A Wonderful Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, and I am feeling very blessed these days.

Corinne has been bouncing off the walls with excitement since Thanksgiving, and it all came to a head yesterday morning when she saw what Santa had brought. She had a great Christmas morning, but I think there was a tinge of disappointment for her; a sense that the finale was a bit of a let down after all that buildup. Of course waking up early and being tired had something to do with it, as did coming down from the high she’d been on for weeks.

Like many parents of small children this year, we purchased an Elf on the Shelf. I’m not sure I like the idea of one of Santa’s elves living in my home, spying on everyone, and reporting everything it sees back to the North Pole. It seems very Orwellian to me, and there’s definitely a horror movie premise here. I can’t argue with the results, though It’s one thing to remind children that Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, and another to have an elf sitting there watching. Corinne had her moments, but in general she was extremely well behaved for the month of December. Hopefully all that repressed naughtiness wont surface in January. 🙂

Corinne’s big gift this year was a blue 20″ bicycle. It’s a little big for her still, but at the rate she’s growing she’ll be able to ride it soon. It has training wheels, but hopefully this will be what she learns to ride a bike on. She also received a unicorn hobby horse, watercolor paints, and lots of reading and activity books.

Raelene’s big gift this year was a set of watercolor paints, with brushes and paper and everything she needs to get started. I can’t wait to see what she does. Santa brought me a Garmin Forerunner 410 watch/tracker for running, which I was very excited about. I wore it on my run this morning, and so far so good. There isa lot the watch can do, and I am looking forward to diving deep into it.

More than the gifts, though, we had a wonderful 4-day weekend in our new home. I ran the pellet stove in the evenings, so we had a fire to relax by and the house was nice and warm. I made the Christmas dinner, complete with a stuffed gluten roast and cranberry jelly from a can (with all the little ridges). It was a wonderful, wonderful holiday.

The Instagram Wake Up Call

I set up the blog nearly six years ago so that Raelene and I could share details of our life with family and friends, and more importantly share our photos. It would have been easy to use a photo sharing service like Picassa or Flickr, but I didn’t trust Google, Yahoo!, or any for-profit corporation with custodianship of our images. Once your images are on their servers, they can do pretty much anything they want with them. Everything here, while publicly available, is at least theoretically protected by copyright laws.

Then Raelene and I started using Facebook, which made it easy to share with friends and family. So share we did, and the more we shared the easier it was to share. And why not? Writing blog posts takes time, and uploading photos from the camera to an online gallery was (and still is) a several hour project. Uploading an image from your phone takes seconds, and people can start commenting on how yummy your dinner looks before you start eating. There’s also no guarantee anyone will see your blog post or photos, but on Facebook feedback is almost instant. So, seduced by the dark side, we sort of abandoned the idea of maintaing control of our content and started posting it sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more recently Instagram.

In case you don’t know, Instagram is a hip photo sharing service that makes it easy to give your blurry and mediocre camera phone images a retro look and share them with the world. Yesterday Instagram updated their terms and conditions, and part of the update was language that allowed them to sell user uploaded photos without notification or consent. This meant that any of the pictures of Corinne that Raelene or I have uploaded to Instagram could be sold to an advertiser and used in an ad, and the only way we would know about it is if one of us saw the ad. The only way to stop Instagram from being able to sell your photos is to delete your account.

I do understand the price of free, and that if you’re not the customer you’re the product. But there’s a line, and Instagram shot past that line in a jet powered monkey navigated hovercraft screaming across the salt flats. I expect my data to be aggregated by Facebook and Google, and then used to target me with ads. I understand that, and when I post to Facebook I know that is what is going to happen. What I’m not okay with is a bait and switch after I start using a service that allows my child’s face to incorporated into a McDonalds ad.

I’m not the only person upset by this. The past 24 hours have been a Netflix sized PR nightmare for Instagram and it’s parent company Facebook, and Instagram has since agreed to update the wording in their terms and conditions. For me, though, it’s a keen reminder of why I created this website in the first place. I have deleted my Instagram account, and I am going to be sharing far fewer photos on Facebook as well. I am also looking into a way to easily share images on Facebook and Twitter while hosting them here.