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I deleted 4,200 I was following on Instagram, it helped there a lot, why not here?

First of all, unfollowing someone on Instagram isn't all that easy. You gotta do it on the iPhone, where you can only see about 200 people and seeing who they are, whether they've updated, etc, is pretty hard. Took me hours to go through all the people I was following and I needed to pause because it killed one battery charge.

Second of all, there are a LOT of dead accounts on Instagram. Even among so called technology elite. I wish CEOs would tell me their churn rates. That is my new measure of success. Not downloads from the app store.

So, what happened when I deleted all these folks?

My inbound dramatically improved and features that weren't working started working.

Thanks to +Mari Smith for sharing my video with Howard Rheingold on curation. Robert Scoble On Online Curation In there you can see my philosophy on followng: follow better people to get more (and better quality) followers.

This is absolutely true when it comes to photography. So, some things I did when picking the 210 people I now follow on Instagram:

1. Do I really care about what they take pictures of? Lots of people took mostly pictures of their dog. I really don't care about that. But I do care about people who try to take great photos in an attempt to get just a tiny piece of what +Trey Ratcliff or +Thomas Hawk or +Cassius Wright put here every day.

2. Are they updating regularly. Many many people haven't put up a photo in weeks. I got rid of these people because they aren't sharing their lives with me and I was just "collecting them on yet another list."

3. Would I be proud of handing them over to my best friend? Which I really am because if you are an Instagram user you can see who I'm following and you can follow them too.

Some things I learned by going through 4,400 followings?

I found that I cared most about people who I see regularly (IE, execs, VCs, press folks, etc) much more on Instagram than, say, on blogs or on Twitter (or on Google+). I think this is because of the high cost of photography on time. It takes a long time to look through photos when compared to Tweets. Partly because they take so much room on a phone (on one screen you can only see one photo, vs four tweets) but because I can't just swipe through a bunch of photos quickly the way I can with Tweets (my brain is visually-focused and it just doesn't process them the same way).

I also realized you can follow a lot of people on Instagram a LOT easier than you can unfollow them. In Instagram I can point it at Twitter or Facebook friend lists and say "follow all." I can't "unfollow all." It was very frustrating and took hours to do this.

There's a really cool "news" feature that never worked for me in Instagram (you needed to have fewer than 1,500 followings for it to work). With 209 followings this feature really rocks. I'm now able to "stalk" my friends in a very intimate and interesting way.

So, why not unfollow everywhere? Wouldn't I see some of the same benefits?

Not really. On Twitter and Google+ there are ways to "get small" (Circles here, lists on Twitter). And on both services I'm getting a business advantage to following lots of people that I never would have gotten in Instagram (on Twitter, for instance, I see "patterns" that no one else is seeing. As part of my job at Rackspace, Chief Learning Officer, it's my job to report those patterns to management. If you aren't looking at a large number of tweets or Google+ posts a day you'll never really see the patterns in enough detail.

One other thing: if you follow 200 people and they each follow 200 people, that brings in quite a lot of photos to your view. It's quite amazing actually, on the news feed I'm seeing more new photos than I used to see just paging through my inbound (they are smaller and more engaging). I'm also now far more interested in looking at that inbound feed than I was before.

Anyway, every once in a while I'll go through my services and rethink my following patterns. In this case it dramatically made the inbound much more interesting and hopefully it makes me more interesting to follow too!

I'm "Scobleizer" on Instagram. If you are looking for good geeks to follow, the 209 I'm following there are highly recommended!

Speaking of Instagram. I still love the service the most. It has dramatically better user experience than the competitors I've tried. Unfortunately it's still iPhone only, but when it comes to Android I'm sure it'll be a "must use."

Photocredit: I shot this weed yesterday on my bike ride in Half Moon Bay.

UPDATE: I saw this exact same learning over on YouTube when I deleted more than 1,000 inbound and now my home page is actually interesting and the folks I'm following on are good and I can recommend them to other people.

