Everyday I'm Mugshooting

As of today I have taken a photo of myself each day for exactly one year. I missed 15 days, so it’s 350 pictures altogether. Of those 52 weeks there wasn’t a single one in which I didn’t have to explain what the heck I’m doing - as I was using the front-facing camera of my iPhone to take the photo, people usually assumed I was taking their picture instead. I chose 7:30pm to take the photo, or the closest possible point in time afterwards - if you happen to know me, you’re aware of the fact that often I’m going to sleep between 2pm and 6pm, so on those occasions taking the photo was the first thing I did after getting up at something like 10pm. You’ll surely be able to spot a few of those instances in the video below.

However, I’m also often around friends at 7:30pm, so many of them got used to me doing weird iPhone adjustments in front of my face. “Oh, is it 7:30 already?” they’d say. Sometimes I would tell them things like “Alright, it’s time. I’ll just pretend taking your picture so people in here won’t think I’m nuts.” when we happened to be in a restaurant. The whole thing can lead to rather awkward situations, for example when visiting a hockey game I obviously wanted the playing field in the background of the photo. As we were standing in the first row this meant turning around, facing hundreds of angry and drunk actual hockey fans and trying not to be killed by them for weirdly taking their picture. Actually it’s even worse: as it always takes some time to get the alignment right people start thinking you are filming them, which they dislike a lot more.

More tech details to come, but without further ado I present to you: me, over the course of a year.

Warning! The video has rapidly fast picture changes, beware if you’re epileptic.

Can you tell from the video that I’ve lost 25 pounds during last year? I couldn’t, friends who haven’t seen me in a while said they could - which I find fascinating. My weapon of choice in taking the pictures was Everyday. It did a good job, but I’m becoming increasingly unsatisfied with it. If you know of any alternatives, please let me know. The basic idea of making it as easy as possible for me to align the pictures properly by using guide lines and an overlay of the previous picture is brilliant and, along with the use of a daily notification to remind me of actually taking a photo each day, the one feature that kept me using the app. Sadly, while you actually can set multiple reminders, there is no way to keep more than one “stream” of photos. Maybe I’d like to take a one picture everyday after getting up, one at noon and one at 7:30pm. I could do so now, but all three would be mixed together and I’d have to manually sort out which picture belongs to which set. The devs have been promising a solution to this for ages now, in the allegedly upcoming version 2.0.
That update will probably come some day, but ultimately it’s too late. I have no confidence in the devs any more, and that always saddens me when happening with a product I actually like. I’m a patient person and do understand that things take their time, especially being a developer myself. Reading through their feedback on Twitter it seems like the classic situation of “But we can’t yet ship the update which solves those 372 problems and adds these 12 feature requests, because this one line of code is still missing.”

While it’s not good to annoy your customers with too many updates, with an app like Everyday I feel a bit different - every single day you do not ship an update/bugfix, you force all users to continue producing inferior data. Commit early, commit often - and maybe learn how to branch if that’s what’s keeping you…
Which leads me to my last and major complaint: the photos taken inside Everyday are not geotagged. I don’t know why. The front-facing camera does produce photos with geotags. Other photo apps do produce photos with geotags. I asked the devs about it: no reply. Granted, my tone could have been more professional, but having just found out I would not be able to generate an awesome heatmap of my location data over the last year I was a little pissed. I did send a neutral email a few days later, no reply either. I can now only assume whether the decision not to geotag photos was intentional or due to API limitations that were still in place when the current version was released - almost a year ago.
In any case, the app appeared to be dead ever since that last and only update, and while there is still activity on their Twitter account, my rather simple question was not answered in weeks - that is no way to treat your customers.

Finally, as I don’t trust the video output of the app (it always feels like half of the pictures are missing and I could actually achieve several different video file sizes for rendering the same set of pictures a few times, so something is definitely fishy there) I had to render it myself. This is rather simple and can be done with the following ffmpeg command:

ffmpeg -f image2 -r 10 -i %03d.jpg -vcodec libx264 -preset slow -threads 0 -pix_fmt yuv420p -b:v 2345k out.mp4

In this example, the resulting video will have a frame rate of ten fps, which I find a good compromise between playing speed and video duration. Play around with the value until you’re satisfied with the output. Your images will have to be named 001.jpg, 002.jpg, … and so on. If you have a set of images that are named in the right order (exported from your iPhone, for example), use these two commands in zsh to rename them accordingly:

zmv '*.JPG' '$((c++)).jpg'
zmv '(<1->).jpg' '${(l:3::0:)1}.jpg'

I’m looking forward to the next year of taking my own picture every day and don’t see a reason to ever stop doing so, as I really like the result. Hopefully the promised update will resolve all my issues and restore my faith in the developers.