Category Archives: Technology

Nextdoor – Monetizing at the Expense of Users

Nextdoor is a neighborhood social networking app used by more than 150,000 neighborhoods in the U.S,  It’s a great app in so many ways. The initial product was unique and filled a need that most people didn’t realize they had (like innovative, successful products do, #PC #ipod). Nextdoor offered utility and community that Facebook couldn’t. But Nextdoor is so focused on monetizing through local business promotion (sponsored content) that they seem to have forgotten the importance of user experience namely in the buying/selling area.
Nextdoor sponsored post
Austin: 30% lost dogs, 30% lost cats, 15% for sale or rent, 10% cacti, 10% sponsored content (ads), 5% misc.
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Until 2016, Nextdoor had been entirely funded by venture capital firms including Benchmark, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Tiger Global Management and others.

Recently, we have begun testing sponsored content from a select group of businesses who we believe have valuable products and services to share with Nextdoor’s members. We are also testing allowing local real estate agents and brokerages to promote listings in their zip codes. –Nextdoor
Nextdoor logo
Great name.

Feature Fails

The biggest problem is the search functionality, which is abysmal. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to search results. They are infuriatingly unhelpful. It’s like the app wants to show you that once upon a time there was a perfectly relevant post but now you’re SOL. Recency is paramount for this type of app, focused on quick sales or neighborhood updates. The content is mostly fleeting and time-sensitive.
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For example, search “table” and you’ll see six-month old posts but nothing new, even if a table was posted to the classifieds section yesterday.
You can’t access your own activity easily. Also, I don’t know if it’s my issue but there is no way to get your iPhone to add a visual notification badge (red number) to the Nextdoor icon. So you have to check your email or keep opening the app, which you forget to do, and then miss PMs, and the agave plant you were eyeing gets sold to someone down the block.
Boston brownstones
I once worked for a home services review provider in the same space. I predicted Nextdoor would eat that company’s lunch. They are, as is Amazon Home Services (fantastic, smart model there – go Bezos GO.)

Why Nextdoor is Special

Here’s what I saw two years ago: Nextdoor offers a convenient, focused platform for a select group (a tribe, more importantly) based on location. It’s the closest thing to an inherently trustworthy digital community you can find and its geo restrictions keep it relevant. Neighbors on Nextdoor just trust each other more when transacting or discussing. There’s more respect. Because it’s literally your neighbors. That is unique online.

But Nextdoor is going to need to invest heavily in a better UX if they want to survive the war of Classifieds with Facebook Marketplace utterly dominating the P2P selling space.

Facebook: Talk about great UX. That GD app which is the entire internet for most people may well beat out Craigslist for (G-rated) selling because it offers social proof and greater trust among sellers and buyers, plus total convenience because its messages are right inside Facebook versus your throwaway email. Easy mobile photo upload and price adjustment notifications to users watching your listing make the experience better for all. It’s a better experience than listing on Nextdoor, and clearly Zuck has already figured out monetization. Nextdoor needs to clean up the selling/buying features or there won’t be many users left to see the ads.
By the way, here’s the funniest Craigslist moment I’ve had in years. I was shopping for a table, and used my Google Voice number as usual to maintain some privacy:
screenshot of rude Craigslist email
How did he even know it was G Voice? Who’s the creepy one now? Rude/ignorant. Keep your table, dude.

How to Download Instagram Pictures

You can’t directly download Instagram pictures to your phone or computer from the app or from the photo’s URL. This is supposedly to protect copyright on photos. However, preventing you from downloading your own photos is ridiculous: they are yours! And given that there are workarounds to download any photo on IG, disabling this inside the app just makes more work for users. But that’s the case for now.

Two ways to download Instagram photos:

1) Google Chrome Developer Tools (best way to download to your computer):

  1. Open the Instagram image in Google Chrome and click to pop it out (full view).
  2. Right click (on Mac: CTRL+click) the image and select “Inspect.”
  3. You’ll see the Elements view. Hit CTRL+F then enter “jpg” so you can find the jpg URLs in the code.
  4. Click the down arrow to the right of the finder bar to see the next instance of “jpg” until your photo is highlighted (blue tinted/selected like below). It will probably be the second jpg instance (the first is your avatar).

