How I Read on the Internet

Yesterday Eddie Smith wrote that Read Later is dead and I figured now would be a fantastic time to post some related thoughts about how I read on the internet[1].

Incoming: RSS, Twitter, Chat, etc

Online information comes from various sources. I subscribe to hundreds of feeds in NewsBlur. I follow a bunch of people on various social media platforms. Friends send me links via email or IM or Slack or other private messages.

If the item is short and I have a moment, I read it then… it’s like a reading adaptation of the 2-minute “Process it now” mantra from Getting Things Done. I read pretty quickly, so I can read many (most) things I come across on the spot.

Reading Later

If not, it gets sent to Instapaper. I have a recurring weekly task in OmniFocus to review my Instapaper queue, but in reality I do it far more often… Instapaper tends to be my bedtime reading.

After Reading

Once I’ve read something:

  • If it was rather unremarkable it’ll simply get archived in Instapaper.
  • If I found it interesting, I’ll save it to Pinboard for reference.
  • I might also choose to share it out to Twitter.
  • If it leads to a followup task, it gets sent to OmniFocus.

By deferring any sort of longish reading to Instapaper, I can rapidly move through incoming streams, then shift into reading mode later.

  1. This is how I read. It probably isn’t how you read. If you read in some other way and it works for you, that’s fantastic. I’m okay with that.  ↩

Now Listening: Current Podcasts

Much like its interesting (to me) to occasionally snapshot my iPhone home screen, it also seems relevant to log what podcasts currently have my attention. They seem to fall into three listening groups:

The Must-Listens in a Timely Fashion

Amplified – a weekly look at Apple-related news and related topics, hosted by Jim Dalrymple, his beard, and Dan Benjamin. The first 3/4 of the show is usually Apple, with a topic change to music for the last segment.

The Fizzle Show – the three guys behind Fizzle explore a variety of topics related to building online businesses.

The Ihnatko Almanac – hard to classify this show other than “things Andy Ihnatko finds interesting.” His interests overlap with mine, so it’s a great show.

Marketing Over Coffee – a short weekly marketing update from Christpher S. Penn and John Wall. Come for the news about big industry players, stay for the Google Analytics tips.

NBN Radio – I’ve been enjoying Dave Delaney’s new(ish) show about networking. Via interviews with guests, he explores the factors to business networking success.

Smart Passive a Income – Pat Flynn talks business with a variety of topics and frequent guests that talk about successful techniques for building a company with the goal of passive income.

Usually-Listen, Eventually

The Digital Story – a weekly roundup of the photography world, hosted by photographer and writer Derrick Story.

The Lede from Copyblogger – a very short weekly show about writing more betterer.

Let’s Make Mistakes – allegedly and occasionally about design, Mike Montiero and Jessie Char chat about modern digital life.

Mac Power Users – all things OS X and iOS, with David Sparks and Katie Floyd share their favorite tips, tricks, and apps that make life great. If you’re into productivity and apps, the series of workflow episodes (where they interview a guest) are excellent.

Mikes on Mics – productivity, writing, and banter with Mr. Vardy and Mr. Schechter.

New Rainmaker – thoughts on modern business and content marketing from the folks at Copyblogger.

On Taking Pictures – a photography podcast cohost by Jeffery Saddoris and Bill Wadman, exploring the art side of the photo world. They make me think as they explore a variety of often-philosophical questions about art and life.

Systematic – a look at processes, workflows, and learning via conversations between host Brett Terpstra and guests from all walks of life (

Running from the Law – legal topics and distance running. No, they don’t really have anything to do with each other, but the host pairing of Gabe Levine and Erika Hall is great.

The Talk Show with John Gruber – opinionated Apple nerdery at its finest.


Beyond the To Do List – Erik Fisher interviews guests about productivity. I tend to listen based on the topic or guest.

The Grid – the podcast version of the weekly photo talk show hosted by Scott Kelby and friends.

Hanselminutes – Microsoft developer and technologist Scott Hanselman interviews guests about any number of topics. Episode 107 was kind of neat.

Home Work – a show for people who work from home. Hosted by Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo, the topics are frequently applicable to anyone who wants to get more done.

Manager Tools – the show is about being a better manager, but I find that Horstman offer up a lot of great thoughts that apply to any sort of interpersonal interaction.

Martin Bailey Photography Podcast – usually-stimulating photography chat by everyone’s favorite Japanese British photo guy.

The New Disruptors – Glenn Fleishman interviews folks who are breaking traditional molds in various creative fields.

Quit! – originally framed as quitting your day job, it’s evolving more into a show about making smart choices for a better life regardless of employment situation. Hosted by Dan Benjamin and Haddie Cook.

This Week in Photo – A mix of timely topics as well as broader, more evergreen photo discussions. Hosted by Frederick Van Johnson and a rotating cast of cohosts.

So now you know my interests… what else should I know about?

