Instagram: How a Hiatus Affects Your Stats

It’s been about 9 months since I started my Instagram experiment, and if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this: purposefully maintaining an Instagram account is really hard. From having the time to constantly produce unique content to keeping up with interactions, it’s an exhausting experience. So when I found myself moving into a new apartment and working at a summer camp for a week in the same month, I figured this would be the perfect time to try something new: leaving my Instagram accounts alone.

Continue reading

Instagram: Why your Direct Message isn’t getting a reply (and how to change that)

Social media makes it easy to weave illusions: of wealth, of happiness, of personal relationships. When you choose to follow someone and see what they share, it’s easy to feel like you “know” them. We do this with celebrities all the time with magazines and articles commenting on the most intimate parts of their lives – people care about what they eat, where they like to go, who they date, how their breakups are being handled. 

The magic of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is that the people who you choose to follow often aren’t celebrities, they’re just normal people you have something in common with who are sharing parts of their lives. Maybe you like their photography style, or their careers, or the way they use certain words. Maybe it’s that girl who you went to elementary school with who posts all her life drama (and you follow it like a soap opera) even though you haven’t spoken in 10 years. Whatever the reason you follow them, the mere act of following them makes you feel closer, makes you want to reach out. 

Instagram has a nifty feature I call the “outer inbox” – where messages go when you don’t follow a person. It’s a kind of safety net so that random strangers can’t harass you and force notifications to come up on your phone. As your follower count grows, the number of messages in this outer-inbox increase and you have to develop a way to figure out what messages to respond to (and what not to). So if you’ve ever messaged an Instagram account and wondered why you never got a response, it might be because of these*:

*Disclaimer: These are guidelines based on personal anecdotes over the past 6+ months running a personal account

Continue reading

Amazon Reviews: Talking to Bots

There are few things that are more frustrating in life than having a problem and not feeling like you’re being heard. It’s even worse when a company sends a robot or auto-generated message your way. While Amazon says it’s trying to fix this, it’s hard to believe most of the time that any messages are being read by actual human beings.

I ran into this issue when a review of mine was taken down without any explanation.

Continue reading

Instagram: Getting the Repost (vol. 2)

I posted a while back about how I was reposted by a large clothing company and, to my disappointment, it resulted in much less attention than I expected. This experience has been repeated on multiple occasions, but it’s also been challenged.

Earlier this year I responded to a girl’s story on Instagram (it was about guys being jerks to her about being a programmer) with the words “Thank you” which prompted her to look at my profile and message me. She’s a fellow software developer and has a rather large following on Instagram. For whatever reason she liked my profile, screenshotted it, and shared it with her followers

I was a little in awe that she responded to my innocuous message in the first place, so to see her post about my profile completely floored me. That’s also when I began getting bombarded with followers who were obviously checking out my profile from her link. For the next 24 hours every time I opened up Instagram I had a ridiculous number of notifications.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 10.47.57 AM
You can see exactly what day this happened

After the Instagram story timed out (after 24 hours) my daily follower average returned back to normal and I went on my way with about 500 more engaged followers.

What made this different than the first big repost?

I have a theory that there are two kinds of accounts:

  • There are accounts you follow because you like the photos (the aesthetic, the photography, the brand, etc.)
  • And there are accounts you follow because you like the stories (smaller businesses and people)

People feel connected to the accounts that make it feel “personal” – whether it’s because you have the same job or like the same things. When a “personal” account does a repost or gives a shoutout, it’s more like a personal introduction to a friend: “Hi, this person is cool, you should check them out”

If a brand/aesthetics-based account gives a shoutout their followers may or may not respond to it based on if they like that specific photo, product, or idea. The followers may not feel like they “need” to follow someone else if it’s the same aesthetic as the brand because they’re already following the brand.

Amazon Reviews: How Amazon Encourages its Own Black Market

After I reached a reviewer ranking of less than 80,000 I started getting emails from Amazon sellers asking me to review their products. From an algorithmic standpoint this makes complete sense: products with more (and better) reviews are more likely to be seen by other customers and the best way to advertise to potential customers is by utilizing a system already in place on the website. Sellers will offer cash or heavy discounts to entice people to review their products – some ask for “good” reviews, others just ask for reviews.

Awkwardly, this is completely against Amazon’s stated policy, but it wasn’t always. Continue reading

Amazon Reviews: Strategy

If you have an internet connection, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point in time you’ve ordered something from Amazon. Amazon is great for retail consumers, it’s great for sellers, it’s great for software developers (Amazon Web Services), it’s great for affiliate marketers, it’s great for people who love instant gratification.

Point being that everyone uses Amazon, but not everyone uses it purposefully. A few months ago I happened to stumble across a few articles about Amazon Top Reviewers and the perks that come with having that title (the perks mostly include getting free things to review). After some hard-hitting research (read: clicking around Amazon) I found Amazon’s ranking criteria:

Continue reading


My first impression: My project manager kept saying we should do Selenium tests to increase our unit test coverage on the front end. Our previous experience was with Karma and Jasmine (which was also kind of painful) so we tried to put it off as much as possible in the interest of doing “actual work”

Second take: Oh my gosh this is witchcraft. When you use Selenium you can basically program a ghost of yourself that is better and faster that can interact with your application and notices when things break (as long as you tell it what to notice).

The website for their homepage isn’t impressive (it’s not shiny or flat UI) but the framework is incredible. On our project we’re using it with javascript (it’s an AngularJS/Scala app) and while the initial learning curve is a bit weird, much of what you’re testing (clicking and entering inputs) is repetitive.

Official Documentation

Download Selenium

Selenium Web Driver Documentation

Getting Started and Useful Information

This guy has a pretty thorough explanation on how to set up Selenium and the web driver component

50 FAQs about Selenium and Automated Testing

This is a living document – I’ll add or remove resources if they’re found to be helpful (or if someone recommends a good document)