Social media algorithms care only that you're engaged. They exist to advertise. Everything else is a side-effect. RSS lets you ditch the machine and build your own feed from trusted sources. #indieweb #politics #technology
Quite a few years ago, for personal reasons, I decided to drop out of major social media platforms. This was just at the time when those platforms truly started to take over the world, so the whole thing more or less passed me by as I watched from the sidelines. As a result, it wasn’t until very recently that I came to appreciate just how much these platforms have become the primary way that people run across content online.
Of course, this really shouldn’t be surprising. Once upon a time, the internet was made up of an untold number of websites, big and small. And this posed a real problem of content discovery. Sure, we managed. We managed with search engines, and bookmarks, and web portals, and other ad hoc technologies. But it was a huge pain.
Today, this same kind of content discovery is done on social media platforms, with content pushed to the consumer by machine learning algorithms that optimize for “engagement”, which is a technical term for “time spent on the service”.
On its face this would seem like a good thing! After all, if you’re engaged, that must mean you’re delighted by what you see!
But the reality is a lot more complicated. Yes, certainly the things that delight us will keep us engaged. But so do the things that make us outraged, or offended, or jealous. And the algorithm can’t tell the difference. So whether you’re clicking on a link because you want to see a picture of a large cat in a small box, or you want to read an outrageous article about how the world is really flat, it’s all the same to the machine.
The result is an algorithmic filter bubble that often serves to misinform, usually while making us miserable.
On the other hand, those algorithms really do provide a useful function: They push interesting content to us so we don’t have to go and seek it out. The problem is, we have no control over how they function.
Well, as you can probably guess, I’m here to tell you that there is an alternative, and it’s a technology that’s almost as old as the web itself: RSS.Continue reading...
For book start/finish posts I’m using IndieBookClub. For reviews, I’m just posting to my blog. Hopefully Brid.gy supports Goodreads syndication soon (and if not I’ll write that code myself)! Ravelry support would be amazing!#indieweb
A lot of things I post to Twitter start as notes on my blog so I host the content, but right now I don’t link back from the tweet to the note as I find it messy.#indieweb
Most of what you see from me starts on my blog. Tweets, photos, or articles, I post them on my blog and syndicate. Part 1 on why and how! #indieweb
If you’ve been paying attention to my writing lately, you’ll notice a theme. Toward the end of November I got it into my head to rebuild my blog for reasons that, in hindsight, I don’t actually remember.
At the time my main goal was to change the technology over from an old blog engine to something a bit more modern. But as I thought more about what I wanted for my blog, and read more about the IndieWeb movement, I realized my idea of what a blog could be was incredibly limited.
To their great credit, modern walled garden web services have given us with a lot of ways to express ourselves:
- Short notes (tweets, status updates)
- Long-form content (blog posts, articles)
- Reactions (likes)
- Shares (bookmarks, retweets)
Not to mention more specialized status updates like what we’re reading, what we’re listening to, etc.
Each of these represents a piece of content we’re creating and publishing. We may not think of it that way because firing off a tweet or writing a quick status update is so easy. But they’re all just alternative formats for self-expression.
Unfortunately, as I’ve noted previously, because these are each their own walled garden, this content is split up and spread out across many services. At best this is annoying! At worst, it’s a great way to ensure that the things we write or post could get lost someday when those services inevitably die.
And then, as I read more about the IndieWeb, I realized I’d been thinking about my blog all wrong.
Yeah, sure, traditionally blogs were the home primarily for long-form content. But it’s my blog. It can be whatever I want it to be. So, why not turn my blog into the place where I post all of the things! And then, after authoring on my own site, automatically syndicate to those social networks!Continue reading...
The indieweb is about controlling your identity. But it's also be a great way to claw back all that content I've been scattering across the web so I can get better at archiving! #indieweb #personalarchiving #ownyourdata
Our data, scattered
A while back I started to take an interest in the topic of personal data archiving, and in particular how the topic intersects with the various social media platforms that so many of us interact with. The simple fact is that so much of who we are–the things we write, the photos and videos we take, the people we interact with, our very memories, as Facebook likes to remind us–are locked up in a bunch of different walled gardens that are difficult to escape, both technically and due to the powerful social pressures that keep us on these platforms.
I like to think of the traditional photo album as an interesting contrast.
It used to be that we collected memories in these books, and stored those books on a shelf. There was some real downsides to this approach! It’s a pain to add stuff to them (I have to “print” photos??) They’re difficult to share and enjoy. They’re single points of failure (think: house fires). They require intentional acts to ensure preservation. The list goes on.
