Vine, The App That Eats Your Precious Memories

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Cognitive Overhead, Or Why Your Product Isn’t As Simple As You Think

No app has ever broken my heart quite like Vine, Twitter’s six-second animation maker. You capture a scene, then pocket your phone while you think of a witty way to describe it. But when you open it a few minutes later or the app randomly crashes, it’s gone. That moment, that memory, deleted. I still love Vine, but I’ll never forgive it for the visions it stole from me.

Essentially, if you record a Vine but then close the app and don’t share it right away from the screen where you choose a description plus what social networks to share to, the video deletes itself.

If you’re lucky, when you open Vine to the horror of the homescreen instead of your art in the composer, Vine will have saved your deleted animation as a video clip to your camera roll. But you’re not allowed to import videos; you have to shoot them in the app. That video clip is no Vine, it’s a shadow, one that can’t be easily shared. And often there’s no clip saved. I’d say the app has eaten about half of the Vines I’ve ever shot.

This whole situation is just one of Vine’s many flaws. Of course it deserves some slack, as it’s just four months old and only on version 1.0.7. Still, Vines frequently fail to upload, randomly refuse to load in the feed, there’s no way to share privately, and it crashes all the time taking your current Vine to hell with it.

It’s when Vines disintegrate that I get truly angry, though. It’s blatant violation of the implicit value exchange between a human and an app. Rather than live a moment, I recorded it. When I ended up with nothing to show for it, I feel cheated. It makes me wary to reach for my phone when I see something beautiful.

Maybe that’s a good thing. The fact that we have trouble simply experiencing beauty, joy, or spectacle if we don’t make a permanent, dumbed-down copy of it is a bit sad. But if I make the conscious decision to trade now for forever, I damn well better get my forever. And now when I use the app, there’s a deep-seated fear that my creation will vanish, with or without a trace. This isn’t Snapchat. Your content isn’t supposed to disappear.

The fact that Vine was the No. 1 free app in the App Store two weeks ago despite its shortcomings is a testament to its brilliant concept and responsive design. But listen, ye Vine developers who frequently shun press requests: “Fix this. Save any Vine we’ve finished shooting as a draft. Earn our trust. Because apps aren’t supposed to make you feel such a┬áprofound sense of loss.┬áThere’s plenty of that in real life.”