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photoI got back last night from an awesome trip to Colorado. I’m too busy catching up with work and life in general today to spend much time on a blog post, so I’m just gonna post a few of my favorite phone/instagram pics from the trip, and point you to my instagram feed to see the rest. FYI, I use two fantastic apps for iPhone photo editing- Afterglow and Snapeed (which I’ve just learned has a desktop application as well), so if you haven’t tried those- I highly recommend it!

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the big stink being raised over Instagram’s new terms & policies set to go into effect on Jan. 16th. If you haven’t, please familiarize yourself. In short, as the policy is currently written, Instagram would have the right to sell any photos you upload to their service without paying you anything or even letting you know that your photo was being sold or used.

When I first heard about this my initial reaction was utter disgust, and indeed I planned on deleting my account if the policies weren’t changed from what was written. But I also felt pretty confident that it must have been simply some overzealous and greedy lawyers and executives from Facebook writing blanket statements into the policies, and that it wouldn’t be long before they responded by changing the proposed policy. Thankfully, Instagram responded to the outcry today in a blog post titled “Thank you, and we’re listening.” It seems that most if not all of the clauses that pissed everyone off will be removed. The most important thing to take from their statement is this:

Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

And this:

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

As a photographer who makes part of my living from photos and licensing their usage, I am hyper-aware of the copyright issues and legalities involved in photography and of how corporations, media, and other establishments are constantly trying to find ways to avoid paying for usage of creative work. I absolutely would not have continued using Instagram if the original policy change had gone into effect. I also had visions of the crumbling Instagram empire, as the backlash would’ve been pretty widespread, whilst other services such as Twitter and Flickr are launching their own photo-sharing apps/features, complete with Instagram-like filters. Hipsters everywhere would have cried a sea of vintage filtered tears until one of the other services (my guess would’ve been Flickr) took over as the king photo filter/sharing app. It remains to be seen what the new version of the policies & terms of use will look like, but I have a feeling it will keep everyone happy, and not rip off the user base. But Instagram/Facebook, be warned- I’ll be looking at the new policies & terms of use very carefully and if you try to pull anything remotely similar to this, SHAME ON YOU and I will be GONE.

Curiosity's amazing self-portrait from a few weeks ago. Credit: NASA/JPL

Curiosity’s amazing self-portrait from a few weeks ago. Credit: NASA/JPL

It’s been a very crazy week, and I know this may be old news already for some of you, but I had to post about NASA’s announcement on the Curiosity mission findings that caused such an uproar on the internet a few weeks back. For a detailed explanation of what was found and what it means, check out this article on Universe Today. In short, this was the first time all of Curiosity’s instruments had been used in concert together, and the consistency of the results was exciting. It pointed to organic compounds in the Martian soil, but they can’t say for sure that the Carbon in those compounds is of Martian origin. First they have to determine if the Carbon is actually from Mars, and not a contaminant from earth air trapped in the instruments, then they have to determine whether the Carbon is from a biological or non-biological source. There are lots of possibilities that must be ruled out before we will know for sure what’s in the soil, and where it came from. At the announcement, Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger is quoted as saying, “We’re doing science at the speed of science. But we live in a world that’s sort of at the pace of Instagrams. The enthusiasm that we had, that I had, that our whole team has about what’s going on here, I think it was just misunderstood.” That was after he was questioned about the wild speculation that resulted from his comments in an NPR story about a possible “Earth-shaking” discovery by Curiosity. I just love that a NASA scientist compared the speed of science to the “pace of Instagrams.” Instagram and Science! In the same sentence! That must mean science is hip, right? RIGHT?

In other NASA-related news, it was announced on Tuesday that NASA will build and launch in 2020 another Mars rover very similar to Curiosity. While that may not be the most exciting thing to hear, it shows that NASA is building confidence in its abilities to do mind-blowing things like land a nuclear-powered, car-sized roving science lab on another planet with a rocket-powered sky crane. The more we learn about Mars, the closer we get to putting a man there. Who knows, maybe a prime objective of this new mission will be to actually look for signs of past or current life. No mission to Mars yet has actually had that as an objective. For more on this new mission read this article on New Scientist.

While these next two items aren’t necessarily science-y, they are quite awesome:

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