Author: Jones

Instagram: The 25k Plateau

Instagram: The 25k Plateau

Over the past few months (if I’m being honest, the past seven months) life has done what it tends to do: it’s gotten really busy Between traveling for the holidays, a new project at work, planting a garden, and other things that have made my […]

#Developer: Reimagine Communities 2018 – The Full Retrospective

#Developer: Reimagine Communities 2018 – The Full Retrospective

I recently visited Capital One’s Conference Center in Plano to attend the Reimagine Communities symposium on the topic of Harnessing Technology to Increase Access to Opportunity. If you missed my last post with an overview of the symposium, you can check it out here. In this post, […]

Instagram: How to Send a DM

Instagram: How to Send a DM

In this blog I’ve covered different types of social media platforms, what different kinds of interactions mean, and what kind of messages won’t get you replies. In this post I’m going to outline what a DM (direct message) is and how you can actually send one. According to my Google Analytics statistics, this is something that a lot of people are curious about.

You asked, I deliver

First of all, what’s a DM?

A DM is a private message between you and a single user or group of users

Can I send a DM to a user that doesn’t follow me?

You can DM anyone you want, but if you haven’t interacted with that user before it’ll show up in an outer-inbox (message request center) where that user can then filter what messages they see and get notifications for.

There are a few features in this outer-inbox that your normal inbox doesn’t have:

  • All images are initially blurred out, allowing the receiver to guess if a photo is explicit without actually having to see the explicit photo
  • Temporary videos aren’t visible unless a person accepts the message
  • Once a user has sent a message once, no more notifications are sent (sending many messages at once won’t increase your chances of getting their attention)
  • After a month, any messages that are still in the outer-inbox disappear. This means that if you haven’t gotten a response within 4 weeks, you probably won’t get a response to it

Once a user has allowed messaging from a person, the only way to disallow that is to block the user entirely. All future messages will show up in their regular inbox.

How do I send a DM to a user?

You can send a DM in a variety of ways and they’ll all go to the same place. If you can’t find a way to message the user, they’ve likely turned off or limited messaging permissions.

Sending a DM through a person’s profile:

Go to a user’s profile and click the ” … ” at the top right of their profile. If you’re on iOS a list of actions will pop up. At the bottom of the list will be a “Send Message” option which you can click.



Sending a DM through a story:

When a person posts a story there is an option at the bottom of the screen that allows you to send a message related to that story. This will send your message to them with the story as reference (so they’ll know what you’re responding to). If you don’t see this option, it means the user has disabled messaging on stories.

Sending a DM through your messaging center:

You can go to your own messages by clicking the paper airplane the top right of your screen. From there, click the + sign and you can search for any user and send them a message

Go to your inbox and press the + at the top of the page



There are lots of ways to reach people via DM. Whether you want to respond to something they posted, ask them if they’re open for collaboration, or you just want to introduce yourself. If you’re messaging someone you don’t know for the first time, remember that there are humans on the other side of the screen.

Instagram: Getting a Cease and Desist Order

Instagram: Getting a Cease and Desist Order

24,522 Followers Things that make my list of “unpleasant but necessary things to deal with” include: taxes, insurance of all kinds, making doctor appointments, and anything involving legal action. Which is why when I got an Instagram message from an account telling they had a […]

#Developer: Reimagine Communities Symposium 2018

#Developer: Reimagine Communities Symposium 2018

As a born and raised Alaskan now living in Texas, I get a lot of questions about why I came to the Dallas area and why I’ve chosen to stay. Though I initially moved south to attend university as a student, I’ve stayed because of […]

Amazon Reviews: Vine Voice and Unusual Reviewing Activity

Amazon Reviews: Vine Voice and Unusual Reviewing Activity

Amazon Ranking: #12,153

I purchased a beard-care gift-set for my bearded male associate, and after two weeks (and several tests of the product) wrote an extensive amazon review detailing the loves and eh’s of the product. I went to press “submit” and an Amazon error message popped up

This seemed odd, as I’ve had reviews that were flagged before (for language the algorithm didn’t like) but I’ve never had a review stopped dead in its tracks.

So, why wasn’t this review accepted?

After a little research and poking around, I discovered that this product had been reviewed by a significant number of people tagged as “Vine Voice Reviewers”. This is something that I had heard of when I first started researching Amazon reviews but hadn’t until this past week when a commenter on this blog asked about them.

BBC wrote an article back in 2016 about Amazon’s end to incentivized reviews (aka the Vine program) but it looks like they’re starting to bring it back full-force. A Vine Voice is someone in Amazon’s reviewing program that receives the product for free. This program has been established since 2007 but honestly I thought it was dead until now. Maybe the products I usually buy don’t participate in the program, but this one certainly did.

The product had 23 reviews written in the past month, with 22 of them being the “Vine Voice” reviews. As I was allowed to review a different product I’d ordered, my guess is that Amazon prevents people from reviewing products that have a suspicious amounts of reviews on them – even if the reviews are from people who are in Amazon’s own reviewing program.

