Instagram Suffering From Privacy Policy Woes

Instagram

Instagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instagram has found itself in a spot of bother over the last few days. Recent changes to it’s privacy policy suggesting that the retro photos network may sell its users photos, has prompted drastic action from individual users and brands alike.

Realising the extent to which this new policy was unfavourable with it’s users, Kevin Systrom Instagram’s CEO, posted to the company’s blog to set the record straight.

“To be clear, it is not our intention to sell your photos” he said.

He also mentions that the company is not intending to use pictures of its members in advertising and the language used in that part of the policy will be removed to avoid confusion.

Systrom did make one concession around advertising:

“Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.”

This push for advertising and revenue generation is the biggest change to the terms of service since Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook for a cool $735million earlier this year.

Facebook itself is criticised to no end for every little alteration they decide to make to their appearance, or their terms of service. It’s users become very vocal during times of change (we all witnessed the apparent outrage to the forceable changing to timeline!), but few ever seem to abandon the network – where would they go?

This is what Instagram need to hope for. The company currently has in the region of 100 million users, whom have uploaded some 5 billion photos. Are these users committed enough to stay put however, or is there scope to move elsewhere? German company EyeEm could provide a more appealing photo host, or perhaps good ol’ Flickr who just released a killer new smartphone app? Only time will tell, let’s just hope Zuckerberg has a plan B if he just squandered $735 million!

Last Nun Standing: why IO’s Hitman:Absolution trailer has our wimples all askew

I recently put out a call on Social Gadget’s Facebook page looking for contributors, whether it be in the from of guest posts, or tips on stories the SG community would like to be covered. The response was far greater than I expected with a fair few people getting back to me wanting to write about quite an eclectic range of things!

The first post comes from film maker and avid PC gamer, Grant discussing IO’s controversial new trailer for Hitman: Absolution.

IO's Hitman: Absolution - Attack of the Saints screengrab

Ok, so in the interests of full disclosure I did spend five minutes before I started writing this article looking for nun puns [why wouldn’t you!?]. It was my light hearted way of easing into the current hot button topic of whether IO Interactive have over stepped the mark with their latest pre-E3 trailer for Hitman: Absolution, “Attack of the Saints”.

It depicts the enigmatic Agent 47 patching himself up in a rundown motel before being cornered by a posse of gun toting assassin nuns in pvc/rubber cat suits. He then inexplicably pops up behind them and dispatches them with ruthless efficiency (now that I’ve written it down I’ve realised just how daft it sounds). The video is a spectacular display of CGI, it is brutal and visceral and I can’t deny that it’s an engaging trailer. It is exactly the kind of device developers use to catch our eye and make us exclaim, “OMGWTFBBQ!? That’s awesome!” Two things continue to baffle me about this trailer however: why the nuns, guys? And just what in the Sam Hill is going on here?


It has elicited some fairly robust responses from games journalists and commentators. Keza MacDonalds’ IGN piece chewed up and spat out the trailer, condemning it as nothing but tasteless, misogynistic violence-porn. Charlie Brooker took to twitter, roundly condemning the trailer as being aimed at “base, clueless imbeciles” and it had “set the games industry back 27 years”. Of course, Brooker being Brooker there were a few more choice words thrown in there for good measure.

Their two main objections being that the violence against women aspect is thrown in purely for shock value and sexualises it to a degree that becomes uncomfortable; as a result, we are being talked down to by the marketers. This was supposed to be a sophisticated, albeit brutal game. Why the Serious Sam/Duke Nukem-esque pandering of bums and boobs? The video games industry has come on in such leaps and bounds it is now talked of as a rival to the film industry in competing for our time and money, worth some £2.5billion to our economy. The industry has become more high-tech and impressive over time so we should have matured as an audience and grown alongside it. The people that started playing video games when they were an experiment are now in their 30’s.  What makes this trailer so jarring to many is the marketers clearly think we are all still horny, adolescent boys, and with the judicial application of explosions, guns, blood and tits, us and our hard earned cash are easily parted…

