I finally get Instagram

Like most new, emerging social media tools, I'm willing to give it a shot. Instagram has been around for a bit and I downloaded the app soon after it was launched but as a pure photo app, didn't really interest me. I found Camera+ for example to offer better tools and effects that met my needs and workflow better. In fact I became annoyed with the filterization of every photo taken with instagram. Watching people posting their filter filled images took me back 1997 when I introduced PowerPoint to grade 7's and saw them create slideshows using every transition, font and animation. Add to the fact that Facebook purchased Instagram and my lack of interest in that space, I had no reason to use the app. 

But I finally figured out, it has nothing to do with the app. Duh. 

Last week I keynoted the Saskatchewan Middle Years Conference. After sharing two keynotes and 3 workshops I had a woman come up to me and tell me, "I finally get you". Of course I asked what she meant but she said she uses twitter somewhat sparingly and was told to follow me and yet was confused but how I was using and it made no sense to her. But after spending some time with me and understanding the context, suddenly I made sense. 

Two weeks ago in China, Jeff Utecht was trying to figure out how embed a flickr hashtag on the conference website. The great thing about flickr is that it allows anyone to use an email address to post images to the site. No sign up required. We couldn't figure out an elegant way to make that work. In the midst of the conversation, for some reason I suggested instagram since I knew many folks were using it. Kim Cofino was there and is an avid instagram user and gave a plug for it as well. So it was pretty much at that moment that I started seeing the stream of folks I know and their photo feeds suddenly come to life for me. 

Over time I've noticed the community aspect of flickr, where all my photos live, had been dwindling. Outside of a few faithfuls, the number of comments I was getting and giving seem to be coming to a stand still. I post photos to flickr for a number of reasons:

  • unlimited storage and backup (with a $24 pro account)
  • Easily embed them into my blog and other spaces
  • Share them with others to use via Creative Commons
  • Groups 
  • Community: the ability to connect with other users

The first four things are still in place and will continue to be important features but after scrolling throught instagram I realized I missed the community. The other aspect of instagram is the way it tells stories. Watch this short video by Casey Neistat on how not to suck at instagram. (Warning: there's a f-bomb)


The  idea of using your photos to tell a story is a big deal. I've often used Tim Lauer's photos as a great example of the story of Lewis Elementary. Moments and insights into the people of that community. I would love to see more schools using a tool like this to share their story. 

So moving forward, I'll stick with flickr but use instagram as well. I'm still struggling with add ons. Things like not being able to crop an images is annoying. Also while there's a send to flickr option, I"m not sure if it uploads the full resolution. Also unsure of how to add tags for flickr. Hashtags in instagram don't seem to work. As well, I"m not sure where these photos live on the web. There's still some tips I need to sort out so if you're an avid instagrammer and have some great little workflow tip, or idea, please pass that along. But one thing is for sure, I won't be getting all filter crazy. I hate that.