Monthly Archives: March 2014


Over the past few weeks I have been blogging about Instagram, a social media app where people can share their own photos and follow others doing the same. As an information system it receives millions of photos a day, storing them in the company system, releasing them on the user’s page and much more. It has grown at a rapid rate since its beginnings in October 2010.

It was fast growing from the beginning and the giant social media site that is Facebook could see this. In April 2012 after only 15 months of existence, Facebook purchase Instagram for $1 billion. Many thought this would have a huge impact on the app, thinking changes would come to a highly respected and loved, personal and intimate app. However, today after 2 years of the app being under Facebook’s wing there has been very few changes, much to the delight of its 150 million users [1].

Changes which have been made are minimal updates in the animations and the aesthetics. The ability to rotate your photos to a certain degree left or right. Direct and private photo messages, where the user can choose one or however many of their followers to see a photo, without it showing up on their page.

Another major change, the biggest for the app was introducing a video uploading option. No longer only a photo sharing site, users can now record and share videos, also with the ability of adding a filter which is one of the most popular features of the app. The video option became available only 8 months ago, and now 6% of all posts on the app are videos [1].


The popularity of Instagram has never slowed down. It has completely beaten out the competition in this field. The app is used by 13% of all internet users [1]. In 2012 there was an article posted on the alternative apps one could use if they did not want to use Instagram, these includes Snapseed, Hipstamatic and Path [3], all of which I have never heard of and are relatively unused compared to Instagram now.

Instagram is the fastest growing social media site globally [4]. Given the ginormous increase in the use of smartphones, the accessibility and ease of use of this app on people’s mobiles is what makes it so popular and continuously growing. The chart below shows the growth of social media apps from the beginning to the end of the year 2013 [4].


As the popularity in smartphones increases, I believe that Instagram’s popularity will increase alongside it. It has so many positive qualities, including really listening and complying with what its users wants. This is one of the main aspects of why Instagram is such a loved and popular app. It didn’t change its vision or objectives when it got taken over by Facebook. It stayed true to being a private and personal photo sharing app, only willing to enhance features which were important to the users.

I believe Instagram have done it right, after all the users are the ones keeping the app alive so it should be them who get a say and get their opinions heard on features and changes. It is definitely still my favourite app as it’s personal, interesting, expressive and fun. A user can be creative, can find inspiration from others and see really life pictures of anything they wish. I can see Instagram continuing to have a firm stance in social networking and a continuously growing rate of popularity. People now a days love to know what is going on in other people’s lives, in different countries around the world and in areas they are interested in or dream to be a part of. We also love to share. Share our lives, our experiences, our relationships, our passions. Nothing is off limits when there are some many people around the world doing so many different things. Photos are intimate, informative, relatable, unique and build up over years to keep ones favourite memories alive. Instagram allows these memories to be stored and shared, and for that it is no wonder it is such a popular and loved app.


 ~ Finola Barry

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Wrong self presentation – What is Facebook doing to you.

Facebook prides itself on its ‘growth over money’ strategy, revolving around the principles that people want to share and stay connected.[1] One idea explains that a more connected and integrated society will be a better one, but that is not really within the realms of a Facebook blog. Facebook argues that if people are in control of what they share and can do it with ease the integrated community can come into affect. Facebook has a large effect on our society and how we interact, from, social comparison to regretting our Internet footprint social media has become the ground in which socializing occurs. An online presence or persona is becoming much more of a requirement for integration into our communities and this edition of the blog aims to explore how and why Facebook has taken control.


One of the few positive notes on Facebook’s effect on society is that some say that the transparency of our social lives is beginning to force us to behave like better people. The concept is that more visibility on what we do means that we are becoming more aware of the consequences of actions and thus behaving accordingly. Some arguments point to young people cheating less due to the high likelihood that other members of the social group, particularly the girlfriend/boyfriend will see. Another view could be that society is getting more tolerant on mistakes and embarrassing events, since the evidence of the these events are now permanent people are beginning to accept they do happen and that they should be forgotten.


