08 December 2013

Stumblrbum's Photo Finish

Tumblr's attempts to make posting photos via their mobile app have more or less all gone to pot. At least, that's been my experience of late. To be fair, it's good that they're trying to make it so you can post sets of photos instead of one at a time. Unfortunately, this simply doesn't work efficiently enough, and when your update is less efficient than spamming single photo posts, you really need to rethink your design schemes.

Recap: it used to be that after I took a photo, I could go into the "share" menu and select "Tumblr" from a list of sites. This would take me to a menu within Tumblr's mobile app to create a photo post, complete with tags and tweet settings. It was all very handy apart from not being able to post photosets.

Now, it's completely reversed. I have to go into Tumblr, select the photo post option, and then be taken to a menu where I can pick the photo from my gallery via thumbnails (more on that later) or go into my camera and take a new photo then. First problem, apart from this being very tedious and rather greedy on Tumblr's part by making "timed exclusives" of my photos, is that I can't access all of my camera's options, like exposure and effects filters. Couple that with the fact that I now have to open one application and make at least two selections in order to open another app which otherwise can start up almost instantly, and this is a really bad start. Second, I noticed that the photos I posted this way had a kind of checker board artifact pattern over them, like an old TV with the RCA cable coming loose. When your 21st century digital imaging system looks like a CRT monitor with flimsy composite connections by default, something's gone fundamentally wrong somewhere very far back in your process.

When something works just fine before an update, that's not a hardware failure, that's a limitation. What makes it really awful is that my phone is middle-of-the-road as far as tech specs go, so your update has potentially cut off about two-thirds of your users. Hell, I've heard from people with better phones than mine that they can't post photos at all, now or before.

Now, I have a good idea what your two cents on the issue is, "Look, you're overthinking this. Just do what you did before. Take the photo, then go into the app and post it then. You said yourself you can see your gallery as a grid of thumbnails to choose from."

Problem the third: Not every photo shows up in that grid, and which ones do and don't at any time is completely random.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Burns and Smithers walk through layer-upon-layer of security checks to get to a master kill switch for the power plant, only to find that said room has a rickety screen door that's nearly fallen off its hinges as another entrance? At least there you get to the same room and everything is there that should be because the console is bolted to the floor. There are more reliable ways to get to Narnia than my own damn photos. I'm really not kidding when I say that certain photos I take will not show up in this menu until days later, if at all. This app is in my phone. It literally has access to all my files on that device. I have to give it permission to do this when first installed. It's designed to be invasive, and it can't even do that. When FOX NEWS has a more complete picture of a story than you, it's time to rethink every decision in your life, ever, and when you've reduced me to making FOX NEWS jokes to analogize your incompetence, then you've really screwed up.

Speaking of grabbing at straws and not getting the full picture, today was kinda the last straw. I'm sitting in a Steak 'n' Shake, drinking coffee, eating a cinnamon roll, and making sketches in a notebook, as I'm wont to do at least once a week. Another part of this ritual is taking a photo of my setup, a spontaneous still life. Think of it as a kind of creative litmus test; if I can make coffee and pastry look interesting, I must be doing something right. Anyway, I go into Tumblr to post the photo, going through the menu to get to the camera app that otherwise starts up instantly and taking the photo. Normally, after all that, I get the menu where I can add a caption, tags, and all that other stuff before posting fairly quickly to my dashboard. This time, however, I get an error message that it could not save my photo and to try again later.

This is the equivalent of taking the photo out of my hands, throwing it in the cluttered mess of other photos which haven't simply gone missing, and saying, "Maybe it'll show up later."

The sole redeeming factor in this debacle is that while Tumblr lost my photo, my phone didn't. I could see it in my gallery right away (my gallery, not Tumblr's slapdash interpretation of it) and now, several hours later and using the full version of Tumblr, I can post it here by way of my DropBox, which the photo was auto-saved to within minutes of being taken.



And here's another I took without using Tumblr's increasingly lackluster interface (notice the effects filter):



So, what does this mean? Well, it simply means that my more spontaneous uploads of photos will be posted to Twitter instead of Tumblr (and then Twitter because of auto-share). If I end up taking a lot of photos of something, like stages of a cooking project or something, I'll post them here as a set. Granted, it's entirely possible Tumblr will fix this issue in future updates. However, given that it's made two since I started having this problem, I'm not optimistic anymore. At least now, though, it doesn't crash when I try to read notes on posts. 
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