The 2012 Houston Web Awards

The Houston Press rides the wave to the next group of winners.

For years, Bettinger had been taking pictures around the city, adding them to Houston-centric Flickr pools and cultivating her own presence. As social media went through growing pains, the site took a backseat. Instagram provided a new community for budding hobbyist ­photogs to exercise their skills. Flickr's sense of community had dropped off and Insta­gram quickly took its place.

The Instagram app has pop-culture roots in those plastic Hong Kong-made Holga cameras that were so popular in the mid-2000s. The flimsy nature of the camera's working parts helped create eerie and dreamy prints. Instagram's final product isn't too terribly different from the Holga's. You won't spend a load of cash on expensive film, and you can instantly share your masterpiece to Twitter, Facebook and every other platform imaginable.

There is a stock, clichéd feel to most Instagram photos that turns some off of the app. Like, does everything need to look vintage? Users can employ an array of filters and lighting to create just the right mood and tone for their shots.

Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin relaxes in his downtown apartment with his father's old acoustic guitar. Don't worry; he's not quitting sacking QBs for the coffeehouse circuit.
Sherman Hatton
Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin relaxes in his downtown apartment with his father's old acoustic guitar. Don't worry; he's not quitting sacking QBs for the coffeehouse circuit.
Christian Palmer strikes a serious pose in a Montrose thrift store.
Lisa Ramirez
Christian Palmer strikes a serious pose in a Montrose thrift store.

"I'm one of those that do prefer Instagram to Twitter because I'm such a visual person. It ties my love of photography into a device I have in my hand almost constantly," Bettinger says. She has met many users who've made Instagram their sole social media outlet. This is a polar shift from just a few years back, when everyone was taking to Twitter to spit out 140 words of drivel.

"I've often heard that Facebook is for people you know, Twitter is for people you want to know. Well, Instagram lets people take you where you want to go," says Joey Garcia, another Houston Instagram heavy. He's been using Instagram to document the things he sees on the job in an oilfield near Brazos Bend State Park, and he and Bettinger helped institute a few local "InstaMeets," a dedicated Instagram feed for Houston. He's even had some of his work exhibited at photo shows.

Bettinger says she has heard of some users taking nearly 40 steps to edit a shot before even posting it to their timeline for the world to see. The pictures can be beautiful, but that sort of negates the "instant" part of the app. For Garcia, though, that's what makes Instagram work.

"It's one thing to share love for the same thing, but you'll never know how your friends see the same stuff you enjoy until they share it on Instagram. I always enjoy seeing different views of Houston through the eyes of someone else, and that's how others feel," he says. But even early adopters like Bettinger are tiring of Instagram and looking for new things to play with, and most professional photogs have shied from it.

Bettinger wants to go back to where it all began, sans iPhone. "I would like to continue to grow my non-iPhone photography more. Maybe I need to be using Instagram less?" she wonders.


Compiled by Jeff Balke, Craig Hlavaty, Brittanie Shey and Katharine Shilcutt

Best Bartender Tweeter

Alba Huerta


Perhaps the most hard-working female bartender in town, Alba Huerta is president of the Houston chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild and the founder of Houston LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), an organization devoted to cultivating classic cocktail programs around town as well as hosting fund-raisers for various charities. Huerta uses her Twitter page as a place to showcase the various events her organizations host, share information about great bars both here and around the country, and encourage her fellow bartenders — both male and female.

Best Beverage/Beer Blog


Leslie Sprague is probably the city's best known beer blogger, both for her writing on Lushtastic as well as for her work with Open the Taps, a nonprofit dedicated to changing outdated beer laws in Texas. Equal parts news, politics and general beer coverage, Lushtastic is the place to head in Houston to keep abreast of all things beer.

Best Use of Online Activism



The Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs is the brainchild of Anvil owner Bobby Heugel, who decided to use his considerable social media presence to fight the City of Houston's push to require more (cost-prohibitive, possibly deal-breaking) parking spaces at small, Inner Loop bars and restaurants. OKRA encourages its followers and fans to talk to the City about smart urban growth instead of Inner Loop sprawl, bringing huge groups of supporters to City Council meetings along the way.

Best Chef Tweeter

Aquiles Chavez


Following Mexican celebrity chef Aquiles Chavez as he moved to Houston to open a new restaurant, La Fisheria, has been nothing short of fascinating. Even with 166,000 followers, though, Chavez keeps his account personal, interesting and fun — and even shares plenty of Instagram photos of his activities throughout the day.

Best Food Blog

Urban Swank

Combining words and video, the Urban Swank girls — Shanna Jones and Felice Sloan — chronicle the city's best and hottest restaurants, bars and chefs with easygoing, laid-back voices that let the real character of the subjects emerge. Besides just restaurant reviews and interviews, though, Urban Swank also covers everything from recipes to happy hours.

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Seriously? Plonk? They update their FB page every 10 days. If HP qualifies that as good communication with their fans, they should try writing a story every 10 days and see if that system works better for them.


Conner is douchey. There was a long line to get into Little Woodrow's before the rugby game at the Dynamo Stadium. He tried to cut straight to the front with about 7 other guys. The bouncer refused, thankfully.

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