The Banality of Nearby

At SXSW there was a lot of Instagramming going on. I wanted to see what sort of pictures people were taking, but there didn’t seem to be an easy way of doing it and I was too busy eating to fix it myself at the time. But now,

Behold: LOCALGRAM 1.

Localgram asks your browser where you are, then shows you recent nearby uploads. That’s it. It’ll look decent on the desktop, and decent on an iPhone. It might work on other things. Internally, this is a single Instagram API call, with maps and pictures on it. It’s so ridiculously simple that it barely seemed worth building, which is why I built it.

Playing with this around London, I’ve come to two conclusions.

  1. Other people’s Instagram photos are really boring. Good grief. Without the filters of the phone app, it’s just an undifferentiated stream of graffiti, food, and duck face.

  2. It’s surprising to me that so many photos are geotagged. Photos at a foursquare venue have maps on the photo page, but it seems that even photos without a first-class venue can have a location associated with them and visible through the API. The default web photo page doesn’t display the location at all. I hadn’t realised that photos retained their location. I wonder how many other people don’t know this.. Of course, this might be because some of the locations on these photos are clearly complete rubbish..

I’m playing with Instagram2 a lot recently. I like the live nature of the photo stream. I like their API (I like OAuth2). I don’t like their lack of feeds and app-only approach, but I can fix the first one of those myself.

I’m also playing with the lovely Toner maps tiles from Stamen, because I was looking for a gratuitous excuse to do something with them. I’m using (thanks to some prodding from Aaron) to render out the static maps – hopefully this won’t kill anything – I’m not really set up to be a maptile server here. We’ll see.

  1. I come up with such terrible names. 

  2. I’d link to them, but what’s the point? 

More Flickr vs Instagram

As a follow up from an earlier piece:

Flickr vs Instagram March 2012

The Google Trends lines for Flickr and Instagram have finally crossed. I think it’s a pity. There are tools around Flickr that I’d like to build that I’m probably not going to, because I don’t have any faith in it still being around in a year’s time.

This attitude doesn’t make any sense, because I pay Flickr money, and Instagram still don’t seem to have any sort of sensible business model. How badly can Yahoo! have messed up here that I’m preferring Instagram right now?


Inspired by a twitter conversation, I wrote an Instagram backup tool. It’s a command-line tool. It’ll store your auth token locally so you can run it unattended after the first run. It’ll download incrementally, so you can cron it nightly.

Other backup tools for Instagram exist, and I really don’t care, it’s a 20 minute hack. The authentication step is a little weird (does OAuth2 really not have a pure desktop app flow?) but bearable. And it works for me. Let me know if it works for you.


I built another thing. Feedify will make Atom feeds out of things that don’t have feeds, because I like having feeds. Basically, I got bored of having to jab at 5 icons on my phone every time I wanted to do a sweep of “what my friends are doing” – I’d much rather just subscribe to feeds and my RSS reader can tell me about things.

Right now it’ll make feeds out of Flickr and Instagram photo uploads of your friends. These were easy – they map directly to single API calls to the respective services (in the case of flickr, this leads to unavoidable disadvantages with the feed. But that’s life). As and when I think of more things that are easy, I’ll add them.

So yes. Feedify. Play with it.