bayonetta hair suit

Sega’s Bayonetta – image credit: ripten.com

I haven’t seen the same criticism of similar sexual images in other video games though. Vampire Bloodlines, Bayonetta [above], Harley Quinn in the Batman games [Arkham series] , were all pretty provocative. It is hard to argue that the Lara Croft series of games were so successful for their innovative level design and graphics and the fact that the main protagonist was a powerful, gun-toting female in skimpy shorts had nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s less sexist because Lara Croft was dishing out the violence and wasn’t the subject of it? Certainly the film industry continues to sell a great many films with the combination of violent and sexual images. Kill Bill, Death Proof, and Sucker Punch to name just a few. The violence meted out to the prostitute gang in Sin City was of a comparable ilk to this trailer, and they were similarly attired in leather and rubber, although the context of their situation was much clearer (they were effectively unionised, right?!)

Perhaps it is the lack of context that makes this trailer just a bit, well, dumb? Hitman previously had great advertising form, particularly the series of magazine ads that include “Beautifully Executed” showing a glamorous woman sprawled on a bed. It takes a moment to clock the neat little bullet hole in her forehead and it’s a clever motif that shows the meticulous nature of pulling off a perfect assassination in the game. It is worth pointing out to those that haven’t played Hitman that it is a dark world that 47 exists in. His previous targets have included drug kingpins, people traffickers, high profile paedophile diplomats, weapons engineers and Middle Eastern Sheiks. He has tracked them down to S&M parties in meat packing factories, crushed them under a chandelier at the opera or locked them in a sauna. The Attack of the Saints trailer bares only a passing resemblance to how a Hitman game plays. You can run and gun your way through the level, but that really isn’t the point or 47s’ style. I like to stroll leisurely out of the front door at the end of the mission, adjusting my tie as if nothing had happened and I had nothing to do with the corpse I had left behind. It is possible that the scene depicted never actually appears in the game. I will feel even more pandered to if this trailer ends up being nothing more than a cynical exercise in shock marketing and collecting internet clicks. The zombie game Dead Island ran with an ad showing the final desperate moments of a family trapped in their hotel by a rampaging Undead horde. Beautifully crafted, cleverly edited and with an affectingly sad ending, it delivered a much watched and much hyped award winning video from design group Axis Animation, but it bore little context or resemblance to the disappointing final product.

The Hitman: Absolution trailer is a well made trailer but it is just ludicrous. It’s cool but it doesn’t sell or represent the game well. Plus those nuns made a real dumb kill team! They didn’t cover their arcs or send anyone around the back. There is absolutely no reason why they are dressed that way either, apart from to display some gratuitous T&A. If I had been sent to kill the most deadly silent assassin I would be there in full body armour, not rocking up in my speedos’ that’s for sure.

If you enjoyed Grant’s first guest post, let him know in the comments box. Be sure to follow Grant on Twitter to see what else he’s up to and (if you’re feeling super generous) share his article using the buttons below.

TWTW Tech: New nano-SIM Specs Decided

new nano-SIM specs

credit: aspleysatellite.co.uk

The European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI) has reached a decision regarding the standard size and insertion mechanism for nano-SIM cards.

The tiny new SIM cards will be 40% smaller than the current micro-SIM, measuring 12.3mm by 8.8mm by 0.67mm. The loading mechanism will be tray based, familiar to those who have used an iPhone or Nokia’s current flagship model – the Lumia 900.

Now that the standard has been agreed, it shall not be long until we see nano-SIMs appearing in smartphones and other mobile devices. The new smaller size will free up precious real-estate inside the phone, allowing for slimmer and smaller devices in the future.

TWTW Tech: Lovefilm Instant introduces HD Streaming

Lovefilm instantLovefilm Instant, the company’s movies and TV streaming service, has finally made the leap to High Definition.

HD streaming will be available on PC and Mac in full 1080p. Samsung and LG Blu-ray players and smart TVs, along with the Xbox 360 will also get the HD goods, although only in 720p. For the moment PlayStation 3 users will not be able to stream HD content, although Lovefilm say they are working hard to change this.

