Weekly output: budget phones, Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse pitch, SXSW 2022, Check My Ads, Mark Vena podcast, Flickr limits free accounts

It was a real treat to get back to Austin after three years and eat at least a dozen tacos over five days.

Screenshot of story as seen in Firefox in Windows 113/14/2022: The best budget phones in 2022, CNN Underscored

My first byline at a CNN property since the fall of 2012 ran at CNN’s new reviews site. My take on under-$500 phones after trying out this batch: The convenient truth here is that you now give up very little if you decline to spend $1,000 or more on a flagship smartphone, but camera quality remains the biggest tradeoff.

3/16/2022: Do You Care About the Metaverse More Than Mark Zuckerberg?, PCMag

I wrote up Mark Zuckerberg’s profoundly detached video appearance at SXSW.

3/16/2022: At SXSW, in-person networking resumes – along with the struggle to tame tech, USA Today

In my USA Today column, I tried to sum up my SXSW experience in 500 words and change. One thing that helped: Future Today Institute founder Amy Webb provided me with the perfect quote to open this piece in her talk last Sunday morning.

3/17/2022: To fight disinformation, follow the money—and the ads, Fast Company

My next SXSW recap came in this post about Check My Ads’ efforts to defund disinformation sites, one ad exchange at a time.

3/17/2022: S02 E11 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

My part of this podcast this week was telling listeners (and viewers) about SXSW, which mostly consisted of me talking about Zuckerberg’s profoundly detached video appearance.

3/18/2022: Flickr Limits NSFW Photo Sharing to Paid Accounts, PCMag

When I pitched my editors about writing up two policy shifts at Flickr that further emphasize paid memberships, I thought the photo-sharing service’s mobile apps would rank higher than it appears they do.

At least I’m getting caught up with my photography

I’m old enough to remember putting pictures into photo albums as a regular rainy-day activity, so now that we’re in an endless series of metaphorical rainy days I’m not surprised to find myself finally editing, captioning, organizing and sharing old photos.

And I’m not surprised to doing this on Flickr, because I’m old enough to have started using social media before that term meant Facebook and Twitter. I’ve tried to keep up with sharing new photos there–both as I take individual ones that interest me and in album form (photoset form, if you’re an old-timer like me) after I come back from trips and events.

But those same trips and events also often got in the way of me taking the time to edit, caption, organize and share. Because Flickr isn’t Instagram, I want to take the time to make sure I’ve decided what makes one photo better than those I took immediately before and after and therefore worth including in an album–and then crop it just so and write a correct and useful caption instead of throwing in a clever phrase and stamping the pic #travel.

So my Flickr output lagged, even though as a paying Flickr Pro user I should want to get the most out of my money.

Now, however, I have nowhere to go and a lot more free time. So my photostream may have looked more like a time machine as I’ve finally posted albums from such past happenings as the 2018 edition of the IFA tech trade show, an hour or so I spent last April flying above Sonoma County in a friend’s plane, and last year’s Web Summit.

I’ve also filled out such older albums as my set of ballpark pictures and my collection of window-seat photos from aircraft. And each time I do this, I come across more old photos that I don’t want to keep confined to my private backup.

I worried at first that seeing pictures of interesting places that I can’t visit now or anytime soon would depress me, but instead this exercise has reminded me of what I like about photography. And at least that’s one hobby I can still pursue in my backyard if I must.

 

Yes, I still use Flickr

My oldest social-media hangout is no longer the property of my biggest client’s corporate parent, and I am okay with that.

Flickr Android appLast night brought word that Verizon’s Oath division had sold Flickr to the photo-sharing site SmugMug. Jessica Guynn’s USA Today story breaking the news calls Flickr a “faded social networking pioneer,” which is both uncomplimentary and correct.

My Flickr account dates to 2005, and over the subsequent 13 years I’ve seen Flickr suffer a lot of neglect–especially during Yahoo’s pre-Marissa Mayer years, when a succession of inept CEOs let Instagram run away with the mobile market.

Yet not only have I kept on uploading, editing and captioning pictures on Flickr (edit: with the occasional lag in sharing anything), since 2011 I’ve paid for a Flickr Pro membership. That first got me out from under the free version’s 100-megabyte monthly upload cap, but since Yahoo ditched that stingy limit in 2013… well, it’s a tiny monthly cost, and I like the idea of having a social-media account on which I’m not an advertising target with eyeballs to monetize.

Meanwhile, Flickr has continued to do a few things well: welcome both pictures taken with a standalone camera and those shot with a phone; make it easy to present and browse albums of photos (“photosets” if you’re old); support Creative Commons licensing so I can permit non-commercial sharing but prohibit commercial reuse (which required USA Today to pay me for one Flickr photo); and let people share their work in pools (for instance, Greater Greater Washington’s, which has occasionally resulted in my shots getting featured on that blog).

Instagram, where my active presence only dates to February of 2017, is easy, fun and great for engagement–slap #travel on a shot and you’ll get 15 likes in an hour. But it doesn’t do those things. And it’s a Facebook property, which raises the question of just how much of my online identity I need on that company’s servers.

Google Photos offers a fantastic private-backup service, but it, too, belongs to a company that already hosts much of my digital life.

SmugMug hasn’t said much about its plans for Flickr beyond promising not to merge Flickr and SmugMug. But unlike Oath, it has no other lines of business besides photo sharing. And as a privately-owned firm that hasn’t taken outside investments, SmugMug doesn’t need to meet impatient expectations from Wall Street or Silicon Valley. I feel pretty good about this transition, and I doubt I’ll have any big hangups about paying for my next Flickr Pro bill.