On a lower note, research suggests that Facebook is making us sadder and lonelier. With social comparisons between our friends and us make users “feel their life may not be as full or rich as others around them”. Researchers send texts to a select group of participants at random times during the day, they reveled feeling more glum and down after using Facebook, although it was not reported whether Facebook was used as a crutch for previous sadness, or the motivator for the alteration in mood. Remarkably the survey reported the effect was more pronounced on users who interacted more face-to-face. Supposedly the more real contact a person receives the more affected they are by the comparisons on Facebook becoming more sensitized about you’re their own lives.  This interesting concept is sure to be examined in years to come, with the whole nature of communication changing, experts will soon look at how this change affects our mood and wellbeing.[2]


Another point that needs raising is the constantly evolving dating circle[3] that thanks to social media in general and in this instance Facebook, has become much more reliant on online dating and in most cases online interactions. A dominating feature in online ‘dating’ is the casualness flirtations can be, this leads in part to the idea that there is much less fear of rejection online, and the internet adds a protective layer when dating. These are massive features for our dating community to have, in essence they add a level of confidence that face to face is hard to achieve. However, the flipside is a reported increase in the ambiguity of relationships, as neither party knows what is happening. In physical relationships these markers for how a relationship is going are well known. In online dating however, they are much less easier to spot and daters find themselves lost as to how to proceed, physical in terms of face-to-face contact, or online. An interesting point can also be raised about the forgetfulness of the Internet in terms of relationships, it doesn’t. Many user on Facebook are constantly reminded of previous relationships though the newsfeed. Even ‘unfriended’ and removed visions of a previous partner are evident all over a users newsfeed through friends, photos and events. This creates an even stranger dating world, where in previous years a break up meant just that, Facebook allows meaningless interactions to continue to exist, in most cases to the annoyance of both parties.


A final topic I would like to discuss is the integrated social circles Facebook controls, when a user logs into Facebook they can interact with all social groups they are involved in, co-workers, friends, family, students. This adds a complication to how people behave on Facebook, with different social circles expected to see different things. Not may people wish to show the same side to multiple social groups and it is for this reason Facebook regret is creeping in. Users underestimate the impact of their posts or interactions and who might see them, as well as many mistakes coming through wrong self-presentation as coined by Beth Novey[4]. However this is more likely to be in older generations who are less able to use Facebook, or who have more widely separated social groups.


Finally it is necessary to address how have the people responded to the Facebook effect, with social custom rapidly changing, has social life kept up to date with the internet. Many argue that we have, on the basis that in 2004 when Facebook started many people were afraid to have an online presence, now that is not the case and millions are on the site everyday. It is important to note however that given the negative effects of Facebook highlighted previously its overall benefit on society can be questioned. The main idea taken from this blog should be if we could crate an ideal online communications website, what would it be? How would it control our data and our interaction with it? Would it have the same features as Facebook?

Would it be Facebook?




Multi-Millionaire Employees of Instagram

Instagram is one of the most popular and personal forms of social media. It has built up a very good reputation, with users really thinking about and taking pride in what they post on their account. It is no wonder the co-founder and now CEO, Kevin Systrom, was named to Fortune’s 40-inder-40 list with the popularity of his app [1].

In April 2012, when Instagram was bought over by Facebook for a staggering $1 billion, Systrom became a multi-millionaire when he took his share of the money amounting to a cool $400 million. His fellow co-founder, Mike Krieger, who owned 10% of the company, inherited $100 million from the sale [2]. The two men were extremely fortunate to be in such a good financial position at such a young age, and after only starting the company 15 months previous to this life changing deal. I would definitely be very happy if I was in their situation, as I’m sure everyone would be.

The founders of the app were not the only people to benefit from the sale to Facebook. At the time of purchase, Instagram had only 13 employees. These 13 people were highly rewarded for the work they had done for the company by dividing out 10% of the purchase price, $100 million, between them, making them also multi-millionaires [2], $77 million millionaires to be precise. It was a very sweet deal for working in a company for such a short period of time.

The number of employees has not greatly increased since this time, the company having only 25 employees now, including a business operating director brought into place by Facebook [3]. The company has kept the workforce small and the workplace intimate and relaxed, with lots of communal space for the employees to sit and meet together. Below in are photos of the interior of the main office [4], which is located in San Francisco, California where the company originates from.


From these pictures I can see it would be a very nice place to work. It looks relaxed ad open with nice natural lighting. The workers in Instragm say the offices are very welcoming, relaxing yet stimulating to work in. The interior design is influenced by the social media company’s brand [4], seen in the photo below. I would certainly find this a very nice work environment to be in, it is spacious and creatively designed. It is an office but is relaxed and fun rather then dull and daunting, which ordinary office places seem to me.