Key titles available in HD include Apocalypse Now, Gnomeo & Juliet, Planet Earth and Lost – with more to be added at a later date.

Lovefilm has always had an impressive catalogue of movies and shows, but stream quality often lagged behind it’s competitors.

Netflix, Lovefilm Instant’s closest competitor, has offered HD streaming since it debuted in the UK in January, luring away many of Lovefilm’s customers. Netflix’s catalogue is not as strong as Lovefilm however, so with the introduction of HD video to Lovefilm Instant, the Amazon owned company may yet prove it’s dominance in the market.

Which side of the Lovefilm/Netflix fence do you sit? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet your views @Social_Gadget.

TWTW Tech: Google wants to .lol

Google wants to .lol

credit: googlol.freeoda.com

Google has revealed that it has applied for some interesting top level domains (TLDs), as the three month long application window to The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) closed last week.

Speaking on the official Google blog, the company’s Chief Internet Evangelist, Vint Cerf told of how Google’s applications fall into 4 categories:

  • Google trademarks, like .google
  • Domains that relate to their core business, such as .docs
  • Domains that will improve user experience, such as .youtube, so YouTube channels and genres can be identified more easily
  • Domains that Google believes have interesting creative potential, like .lol

With the majority of webpages falling under the .com TLD, Google hope that by introducing more choice to domain names, we shall see “more diverse – and perhaps shorter – signposts in cyberspace”

TWTW Gaming: New Tomb Raider Trailer and Release Date

Tomb Raider

credit: Mofobian.com

So to say that I’m a fan of Tomb Raider would be a slight understatement; owning all the games, the movies, T-shirts and even a life size Lara Croft (I wish I was joking), I may be just a little excited about the upcoming reboot!

Originally scheduled for release in Autumn this year, Tomb Raider was pushed back by Crystal Dynamics to allow for some extra development time. Now, ahead of this years E3, we have a new trailer and a confirmed release date: March 5th 2013!

The trailer reveals a little more than was seen in last years gameplay demo. We are introduced to a few more characters and some key plot lines are revealed. The game’s visuals are truly stunning, opting for a far grittier, realer Tomb Raider than has been seen before. Lara is more delicate, not the hardened stone-cold killer from Tomb Raider of old. She is faced with moral dilemmas when placed in kill or be killed scenarios with wild creatures, and perhaps more notably, with humans.

Gameplay wise, we can see the use of a cover system similar to that found in the Uncharted series. I doubt developers Crystal Dynamics will shy away from this comparison however, after all… no Tomb Raider, no Uncharted; it’s that simple.

This isn’t the first time we have seen new gameplay styles make their way into the series. The often criticised Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness introduced an RPG element to the franchise, forcing Lara to have to ‘level up’ her strength in order to progress past certain obstacles. The Harry Potter sounding Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light was pehaps the biggest departure for the series, abandoning it’s traditional platform based gameplay (and the Tomb Raider title) for top down, arcade-shooter action instead!

Excited for the new Tomb Raider? Let us know your thought in the comments below, and look out for are upcoming feature taking a look at the series over the coming weeks!

TWTW Gaming: Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC Info

It’s been a long wait for more information on the highly anticipated Skyrim DLC. Back in April, rumours that we were going to find out sooner rather than later were quickly forgotten with the announcement of The Elder Scrolls Online. Fortunately, new details have surfaced in the form of a trailer!

Skyrim: Dawnguard has bite [forgive me!], a vampire bite to be more specific. Players appear to be presented with a choice of playing as either a vampire, or a member of the Dawnguard, a vampire hunting faction.

The vampires seem to be able to take on a rather badass looking form – turning into some kind of winged demon – as well as having the ability to chow down on unfortunate non-player characters (NPCs)

New weapons include a cross bow, there’s a fiery horse and dragons can now swim (eek!)

More details are likely to be revealed at E3 next week.

