Your own words

There has been a minor outbreak of handwringing and soul-searching amongst bloggers recently. Jon Udell asked Where have all the bloggers gone? Tim Bray responded with his own thoughts on the Blogodammerung. Paul Ford rallied with some straight-up old-fashioned blogging about the rotary dial.

For quite a while now, people have been pointing the finger at Twitter and Facebook, lamenting that these short-form services are time-sucking all their writing energy. There’s probably some truth to that but as harbingers of blogging doom go, they’re pretty weak. Some of us manage to both blog and tweet (I know, right‽).

If your craving to write is satiated by a service that limits you to 140 characters, then maybe blogging was never the right medium for you in the first place. Although, that said, most of the early blogs (or link-logs) tended to have short, snappy updates.

But there’s a more fundamental difference between posting to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Google+, and posting to your own blog. Unless you’re using a hosted service, your blog belongs to you. I’m not talking about ownership in the sense of copyright—I’m sure all those other services have T and Cs that make sure you retain to the rights to what you write. I’m talking about owning the URLs.

Scott puts it best when he writes Your words are wasted:

You are pouring your words into increasingly closed and often walled gardens. You are giving control - and sometimes ownership - of your content to social media companies that will SURELY fail.

He’s absolutely right. Over a long enough time period, all third-party services will let you down. There was a time when Friendster was too big to fail. There was a time when it wasn’t possible to imagine a web without Geocities. I’ve been burned by Pownce. Magnolia.

When Delicious was going to be “sunsetted” by Yahoo, a lot of people moved to Pinboard, a service that distinguishes itself by having the shocking business model of actually charging for use. That’s good, and it certainly increases its longevity, but it’s still somebody else’s domain. I decided to move my bookmarks over to my own site.

Now that there is much discontent around Twitter’s ongoing metamorphosis into yet another ad-driven media company, people are moving to App.net, a platform that you pay for and whose Alpha service looks a lot like Twitter without the bad parts. But it’s. Still. Somebody. Else’s. Domain.

I suspect that some of the recent blog-handwringing and blog-soul-searching was prompted by the launch of Medium, an intriguing service that seems to be making lack of ownership into a feature rather than a bug. Instead of your words being defined by you, the author, they are subsumed into the collective and defined by their subject matter instead.

That doesn’t appeal to me, but if this feature request from Dave Winer were implemented, I could get behind Medium 100%:

Let me enter the URL of something I write in my own space, and have it appear here as a first class citizen. Indistinguishable to readers from something written here.

I’m a card-carrying Pembertonian. I have no problem with other services syndicating my words but I want to host the canonical copy. That’s what I’m doing with my journal. That’s I’m doing with my links. I’m not doing it with my tweets (unlike Tantek). I’m not doing it with my photos.

That’s the one that worries me the most. I have over 14,000 pictures on Flickr (I keep offline backups, of course). I pay Flickr and that’s a good thing. But it’s still only a matter of time before Flickr goes the way of other Yahoo properties.

Last year I went to IndieWebCamp in Portland to brainstorm and hack with like-minded people who want to be homesteaders instead of sharecroppers. It was an excellent gathering. And now it’s going to happen again, but this time it’s happening in Brighton.

Two days after dConstruct—and one day after Brighton Mini Maker Faire—we’ll gather at The Skiff for a mishmash of BarCamping and Hackdaying.

You should come. Add yourself to the guest list and the Lanyrd page.

I’ll see you there.

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