I would 100% like to work in Instagram. It is my favourite app to use. It stays true to what the users like and what they promised when they first started. The work team is obviously creative, intelligent but thoughtful and responsive to ideas coming from the people who are making their company successful which is rare to see as companys similar to this one are often more concerned with making money and beating out the compition. Instagram has really made a reliable and promising name for themselves and I hope the employees and CEOs of the company continue to treat the app and its users as well as they have been.

~ Finola Barry

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The Money-Makers of YouTube, what they make and where they work

Like any company YouTube hire’s a large range of people, not simply just computer programmers but engineers, marketing consultants, legal representatives and even the less glorified positions such as security and janitors are all employed by the site under the wing of Google. The Wall Street Journal even reported that  “a person familiar with the company said it has between 600 and 700 staff members” before their employment expansion planning to add more than 30%. This expansion is clear to see with the site becoming ever more prevalent so does the number of its people on it’s payroll increase [1].

Although this seems quite large you’d almost forget the actual amount of people YouTube pay for services is in the thousands. As I’ve mentioned on my previous blogs, YouTube pays commission to some of the more popular YouTube up loaders basing this on views and subscription. Many of the top names on the site make a living form their audience and have become internet celebrities and now part of the celebrity fame, often coming from nothing. According to “YouTube is paid between $20 and $25 for every thousand ad views” and if you manage to become a YouTube “partner could earn $7”, who is someone who gains enough popularity on the website to gain a commission from YouTube. This is a staggering amount if you manage to make it. The site also shows a list of the top 25 earners on the site, with pewdiepie, a videogame player, making an estimated annual earning of $7 billion, and you can see why with a video posted 9 months ago earning over 43 million views on the site equating to over $614,000. This doesn’t even take into account the money that these “stars” can earn outside of YouTube, form their own sites, to advertising, merchandise sales, appearance on TV and convention along with many other things. Even number 40 on the list, a person I’ve never heard of called TimothyDeLaGhetto earns $1 million according to showing the potential a YouTube can have.


Figure.1 The top 18 earners on YouTube from the top 40 list [3].

Mentioning before the tidy sum the creators of YouTube pocketed a cool $1.65 billion [4] from google, and that YouTube “The word’s biggest video site will generate over $1.1 billion in revenue [5] by 2011”, and has only expanded since then. But what do the Bosses and excutives at YouTube earn? What of the average employee on the books at the websites payroll? Well unfortunately these figures aren’t released to the public so it’s anyone’s guess but Susan Wojcicki [6] Google’s ex-senior vice-president and recently new YouTube boss [7] is down as Forbes 30th most influential woman in the world, so you can’t imagine she’s short of change. Trying to find information on wages for the smaller employees and bosses hasn’t proved fruitful with Google/YouTube not making it easy to find this info.

One thing I can say is that working at YouTube looks like a dream! Their headquarters at San Bruno California [8]. With a 3 person slides, a pool, mini-golf, game stations and endless other things like whiteboards for any ideas that might come into someone’s head and an outdoorsy feeling to almost make you forget your in work. If only I had these perks with my job going home would be the worst thing about my day. I for one am waiting on YouTube reply to let me be one of their many workers, but I can imagine that is added to a long list with plenty more qualified than me [9].


























Fig.2. YouTube’s headquarters’ indoor features of 3 person slide and mini-put. [10]

-Aodh Maguire


  1. YouTube to Boost Staff by 30% this Year,, accessed 12/3/2014,
  2. The 25 Highest Earning YouTube Stars, by Brian Warner,, accessed 12/3/2014,
  3. Screenshot from The 25 Highest Earning YouTube Stars,, accessed 12/3/2014,
  4. Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion, NBC news, accessed 13/3/2014,
  5. Another YouTube Revenue Guess: $1 Billion in 2011, Wall Street Journal online, accessed 13/3/2014
  6. Power Women #30Susan Wojcicki,, accessed 13/3/2014,
  7. YouTube Gets New Boss,, accesses 13/3/2014,
  8. Google San Bruno YouTube,, accessed 13/3/2014,
  9. Office Tour: Inside YouTube’s Dynamic California Office,, accessed 13/3/2014,
  10. YouTube’s headquarters’ indoor features of 3 person slide and mini-put, accessed 13/3/2014,

Working behind the Friendly Ghost of Snapchat

Snapchat is the fastest growing social media application in the world, but what about the work staff that is keeping it going? As already stated Snapchat was created by college students Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy and was launched in Evan’s father’s living room. That was back in July 2011. Evan had the original idea and brought in Robbie to code the application and between the three of them they turned a class project picaboo into a recently valued $860 million company.


