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Why Instagram Worked: Limitations Are Freeing

There are many reasons why Instagram worked: timing, mobile centric, the ‘limitations’ (iOS only), the design and logo were/are retro, warm, and appealing.

But I think the primary reason Instagram worked were the filters. For the first time the masses like me, who’s only knowledge about photography is how to press the button, were able to see, without opening up some complicated program, what professional and creative effects could do to their photos.  And it was one click. When you snapped a photo with Instagram you could either post it as is, or there were a row of 9 or so “filters” at the bottom, “pre-sets” if you will, that you simply selected and it would automatically apply them. These filters were imitations of what the pros spend hours doing in Photoshop. And suddenly the masses had them at the click of the button. This is the same appeal that photo editing apps for the iPhone like Camera+, Best Camera, and Camera Awesome have: Simple, easy, and fun photo editing that is merely the click of a button to get a unique effect.

Limitations are Freeing

I was thinking about this as I’ve begun using Garageband for the iPad. It’s much more limiting than Logic Pro or even Garageband on OSX, but I’m being a lot more productive on it and having a lot more fun. The nature of mobile is intimacy and ease, which equals in a lot of cases increased productivity.

In Instagram’s case, it didn’t have as many filters or options as Camera+, but that limitation made it much more easy to use and much faster to use. To be fair, Camera+ wasn’t trying to be a Social Network, and the app was very successful in its own right simply selling on the App store. But in Camera+’s case and Camera Awesome, after you take a photo, the damn thing disappears! Then you have to go find the little thumb nail of it, re-open it, and then when you go choose the effects, and this is key, what you see are the pages of effects and not the photo. So then you have to apply the effect, wait while it generates, and then finally see if you like it. Whereas with Instagram the original photo is up on the screen at all times and the selections are at the bottom. You can breeze through sampling all the selections and see them immediately. It makes the whole process easy and fun. To be fair I love Camera+ and Camera Awesome and couldn’t recommend them more, but I’m just simply pointing out a couple frustrations with them, and why Instagram out paced them in use and adoption. (To be fair though, like I said, Camera+ wasn’t intending to build a Social Network.)

Being Mobile Centric and only Mobile centric: You can’t look at photographs on the website. The only thing you can do on the website is sign up for an account, is another limitation. Some would say, frustrating, but actually that limitation, in the minds of many, was rather intriguing. If you wanted to see an old photograph, you had to search like an easter egg hunt for the link on Twitter or wherever you posted it. While the developers probably didn’t intend it, they merely were trying to save resources for their primary target, that limitation as well as the limitation of being iPhone only, created a sort of caché in the mind, especially in those of the hipsters, a lot of whom happen to be the biggest influencers on Twitter.

To be fair timing was a key too. At the time, Twitter didn’t have it’s own photo sharing service, and the third party ones that existed just really looked awful and contrived. They were so ugly they conditioned you almost to not want to click on a photo link. So when Instagram launched with it’s beautiful design and hipster appeal, Twitter adopted it as its de-facto photo sharing service, and Instagram rode that wave to mass adoption.

Apps Iphone Tech

How to Use an iPhone as a flash drive

Easy, just use iPhone-Explorer from Mypod apps. It’s really cool and free, for Windows or Mac. It’s a little program that browses the files and folders of an iPhone like it were an external drive. Nice because iTunes keeps a lot of things hidden, for instance sound recordings and notes. But it’s also nice to have direct access to all your files on any machine, without always going through the cumbersome iTunes, which sort of locks it down to one machine.

I’m going to add it to my ‘Cool Apps and Sites’ page now.

You can go to their page and download it here;

1 Minute Tips Apps Iphone Tech

Brighten Your iPhone’s Screen


On your iPhone main page click Settings>Brightness and then slide the button all the way to the right. You can also turn off “Auto Brightness” when you lay down to surf or read, to stop it from doing that annoying dimming when you’re trying to see things clearly.

O.K., before you say I am insulting your intelligence, let me explain. For one, I’ve had an iPhone for a few months and I didn’t know how to do this, and I generally think of myself as half techno-geeky. I’ve also been a computer enthusiast for years and that didn’t stop me from letting a hard drive crash a few years ago with no back up, loosing a lot of valuable stuff. I call these “blind spots” in one’s psychology. So maybe its just me, or maybe some of you out there have them too. I don’t know. We write in order to learn and to remind ourselves and to improve.

Also, I blog about what interests me at the moment. A couple nights ago, I fell asleep at around 6pm and woke up at 9. I looked over at the digital clock to see what time it was, and it wasn’t on. Didn’t take me long to figure out that the electricity was off in the whole house. First reaction? Did I forget to pay the bill? No, I knew I had.  But anyway it was pitch black. I had no way to see. Except for my iPhone.

Then I thought about the Flashlight App I had gotten and dismissed as being stupid and somewhat of a scam. But anyway I turned it on. OK, at least I could tip toe around. Around enough to look out the window and see that the whole neighborhood was pitch black too. Whoo, rubbing the sweat off, relieved it wasn’t just me, and that I had somehow forgot the bill. Anyway, it occurred to me, “Can I brighten this thing?” So that brought me Settings and Brightness, and Wahlaa! a flashlight that wasn’t so bad after all. And another benefit of it is that it keeps the screen on, from going into sleep mode so that you don’t constantly have to worry about swiping the unlock button.

I walked outside, saw a few people wondering the same thing and then a couple of Entergy trucks heading down the main thourough fare.

The electricity was out for a good three hours. So I came back in sat down in a comfortable chair (that I could find now!) and surfed the web on my iPhone. You know before I almost never surfed the web on the iPhone. Felt the screen was too small, but in this situation I didn’t. And now I am more comfortable and almost enjoy surfing with it, even now that the lights are back on.

Funny how an electrical outage can ironically turn a few psychological lights on.

P.S. See even here CNET calls the Flashlight App “Absurd” and I would have heartily agreed, until that night I needed it. One doesn’t always have a flashlight or candle (that’s lit) by one’s bed, but one always has one’s phone. For this particular occasion the $.99 was worth it.

Apps Iphone Social Media Tech Web-Tools

Tweet Your Iphone Videos Directly

Cool Iphone 3GS App to Upload and Tweet Your Videos straight from the phone. TweetReel.

Check out Bwana’s Video Review of TweetReel: