The Signal to Noise Ratio
For almost 5 years, I worked as an “In-House Technician” for Comcast, aka “The Cable Guy.” For those that followed me on Instagram in those days, I had many stories to share about the customers I would interact with, the problems I would have with them, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t a bad job, it just wasn’t a great job. For me, the thing I had to deal with the most was something that was called, “Signal to Noise Ratio.” Not a day would go by that I wasn’t trying to tackle some customer’s SNR problems. So what is SNR? Essentially, Comcast sends its signal down the line at a particular level, if there is a break or cut in the cable line (or various other ways), other companies wireless signal will get inside and create noise. Their signal is being broadcast on the exact same frequency as Comcast. There was conflict. There was turmoil. Ultimately leaving a very unsatisfied customer. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, this SNR problem. But I’ve been thinking about it with Instagram. The signal, being those on Instagram who want to create and share their photography. The noise, being well, noise. And the noise has increasingly become more and more what we see on the Popular page. Excuse me, the “Explore” page.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief said back in April that Instagram has now “jumped the shark.” That same month was when Instagram users saw 5 million new users sign up, all with an Android phone. I’m sure one could argue that Schiller was being over-protective of Apple, and Apple’s war against Android. But, upon further investigation I found that Schiller had more to say about his comment of Instagram. He said, “Instagram is a great app and community. That hasn’t changed. But one of the things I really liked about Instagram was that it was a small community of early adopters sharing their photographs. Now that it has grown much larger, the signal to noise ratio is different. That isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just not what I originally had fun with.” I should add, Schiller who at one point was a huge Instagram fan and user, has since deleted his account. When I read that, I wanted to exclaim, “Eureka!” I couldn’t believe that Schiller used the same SNR term as I had been using these last few weeks. More importantly though, I found the term very proper. There was always noise on Instagram, but these days, it’s been a crazy amount. I’ve even been seeing those “Free Best Buy Gift Certificate” accounts pop up and spam mine and other people’s pictures. I suppose it was only a matter of time before that happened. So maybe Instagram did jump the shark. Maybe their hay day is in the past. Maybe they’re just going to be another myspace. Sure, myspace is still on the internet, but who uses it anymore?
Like Schiller, I’ve seen a ton of people delete their Instagram accounts. I’m sure a lot of my friends have their own reasons. I’ve heard a lot of them exclaim different reasons. I read an online article with Philippe Gonzalez, founder of the Instagramers blog and community. He said that when the Android users joined on, it became far more difficult for users to hit that prized, Popular page. Ahem, excuse me, the Explore page. He also said that he received many emails from IG users complaining of the quality of the Popular page. He said that “Instagram’s earlier users were a little disillusioned with the influx of Android owners (many of whom, Gonzalez suggested, are teens sharing their lives rather than creating compelling photography) and the changes they brought to the Popular page.” I’d say that was an understatement. All around. All of this and with the whole Facebook takeover, people continue to delete their accounts and are trying out other apps like, EyeEm and Tadaa. I’ve tried them both… Meh… So is deleting your account because you’re not hitting that elusive Popular page anymore, really worth it? Are people just being frustrated?
Instagram apparently has heard the complaints from people. They gave Instagram a much-needed facelift recently. They changed a few things. None of which were any of the suggestions long-time users have had for the app. When I first saw that the Popular page was now being called the “Explore” page, I’ll admit it, I got excited. Maybe, just maybe, the serious flaws that the Popular page had would be fixed with the Explore page. After a few days of “exploring” it, I realized that nothing had changed. I was curious enough to see what it actually takes to get to the Explore page. Gonzalez said that the Explore page was supposed to in part, to pacify those long-term users that were complaining. I long stopped complaining about the Popular page, but I am a long-term user. So I posted photos as I usually did, nothing. Hmm… I even tried adding those ridiculous tags I see everywhere. Nope. Nothing. Well, ok, nothing has changed.
Again I ask, is deleting our accounts really the answer? It seems to be the trend lately. Has the signal to noise ratio become too ridiculous for you? For me, I’m going to stick it out for awhile and see where it goes. For the most part, I just haven’t found an app that really even compares with Instagram. I’m hoping that things will change. Deep down inside, I’m pulling for Instagram. I believe it can evolve into something even better. I don’t want to believe that it is just myspace #2. So if you’ve been on the fence lately about Instagram, I say, just hang out awhile longer. It has to get better. We’ve invested a lot of time into this app. Don’t just give up so easily. Daddy didn’t raise no quitter.