What Does a Good Media Experience Look Like?

One of the things I wanted to do more of this year is explore photography. Sometimes I worry that creating a photo editing app and writing a book chapter about creating image filters sucked some of the joy from photography for me. I wanted to do more with my pictures for their own sake, rather than just because I was trying to feed a Tumblr. I also find that I post pictures in the moment (on Twitter), or not at all. There are well over 7K photos on my iPhone – I’m sure many of them are worth revisiting.

Part of the reason for this is that uploading photos to my blog became more painful when iPhoto became Photos, and now my workflow involves right clicking to get the filename and then searching for the picture in Finder. I used to create really image heavy posts, like the ones from North Korea, but at some point I stopped. I shared pictures on Twitter, or not at all. I didn’t keep my Flickr stream updated. I took lots of photos, and then just… kept them synced between device and computer.

So, I decided to play more with media this year. I downloaded an app with all these filters (and actually paid for it!) and I’m playing with it and with more intensely filtered images (including super fake ones, like the one above [original]). I also set up photo.cate.blog which I think of as my “mobile only” blog. I did the most basic site creation on my laptop (Pressable + Jetpack + Feedburner) and now I am restricting myself to mobile devices to change it. I’ve been alternating posting from my Pixel and my iPhone. I tend to take more photos on my iPhone, so there I have a rich set to choose from. Pixel photos are more in the moment and encourages me to try and find something worth capturing even on a more “boring” day.

I also started using (urgh) Instagram. I haven’t logged into it on my computer – there’s been no need to. But I did run into a couple of things: Create an account with Facebook didn’t work on Android (did on iOS), and their onboarding tutorial wasn’t updated when they changed the UI. I’m posting the same photos to Instagram as I post to photo.cate.blog. Instagram did a pretty thorough job of spamming all my friends and now I feel obliged to keep using it, even though I can’t do what I want to on it (automate posting from photo.cate.blog, because of their TOS). I don’t think anyone knew about photo.cate.blog, because I didn’t connect it to social media or tell anyone about it. I wanted to see if I could stick with it for a month first.

One of the things this made me realize is that I have a set of expectations around media, and I’ve been thinking about what those are.

Media is a feature where:

  • I expect a better experience on mobile than on the desktop – Apple and Google photos are both better on mobile and easier to integrate into apps than desktop web.
  • It suits the capabilities of the phone – it’s easier to take a picture and add a caption on the phone. It’s easier to write long form on a computer. A tablet is somewhere in between for both (although I often see people using tablets as cameras when I’m exploring).
  • Photo and mobile are synonymous. The iPhone has been one of the most popular cameras on Flickr for years. Newer Android devices also have amazing cameras – the Pixel has a great camera, I really like it.

What Does a “Good” Media Experience Look Like?

  • It’s easy to upload multiple images from device.
  • I can add media from my existing media (on that platform) easily.
  • I can create galleries of images.
  • If there’s a limit on how many images I can upload at once, that’s clear.
  • I can see what I’m uploading before I upload it.
  • The app handles intermittent network access and retries are easy.
  • Uploading images doesn’t block me from doing other activities.
  • It’s easy to add captions, a11y labels etc.
  • It remembers my preferences.

What Does a “Great” Media Experience Look Like?

  • I can choose which image is featured (when that item is shared elsewhere, e.g. on Twitter).
  • It’s easy to upload images from anywhere (the camera roll, other apps, the web, URLs).
  • I can upload as many images as I want.
  • I can do some editing of my images: crop, filter etc.
    • If I edit them, edits happen before upload so my device remains a source of truth (or it’s made easy to save locally).
  • I can upload images in the background.
  • It’s easy to keep my place in my photo roll.
  • I can search by location or time.

I’m curious about other people’s experiences here – what’s your favourite app for sharing images? What do you love about it?

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