There Is No Cat

The alternative to flowers!

Friday, November 4, 2022

Comparing Social Networks for sharing photos


Instagram is the reason we need to compare social networks for sharing photos, because Instagram used to be about sharing photos, and now it’s not. Instagram does not care about you. You are the product. You are a pair of eyes to be monopolized and a wallet to be vacuumed clean. Instagram’s customers are advertisers, and you are the product. Instagram sucks so badly that I’ve completely stopped posting there. The only reason I keep my account open is that one or two of my local breweries announce their new beers there. Yeah, that’s great for photography and photographers. When I first started on Instagram, I treated it like visual Twitter, posting photos that showed what I was doing. After a few years, I started to see it as a serious forum for my serious photography, which I had always relegated to Flickr. Now it’s back to being visual Twitter. Fuck Instagram, fuck Facebook, fuck Meta, and fuck Mark Zuckerberg.


Flickr is a ghost town. And that’s a shame, because there are a lot of old classic buildings there that could be repurposed. Joining Flickr today is like moving to Detroit. You can buy a house for a thousand bucks. If you’re into being an urban pioneer, Flickr is the place to be. I love Flickr. It has everything. It has a reasonable mobile experience. It has groups that tie together discussions and photos. It has a wealth of information; even people who don’t post there any more rave about how they can find information about any camera or film they come across there. I don’t understand why photographers have abandoned Flickr. Twice a year, a bunch of photographers go back to their old neighborhood and post Polaroids for Polaroid Week, and then fuck back off to Instagram where they can be influencers. I wish they would stick around, and I spent a lot of time suggesting that, but they all go back to Instagram and then disappear, only to return for the next Polaroid Week. It’s a shame. Flickr has everything a photographer needs. Flickr has so much potential, but it’s not cool, so photographers stay away. They don’t know what they’re missing. Flickr could have a great future if only photographers would open their eyes and see it.


Glass is a lifestyle business in the best sense. A small team of three people, one designer, one programmer, and one marketer, have build this perfect little jewel, this absolutely beautiful experience, that is all about photography. I heard about Glass a year before they opened, and stopped posting to Instagram waiting for them to open. The user experience is simple; photographs are front and center, and nothing else matters. You see the photos by the people you follow, in chronological order. No clever attempts to move things around and rearrange them in an attempt to show you things they think you’ll be interested in, or if they were Instagram, that their real customers the advertisers think you should be interested in. Glass respects you. Glass loves you. And I love them. There is a limited taxonomy of categories you can tag your photos with, and those categories are a primary method of discovery where you can see photos that match the type of photography you’re interested in. If I had to drop all but one of my outlets for photography, Glass would be the one I keep, because the team is small, they pay close attention to what their users need, they listen to feedback, and they act on it. I know that if I tell their designer, Tom, for example, that multiple photograph posts would be a worthwhile addition to the interface because it helps photographers tell stories, he’s going to take that seriously, and it winds up on their roadmap. Who the fuck do you talk to at Instagram to give feedback like that? The only problem with a lifestyle business like Glass is that because there are three people there, it can be a while before stuff on the roadmap is addressed. Like, I can understand why they would feel that Stefan and Tom need to focus on getting an Android app out before they work on multiple photograph posts. Still, the team is thoughful and takes feedback. Being on Glass is a joy.


If Glass is a lifestyle business for three, Grainery is a lifestyle business for one. Kyle is the guy behind Grainery, a social network focused strictly on photographers who use film. If you use digital cameras, there are plenty of other places for you to play, but not Grainery. That’s an interesting filter, and one I don’t disagree with. Shooting on film is often a useful proxy for how serious a photographer is. There are great artists who shoot with digital cameras, sure, but film is a different thing and few people who use film these days aren’t serious photographers. Everyone fucking around with photography can create a photograph with their phone these days, but it takes some effort to do so with film, so you have to be committed to do so.