   In the most recent count there are 35 employees behind the maintenance of snapchat. What is been advertised about working in offices such as Facebook, Google or snapchat itself is that is a colourful, open, social and laid back office, but what separates snapchat from the rest is the message that it will not be acquired. So they set up a ‘dream job’ location on Venice Beach in California. It wasn’t always there though. When Snapchat originated from Spiegel’s father’s living room, the company was based there. Murphy slept in Spiegel’s sister’s room and they worked around the clock to keep it going.


  Nowadays, they can split the load. Since launch they now have 35 employees, which they keep anonymous. Even though they remain anonymous we get to see inside the lives of a working day in snapchat. They advertise perks such as a friendly environment and features that millions of users use.





  The friendly environment advertised is back up by the characteristics needed by possible employees. They must be motivated by the vision, able to execute quickly and passionate about the product. While the atmosphere was shown and well advertised the actual salaries and earnings of each position are not shown to the public. Regardless, I would like to work for snapchat. Salaries are important but I believe if you’re not happy where you work you will struggle and from what is shown and written about it everyone looks happy.

‘However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time’ (Facebook terms and conditions)

In this edition of the blog 5 issues will be addressed with ethical and moral ideas as the focal point. Ethically Facebook is a minefield, as is so much of online communities in this century, determining what is right and wrong with respect to big data, internet footprints and rights to data is always going to be difficult. The main ethical issue is that the users don’t often own the content they upload; or they did, they don’t anymore, when a user uploads a video or posts to Facebook, Facebook then ‘owns’ that snippet of information. In an industry where the users are the product being exploited, it is tricky to navigate what rights the users have however, there are also much more subtle ethical questions involving how online communications affect us.[1]

One of these less discussed points is the supposed egalitarianism that Facebook brings to the lives of its users. Egalitarianism is the idea that all humans’ poses equal worth and social status[2] on Facebook this could be true. When you interact with a person on Facebook it could be argued that you know nothing about them except what they tell you. This removes any bias or prejudice you could have for them. However, the opposite could also occur, the expression ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is swiftly dismissed as users scroll over another users timeline judging them on their photos, how many friends they have, what events they recently attended and a variety of other available information. The user can be completely bias, and view a ‘summary sheet’ of the user of interest. If Facebook is used this way, it is completely un-egalitarian.

A second smaller point is the virtue of human interaction that could be lost in Facebook’s takeover of communication. When humans interact at a personally level honesty, openness and patience are often exhibited, in Facebook interactions the most open a user can be is with an emoji.  Many fear that the ability to communicate face to face is being lost by younger generations as they learn to communicate via instant messaging such as on Facebook. [3]

Finally I would like to examine the ideas behind the right to data, and who owns what any user publishes online. The general consensus is that you do own what you post on the Internet, but so does Facebook, since you posted on their servers they, as in the terms and conditions below, can use your data. What is more shocking is that if you delete your account, and all your ‘IP content’ they can still use it if it is found on a backup server, which given the clause in the conditions is more than likely to exist.

Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

  1. 2.              When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).[4]

It is becoming increasingly clear that the cost of Facebook might not be free as advertised, but may cost your ‘soul’, with any information you put up being saved and stored for the reasons in the terms and conditions. The question arises if we own the data before we input into Facebook, can we not request they do not use it as well, or that we dictate the terms of the use. One would assume that where we are the producers of a good (information about our lives) we should dictate how it is used. Many fear that Facebook is drawing us into a work for free scheme where we provide a resource that is useless to us personally without the help of Facebook which in turn exploits us.[5]

I would also like to highlight the internet footprint left behind as users browse the internet, It is bad enough that whatever sites we visit are monitored via cookies that although remain on our hard drives can be accessed and analyzed. Slightly more frightening is the idea that Facebook could also keep all your information and may sell or reveal it for a financial gain. The idea that employers use Facebook for research is very much true and despite privacy setting by users on who can see their content, we can never know what will happen if the right bid comes along. Technically all that we have put onto Facebook belongs to Facebook, how can we stop them using it. [6]

Using an analogy to describe this concept, we could imagine that each time you wanted to talk to someone, you wrote a message or drew a picture on paper, you then scanned the document and sent it into the Facebook office.  Now both you and the office have a copy that you respectively own, you agreed to that when you sent it in, who are you to stop them selling it, once they have successfully sent it to all the people you requested. The fact that data can be copied and reproduced to allow for multiple copies easily, makes the ownership of online content very hard to control.

