Instagram is mine and it owes me a living

Paul Sims
Paul Sims

 

So this isn't an actual Smiths lyric, but this bastardised version has been rattling around in my head while thinking about the whole Instagram + Facebook thing over the last week. In trying to figure out how I feel about it I keep returning to a couple of ideas. 

Primarily, the fragility of my relationship with services that I've grown to depend on. Somewhat crazily, I started to consider photo sharing as a kind of human right. Ok, I am not by any means saying it's on a par with access to clean water or safety from repression, but it's become an essential part of my daily life and something I derive a great deal of wellbeing from. Instagram has become the first social digital experience that I consider to be a connection between not just my friends and co-workers, but also a way of sharing with my family. This isn't the case with twitter where a. my family wouldn't have any idea what the hell I was talking about b. Would be bemused by relentless stream of techie links and in-jokes c. horror at the impotent fury with which I lead my daily existence. Whereas, Facebook is somewhere you actively avoid connecting with your mother. She might just see you as you really are.

Instagram is not just another social network, it's a core part of my lifestyle. In the same way as accessing a library, mailing a letter or buying a newspaper.  This brings me to my next point which is a critique of contemporary entrepreneurship. Whilst I greatly admire the ability of folk to get off their backsides and change the world, the problem I have is not being confident the services I love will be the same tomorrow. Now, I *completely* believe it when Mark Z states that they will care for IG like a new born kitten.
 
We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.
 
SO kind. Also fascinated about Facebook's process of buying IG
 
This one Zuck did alone, taking just three days for solo negotiations with Systrom.
 
boom! 
 
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However, I also know that I'd be concerned if the fair-trade single-estate coffee I buy from my local independent hipster coffee house became a Nestle property. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, they can scale and reach massive new audiences etc etc, it's just not really the thing for me and I can't begrudge the owners of IG either. Who wouldn't love a billion dollars? 
 
The thing is, IG created an amazing sharing utility that caught on, but they didn't make IG the thing it is today, we did, by relentlessly demo-ing and nagging people to get on it. It's the first service I've used that created a real sense of service envy from non-iphone users. The crux is - as we become more and more reliant on our devices to mediate connections we lose touch with the artefacts created and shared. Images are often the most treasured of all. I have been trying to imagine my mother telling me she has entrusted the family albums to Big Yellow.
 
So in the light of the boom in Collaborative Consumption, I have a question that goes a step further. Should we be handing over our treasure to folk looking for a speed-boat-full-of-cash exit from services we have entrusted with our collective memory? This got me thinking about a proposition, something really simple - like Instagram - but that realigns the rockstar entrepreneur approach. When dealing with our 'common wealth' we need to change the nature of how this content is managed and handled… or maybe What would John Lewis do?
 

<!--?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="no"?--> The crowd is the entrepreneur

 
 
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Kickstarter is proof that crowdfunding works. Likewise, AirBnB is evidence that we don't need a lot of complexity to start sharing the things we own. Services like Whipcar and Zopa show peer-to-peer lending can get the glacially slow worlds of insurance and banking to support innovation. If an insurance document can be generated on the fly, seconds before you get in a stranger's car, then could a user become a part owner in a organisation simply by signing up or using micro-investment? I am talking about the idea of 'mutual' organisations. It's been around for a long time along with Friendly Societies, all precursors to the concept of the welfare state. Apply the same sort of disruptive innovation to this and we could see organisations being created in seconds owned by possibly massive communities.
 
A mutual exists with the purpose of raising funds from its membership or customers (collectively called its members), which can then be used to provide common services to all members of the organization or society. A mutual is therefore owned by, and run for the benefit of, its members - it has no external shareholders to pay in the form of dividends, and as such does not usually seek to maximize and make large profits or capital gains.
 
As users of the service we are all partners, it makes being a product advocate much more palatable. 
 

Me We Us data

 
Part of the vulnerability in the deals we make with social networks is that free-ness is paid for by a loss of control. We hand over our data as a down payment on access to the services. There isn't anything inherently bad about this if you're happy to play along. Except that maybe you aren't so happy when the new owners of your treasure start to exercise the rights stored up in the t&c's you blindly accepted. For instance, this is a fairly famous slice t&c.
 
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
 
With the emphasis on *deleted* the idea of making it easy to move your data is antithetical for obvious reasons. The solution then is to not get into the data storage game. What then if our data is stored for as long as it's needed and it's made a core part of the proposition? Then our service could hold on to images for what is probably the natural sharing lifecycle. 
 
 
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It's your data so the service would naturally support it being moved right along to your favorite flavour of data store via an API. Public or private. I have used Flickr for years (badly) but I've been using the brilliant IFTTT to back up Instagrams for a while. The options are there, from DropBox to iCloud. Sensibly the service would provide it's own storage (perhaps for a bit of £$) and maintain links to everyones archives for folk wanting to rummage about in dusty drawers. As a grid of APIs evolves we are going to start seeing folk building their own sharing communities in a no-code way. Apple are patenting some of the ideas now... yikes!
 

A blueprint

Sure, it's a naive idea, hard to fund, no VC chasing and no new billionaires. It's a fantasy. But it's something that I would use and support and share and nag other folk to join and get involved. I reckon that counts for a lot, after all it's mine, right?  Like the occupy movement, maybe it's an idea of it's time. I'm in if you are… @saulpims
 
 
 
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