500px Apps Back in the App Store

After the 500px app was pulled from the App Store last week, I was glad to see it this morning in my updates list.

500px app updating in the iOS App Store
500px app updating in the iOS App Store

Given the few comments from 500px, clearly they have been heads down to get issues resolved to satisfaction. According to GigaOm’s Erica Ogg there were three things required by Apple for 500px to get their apps back in the App Store:

500px has been updated with three fixes requested by Apple’s app reviewers, including a tweak that will prevent queries for explicit image searches from producing results, adding a function for users to report inappropriate content, and the addition of a 17+ age rating on the app.

After my previous post, an Apple spokesperson made a statement which was reported in TechCrunch and others:

The app was removed from the App Store for featuring pornographic images and material, a clear violation of our guidelines.

I have used 500px for sometime, and although I have seen artistic nudity, I have never seen anything approaching pornography. I wouldn’t want my images associated with any service that knowingly hosted pornography, and would likely drop my membership.

I wonder how long Apple had been talking to 500px prior to pulling the app. On the surface, it appears that double standards may apply, as reported by the SMH:

Apple allows apps from such big-name social platforms as Twitter, Vine, Tumblr and Pinterest to remain in its App Store even though they contain adult content. Yet it has knocked off other lesser-known sites from its store because of “pornographic images and material”.

I don’t believe any other company should enforce censorship standards that are over and above those of the western world.

App.net Fast Becoming a Powerful, Open Social Platform

Netbot ScreenShotDalton Caldwell announcing the App.net File API :

The promise of “unbundling”

Imagine a world in which your social data (e.g. messages, photos, videos) was easier to work with. For instance, imagine you could try out a new photo sharing service without having to move all of your photos and social graph.

In this world, your photos are held in a data store controlled by you. If you want to try out a new service, you can seamlessly login and choose to give permission to that service, and the photos that you have granted access to would be immediately available.

This is one benefit of an “unbundled” social service. Unbundling gives the user power to pick the software that best suits their needs, rather than being forced to use the software made by the company that manages their data.

I’ve been an App.net (also known as ADN for “App Dot Net”) user since early on – when they took the the concept to the people and offered something different – a model where the users are the customers, not the product. Unlike Twitter, Facebook and others, ADN does not rely on advertising revenue, and instead is a subscription service.

The addition of a wide range of apps was the first step in ADN getting traction. But an interesting thing started to happen – each developer started to add innovative features, as a result of direct communications with users. Although I primarily use Netbot for iOS and Wedge for OSX, I actually use other apps for specific features.

The ADN team recognises the power of having an underlying layer for data storage and exchange, and a platform that allows developers to provide innovative front end features. They also recognise that the power for them, in their business model, is to let different users choose the apps that provide them the features they want.

I think that ADN should be firmly on the radar of serious users of social media, and of course SMEGs.

I am @desparoz on ADN.

iOS 6.1 Update for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV

iOS 6.1 Update Screenshot from Apple.comNo doubt all serious iPad and iPhone users are busy downloading the iOS 6.1 Software Update, which has a couple of new features, though nothing outstanding unless you’re in the US, or one of the additional 23 markets covered by LTE:

  • LTE support for more carriers
  • Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only)
  • iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud
  • New button to reset the Advertising Identifier

I must admit that I am just as excited by the announcement that they have updated Apple TV with Up Next and Bluetooth Keyboard. Update features include:

  • iTunes in the Cloud
  • Bluetooth keyboard: Use your Apple Wireless Keyboard to control your Apple TV.
  • AirPlay audio for videos: Send stereo audio from movies, TV shows, and other videos on Apple TV to AirPlay-enabled speakers and devices
  • Stability and performance

All of these update items are terrific, but the addition of bluetooth has been a long time coming, and will be quite welcome when searching for particular items. I have also found the Apple TV to be a bit temperamental at times, so am looking forward to the stability and performance updates.

Around the Web – My Link Blog

I’ve run a Linkblog I call Around the Web on the Des Paroz On The Go blog on and off for many years. The purpose is to share some links that I’ve found interesting around the web. I call these my Around the Web posts.
I’ve recently experimented with two types of linkblog:

  • Individual quick posts with perhaps a quote, a quick comment by me, and a link. The title of my blog post links directly to the linked site. The title generally included the ⟶ symbol to indicate it was an offsite link
  • Summary posts with a collection of links I’ve added to Pinboard (or previously Delicious)

The first method takes a bit more work, but results in customised posts. I find that I tend to only share the best of the best with this approach.

With the second approach, I’ve set things up with Pinboard and a WordPress plugin so that all I have to do is to add a post to Pinboard – a really easy thing to do with favourite apps like Reeder (iOS and OSX), Mr. Reader (iPad) and Instapaper.

