3 min read

Social media, and actually owning what you publish

TL;DR I think it’s time you—and everyone—thinks about where you are posting, do you actually own your content, and are you in an environment that encourages ownership, fosters conversation & responsibility vs just a cacophony of echo chambers, spam, hate & likes.
Social media, and actually owning what you publish
Photo by Timothy Hales Bennett

Ah, social media. The thing that (theoretically) democratized everyone’s voice. That allowed two-way communication impossible to do beforehand if you weren’t in a niche circle.

The thing that cost you the ownership of your own content.

Do you remember in the 90s, when everyone active on the web had their own blog? Even those that didn’t self-host and used platforms like Blogger or Wordpress (or Movable Type), you wrote under your username (me.site.com) and eventually were able to point your own domains there. This sounds like a simple thing, but it kept you in control of you what you published. If you’d wanted to change platforms—anything from you having an issue with the way the platform ran, to you were just bored—you moved your domain over and your readers just continued to find you, or follow your owned RSS feed in a reader.

Then came the Facebook era. The Twitter era. Instagram. Medium. Platforms that broke through a significant problem with traditional blogs: writing in silos. Social media platforms redefined engagement and discovery of other creators, bringing anyone and everyone into one space. People could just follow you and you could share your links seamlessly.

And then you stopped writing on the blog altogether. You just posted on Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram. The platforms made posting easier and easier, and starting silo’ing alternative platforms. Like when Instagram removed Twitter card support & Twitter stopped showing you previews of Instagram photos. Twitter eventually bought out and integrated their own photo services. Facebook doesn’t let you embed content outside of the platform either; you either link it and live with it, or upload the video separately to Facebook. And therein lies another part of the problem. They want to keep you in, make it harder for you to use alternatives for even a part of the services, either buying out or copying feature sets.

A few years ago, a couple of guys went about building a blogging platform designed to take on the complications of Wordpress and provide sturdy posting & inherent collaboration. It was called Posterous and I migrated almost instantly. Spoiler alert: Twitter bought out Posterous and …. shut down the platform.

So when Twitter or Instagram decides to shut down your account, censor you, or otherwise prevent you from accessing it or taking your username away, there’s … nothing you can do about it. Facebook’s been selling everything about you for years, and Twitter is equally guilty. Twitter is also horrendous about handling harassment, spam and hate. Rumors about Twitter arbitrarily ‘shadow banning’ users — stopping their tweets from showing up in timelines of followers for a while — continue.

In unrelated news, Medium recently & quietly ended the ability to map your domain to Medium.

If any of this comes as news to you, that’s a good thing.

Enter the Open Web. The Web as it should have been built. As a series of integrated platforms allowing anyone to everyone to own their content, to retain flexibility to use services they wanted. Platforms that let you brand your content to you, and don’t arbitrarily decide whether your account is deemed worthy to be verified. That allows you to Publish on your Own Site & Syndicate Elsewhere (POSSE). And those that allow you to take your data out in a format compatable to some standard when you want to leave. A group of talented people have been hard at work at developing both the standards & principles over at IndieWeb.org and I recommend you check it out.

This is why I’ve migrated all of my writing over to micro.blog a few months ago. Today I publish on my own blog that I own and pay for, push to services like Twitter and Medium, and can continue conversations there, as well as within the Micro.blog timeline of connected blogs. Should anything happen with some of these services, I still have my original posts. A full backup of my blog, with individual posts, CSS etc sits in GitHub pages as a failsafe with Micro.blog itself, or in case I want out. None of this required any complicated setup, they’re features of the platform and its adherence to the IndieWeb Principles.

I’ll be elaborating more about ownership & the IndieWeb as time passes, but I wanted to share some of my motivations and why I’ve been feeling so strongly about these platforms recently. You don’t have to do any of this, but I do think it’s time you—and everyone—thinks about it: where you are posting, do you actually own your content, and are you in an environment that encourages ownership, fosters conversation & responsibility vs just a cacophony of echo chambers, spam, hate & likes.