDs or MP3s – supporting great artists is more than ever of importance in days in which it seems the market still is being flooded with large amounts of low quality releases each and every month.

Recommended songs and links

a strange kind of cross-over: Botany Bay – “grounded”

Wow, looking at the timestamp of the last entry, it seems it’s been a while, vacations and project business included, since I wrote anything here. Anyway: As a regular follower / user of jamendo, I am by now pretty much used to stumbling across new and interesting music and average quality on jamendo.com seems pretty high which is a good thing. However, even given this high level of quality, once in a while there are albums, bands that just excel, either because of being especially original, or because of being especially good at what they do, or because, for reasons unknown, their music just works out. Been browsing and searching for some darker, noisy electronica a while ago, I eventually found “Grounded” by German trip-hop-world-music-electronic-jazz-whatever “crossover” twopiece Botany Bay. Listened to it once on my mp3 player, listened to it a second and third time while in car, and eventually kinda fell in love with the music on it, although it actually seems nowhere next to what I am usually listening to, at the moment…

I don’t know… it just worked out. No matter whether talking about instrumental or vocal performance (both male and female, even though I prefer the tracks sung by Laura), production, song writing, the video clips they did so far or (cover/booklet) artwork, the album to me is on an exceptionally high level of quality – way better than just “garage band” and like some of the releases to be found “on-line” today, in some respects even better than records to be found in regular CD stores sold by major record companies.

Adding to this, however… but even more, it just works… the music sounds and feels pure to the core, one literally can hear the musicians are pretty honest about what they are doing, and they are pretty effective at creating songs and sonic landscapes reaching one even without actually knowing why: Listening to the album on a grey autumn morning, it’s not just listening to the songs but rather being surrounded by the music, feeling it, eventually breathing it, and, eventually, when Laura starts singing “Tu m’as dit” (my French is way too limited to get the meaning of the title or even the lyrics, however), one knows this album, even though it might not work out in all situations, has found its way to the shelf of all-time favorites pretty quickly. Maybe, from an effectiveness point of view, this is the best an album eventually can achieve. Knowing the album is released under CC BY-NC-ND ;), giving it a closer look (listen?) won’t hurt or cost much except for a download, so maybe this is the first and foremost thing to do in order to start discovering the world of Botany Bay.

By the way seeing the “Old Men With Ballpoint Pens” clip and reading some of the (German) blog posts related to internet culture and censorship in Germany, it is pretty good to see that, while being focused on music, the two people in BB aren’t limited to it. Really enjoyed discovering this ambitious, inspiring band.

Links

[german]’zeitgeisty’: Community für freie Lizenzen?[/german][english]’zeitgeisty’: free licenses community?[/english]

[english]Creative Commons licenses have been around for quite a while now, and by now there also is quite a bunch of followers who believe in the idea of using free licenses for publishing self-made content. Unfortunately, the existence of “free licenses” by now still is next to unknown among “mainstream” computer users, same as most of the legal aspects of licenses itself, and this is considerably bad given that by now more and more people start uploading photos, videos, music, … using platforms like Flickripernity, deviantArt or youtube without second thought about rights and licenses, without second thought on what possibly happens to their works after they just uploaded it. There is a bunch of reasons for that, I guess, ranging from lack of knowledge to total ignorance in days of “plug-and-play” (‘just switch off your brain, everything’s just a click away…’). For those not knowing yet interested, zeitgeisty by now has started in order to get the idea of free licenses to the masses, by both providing comments, hints and explanations as well as by trying to get actions and events planned and done to spread the idea of “free licenses” among computer and internet users on- as well as offline. Seems to be a rather good thing to me, especially because I am also using a CreativeCommons license for content published here and in the pictorial… ;)[/english]
[german]CreativeCommons-Lizenzen gibt’s schon seit einer Weile, und ebenso gibt es eine mittlerweile recht große Bandbreite an Autoren von Inhalten, die an die Idee “freier Lizenzen” glauben, diese für die Veröffentlichung ihrer Inhalte nutzen. Dummerweise sind “freie Lizenzen”, oder auch nur die rechtlichen Aspekte von Lizenzen überhaupt, vermutlich der Masse jener Nutzer unbekannt, die dieser Tage Inhalte über Plattformen wie Flickripernity, deviantArt oder youtube veröffentlichen, ohne wirklich darüber nachzudenken, was dort mit den Inhalten passiert und wer welche Rechte an ebendiesen hat oder damit erwirbt. Vermutlich gibt es dafür eine ganze Reihe von Gründen zwischen purer Unwissenheit und absoluter Ignoranz (im “Spaß”-Zeitalter, in dem man ganz gut das Gehirn ausschalten und stumpf drauflosklicken kann). Um zumindest jenen zu helfen, die zwar interessiert, aber unwissend sind, gibt’s mit zeitgeisty nunmehr den Versuch einer Plattform, um Informationen über CC-Lizenzen an eine große Masse zu bringen. Zur Zeit geschieht dies wohl im Wesentlichen über ein Weblog, das Erklärungen, Links und sonstiges Nützliches bietet; perspektivisch sollen durch die zeitgeisty-Aktivisten auch weitergehende Veranstaltungen und Aktionen geplant werden, um Nutzer on- wie auch offline von Sinn und Nutzen der Creative-Commons – Lizenzen zu überzeugen. Schon da auch die Inhalte auf dieser Site und im pictorial unter CreativeCommons-Lizenzen stehen, halte ich dies natürlich für eine gute Sache… mal sehen, was es bringt.[/german]