From a workflow perspective the second method is far easier for me, but I think this results in me linking too many items, resulting in too much clutter. For example, one Around the Web post contained 22 links. Admittedly that was for a four day period, but I would rarely do five single post linkblog posts in a day if doing them individually.

Less is more, and in this case I am going to revert to individual posts on the items that I find most appealing. I am going to aim for a maximum of 3–5 per day, and if I don’t find anything I really want to share, its possible that there will be no posts.

My Around the Web linkblog posts will mostly link from the title directly to the link. This way any comments will be at the point where discussion will be most valuable – the source. I know this is taking you off site, but I hope the quality of my posts and the range of links I provide will keep you coming back.

Update 2/2/13

I’ve made a further change, and stripped the linkblog out into its own blog called Around the Web with Des Paroz. The latest three posts will appear in a sidebar on this page, and the web feed (feeds.feedberner.com/desparoz/) will aggregate the feed from both blogs. I’ve done this to keep the key focus on the posts on this site to the core topics of productivity, presentations and photography, and the technology that supports all three.

Around the Web links for 25th January

These are links I’ve gathered from my wanderings around the web for 25th January

  • Why Email Should Become Obsolete – Business Insider – "Email is all about containing knowledge, putting it in defined boxes. That's the wrong way to go about it. Information and knowledge are much more powerful when people can easily access it, then collaborate and build upon it." Sounds like the logic behind the ill-fated Google Wave. Although the idea is good in principle, people like containers. I think email will continue to be an important tool for the foreseeable future!

Publishing a Post on Scriptogr.am

Earlier I discussed my experiences in setting up a Scriptogr.am blog site, so this post is going to be about posting. In fact, its the posting process that drew me to Scriptogr.am in the first place, as it allows you to write in Markdown, my preference for doing websites. I dislike writing in HTML, and am not a fan of most WYSIWYG editors, as they tend to distract you from the core task of writing.
With the exception of short quick posts on my Des Paroz On The Go WordPress blog (for which I might use the WYSIWIG editor), most of my posts are written in Byword, directly in Markdown. Sometimes I write the text first, and add the Markdown tags later, though often I just do them as I go. Squarespace handles Markdown natively (along with HTML and WYSIWIG).

Byword and Marked

As you might be able to see from the screen shot, the Markdown tags get out of the way in Byword, allowing you to focus on the writing. You’ll also note that I have a second app open – Brett Terpstra’s excellent Marked app that allows me to get real time previews of how my posts will look, without any of the Markdown. It’s really a lovely way of writing. Of course, this only applies on the Mac OSX version of Byword – its not available (or needed really) when I run Byword on an iOS device.

The beauty of this process is that I can basicaly write once then publish to both my WordPress blog and my Scriptogr.am one. For the WordPress blog, I will start by using the File > Export > HTML to Clipboard option in Byword, then paste that content into either MarsEdit or directly into the WordPress console. I then tidy up any images, add tags and categories, and publish. For my Squarespace sites, I just cut and paste the Markdown code directly into the editor.

For Scriptogr.am posts, I stay in Byword, and add some header text to the file, so that Scriptogr.am knows a post name, publish date and time, tags, etc. I have a standard TextExpander snippet setup to generate the following:

Date: 2013-01-25 06:07 
Title:
Tags:

As you can see the date is autogenerated in the correct format by TextExpander.

Once all this is done, I move the file (File > Move To…) to the designated sync folder for Scriptogr.am. One more step is to go over to the Scriptogr.am Dashboard, and Synchronize my site. The file should now be published.

So publishing in Scriptogr.am is very easy, and really leverages the power of Markdown.

There are only a couple of downsides that I can see.

  1. Firstly, there are no categories, as far as I can see in Scriptogr.am. Perhaps they have a worldview of sticking to tags, and I guess that I am ok with that.
  2. The extra step of having to over to the Scriptogr.am dashboard and synchronise means that you lose some of the standalone nature of things. Maybe some sort of push capability with a widget or menu bar item.

There are some other limitations I am finding with the overall Scriptogr.am platform, but as they are not directly about posting, I’ll leave those to another post.

I should quickly mention that there are a couple of other options for writing blog posts. One is to use a simple editor built into the Scriptogr.am site. Seems to work fine, but you still have to synchronise

All in all, I find the process of creating blog posts on Scriptogr.am to be straightforward, functional and seamless. For a writer interested in writing and not coding a website, it offers a low-cost (free at this time) platform that leverages the power of Markdown and Dropbox. Using it doesn’t require a lot of technical know how (Markdown is easy to pick up), and the results are great.

