Way Back In Vine

Way Back In Vine

A love letter to Vine


It was winter 2014 and mother had just passed away and I was in a heartbroken shattered state of mind. While I was managing her funeral I was also working with a recruiter at Vine to come and interview in NYC. My world felt like death and the light had gone out of it. After placing mom to rest next to her father, mother and brother I flew back home to California for a few days to rest before flying to NYC to interview with the Vine team. Vine in the winter of 2014 was vibrant and it had lots of buzz around it and I really wanted to work there. In Feb 2014 I flew to NYC in the middle of the infamous Polar Vortex, my first flight had been canceled because of snow — when I finally arrived it was cold and snowing in the Big Apple and I have never been so cold before or since. Because I was on west coast time and I’m a late night coder, I didn’t manage to sleep before the interview. I remember spending the night preparing for the next day and marveling that I was in NYC. In the morning took a cab in the snow to the Vine NY office — it was a small office downtown overflowing with creative passionate people. The moment I walked in the door I knew I was going to work at Vine, it’s just one of those times where you can feel your future. During this time two of Vine’s three founders were onboard, Colin and Rus. I interviewed with Colin and the rest of the Vine engineering team. After the interviews I rushed back to JFK Airport to head home to California. A few days later I learned I got the job, I would be the second full time iOS engineer on Vine.

Vine was a close knit team, basically a start up and to my surprise I was instantly welcomed into the club and made to feel at home. Since I was still grieving my mom’s passing I needed a big project to keep my mind busy. Thankfully I got one, I would be tasked with rebuilding Vine’s video creation and adding camera roll import for a feature know as “Vine’s new Camera.” This feature would be released in August 2014. The feature was controversial because up until that point all Vines were made by capturing video within the app, known as “all natural Vines.” Some users had became extremely talented at making complex visual effects with limited tools and adding import would transform that culture in unpredictable ways. But, there was no choice, Vine needed import and I made sure it worked well and as a way to help the in-app creators we spent a lot of time making the editing experience more powerful. This project helped be recover from the loss of my mother and brought me a team of brand new friends.

In my time at Vine I created over 1000 Vines which if you think about it is on average more than two per day for a couple of years. When I wasn’t coding on the Vine iOS app I was out and about making Vines. Doing it for the Vine actually made my free time more interesting. For example I would have never cliff dived in Maui if I didn’t know I’d get a great Vine out out it!

Vine was not a job, it was a way of life and most of my time for over two years was Vine related. One of the reasons I created so many Vines is because I wanted to know what the Vine users were experiencing in the app, I wanted to make sure I understood what they needed. I built a lot of tools that never were released, time lapse features, really nice video filters and others. If you go back in my Vine feed you can see the results of these experiments. When you are on a rocketship app it’s challenging to know which features to release and those features were waiting for their moment.

My next project was Vine Music which is right up my alley, since I’ve been writing music software for decades. We worked really hard on this one to provide the unique Snap to Beat feature with as of today no one has replicated. During work on this feature disaster struck my personal life again, now my father had passed away just a year after mom. I was devastated and found some comfort in having the last video of him I ever took being in a Vine Message. If it was not for Vine I don’t know what I would have done. Working on the app and the team who was compassionate and supportive helped me through that difficult time. Vine was a kind of therapy and that’s one reason I was so loyal to the platform. Right after laying my dad to rest I found myself back at the Apple campus in Cupterino working on a secret project for WWDC. Vine had been asked to get video working on the Apple Watch. It was one crazy experience to pull that one off, but we did and during WWDC 2015 Kevin Lynch Apple’s VP demoed in real time to the word Vine playing videos on the Apple Watch. To my knowledge this is the first time a video had been played publicly on a watch anywhere. There’s an insane story behind all this and maybe I’ll write about that one day.

My final project was Vine’s Soundboard. I had the idea for the soundboard in 2015 and it won our hackweek. I didn’t stay at Vine to complete the feature and instead Vine’s talented iOS got it through the goal posts.

Vine is shutting down and that’s just the reality of life everything has a beginning middle and end. All things pass, all things are impermanent as I’ve experienced with the passing of my parents. However, I am going to suggest to you that Vine will live on longer that anyone expects right now. Since Twitter has stated they will keep all Vines preserved, the archive of Vines from 2013–2017 will become a kind of time capsule for culture during this crazy period of history. It will show the last term of the Obama Administration through the next election. It captures many of the events in the world, personal and global. Trivial and profound. Babies being born, weddings, new stories, world events, art, comedy and everything else you can think of, it’s all in there. As my friend Adam said when we were talking about this on the phone the other night “it’s like Pompei.”

In the future for historians who want to learn about the culture of this era the Vine archive will become a valuable resource. Nowadays there are many other places to post videos, but Vine was an open system, you can view all the Vines anywhere online without an account. Other competing services are walled gardens, Vine’s open nature will be the very reason it will likely outlast all of them. There’s something beautiful about this thought. It’s like a rock band that that had three great albums and then broke up, leaving an artifact and legacy. Millions of Vines were made and the vast majority have not been seen, there’s not enough time for people to digest that amount of video, but over time, someone will mine this archive and find many lost treasures.

Vine is where mobile social video truly got it’s first foothold, that’s not a topic for debate, it’s a fact. Vine taught a generation how to make video and use the medium as a language. Vine is something that Marshall McLuhan would have understood very well, the “medium is the message.” Vines were the medium and the message, that won’t be easily replicated anywhere else. This moment is an experience is unique in human history, because never before had so many people shared video in this way.

I consider myself lucky to have worked on this app and I will always be grateful to Rus, Colin and Dom for allowing me into their world and trusting me to continue the mission coding Vine. Thanks to the entire Vine team in NYC who made my visits unforgettable and the Vine community that took code that I wrote and made art with it. The reality is everyone at Vine was doing it for it the Vine too. The people I worked with were not just colleagues they were/are my friends.

Time will show what this all means in context. I send my love to the Vine team, thanks everyone, we made history together.

Long live Vine.