Since Amazon reviewers have long been limited to 5 unverified reviews per week, I’m wondering if those reviews left by the “Vine Voice” customers don’t count as verified purchases since they were incentivized, and if a certain number of unverified purchases on a product’s reviews could potentially prevent genuine reviewers from leaving their comments on the product because it looks suspicious.

All speculation, but anything’s possible.


Tried to review a product and couldn’t. My current running theory is that Amazon flags products with a certain number of unverified (or incentivized) reviews over a certain time period, preventing anyone else from submitting a review.

Programming with the Sphero BOLT

Programming with the Sphero BOLT

My first exposure with robots was at an engineering camp I attended when I was 15, and let me tell you: it was not love at first sight. I loved the programming aspect of it (that camp was also where I was introduced to programming), […]

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification: A Retrospective

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification: A Retrospective

One of the things I love about being a technical consultant is that I’m encouraged to learn new things, even if they don’t directly relate to my projects. Over the past year one of those technologies has been Salesforce: first with my Platform Developer 1 […]

Instagram: Unexpected Collaborations Vol 1 – That Time I Went to a Martial Arts Studio for Social Media

Instagram: Unexpected Collaborations Vol 1 – That Time I Went to a Martial Arts Studio for Social Media


Would I, unprompted, ever go to a kickboxing gym? Probably not.

Would I do it for Instagram? Absolutely

The Approach

I received a message from a mixed martial arts studio in Dallas offering free classes to influencers. I thought this was an interesting tactic because though I definitely have the audience numbers and share a wider variety of lifestyle details on my stories, my feed is not at all about fitness.

They weren’t asking for the moon, just for recognition, which I’m all for. Also I’ve been slacking on my running routine lately so I figured this would be a great opportunity to force myself to do something healthy and active.

I told them I’d try out the Tuesday/Thursday fitness class because it fit into my schedule, but ended up having to opt out of the Tuesday one because work got crazy.

The Event: Freddie Pool’s Martial Arts Core Fit Class

I had no idea what to expect beyond what I’d found on their website. I left work at 6pm to make the 6:30pm class and changed in my car in the parking garage (I usually avoid gyms like the plague, so I wasn’t taking my chances on the awkward “Do you have a bathroom I can change in?” conversation)

I walked in and the guy at the front-desk immediately recognized me as an outsider, asking “Is this your first time?” and handing me an extensive form to fill out about how I heard about them and what I was hoping to get out of the class.

At this point in time I had no idea who ran their IG account so I didn’t know what name I’d reference or who I’d talk to if they asked me to pay, but luckily the studio provides your first class free anyway so I didn’t have to have the conversation

There was no box to check that said “I’m just here because you guys messaged me” so I checked “self-discipline” under the motivation section

The front-desk guy set me up with boxing gloves and introduced me to the instructor (who had held the door open for me as I walked in). The training room was exactly what you’d expect: lots of punching bags, mat floor, wall of mirrors, typical.



The class itself ended up being four people and the instructor. This was actually a perfect number because it was enough people that the instructor didn’t watch me the whole time, and few enough that if I was “behind” it wasn’t like twenty other people were shaming me in terms of their physical prowess.

There was another girl there who seemed to be about 100x more into fitness than me (she was wearing a t-shirt from a different gym) and when I asked if she went there often her response was “just this month” which was an indicator to me that she was probably also approached on Instagram. I confirmed this later when I saw the gym repost her account on social media – she has around 2k followers and runs something of a model-account on Instagram (nice portrait photographs of herself done by local photographers).

To that end, no one said anything about Instagram while I was there which was both eerie and nice because I knew someone associated with the gym was probably on the lookout for the people they had contacted. It felt like I’d just gone in for a class for the first time and was really, really, out of shape.

The Post

I posted about going to the gym in my stories after the class in my typical story-style. Their account responded fairly quickly, thanking me for coming

It was at this point that I realized that the instructor for the class I was in is probably an admin for their Instagram account. Was it a weird feeling to think that the guy who held the door open for me when I walked in knew who I was before I even said hi? Yes. Yes it was. Is it something I’ll just have to get over? Also, yes.

The Aftermath

I actually really liked the class. They messaged me to say I still had a month of free training sessions, so I’ll probably continue to go back (and post when I do). If I really like it I might actually sign up with the gym. It’s currently four days post-class and I’m still comically sore, but I figure after another week or two of this routine my body will stop hating physical activity.

In terms of engagement, a fair number of people did click on the link to the studio’s page and I got a lot of feedback from people who are already engaged in the activity (e.g. “I do this! This is so cool! You should try Jiu Jitsu!”) so it was a great conversation starter in terms of connecting with my audience.


A local business not at all affiliated with technology reached out to me offering a free service in exchange for publicity. I said yes because I enjoy adventures, it fit into my schedule, and I could fit their request in with my branding on Instagram. No one treated me like I was well-known and it was all around a good experience. I might actually end up signing up with the martial arts studio full-time if the next couple weeks go well!

Developer Book Club: Weapons of Math Destruction

Developer Book Club: Weapons of Math Destruction

Good writers make you think, great writers make you want to change the world around you. I would argue without hesitation that Cathy O’Neil is a great writer, and with a PhD in Mathematics from Harvard you can rest assured that she knows what she’s […]