Towards a More Open Web
Tuesday, January 2, 2018 :: Tagged under: personal culture engineering blog_meta. ⏰ 4 minutes.
Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
I've started blogging more. I've also invested more recently in tooling around modifying this site. This was never a bad idea for me to do, but there is a reason behind it: I'm consciously trying to move away from my dependence and contribution to an internet modeled on feudalism, where all the power is held and gated by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. I don't think this is good for me, and I don't think it's been good for societies, generally.
This isn't a new observation, and I'm not the only person to take action for it. Here are some other articles that inform this set of choices:
Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web by Parimal Satyal, describes the problem with excellent examples, offers suggestions for ways forward.
How to Stay Internet Friends Without Facebook or Twitter by Jon Mitchell describes a similar path I'm taking: posting more on a personal blog, sharing (and logging into) less on those networks, using alternative services, relying on tech like RSS.
The Web Began Dying in 2014, Here's How by André Staltz describes how web traffic has been routed over the years and identifies 2014 when the web became less of a "Web" and more of braid of three major tangles.
The Web We Lost by Anil Dash is an old favorite of mine, describing the culture around web services and it more readily encouraged value generation through mixing/accessibility and user protections.
What have I done so far?
Making authoring posts/publishing the blog a whole lot easier. Blog tech/meta is often pretty boring, so I won't go into it.
Subsequently, posting more! And having more fun with it. Adding songs to the posts now.
Licensing my work as Free Software instead of Open Source. This might merit its own post, but I think this is a great thing to do as well.
Fully switched to Firefox rather than Chrome, on all platforms.
Beefed up and started using my Feedly account more.
What am I doing in addition? What's on the roadmap?
Something like a newsletter. I'd like to enable folks to subscribe to posts in batches via email, like a digest, so one doesn't have to check back all the time (there's always RSS, but it's not on most people's radar).
I might fork or replace Frog. It's a fantastic engine, but there's a bit more I'd like to do and it might be easiest for me to hack on a clone, or build something myself.
Host a Discourse instance (or something like it) to provide discussion capabilities to posts. Comments don't work especially well on a static site without some kind of external provider like Facebook or Disqus, nor do I think they'd be amazing at encouraging discussion or community building.
Migrate data from Twitter and Facebook onto this site. Twitter, at least, has a great "get all my tweet history" tool. At the very least I can check it into the repo to source control it.
Write tools that allow newly-published posts to go out to various feeds. The distribution would still be nice, as long as the content, at its core, lives with me and is mine.
Maybe look into hosting my own Mastodon instance for myself and/or friends.
There are a few exceptions I'd like to note:
I'll probably still keep my Gmail account. Your email address is something like your online Driver's License, and I'm already registered a million places with it. Furthermore, it's pretty important to have your email and email account secured, and few places do this as well as Google.
Android phone. From a security and privacy perspective, I really should just get an iPhone (especially since Google removed the headphone jack from their flagship phone, a super anti-consumer move I'll never understand). But veering away from either of the big two here means no app ecosystem (maybe something I can give up, but not now) and/or decent risk of shooting myself in the foot.
This site is hosted on AWS, and I think it's unlikely this changes. The offering is incredibly cheap, and managing your own servers is a bear.
Like going vegetarian or vegan, one can transition slowly. I tried quitting Twitter a few years ago and it absolutely didn't last. But now I'm in a better place and ready for more of a marathon than a sprint. If you have the means and/or desire to break from the centralized internet, I encourage you to consider it. No single person picking up litter will clean an entire city, but if enough people in the city do it…
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