To me, Grainery is the network that’s closest to Instagram. It’s a dopamine factory in the same way Instagram is. It’s a very active community, but there aren’t discussion groups, and the use of hashtags doesn’t seem widespread. At the beginning, it was small enough that I felt I could see every photo posted by everyone, which was a cool sensation. That’s not true any more, but it can still be fun to trawl the newest photos, which seems to me to be a primary method of discovery. There are a lot of talented photographers on Grainery. But it feels kind of mercenary in some ways. like it’s easy to game. The only thing that really distinguishes it from Instagram is that there’s no algorithm underlying it, and you can pay for unlimited posts (without paying, you’re limited to a certain number of posts). The fact that you pay, and that there’s no advertising, means that you’re the customer here and Kyle is more interested in what you want than in what someone else wants to put in front of you, but as a one man show, he’s not coming up with many new ideas at this point. It’s still early, and he could convince me otherwise (the few ideas he’s had for things like film giveaways and such have failed to materialize as he’s had to prioritize dealing with the quick growth of demand), but really, it’s kind of Instagram without ads. Which is not a bad thing, but it may not be enough in the long run. Jury’s still out here and it’s early days. I hope it develops in some more interesting directions.


Twitter is not a photography site, but has a thriving photography community. Given that Twitter is not a photography site, it’s interesting that it’s the only site here that enables multiple images in a single post, something that can be really useful when telling a story. The use of thread is also a useful tool not available anywhere else for telling stories. Other photography-based social networks could learn a lot from these two things.

But beyond this, Twitter’s tools for photographers are primitive at best. The mechanism for creating community is hashtags. Someone has an idea for a hashtag like #BelieveInFilm, and that can become a community. There’s no way of creating persistent groups other than human ingenuity in repurposing hashtags for that purpose. There’s no way to create conversations that are easily referenced in the future. There’s no way to associate metadata with either the conversations that do exist or with the photographs. In a lot of ways, it’s amazing that such a supportive community exists for photographers on Twitter, because Twitter really does fuck all to create communities. All they do is create a firehose of information, and it’s up to you to decide how much you can sip from it. Twitter’s primary characteristic is its ephemerality. Tweets stick around, but good luck finding them. There are always new tweets to replace them in the limited space you have in your brain. Twitter is kind of the anti-Flickr in that sense.

Twitter’s future as a photography site is up in the air at the moment. The recent change in ownership has left a lot of questions.


Mastodon is basically Twitter without Melon Husk in charge. Same primitive tools that are repurposed by enterprising humans to compensate for things that aren’t built into the experience. One small advantage Mastodon has is that its distributed nature means that it would be possible to set up instances for different communities. So for example, there is a Mastodon instance for artists, and the local timeline on that instance is filled with artists posting about art. And there’s one for photographers, and the local timeline on that instance is filled with photographers posting about photography. In theory, it would be possible to create communities based on Twitter hashtags like #BelieveInFilm with their own dedicated instance (and I see some interest in doing that), which is something that would provide an additional layer of community and discovery that Twitter lacks so badly. At this stage this is more possibility than reality, but it’s promising. But it is still way more primitive than what Flickr or even Glass offers. It lacks the granularity that a Flickr can offer with its many groups addressing individual subjects; if you have to set up a new instance for every topic, that doesn’t really scale. And the distributed nature of Mastodon introduces other issues. The week when I’m writing this, a ton of people reacting to Melon Husk’s takeover of Twitter have fled to Mastodon as a potential backup, and the result has been Mastodon having its Fail Whale moment. The instance I’m on, for example, one that I’ve been on for five years and participated in in fits and starts, is suffering badly, with notifications of likes of toots coming in 12 hours after they were made, and the home timeline also 12-18 hours behind. I gather this is not an uncommon issue this week, as an "Introduction to Mastodon" post I saw linked on Twitter today had to mention that this was happening on many instances and patience was needed. Mastodon seems to me to be a project that could provide the technical underpinnings of a photography-based community, but that doesn’t provide tools any more compelling than Twitter in its native state.

Your Own Site

Really, when it comes down to it, if you want a way to share your photography that you control, that you can present in a way that’s true to your intentions, you simply can’t beat your own site. Every site that’s run by others will break your heart at some point. You need to own your own content. There are a ton of options for this, from sites like Squarespace that have templates you can use to set things up, to raw metal hosts that you can set up to match your needs precisely. As a professional web developer, for myself, I lean toward raw metal, but most photographers don’t have that kind of experience. Whatever you wind up creating, do it in a way that you own it, you can change it, and it belongs to you. That’s the only way to ensure that people see things the way you intend them to.

The downside of running your own site is that it costs money, and that you may be pissing into the wind. To gain any traction, you need to promote it, and now you’re leaning into a world that in a lot of ways doesn’t care. If you’re not a salesperson, doing this can really suck. But if you’re doing this for love and not money, this is really the way to go.

Posted at 3:27 AM


Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.



This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi.

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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