Thursday, 26 March 2020

Attempting to join Instagram

When I got back, I decided what to do next, faced with many hours at home. I am an artist now, previously an electronics engineer - I often joke about "changing the chip in my head". I thought it would be a wonderful idea to create positive images about the coronavirus in art, about defeating it rather than being trapped by it. I did a search in Google, looking for other artists with the same ideas but to no avail. I tweaked the keywords. I came across an American, David Goodsell who is a scientist but also an artist. Here is his website. He paints wonderfully detailed pictures of viruses.

I wrote to him with my ideas about bringing together artists to create positive images about the pandemic but, so far, I haven't received a reply. But I did write that, if he thought that my ideas were a little crazy, then there was no need to reply.
I went back to Google and finally found this. Exactly what I was looking for!

Most of the artists are professional graphic designers, I guess that Politico looked up a database. I opened up an account in Instagram and loaded the artists as contacts. Then I hit lots of problems. It is strange, I guess my brain must be wired differently. Billions of people sign up to Instagram and also Facebook without problems but I really cannot get on well with either of them. To me, they are like bossy schoolteachers. I guess I made two mistakes. One was to log in with my computer because my screen is much larger, but Instagram is really organised around the phone (although it does allow log-in from a PC). The other mistake was to start off by uploading about 10 or 11 of my paintings in order to get started. Every time I logged in with my computer, I got the same warning email message that "..someone is logging in from Girona...". But they could see that it was the same computer each time. I created a second account to test the system. After uploading my 10 pictures, later in the day, I tried uploading a further single picture. Every time, after about 10 minutes, it was removed, either by a person or by some fiendish algorithm.

This morning, I tried again. The image stayed for about an hour, a record! So I tried to edit it by writing a commentary. This was refused, but this time I received  a message saying that my account was blocked for 24 hours to prevent damage to the users of Instagram. It was a painting of a cathedral! And then the image was taken down again.

My account is at

I always knew that I was a little weird but not that weird. For much of my professional life, I wrote software and the part that took the most time was taking account of the the person who was using the software and the mistakes they could make. It is called "error-trapping". Making software function was relatively easy if one discounted the human element. But It appears to me that there is little or no error-trapping in the software of Instagram. If you make a mistake, your only recourse is to go to Google and do a search for, "why is Instagram deleting my posts?" because one gets dumped with no message to say what went wrong. And there are very many such links!

To me, this is lazy programming. I will wait 24 hours because my project is to paint new pictures and that will take more than 24 hours. But, really... I suppose I am on a different planet. When I wrote software, it attempted to have good manners! If the user did something wrong, it always gave them a way back. But to be really honest, sometimes it was the Reset button!

Update, 27th March. I managed to upload the image of Rainy Day in Girona after the block was lifted. I tried to add a description and was immediately blocked again for 24 hours.The question now is whether the image remains (with its original caption which is simply the title of the painting). Why are they so convinced that I am a bot? Or, more to the point, why are they being so thoroughly unpleasant?

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