UPDATE2: Jennifer Gunderson just told me about Gramfeed. Here's my account so you can see who I'm following:
Deb McNally's profile photoPierre-Yves Lendenmann's profile photoBrad Acker's profile photoNic Adler's profile photo
that is a huge investment in time deleting all those +Robert Scoble . Seems like a flaw it can't be done in a Select All way.
The social aspect of Instagram is simultaneously its best feature and biggest barrier. I find myself using the service less and less because the hurdle is "do I want to publish this photo"? And the answer is usually "no"
Why would someone follow 4200+ users in the first place? Seems ridiculous imo.
+Robert Scoble Makes me wonder if I should pair down my 3000+ people I am following on Flickr too for the exact wheat from the chaff reason.
Scobleizer, ever thought of making a list of people you absolutely need to follow on G+? Or is that done already and I'm just missing it...
My follower count just decreased by 5%. Thanks! ;-D
My favorite photo sharing app is Google+. Just go to Photos and then From My Circles.
4,400 followings I can't even imagine what its like to go through that much :O I deal with 192 subscriptions on YouTube and I enjoy my stream.
Instagram does have a lot of limitations for followers. I use it more as just a way to make boring iphone images cool.
I want to follow everyone on G+, and then remove the ones I don't want to follow. So many people here that I'd like to at least see what they are saying.

There needs to be a "The Masses" public stream to follow that has everyone in it.
I don't know of any Instagram 3rd-party app that can bulk unfollow, but Gramfeed seems to do it most efficiently by providing a list of users you're following and an option to delete individually on one page, without having to go to each users individual profile page.
Ha, it's ok! I can lose one of my 20-esque followers without losing too much sleep.
Google+ should really opening everything up on your profile, you are its more prolific user.
how do you people find the time to use these services and have day job / life?

I dont use Facebook or Twitter and only Google+ and that alone I find is becoming a chore.
What a really interesting post! All that learning from having to delete so many says one thing to me: what should the process be for adding?? What was your process in the beginning Robert? Did you give it little thought, or did you give it lots of consideration but just liked a lot of stuff?
I really think it would be helpful if social networks had some kind of "quarantine" system where you could put members on probation to begin with and see if over a few weeks they meet with your expectations.. I guess you can simulate this on twitter (lists) and g+ (circles) and FB (lists) - but it's laborious when it could be automatic...
I'm really impressed that you're personally replying to people on here... appreciate the connectedness
Robert you can use inkstagram to manage your account from a web interface from the comfort of your pc.
Hmm... Do you know of any feed like service where you can specify geo-location instead? I love seeing all the photographic art taken in the Mid Hudson Valley[especially Ulster County with it's large per capita of Artists] but I don't know of a way I can just say "give me everything geolocated in these 6 counties"?
I have an Instagram account - but seldom use it. Photo apps are suffering from the same sort of "app fatigue" that LBS check-in apps are for me... Too many choices, not going to open every one. PicPlz has sort of become my default. How do you choose yours Robert? Did Instagram out perform the others when you pared down?
you were following 4200 people? On instagram? That would make it difficut, I would think, to really get involved with any particular users.
I like to keep my Instagram list down to 250 or less. Right now it's at 285. I'll review it soon and unfollow some. I do this often and find that my feed becomes more interesting as I hone in on just the people I really want to follow.
+Robert Scoble Have you tried YouTube's new layout Cosmic Panda?
I think they have a lot to work on, I always switch back, community features are missing like the old links to subscribers, and so fourth. If you could find something send feedback too.
Robert, are you on PoolParty? If so, I'd like your opinion of the service. If not, do you need an invite? ;-) 
I think online follower management on multiple networks is still in its infancy. Like other systems we have seen, eventually there will be a universal follower management system. Then interactions will be normalized, homogenized and fortified with Vitamin D. It will make things easier, but will also make a system that is less tolerant of diversity.