    Chrome Developer Tools highlighting Instagram photo URL
    Find the jpg URL that is your photo
  5. Highlight the jpg URL and copy it. It’s fine if you highlight the whole paragraph which is more than just the image URL, for example:
    <img class=”_2di5p” src=”https://instagram.fmkc1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/t51.2885-15/e35/21827421_172300296664014_7469834922526507008_n.jpg” style=””>
  6. Just paste the whole thing into a new browser window and delete the extra characters. So you’ll have just the URL (beginning with https and ending in .jpg), for example:
    https://instagram.fmkc1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/t51.2885-15/e35/21827421_172300296664014_7469834922526507008_n.jpg
  7. Right click (or on Mac CTRL+click) and hit Save Image As.

2) DownloadGram.com (alright way to download to computer or phone)

This website worked on one photo for me, but on the second I got an error. Give it a whirl if you don’t like dealing with code in method #1.
Note: Alternatives InstaSave and Dinsta are garbage. You can hardly tell which parts of the site are CTAs vs. ads. They look like virus farms. Avoid.
Oh and don’t forget this fun stipulation which you’ve agreed to in Instagram’s Terms and Conditions:
Instagram (owned by Facebook) can legally save and sell your photos to an advertising agency.
How to download Instagram photos using DownloadGram:
  1. Go to https://www.instagram.com/
  2. Find the Instagram picture you want to save and click on it.
  3. Copy the photo’s URL from the web address bar in your browser.
  4. Go to https://downloadgram.com/ 
  5. Paste the photo’s URL into the box with the auto-generated Instagram link, above the Download button.

    Downloadgram homepage
    Paste the Instagram photo URL here.
  6. Click Download. Then, click the resulting Download Picture button to save your image.

Looking for help keeping your profile private, knowing if someone saw that you liked a photo, or understanding how blocking works? Check out my top Instagram help posts:

Instagram Privacy Tips and FAQ

Instagram Tips: Liking and Unliking

Six Years of Answering Instagram User Questions

I provided the original Instagram FAQ. Information in demand was missing from the internet and I enjoy researching technology and helping people. I wrote two posts in 2011 and 2012 about Instagram privacy which still rank in Google’s top 10 search results for related terms.

Six years and 700+ comments later, here’s what I’ve learned about human frailty, desire, shame, and searching.

woman looking at the water holding her phoneIn 2011, Instagram was growing in popularity but lacked a formal FAQ. Users desperately sought information about whether their accidental photo likes would be visible to their exes and frenemies.

Instagram FAQ comment
One of the top 3 Instagram questions I receive.
Instagram FAQ question
Will they know I liked the photo if I do everything possible to prevent it?

I’ve answered hundreds of questions in the comments and continue to receive more each week. After six years of fielding queries about Instagram profile privacy, blocking, hiding likes, push notifications, and whether video views are public, I have concluded that we waste far too much time worrying about the visibility of our activity. We feel unnecessary shame. We want to hide what we consider shameful: voyeurism, the masochism of cyber stalking an ex, or simply our fascination with others’ lives. These are timeless human behaviors that have adapted to the available means. Look at songs like Don’t Come Around Here No More and On Every Street. Everyone can relate to these lyrics. Songs like these play in my head as I read through the comments on my Instagram posts. We’re nostalgic, we’re sentimental, we seek information and updates on lost loves, lost friends, lost places.

It’s clear that we use social media for many reasons. One is to satisfy our hunger for connection and validation. We do this less and less in person and increasingly online. So much is lost in this digital version of interacting.

Instagram privacy question
How do I get my new ex to stop copying me online?

I’ve seen the fear of being found out for behaviors that are common and understandable. We have been given tools to passively, secretly watch the highlight reels of each others’ lives. So naturally we watch. And we slip and click and immediately feel ashamed and self-conscious, exposed for engaging in the very behaviors that the creators of these apps and our fellow users expect and encourage.

Chicago rowhouse neighborhood

Tom Petty asked his ex to “stop walking down my street”. She probably wouldn’t want to be seen but couldn’t help herself. Now she’d be embarrassed to be caught accidentally liking his two-year old photo. Mark Knopfler uses the metaphor of a detective looking for a missing person when writing about an ex he just can’t forget. Ani DiFranco captures the same sentiment in Gravel, still under her ex’s spell. We keep holding on to each other, to memories, to old flames, to friendships that dried up, and to places we’ve left behind. We seek connection and belonging, and we cling to the moments when we felt it. But we’re looking somewhere that can never meet our needs.