Facebook as the Walmart of the Internet

I’ve been thinking about Facebook lately. The recent Instagram terms of service kerfluffle reinvigorated my thinking, and this week’s events have made it clear that Instagram is definitely operating as Facebook at this point.

I’m thinking that in many ways, Facebook has become the Walmart of the internet[1].


Walmart attempts to be the store with everything. Whether you need groceries, clothing, toys, or ammunition, your local Walmart has it. They won’t have as broad of a selection as a specialty store for any of these things, and the staff won’t be as knowledgeable, but they’ve got enough to get by.

Facebook attempts to be a self-contained version of the internet. They’ll let you send messages, chat in real-time, share photos, play games, buy things, and write lengthy notes/posts. None of these features offers the same breadth of options or flexibility as dedicated websites or apps that perform similar functions, and I wish you luck on getting any help if things go wrong, but they do have a basic set of tools to interact online.

Walmart has a reputation for moving into towns, building a big store, and offering good-enough goods at a lower price than local retailers, causing some of those local retailers to go out of business. Facebook has expanded into some new areas, offerering good-enough software that has made it difficult for some niche software players to compete.

Walmart restricts some material from being sold in its stores, with a history of only stocking “sanitized” media where offensive language or themes have been removed. Facebook has a history of restricting topics of discussion, at times drawing the ire of groups such as breastfeeding mothers when some photos have crossed Facebook’s line of acceptable content.

Walmart’s position in the retail world allows it to do as it pleases, with employees, consumers, and suppliers stuck with the results. When there’s a public relations flare-up about a particular move, Walmart will back down a bit, but not entirely, leaving customers in a worse position while still appearing to save face[2].

Facebook’s position in the social networking space allows it to do as it pleases, with users and advertisers trailing along as Facebook chooses the path. If there’s a big outcry about something, Facebook will back off slightly, leaving users with something worse than before but not quite as bad as originally feared. This week’s Instagram changes are a good example, where the most offensive language has been removed from the terms of service but users are still left in a position with more of their content and personal data being subject to uncontrollable third party use[3].

Small businesses close, suppliers lose control, and consumers lose choices as Walmart moves forward.

Users lose privacy of their information, Facebook becomes more intrusive across the web as developers depend on its API, and Facebook is able to force unpopular changes upon its users as it strives for increased revenue.

It’s Not All Negative

Walmart and Facebook aren’t entirely bad.

It seems that that Walmart has a “low prices regardless of what we have to do to get there” mantra, and low prices mean that lower-income families can often stretch a dollar farther by shopping at a Walmart store.

Facebook’s attempt to bring a wide range of internet services onto their virtual property means that less-tech-savvy users are able to participate in a broad set of online experiences without having to discover, set up, and learn a variety of distinct independent web services.

I know good people who work for Walmart and make interesting things such as Walmart’s new mobile in-store shopping app. I’ve met and talked with smart Facebook employees who do good things like contribute Facebook code back to open source projects.

There Are Alternatives

For most people, there are alternatives to shopping at Walmart. One can choose to patronize a local business or a different chain store that might engage in less aggressive practices. Low prices are often the only factor that might seemingly lock someone into Walmart.

Plenty of web services offer alternatives to Facebook. Whereas price locks a small number of folks to Walmart, the overwhelming percentage of internet users that are on Facebook is the lock-in factor for the big social network.

If you’re not among the demographic where Walmart’s prices or locations are the only option by which you can survive, there are choices. Many consumers actively refuse to patronize Walmart based on the business’ practices, even though those consumers might pay a few dollars more for their merchandise.

If your internet friends and associates know how to use computers beyond Facebook, there are choices. These choices often provide more privacy and control of your data. Independent blogging platforms, photo hosting services, game systems, and other such applications and utilities are available for your use, even though your ability to connect with others might require a bit more time or effort than if you’d chosen to use Facebook.

Much like retail customers can take a stand against Walmart’s business practices by shopping elsewhere, internet users can take a stand against Facebook’s business practices by choosing not to share their personal information, text, photos, and time on the website.

My Position

I’m fortunate in that I don’t feel dependent on Facebook’s services. I’ve maintained a personal profile there, and have a couple business pages setup for two arms of my photography ventures.

From a personal standpoint, I’m mostly connected with folks on Facebook that I already engage with in other places online: blog comments, Twitter, Google+, instant messages, or topical communities. There are a handful of folks who I follow on Facebook that to my knowledge don’t have any other meaningful internet presence. It’s these few connections that trouble me the most about my Facebook social graph… do I maintain these relationships with others purely at the whim of Mark Zuckerberg?

From a business angle, to my knowledge I’ve never booked a new client nor sold a print based on Facebook activity. I’ll admit that I haven’t expended a large amount of effort on Facebook marketing, but for the time invested I’ve seen far more benefit from other marketing activities. I do realize that ongoing Facebook presence holds some networking and marketing value even if I can’t directly trace a specific client or deal to Facebook.