Of course today is the first day of Ramadan here and I am fasting. No quad espresso and 10 smokes for breakfast today; so maybe I am just ranting.
Great post, so true - and also a great source of photographers I hadn't yet come across <3 G+ has reignited my old love of photography. I am not that great at picture taking, but boy do I love to appreciate a beautiful photograph.
PoolParty is Google's group photo sharing service (in beta, invite only, created by the Slide team Google acquired). Basically, you create a picture "pool", for example "Vegas trip" or "Our pets" and you invite interested folks to the pool. Then everyone sees the pics come in as they get uploaded using the mobile app (Android and iOS). I'll send you an invite in a few.
Wish there was an easier way to unfollow or even block (no way I've found yet) in picplz. And I wonder where picplz is headed now that ownership changed?
Robert thanks for mentioning Instagram, I had seen it in the app store but never bothered to look at it ( the down side of there being a bazillion Apps in the App store ) I have a knack for downloading the worst apps in the app store and Ignoring the better ones.
+Ed Caggiani registered for the beta weeks ago... when can we expect new invites? Would love to try it out.
+James YogiFish Herring this is what I like to call the "exclude from default stream" circle, which is a feature I wish Google had. It allows you to add someone like +Robert Scoble in a circle without his posts showing up in the default stream view. In other words, you have to explicitly go to that circle to see the posts.

That said, good on you +Robert Scoble for deciding to cull the people you're following on Instagram. I'm no doubt one of the masses you decided to unfollow mostly because I'm not using an iPhone as my primary device anymore. Culling the people you follow is important to ensuring you get the appropriate value out of whatever social networking service you're using. I haven't done this in a while, but as you've pointed out, the process is painful.
One of the reasons I follow a lot of local (Bay Area) people is that Instagram is a great place to discover places to go - restaurants, bars, places to take the kids, etc. It's like a visual Foursquare. By the way, happy to see that I made the cut after your cut back to 200 people :)
I really like the idea of "exclude from default stream" that somone had. I can't find it on my iPhone again, but whoever sai that when I get to a desktop I'll +1 that for sure.

That would, for me, solve almost every issue I have with the whole circle concept.

We should name it 'scroblizing' ;)

Man,i'm sorry, but sometimes you write some big bullshit like this one..We want news about tech, not the reasons underlying your following deleting activity
Robert, my account on Instagram (and Facebook, Twitter, Google Profiles) is phonetrips and I am one of the people who posts a lot of pictures of my dog. But in my case it's different because my dog happens to be the one and only cutest dog in the world!
Hey Robert, when i saw your description i was sure all your post would be about tech and all the other stuff related to it. So i think it's normal that i had you in my following frame as a journalist from which learn about last news. I think it would be the normal expectation derivable from your public image and "About" sections, where there is no indication of personal life mix. Furthermore, i think it's normal for every journalist and editor to develop an inclination to interact with readers and listen their voice. I have just expressed the mine, which is i really appreciate you articles about tech and similars but sometimes i find your personal post not coherent with your communicated journalist image.
I have been looking at the rate of following and unfollowing as well lately. As well as contacts, friends etc. on several networks. And it is interesting to see that it is very easy to make friends, but usually a lot harder to leave them. On Google+ I find it is another equation as I don't usually read my incoming list, but I zoom in on the circles I have made. That makes life a lot easier. :-)
Best line of this post: "I wish CEOs would tell me their churn rates. That is my new measure of success. Not downloads from the app store."

It's absolutely true. Great call.
+Joe McKenna you will find many many webmasters on Google+ - I've found several new helpers on contract and project basis from G+. Research on G+ is simple - view peoples profiles, check followers, following and about pages. You will find exactly who you need / require by browsing.
I'm constantly amazed at people putting up with their iphones batteries dying. Why not just get an android that you can carry a couple fully charged batteries around with, or like what I had my old 3gs keep it in an 1800mAh battery case. That usually carried me through till 5pm even on a full usage day.

A few days ago I was at a little play my 5 year old was in, and my my wife looks at me and says she can't record the video because her battery is dead on her 4g. I had just swapped my battery out of my wallet about 15 minutes prior to getting there, no problem.
Hey! I take photos of my dog! But... only a few :)
Wait, so using social networks like a normal person makes them work as they were designed to? Holy shit. Revolutionary, man. Mind = blown.
+Andrew Morales your saying that social media enthusiasts are not normal people? Using something differently than another does not make someone not normal, it makes them a different style of user. A network should be able to handle any type of user, not just "normal" users.
No, someone who follows 4,000 people on Instagram is not a normal user. There's no possible way that any human being is looking at all the content from 4000 people every day. Even if each user only posted one photo in a day, that would still be 4,000 photos to try to browse through. Even 210 photos is a hell of a lot to try to look through. And most people I know post at least a few photos a day, not just one.

