VERO True Social: A User's Review
The Photographic Eye presented a short story about Vivian Maier and the culture of sharing photography for likes or attention.
It is a story about a remarkable photographer who kept her work secret. Or at least, Vivian refrained from sharing her photography with anyone while she was alive.
Filmmaker and photographer John Maloof discovered Maier’s work in 2007 and was the first to bring her work to public attention.
In modern times social media gives everyone a platform, for good or ill. I know Vivian would have resisted social media.
I wish I shared Vivian's approach to photography and a tiny fraction of her skill. In reality, I want to connect with other people who share the same love of taking pictures of the world around them.
Why Do I Share My Photography?
My hobbies are solo affairs.
I love running despite it resembling a fast walk. I avoid joining a running club because of competitions, races, and personal bests. I want to run without pressure to perform.
Blogging is an isolated past time I conduct in a small room by myself. As time passes there comes a need to hold a conversation or share ideas.
Feedback, discussion, and seeing other people create, provide opportunities to learn and grow.
Having searched for a suitable platform, I settled on VERO.
VERO is a social network that promotes diversity, inclusivity, and meaningful connections.
Other platforms are ubiquitous. Search for photo sharing apps and the usual examples appear - 500px, Flickr, VSCO, and Instagram, plus many others. There are instances when web articles fail to differentiate between photo sharing and photo storage.
My experience lies with Flickr and Glass. On Flickr I became a pro subscriber, quit, and resubscribed. Flickr is useful for storing high-resolution copies but I found engagement to be non-existent. You can like users' photos and leave comments but the platform , for me, was silent despite thousands of views.
I tried Glass but got lost in finding my way and people to engage. Glass continues to develop and is 100% photography centric. Glass is VERO's nearest competitor and since November 2022 has expanded beyond iOS to include Android users. Glass is worth watching and when I revisited Glass to check on progress, I was impressed.
Since discovering VERO I've abandoned Flickr and at the time of writing, find it difficult to imagine returning to the paid version.
A YouTube creator, Joseph D'Agostino, mentioned VERO in passing in addition to a number of other apps. I rewound the section of his video to catch the name.
After a quick internet search for VERO I had signed up. Interaction began the moment I started which I found odd. Users liked my pictures, I liked theirs, we commented, and engagement began.
Engagement can be profoundly positive. From the beginning I have yet to receive photographic advice. All commenting continues in a non-critical vein. Likewise, I don’t give critique, only positive feedback. A fault?
My images have received likes from non-followers which can be suspicious. The developer's recent addition of a 'Discovery' feature helps to remove my concern since it enables users to browse new accounts and the opportunity to be seen by non-followers.
Since August 2022 VERO remains interactive with a genuine community of users. It requires effort, commitment, and a degree of levity. Remember, it is social media.
VERO has been active since 2015 and has experienced several rushes of new members linked to periods of publicity. The most recent wave of sign-ups occurred when Peter McKinnon decided to leave Instagram and move to VERO.
Ironically, VERO has an Instagram account.
The trouble with waves of publicity is after the heat of the moment subsides, many members abandon their accounts. I have lost count of members I followed who grew silent from Christmas 2022.
The First Eight Months
After eight months my main concern is the drop in engagement since Christmas. I have no idea what happened.
Did the influx of disgruntled Instagram users have a change of heart and return to Meta's alternative? Did their follower count stagnate or did life throw up a surprise?
Whatever the reason, many others have remained and they make sharing fun. It's like being part of a large photography club but without the tea and biscuits.
My growth on VERO is slow but I have a specific objective in mind and that is to maintain a small but consistent network of fellow members. I prefer to aim for, say 500 active follow/following members, avoiding a feed populated with images from thousands.
I enjoy browsing the images and pausing on the most striking. That would be impossible with a gigantic account.
The VERO account needs management. Since joining I have:
- Blocked accounts that appear spammy, rude, or weird. For example, one account posted nothing but pictures of his wife. That is weird, isn't it?
- Forced unfollows of silent accounts.
- Blocked accounts that participate in the unscrupulous act of following and unfollowing to improve their own follower ratio.
My general impression is positive. VERO is small in comparison to Facebook or Instagram, and that's an advantage.
My challenge today is to avoid overthinking and enjoy the experience of engagement without expectation.
- Engagement levels are strong if you put in the effort and be reciprocal.
- No algorithm or ads interfere with your experience.
- The app is easy to use and navigate.
- The app is under active development which is good as bugs need squashing.
- The community is tolerant and supports diversity and inclusivity.
- The Peter McKinnon effect has helped the community grow.
- Many users have a "Find me on instagram" message on their profile. Loyalty eh?
- The RAW_Community is over dominant. Details below.
- User tactics exist such as follow/unfollow traps which some deploy to improve their follow/follower ratio.
- The Mac app is beta with bugs preventing images posted appearing anywhere you have placed the HTML code. It is slow and my least favourite part of VERO.
- No tools to help manage the account to root out the unfollower culprits.
- The Peter McKinnon effect for attracting a short-term numbers boost.
There are a number of accounts on VERO that act as focal points to connect people, promote their work, and help with discovery. Popular hubs include Podium, Pictas, EarthNow, and Raw.
Users are encouraged to follow these accounts and use their hashtags when posting an image to win the chance of being selected and re-shared to hub followers.
All is good.
Except one in particular is omnipresent to the point of taking away from the VERO experience. The hub is Raw. Raw has a community off site and promotes art of all kinds.
Nothing wrong with that.
On VERO, Raw has an incalculable number of hashtags to the point it makes me smile with each new one I discover. Many users plaster their posts with the hashtags. Raw_LongExposure, Raw_Cuteness, Raw_Moody, etc.
Someday I expect to encounter Raw_HairClippings, Raw_InsideLegMeasurement, or Raw_MeltedIceCream.
I fail to see why this annoys me, but it does. Though I feel happy having got it off my chest.
I accept it sounds like sour grapes because Raw ignored my photographs. But while Podium has ignored me, I am content to follow Podium. Podium has several hashtags but you need only use the parent hashtag and follow several others if you want a chance to be re-shared.
VERO covers a range of topics in addition to photography. Music, film, and TV interests are catered for.
When posting you can share web links, music recommendations, books, apps, games, and places.
How engaging the app would be if photography was void from your life is hard to tell.
Aside from the negativity towards Raw_Community, I hope this post will encourage you to try VERO and help the user-base grow.
Remember, nothing is perfect.
If I could make changes to VERO, what would they be?
- Hide public follower counts but show following numbers to discourage negative tactics and shine the light on engagement.
- Enable key EXIF data to be automatically imported and displayed (ISO, Sutter, Aperture).
- Bring the desktop app out of beta with bugs fixed or make VERO available via the web. The latter is my preferred option.
- Limit Photography Hubs’ hashtags to six, and like Medium, limit the number of hashtags users can add to images.
- Tools to manage our account e.g. who unfollowed me?
One thing the users who drifted taught me is avoid putting my effort into one platform.
I will reenergise my own blog and use it as intended, to chart my photographic development and observations on life.
I am reconsidering my place on VERO. It's good and getting better but many people I follow go mad with RAW hashtags to the extent it feels like RAW instead of VERO.
And poor old Flickr. It is a distraction and I may need to put it to S.L.E.E.P.