I watched a really interesting interview this morning that got me thinking about yet another reason why it really is better to own your own little node on the Web and use that as your primary sharing platform.
One of the ideas that came up during Leo Laporte‘s discussion with Damon Wayans (yes, that one) is this notion that whenever we share stuff on social services (such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and so on), we are basically donating content and ideas to those services to make money from those donations.
We usually don’t receive a share of the money earned and, as Leo put it in his interview with Andrew Keen (I’m watching that at the moment, during dish washing and train commutes), we are paid in kind. This is a simpler version of the idea that if you are not paying for a product online, you are the product (a so-called “truth” that I am still not convinced is completely accurate).
I also started looking at an interesting service called Known this morning. The service is part of the IndieWeb and the central idea is that you should have your own space and publish there first. Known is a lot like WordPress except it was designed to connect to external services like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, SoundCloud and others so you could publish to your Known site first and easily syndicate to those other profiles.
Find your audience. Known integrates with a number of social networks. When you publish on your site, you can choose to syndicate your content to a variety of sites. Just connect your favorite services to get started.
I love the idea and started playing around with a site just to test it all out. I still like using WordPress and what I’d like to be able to do with this site, for example, is publish different post formats (status, full posts, media posts and so on) as easily as I could on, say, Tumblr or Known. I’d also like to be able to share stuff on this site selectively using connection/member profiles that have the same sorts of distinctions as Facebook’s “friends”, “acquaintances” and “close friends”, for example.
On a related note, BuddyPress looks interesting and I might try it out. I’d love to be able to establish variable member profiles and give people the ability to sign in using existing credentials from WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and so on.
Returning to the donations metaphor, I think this is pretty much what is happening. Most of us donate a fortune of content (much of it doesn’t have much intrinsic value to outsiders) in return for being able to use the service. We really are letting ourselves being taken advantage of but that is mostly our fault for making an easy choice instead of the tougher one which is to create our own space on the Web and go through the process of figuring out how to make it a good user experience for the people important to us.
It’s not that being a creativity donor is necessarily a bad thing. We do receive some value in the exchange but is it enough? Do these choices leave us without our personal profiles if those services change how they work or go away?
I often talk about how much I want to publish here (and don’t). I still feel pretty strongly about having my own node on the Web that I control (well, more than not). At the same time, a modern site/node that could be a substitute for, say, Facebook requires more nuanced membership options, at the very least, so I could share some stuff with a select group of connections. BuddyPress might be the answer for that on WordPress (if not, any suggestions?). Known certainly seems to have figured this out and it is also possible to connect a WordPress site to the IndieWeb.
Like I mentioned earlier, having my own nodes for my stuff is really important to me. Short of having my own server in my apartment, though, I have to rely on 3rd party services like Media Temple for my hosting, Amazon S3 for file storage and various other services for my social interactions online. Probably not ideal if you are dogmatic about this stuff but it works for now.
We just have to figure out whether being a creativity donor is desirable? If it is, great, carry on. If not, what do we do about this?