It's not that Instagram isn't capable of handling that much content. It's just that having that much stuff going on ruins the usefulness of the service because it becomes too much noise, as Scoble apparently just realized.

It would be ridiculous to design a service for any type of user, even if it were possible (it's not). You design services to work best for the most amount of people, not everyone. Doesn't hurt to try to solve problems for the users on the periphery of the bell curve, but that can't be the focus of a company.
I though the post was very interesting as a person that gets a lot of questions about social media as part of my job and life as a professional geek I appreciate knowing what works and what does not whole I would never follow that many people or have that many people follow me I do have clients that do. Regardless of the opinions of those Tech purists out there many of us appreciate the posts. I mean how hard is it to skip a post for crying out loud ...... Bunch of whiners .. Just my two cents often worth as much as a penny!
I have solved most of my battery problems by having charging docks everywhere I can. I have them in most rooms in my house, installed ipod integration in my prius and have a portfolio with a battery inside with a USB charging connector and a dock cable and a solar panel on the outside. I went from Blackberry to blackberry storm to Android to iPhone and would never go back. Updating apps was a pain on the Android. 
I guess I'm just a chronic battery swapper from back when I had a palm treo :).
You don't have to remember to charge the batteries if you have plenty of extra batteries and chargers. I think I got mine for like 8 bucks for battery and charger on fleabay :D. I loved my battery cases on my 3gs, but they did make it a lot more clunky. Also apple sued the company that made my favorite battery charger out of business because they made one that I could use my apple cable with, and apple refuses to let anyone make a product with a female apple cable adapter.

Them suing my favorite accessory manufacturer was one of the big things that pushed me over to android even though I liked the apple experience for the most part. I don't want to have to have different cable types hanging around everywhere for my phone AND my battery cases, what a pain.
+Brian Thomas I'm not sure what's so hard about updating apps on android. I have some beefs with android but that's not one of them. I'm a recent convert from Apple, and if I remember on apple you go to the apple store, and click update. On the android you go to the market and then go to my apps, then update. I know they have changed the market around a lot, so maybe it's improved since you left, I'm not sure. I know if an application on the android changes it's level of security that it needs it won't update automatically, and I'm ok with that.
It may have changed but on my Droid there was not an update all function I had to approve each app individually. I had scores of apps and it was tedious. Apple has always had an update all button. I have multiple android tablets and while ok my iPad and iPhone generally works better no need to kill zombie processes, a regular occurrence on the android devices. 
I've always considered the quality of the people, and the content they post, before I accept them as friends or follow them. I use my personal social media as my professional face as well. I believe that it is important to be personable and to truly put yourself out there. So before I follow someone, or friend them I check out their content, I look at their bio's, and I see how often they post and what they are posting. I'm too busy to have to filter through a bunch of stuff to get to what I want to read. Or miss something I wanted to know about because there was a bunch of crap on my feeds. I have wondered lately if my choice of picking and choosing was a good thing. Does it matter how many friends you have, or does it matter more that the content they are posting means something? If your using social media to increase SEO does your answer change?
Good things in here! Love Instagram. If you want to follow me I'm at nicadler.
I'm about to hit my 200th picture today on Instagram... I've been to Yosemite, the east coast, west coast... and other cool places...  so I've taken a lot of cool pics.  Good stuff, here +Robert Scoble,  Nice post.
The app at FriendOrFollow seems to work well for removing users who don't follow you back quickly:  ... it seems to hit the limit at around 200 users at a time ... and you have to do at least two actions to remove any given user ... so that's 400 actions (minimum) to remove 200 user. 

Using it on the web interface is faster and easier than doing it on a small mobile device screen. seems to remain in beta (for now) so that's not a current option unless you're one of the lucky ones who has an approved account.  Hopefully something like TweePI will soon offer even simpler mass removal solutions.
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