Dawnguard will arrive on Xbox Live this summer for 1600MSP

TWTW Gaming: Zynga wants to be like Xbox Live

Zynga want to be a gaming network, a lot like Xbox LiveSocial gaming giant Zynga has revealed intentions to be a mobile gaming network.

Speaking at All Things D’s D10 conference, Zynga’s founder and CEO Mark Pincus told of how the company “want to be a gaming network, a lot like Xbox Live”

Zynga have built up an impressive portfolio of games across numerous social and mobile platforms, most notably, Facebook and iOS. The desire to become a gaming network of the scale Pincus suggested, could see the company look to connecting gamers on both Zynga and non-Zynga titles alike.

The company has seen substantial growth through acquisitions of successful titles such as Words with Friends and Draw Something. With Draw Something suffering dwindling numbers in it’s user base however, the Californian game company may wish to take a little more care with it’s cash, if it wants to make any moves towards becoming a successful gaming network.

FatKidOnFire

A good friend runs a truly great blog covering fashion and bass music, as well as providing some genuinely top banter. He has also spent the past couple of years working in Digital! Firstly in an agency, and now for an ace little internet startup. In addition, he is a contributor to Microsoft’s developer blog – Ubelly.

With a planned relaunch of his site (one which shall incorporate Tech prominently!), we have just kicked off the first of many tech postings with a guest post from myself, talking about the role mobile will play in the future of social.

Wil and I shall be swapping content back and forth over the next few months so keep on checking FatKidOnFire and keep your eyes peeled for his guest posts on here!

For all things FKOF, check out Twitter and Facebook

5 Tips For Taking Great Looking Instagram Photos

With Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and an Android version of the app having been released in recent times, there’s a whole bunch of new users out there! Here’s a quick rundown of tips to make your photos standout above the rest…

Great Looking Instagram Photo of a Heart Tree

1) Don’t use the camera in Instagram

Instagram’s camera function is extremely limiting; instead, opt to use your handsets regular camera app. This will allow you to zoom, add a grid to ensure your photos are straight, and crop your pictures how you like.

2) Use other apps

Instagram’s filters are great, but sometimes they don’t quite provide enough control. That great effect that just slightly over exposed part of the photo can often be irritating; the answer: use a different app. Snapseed is a favourite of ours at Social Gadget. The app offers a great choice of filters that can be completely customised by simply sliding your finger from left to right. The ‘strength’ of the effect varies from 0%-100% depending upon how far you slide, it’s that simple. In addition, you can add multiple filters to your photos making for some outstanding combinations.

Aside from filters, other apps can provide more interest to your pictures. Colorsplash for example, allows your to add drama to a photo by converting it to black and white, leaving only your chosen details in colour. InFrame Cut [iTunes download link] allows you to create split screen, multi-photo images with customisable frames, and Pic Collage allows you to create great looking collages, using photos on your device or from Facebook and the web.

Great Instagram Photo using InFrame Cut of a park

InFrame Cut can really help your pictures describe your surroundings

3) Shoot with good light

In the UK this isn’t always the easiest I know, but it’s worth trying your best to take your shots in good, natural light if you really want them to look killer on Instagram. Smartphone cameras, by comparison to regular cameras, have pretty small sensors which only allow in so much light. Do you best to help them out by using natural light where possible. Also, using the HDR function (if you’re an iPhone user) will really  help your pictures pop when applying filters later.

Instagram photo of a well lit tree

4) Look at what other people are doing via Hashtags

There are some truly incredible photographers on Instagram; take inspiration from them by looking at what they’re up to. Hashtags are keywords on instagram; if you’re about to take a shot of something such as a ‘tree’, search for photos hashtagged #tree to see how others compose their pictures; you might just find a neat new perspective that makes your photo stand out.

5) Cheat, and use a high end DSLR and Photoshop

Ditch your phone altogether and take some great shots using Canon or Nikon’s latest offering; tweak it until perfection in Photoshop, then quickly upload it to Instagram like nothing ever happened…

Any other tips? Let us know in the comments below, and feel free to share your photos with us on Facebook and Twitter