Photographers Rights, Trey Ratcliff and the Sydney Morning Herald

Prolific photographer, author of the great book A World in HDR and founder of the Stuck in Customs website, Trey Ratcliff has allegedly had one of his wonderful photos used by the Sydney Morning Herald in today’s edition without permission and against the terms of his Creative Commons license! The unattributed, unlicensed image appears on page 3 of the newspaper, and also appears in their online edition (current as at 6:00pm on 24 January 2013).

Screenshot from SMH

Trey is a wonderfully talented photographer, and is one of the major players behind the growth and popularity of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Trey has very generous licensing terms on the images he posts daily to his website. These terms allow anyone to use his images, provided that it is for non-commercial purposes, that Trey is attributed and that is a link is provided back to www.stuckincustoms.com.

Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hofman. Image by Trey Ratcliff

Trey made this image during his recent visit to Australia from his adopted hometown in Queenstown, New Zealand. It was made in the Darling Harbour Precinct of Sydney, and the giant rubber duck is part of the spactacle of this years Sydney Festival.

The ironic thing is that the Sydney Morning Herald has recently run several stories about photographers having their images stolen online, and I had been pleased to see that they are trying to bring light on to the theft of photographer’s copyrighted materials.

A defence often used by people or organisations when accused of stealing an image (or other content) is that the it was “freely available”. Let me say this clearly: freely available doesn’t mean it’s free. This applies to newspapers like any other commercial entity. as reported by PetaPixel.

The owner of a piece of intellectual property like a photograph has the right to license the property as they see fit. As Trey chooses to license his images under a Creative Commons license requiring attribution for non-commercial use, that license must be respected. People or organisations who wish to use the image for commercial purposes need to appropriately license the image. This is stated clearly on Trey’s website, and there are plenty of links to how to go about such licensing.

The SMH is a good newspaper and generally has good journalistic integrity. I trust this was a silly mistake, and that they will take immediate action to make it right. They need to issue an apology and give him the required attribution, and they need to make some appropraite compensation for commercial usage of his work.

It is important that copyright and Creative Commons licenses be respected – they allow photographers and other content creators to explore and share their art in a way that befits the modern online world!

Update 28/1/2013

  1. According to a post in Mumbrella, the SMH editor-in-chief has stated that “At the end of the day we didn’t establish ownership of the picture and we should have. We have apologised to Trey Ratcliff”. Unfortunately, Trey does not seem to have received the apology

Red On Blue

Red On Blue. Photo by Des Paroz
One of the beautiful flowers growing around the gardens of Uepi Island Resort, located in the remote and spectacular Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands.

I loved the colours of the flowering bushes, with the saturated reds and greens, and the blue sky really enhanced the overall scene. Just a touch of HDR has been applied to give the image just a bit more pop.

This image is part of my Photos of the Day album, which can be viewed in high resolution at photos.desparoz.com.

View this photo also at:

Setting Up a Scriptogr.am Blog

Scriptogr.amYesterday I setup a test blog on scriptogr.am. I am quite experienced with blogging and content management systems, and have used a range including WordPress.com (hosted at WordPress), WordPress.org (self-hosted), Moveable Type, Blogger, Joomla, MODx and others. Currently I have 2 sites on WordPress (self hosted), 2 on Squarespace and 1 on MODx.
I am not really looking for another CMS (I am happy with WordPress and Squarespace), but listening to Mac Power Users Episode 121 (The Website Show), I was a bit intrigued by the concept of Scriptogr.am – a new (and evolving) CMS that uses Markdown as the format to write the blog, with files simply saved into a Dropbox folder. Push a sync button on a management page, and presto, your post is live.

So I decided to set up a site to play around with, and will of course blog my thoughts both here at Des Paroz On The Go, and also on the Des Paroz Scriptogr.am site.

My initial experience was good – visiting the home page you are provided with clean information, and are presented with a very simple signup process. The steps are basically to link your Dropbox account, enter basic details and you’re up and running.

Once you’re setup, a blog is created at scritogr.am/username (where username is the username you created) with an initial post providing an overview of how to use Scriptogr.am. All very easy.

I will talk about creating a blog post or page in a separate post, and for now will stick to my setup experiences.

Settings

Clicking on the “Settings” tab on the Dashboard brings up a settings page where you can manage details like

  • Username, Real name, E-mail & Blog description
  • Profile & Cover image
  • Accent colour
  • Mobile layout (on/off)
  • Time zone
  • Custom domain

You can also see your Scriptogr.am ID, which will be used with third party apps to log you in.

The first few items are self explanatory, but the next couple bear some thought before using them. As the screen shots, I uploaded a “Profile image” and a “Cover image”. Unfortunately you can upload, but I can find no way to delete an image once uploaded, so if you don’t like the result, your only option is to upload another file[1].

Personally I don’t like how the Cover image is handled, and now I am stuck with a pretty crappy shot[2] . Why they convert a cover image to 960×960 confuses me, as this is a banner, not square. Should be something like 960×250, which is coincidentally the size used on the Des Paroz On The Go blog.