But, they were ours. We owned them. We could take those photos and easily copy them, share them, rearrange them, archive them, and so forth.
Now imagine that you collected all your photos in a photo album that you could only store and access from a vault being run by a private company. The company would ensure the photos were protected and stored properly, and they provided a really nice, simple mechanism to easily add photos to your album right from your phone! That’s really nice! But if you wanted to look at those photos, you’d have to go to the vault, enter your passcode, and then you could only look at them while you were in the vault. And if you wanted to get a copy of all of those photos for yourself, well, you can, but it’s ugly and complicated and designed to make it minimally possible and maximally difficult.
Next, imagine the corporation changed their policies in a way you didn’t like. Or imagine that corporation went bankrupt. Or experienced a fire. Or you lost the passcode for that vault. Or a loved one passed away and didn’t store the passcode in a safe place.
Today, we don’t just lock those photos in one vault run by one private company. We lock those photos in many vaults, spread out all over the place. In doing so, we dramatically increase these risks, because instead of just one company failing or one account that we might lose access to or one set of terms of service we need to worry about, it’s many.
All the while we fragment our identity, spreading ourselves thin across the internet, which makes it extremely difficult to preserve all of those memories.
So what can we do about it?Continue reading...
I think I’ve ironed out all the issues and I’m now publishing everything–including notes like this–to my own blog (blog.b-ark.ca), feeding into micro.blog (micro.blog/brettkosinski), auto-syndicating to Twitter!#indieweb
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a frequent user of tools like Google Keep, Google Docs, etc. But I’ve never been terribly comfortable with my dependency on those services. Yeah, obviously there’s the privacy concerns, but more fundamentally, I just want control over my data! It’s a heck of a lot harder to run “grep” over a set of notes in Google Keep…
Thematically, if you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you’ll notice this is part of a theme. Ultimately, I’m doing what I can to make sure I can manage and control my own information outside the walls of the common internet monopolies.
Now, quite a while ago I adopted vimwiki as my note taking method of choice. Before you get scared off, Vim is just a tool to enable a more fundamental idea: that personal information management should be built on the simplest possible tools and file formats, with the data under my own control.
In my case, I chose to focus on taking notes using plain text files, with a basic markup language that would allow me to write richer text and link those notes together.
When I first started doing this a few years ago I chose to stick with Vimwiki’s native markup, as it supported a few things out-of-the-box that Markdown, at the time, didn’t neatly support without using poorly supported extensions (I’m looking at you, checkboxes!) However, right around that same time, Github released a spec for their extensions to Markdown that plugged a lot of the holes that had concerned me, and since then support for these extensions has expanded considerably.
This caused me to revisit the issue and I concluded that a migration to Markdown made a lot of sense.Continue reading...
My Micropub endpoint Lillipub is up and running and ready for tweets! It ain’t pretty and there’s lots left to do, but it works!#indieweb
Jekyll+webmentions isn’t hard! I may write a blog post about it but I started with the instructions for this plugin: http://tiny.cc/5fvsgz#indieweb
Hah! I’m toying with posting more stuff to my blog and syndicating it here ala POSSE methodology. Also I’m bored. ;)#indieweb
I’m really not cut out for these late night coding sessions anymore. But I’m having a lot of fun hacking jekyll-webmention!#indieweb
Next step in my indieweb adventures: building a Micropub endpoint. It’s alive!#indieweb
An intro post about my attempts to slowly pull myself out of internet silos so I can better control my data. #indieweb #selfhosting
The Centralized Web
I don’t think I’d be making news by pointing out that the internet, today, is dominated by large, centralized services. While this centralization of the internet is a far cry from the original vision of peer-to-peer interactions and democratization, those services have, in many ways, enriched our lives by connecting friends and family, individuals and businesses, citizens and government.
But I also wouldn’t be making news by pointing out that those same services have a darker side, particularly those that would bill themselves as “free”. While ostensibly costing us nothing, these free services make billions collecting and monetizing our personal data while optimizing our use of those systems to enhance engagement. Worse, the data they collect, with or without our consent, is locked away outside of our control.
I know this. And yet I still find myself making use of many of these services, including:
- Email (Gmail)
- Storage (Photos, Drive)
- Calendar (uh… Calendar)
- Notes (Keep)
And I’m sure many others besides.
Each of these services provides immense value! Instead of having to host email, or create my own offsite storage system, or manage my own git server, I can save time and effort by having someone else do the work for me.
However, in exchange, each of these services holds a piece of who I am. And I don’t control any of it.Continue reading...
I can’t say I’m optimistic that the #indieweb is gonna really take off, but a man can dream…#indieweb