In this era the severs own the information you feed in, it can only be the dream that one day the users will own, control and dictate how the servers use it.

Contextual Awareness Mined from the Data Exhaust

Foursquare’s contextual notifications [1]

As their users were busy playing games and checking-in to cool new places, Foursquare engineers were hard at work. They were mining the data exhaust created by all those check-ins. They were building a recommendation engine that would become contextually aware.

This is where the real value in Foursquare lies. The founders of Foursquare were never running sprints, they were not going to sell out when their user base reached into the millions. Collecting enough data to make relevant predictions of people’s behaviour, would take time. The building of Foursquare was always going to be a marathon. All these games and check-ins, were all the time, adding and updating to a place database which now has over 60 million points of interest. [2] What Foursquare has been creating was a living breathing dataset crowdsourced from its users.

Foursquare has built its contextual notifications from this dataset. Contextual awareness is about providing information based on the context in which you can use it, providing relevant information at the right time. [3] The notifications run in the background where the user doesn’t need to sign-in. It knows when you are in an unfamiliar place and gives you advice and tips only when you need it.

For example, a notification might pop up on your phone with “At Wagamoma’s? People talk about ‘Katsu curry’, ‘Chilli Beef Ramen’, and ‘Get the lunch offer'”. Foursquare knows when you are out of your element and will not give notifications for places near where you work or live. When arriving in a new city a notification could be, “Welcome to Paris! Your friend Geoffrey’s list ‘Hidden Local Gems’ has 6 places nearby”.

To achieve this Foursquare engineers use machine learning techniques, making use not just of location, but time and behaviour of the user and their friends. It uses natural language processing to figure out the sentiment of all the tips and recommendations, understanding which are actionable and useful. [4]

Last month, just hours after Microsoft anounced its new CEO, it invested $15 million into Foursquare. [5] Microsoft are looking for access to Foursquare’s place database to use in Microsoft’s own products and services. In reacting to this news, Foursquare mentioned in its blog, “In the near future, when you use Microsoft devices powered by the Windows and Windows Phone operating systems and products like Bing, places will be enhanced by Foursquare – to provide contextually-aware experiences and the best recommendations of any service in the world.” [6]

It’s not only Microsoft who gets access to Foursquare’s data. The Foursquare API gives access to all of the data used by the foursquare mobile applications. This is part of Foursquare’s long term strategy to become the location layer of the internet. [7] Hundreds of mobile apps now use the Foursquare API, including Uber, Foodspotting, Vine and Instagram. Even after Instagram had been bought out by Facebook it continues to use the Foursquare API for location data over Facebook’s own Place API.  [8]

As Jonathan Barouch, the founder and CEO of location-based startup Roamz has said, “Foursquare’s value is less about the size of its active user base and more related to the reach of its location database. Its API is fast becoming the de facto location layer of the mobile web and touches almost every user of location-based apps.” [8]

But Foursquare now faces some major challenges, how to convince the public that these contextually aware apps bring convenience and not creepiness, and how to persuade their users that they’re giving them something valuable and not simply exploiting their personal data.

~ Keith Walsh

[1] Bilton, R. 2013. “Foursquare brings its recommendation smarts to Android’s push notifications”. VB news. Available at: (Accessed: 13/03/2014)
[2]Hernandez, P. 2014. “Microsoft HereHere Social Platform Aims To Improve Community Engagement”. TechWeekeurope. Available at: (Accessed: 13/03/2014)
[3] Thursday, B. 2014. “Notifications Are Just Getting Started”. Saga. Available at: (accessed: 13/03/2014)
[4] Shaw, B. 2013. “Data Driven Products at Foursquare”. Data Driven NYC 20. Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2014)
[5] Kelly, C. 2014. “Microsoft Invest $15 Million Into Foursquare, Licenses Location Data”. Forbes. Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2014)
[6] Foursquare. 2014. “Our crowd-sourced places database has over 60,000,000 entries and 5,000,000,000 check-ins, and one major new partner – Microsoft.” Foursquare Blog. Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2014)
[7] Olanoff, D. 2013. “Dennis Crowley Says That Foursquare’s API Is Currently Underutilized, Apps That Use Its Location Data Are Smarter”. Techcrunch. Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2014)
[8] Barouch, J. 2013. “Foursquare’s API Is A Pillar Of The Mobile App Ecosystem”. Techcrunch. Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2014)