How a WTF Moment Became the New Normal – StandFor Interview

This Fourth of July, I had a memorable WTF moment with one of the rudest people I’ve ever met. What makes it noteworthy is that many consider his behavior normal. I tell the story in this interview with StandFor: Technology as an Escape Mechanism

Excerpt:

…To put it in context with technology: the Like button came out in 2009, then Facebook’s first mobile app was released in 2010, but it was pretty awful. Smartphones outsold PCs for the first time in the last quarter of 2011. Facebook improved its app, and with every iteration, it became smoother and more addictive, fueling phubbing.

In the U.S., having and responding to work email on your phone at all hours became expected as smartphone use increased, encouraging the unhealthy always-on worker mentality. The pendulum swung further when Instagram hit a penetrative point, having 150 million MAUs by late 2013, three years after launch.

I’d say 2012-2013 is when phubbing became really noticeable.

These social apps are engineered to be highly addictive. It’s a business that profits off usage. I noticed people checking their phones not just for text messages (actual communication) but being addicted to refreshing their social feeds like slot machines (passive, receptive entertainment) because the apps for Facebook and Instagram became so addictive. Facebook became the internet for many people. These apps are designed to encourage addictive checking just like cigarettes and McDonald’s fries cause cravings. Smartphones with apps, messaging, and email provide what became a socially acceptable escape mechanism for the boring or awkward moments of daily life

Read more at The Talk: Technology as an Escape Mechanism.

#talkyourwalk

Emily sitting near grass
Me at the StandFor photo shoot – wearing Quit Phubbing shoes

Photo credit: Heather Haberkern (Heather is a talented stylist, interior designer, and photographer who led the StandFor photo shoot)

Your Phubbing Habit Ruins Relationships (StandFor Shoes Review + Offer)

Phubbing = phone snubbing. It happens when we ignore the people around us because we’re paying attention to technology. Phubbing wrecks relationships. I’ve been concerned about this for years, as you know if you’ve listened to my podcast or read my blog or ever met me. I put my phone on airplane mode every night because it’s an important boundary for me – yes, I am unreachable for a few hours of precious serenity.

phubbing definition
Phubbing: you probably do it everyday.

With more and more people using the attention-siphoning devices — the typical American checks his or her smartphone once every 6.5 minutes, or roughly 150 times each day — phubbing has emerged as a real source of conflict. –CNN 

“Researchers James. A. Roberts and Meredith E. David identified eight types of phone snubbing behavior that have become common in today’s world. They are:

– During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his/her cellphone.

– My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.

– My partner keeps his or her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me….”

Sound familiar? This stuff is disturbing.illustrated-people-on-phones-phubbing

Who’s really worse: fast food companies or tech companies?

It’s somewhat in vogue to believe companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and R.J. Reynolds are the problem. They make us sick, fat or dead, they pollute our planet,  and they’re purely profit-driven. Yet all the while, we lionize tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. But these companies are responsible for literally rewiring our brains.

We’re willing participants as users of social networks that contribute to the breakdown of real human interaction, just like people in the drive-thru know what a Big Mac does to their body.

I suppose the parallel is that we didn’t always really know how bad fast food was for us until Supersize Me etc. came to light, until we legislated publishing calories on menus. And we won’t really acknowledge the negative impact of dopamine addiction to text message chimes and Facebook Likes for years, if at all. It’s more than a negative impact, it’s the unrecognized public (mental) health crisis of modern times.

StandFor Initiative contacted me and asked if I’d like to try out their anti-phubbing shoes. I’d never seen shoes with such a neat mission. Go check out their site. Frankly, this mission is way cooler and more important than TOM’S. I don’t care if that offends anyone. The Stop Phubbing mission is something we should all embrace before we break our ankles falling into a mall fountain.

Emily wearing StandFor shoes
Me wearing StandFor shoes

I picked the LOVERS shoes – there are plenty of really neat designs with backstories and real life inspiration. Here’s the description from the designer for my chosen pair:

One of the members of our team said that there’s nothing like the real feel of his wife’s warm hand touching his. Everyone should probably feel like this. But when we go to restaurants, we are shocked by couples who hardly look at each other and would rather spend their meal time staring at their phones, phablets and tablets.

I’m happy to wear these #stopphubbing shoes and I hope they spark a conversation. They’re comfortable, well made, and pretty darn cool looking. If you’d like a pair, here’s a $30 off discount promo code (valid through July 30, 2017): Enter promo code RMEFt9MD at shop.standforinitiative.com and choose the shoes, ankle boots or boots you’d like.

standfor-initiative-shoes-blue-grey
Me wearing the LOVERS design, inspired by couples who ignore each other for their phones.

 

[Images: Stop Phubbing]