I don’t agree with how Facebook conducts business, so I’m going to choose not to use their services. Tonight I’ll share this article over there and encourage folks to connect with me in other places. Over the next few days, I’ll delete my now-unused Instagram account (I’m continuing to share photography on Flickr and Google+). I’ll be reviewing my Facebook friends list to ensure that I’m following folks elsewhere. Once I’ve reviewed my connections, I’ll shut down my Facebook account.

There might be a vital reason why someone chooses to shop at Walmart or actively use Facebook and Instagram. Given that I don’t have any of those reasons, I’ll be patronizing outfits whom I can feel better about.

  1. I’m not the first to use this phrase. John Sanchez did so in August 2010 and Tiffany Prince used it in August 2012. I think my take is a little different.  ↩

  2. a recent example would be adding a layaway fee, then reducing said fee after an outcry  ↩

  3. here’s a quick summary, one of many articles in the news  ↩

Email Marketing for Photographers: an Interview with DJ Waldow

DJ Waldow is an email marketing expert who just wrote a book (co-authored by Jason Falls) called The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. The book was just released; I’m partway through reading it and I’m finding lots of practical information. Email marketing doesn’t get quite as much buzz as some of the newer, social, “sexier” online marketing venues but the reality is that everyone has email and it can be a very effective method for communication with clients and peers. There are a lot of “best practices” out there, but one of the unique angles of DJ and Jason’s book is that they specifically talk about how breaking some of those rules can lead to good things.

A few weeks back I had a chance to interview DJ about email marketing; in addition to some general advice I asked some questions specific to photographers. Here’s the interview (about 19 minutes):

Expedia Travel Photo Contest #ExpediaFindYours – Massive Rights Grab

Earlier today I saw a friend tweet a nice photo along with the #ExpediaFindYours hashtag. I replied to ask what that was about and he pointed me to a travel photography contest being run by Expedia.

Before you get all excited about entering, note section 7 of the contest rules:

#ExpediaFindYours - Rights Grab

By participating, you: (a) irrevocably grant Sponsor, its agents, licensees, and assigns the unconditional and perpetual (non-exclusive) right and permission to copyright, reproduce, encode, store, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, publicly perform, adapt, modify, create derivative works of, exhibit, and otherwise use your photo as-is or as-edited (with or without using your name) in any media throughout the world for any purpose, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation, or approval from you or any other party; (b) forever waive any rights of copyrights, trademark rights, privacy rights, and any other legal or moral rights that may preclude Sponsor’s use of your photo, or require any further permission for Sponsor to use the photo; and (c) agree not to instigate, support, maintain, or authorize any action, claim, or lawsuit against Sponsor on the grounds that any use of the photo, or any derivative works, infringes any of your rights as creator of the photo, including, without limitation, copyrights, trademark rights, and moral rights.

Simply by entering the contest, regardless of whether or not you win any prizes, you’re giving Expedia and the other sponsors a full license to use your photos for any purpose, anywhere, forever, and you’ll receive zero compensation.

No thanks.

What the Heck is a Certified Professional Photographer?

I’m a member of the PPA and one of the programs they push is the Certified Professional Photographer program. Skeptical of its value as a business and marketing tool, I decided yesterday to pose the question to my followers on Twitter and Google+.

First, I Storified the results from Twitter:

Do You Know What a "Certified Professional Photographer" is?

Storified by Aaron Hockley · Mon, Jul 09 2012 14:54:02

@ahockley someone who paid some random company some $$ to say he was certifiedSean Wiese
@ahockley nope.Kailey Lampert ⚙
@ahockley That’s somebody that sets their camera to the "M" setting, right?Eric Berto
@ahockley This non-photographer has never heard of a "Certified Professional Photographer." I’ve never hired a photographer, though.Amy Farrell ☕
@ahockley Nope. It’s the kind of statement that, as a web dev, makes me raise my eyebrow, though.Dana O’Rourke
@ahockley Sounds like meaningless marketing speak.Jacob Helwig
@ahockley nope. and neither do our moms.Mortar
@ahockley Sounds like someone who took a two-hour course from Ritz and got a framed 8.5×11.Clifton
@ahockley a liar?J-P Voilleque
@ahockley someone who can take a test but has no real experience? #cynicalHolly
@ahockley somebody who passed an exam that granted that credential — whether necessary or worthwhile would have to do research on ;-)Brenda Clark
@ahockley no :(Grant Landram

And here’s a screenshot from Google+:

Google+ responses about a Certified Professional Photographer

Seems to me that (at least amongst my communities), nobody knows what a Certified Professional Photographer is… and even worse, many of those that don’t know are skeptical or have negative sentiment.

I realize that any sort of certification needs some ramp-up time, but this has been around for a while, and if potential clients don’t have any idea what it means it seems that it would be a stretch as a professional benefit.