I see no reason not to use the Mobile Theme option (it is off by default), and its good to set time zone.

I’ve tried setting up a custom domain (blog.desparoz.com), but as of this writing it doesn’t seem to work[3].

You may note that the top of my Scriptogr.am blog has some links to my other sites. These were easy to setup. Each link is simply setup as a post with the type of “page”, and a header link attribute pointing to the target page.

I’ve also changed the theme. Clicking on the “Tools” link in the sidebar brings up an option for “Themes archive” where there are several themes available for easy adoption.

Another early gripe relates to the way images are handled in the Dashboard. When you click on upload (e.g. for Cover image or Profile image), nothing seems to happen, until there is a sudden change. The same applies when you click on a different theme for preview. There needs to be some feedback that lets you know that something is happening!

Setting up a Scriptogr.am site is very straightforward, but with what seems to be a couple of bugs at that time. This could be that I am missing something obvious, or it could simply be a bug (or perhaps as yet undeveloped functionality). What I do like is that the effort results in a clean and functional blog.


  1. I have discovered one way of making the cover image go away – I changed to another theme that doesn’t seem to use it!  ↩
  2. IMHO, the image is good. Its the way it was cut to a 960×960 square then rendered at some crazy dimensions that makes it pretty crappy.  ↩
  3. This might be an issue of this subdomain having previously worked to WordPress.com, so I’ll give it another day or so before making a final judgement.  ↩

Around the Web links for 24th January

These are links I’ve gathered from my wanderings around the web for 24th January

500px App Censored from App Store

Des Paroz Gallery on 500px
I primarily use two online image hosting services to host my Photo Gallery – 500px and Flickr. I like both services and find that they appeal to slightly different groups of users.

I had actually gone off Flickr for a while, but decided to give it another try (and recommended others do so too) when they did 2 things – introduced a great update to their iPhone app and offered a three month trial/extension to Flickr Pro.

What drew me to 500px was their fantastic universal iOS app, along with hosting of hi-res images and the ability to have galleries at your own domain – mine are at photos.desparoz.com.

I love the fact that people can view my images displayed gorgeously on the web, or on an iPhone, iPad or Android device.

So I was disturbed today to read that Apple has withdrawn the 500px app from the App Store, over potential access to nudity. According to PetaPixel:

If you were planning to install 500px’s popular photo sharing app on your iPhone or iPad today, you’re out of luck. The app was abruptly yanked from the iTunes App Store earlier today over the fact that users can search for photos showing artistic nudity.

This is especially concerning when, as reported by Cult of Mac, it is actually more difficult to access nudity on the 500px app than it is on other popular apps, including Flickr.

What’s interesting about this to me is that 500px’s method of keeping minors from seeing nude images in their official iOS app is a lot more prohibitive than that employed by Flickr, a similar photo-sharing app.

In the 500px app, safe browsing is the default, and you have to change this through the website, not the app. In Flickr, the app allows you to disable the safe browsing lock.

I have two fundamental concerns over this development.

Firstly, why has Apple suddenly taken this action, considering the 500px has been in the App Store since October 2011. It seems to be a unilateral action, especially considering 500px had commited to making and submitting immediate changes.

It also sets a dangerous precedent, and we have to wonder whether apps like those by Flickr and Tumblr will also be yanked.

Secondly, as a committed user of Apple technology, I rely on Apple products for a great user experience – both from the hardware and the software it provides. With relation to the App Store, Apple gives me the promise that it will approve apps that meet basic guidelines on security. I’m ok with iOS sandboxing, as a rule, because my phone needs to work.

But, I do not need Apple to act as a censor, making an unilateral judgement about what content I can and cannot see. Certainly, explicit pornography (such as what might be rated as R 18+ or X 18+ under the Australian censorship system) can justifiably be restricted, but the human body is a wonder of nature, and can be very artistic.

Given that “nudity of moderate impact” can be included in material rated M (Mature) in Australia, I think that Apple should allow any app to have material that goes up to at least this level (or maybe MA 15+, as long as there are appropriate safe browsing modes enabled.

Perhaps what Apple should do is bake in safe mode tools into iOS, and allow individual apps to access these settings. If a safe mode is turned on for the device, individual apps should respect those modes. If they’re turned off, then material up to M or perhaps MA 15+ classification should be allowable.

Apple needs to provide a balance in iOS. Certainly, most users don’t want or need “Wild West” access to every aspect of a system that is part of an important communications device, but at the same time, Apple should not act as a censor. Censorship is a tricky subject, and often leads to a slippery slope. It is the role of democratic government to make considered decisions on behalf of the people, not of companies like Apple to make decisions unilaterally.