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Instagram's curated feeds

I know that some/a lot of photographers don’t like Instagram, for varying reasons. They find the format constricting, the image quality poor, the whole thing not 'serious' enough. Others love it. They like the way they can engage with people via their images, they enjoy the feedback that it generates and they are able to promote their business. (I would put myself in the second category here.)

So anyway, Instagram are making changes and people are grumpy. This is what they had to say about what they are up to on their blog dated 15 March 2015:

"See The Moments You Care About First

You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months."

There is a lot of chatter about this already, so I thought why not add my tiny voice to the mob?

So here I go.

Firstly, who are these people missing 70% of their feeds? Stop following so many people if you can’t keep up with what is actually important to you. I have already 'curated' my feed to show the stuff that I’m interested in. If you’re finding it 'hard' (and never has a word been so subjectively used) to keep up with what’s important to you, then maybe you need to rethink your life!

Next, this really hacks me off: To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.” I don’t want Instagram telling me what THEY think I might care about. Please allow me to make my own decisions on this. If I don’t want to see something, I can scroll past it in a moment.

I am also highly sceptical that they will be able to order my feed in a way that is optimised to what I am interested in and here’s why. I have two Instagram accounts: one private and one that links to this site (@longshot_photo). In recent weeks my private account has been getting adverts sponsored posts crop up in it. I assume these posts are meant to be tailored to my interests, yet pretty much all of them are (1) of no interest to me and very often related to video games, football or both, and (2) in German, a language I don’t speak, and a country that I have only visited once, 25 years ago. So forgive me for not having a lot of confidence in your algorithm Instagram.

Then there’s the playing on people’s FOMO. (Please be warned there is a swearsy in this link. I present a Ken edited version for your perusal below.) So what if you don’t see one shot of your friend’s puppy? I’m sure (and I say this as someone with two cats) there will be a million other photos of said puppy along in a minute.

The cynical part of me suspects the reality is that certain companies or organisations will be able to pay to be promoted up your feed, and those with fewer followers will be downgraded. I understand the need for IG to generate income. We don’t pay anything to use it and servers and bandwidth cost money, but be upfront about it. I’d take a targeted ad over this 'promoted post' nonsense.

In summary, these changes seem pointless to me. Some of the best and most important things we use are in chronological order (time, for instance). I like my feed as it is, and I don’t want to end up wondering whether I’ve missed something because IG has decided what I should or shouldn’t be looking at. If I want to see something specific, I can search for that person or hashtag (“#mynewpuppy” for instance) and, oh look, here is the photo I want to see. I also like coming across posts that are a bit different from my usual feed, images that inspire or might change the way I look at things. I also like to think that if I have posted an image on IG, perhaps at an event that's occurring right at that point in time, then my followers will be able to see it as it happens, not when IG decides they should. Timing is everything, after all.

So Instagram please don’t mess around. If you do insist on curating feeds, please let that be an opt-in feature for those people following 4000 accounts. The rest of us, I think, are probably happy with things as they are.

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