Will's blog is dead! Long live Will's blog!
Over the last few years, I lost sight of many of the things that once mattered to me. I’ll likely discuss many of these things in future blog posts, directly or indirectly, but for this first post, it seems appropriate to (very briefly) touch on one in particular: the corporate centralization of communications technology.
As best I can figure, I’ve been blogging in one way or another, on one platform or another, since 2001. So for over half of my life, I’ve semi-regularly published confessional epistles, insensitive rants, short-sighted expositions, notebook sketches, candid photo portraits, and—I hope—a handful of insightful essays to deviantART, LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace, Blogger, Facebook, Tumblr, and probably several others I’m forgetting. Most of these platforms were (are) massive products managed and maintained by large corporations. They were easy to set up, cash-free, and included social features like following and befriending. They were also very successful and boasted large user populations, or potential on-platform followers. (Why these services were so popular is a huge topic in itself, so I’ll save that for another post.) And it was that ease and popularity that kept me on those platforms, and hopping between them as trends shifted. I published on directly rented servers with and without CMSes as well, but none of those blogs lasted more than a year.
The problem I have with these platforms, and the reason why I’ve decided to start this new (and hopefully lasting) blog on a directly rented server, is that I do not believe we should be publishing our content on centralized corporate communications platforms. These platforms are cash-free because they make money by selling our activity/information to third parties so they can sell things to us on and off-platform and by using our content to acquire new users whose activity/information can be sold to third parties so they can sell things to us on and off-platform. As a platform grows and becomes more visible, its competitors are obscured, and independents who weren’t even competing with them often vanish. The result is a small set of powerful companies growing more powerful through soft monopolies on published content and information on what should be the most level playing field in the history of mankind—the internet. And so what may start as 50 people saying 50 different things in 50 different places ends as 50 million different people saying the same thing in 5 places. The democratic enabling of these technologies is—on paper—a great thing, especially when you focus on the chance to give silenced people megaphones, but the potential for inversion and exploitation is terrifying. In a time when most of us internet users get and share most of our information from and on the internet—and so from and on centralized publishing sources like these—the gross dependency we have on the corporate systems which are controlling our information (and so networks, connections, friends, families, lives) has us vulnerable in 1000 ways we’ve long been, but that the internet could free us from being, and infinite new ways we’re lucky we haven’t yet learned.
I’m not expecting to blow your mind here—this isn’t news, and most people are acquiescent to these exchanges—but I feel it’s important for anyone publishing on the internet (virtually everyone with an internet connection these days) to consider whether a centralized, data-monetized platform is the best option for her. I have decided it is not the best option for me.
I am hosting this new blog (and the rest of my website) on servers rented from NearlyFreeSpeech.net. I am running this blog on the Ghost CMS, an open-source blogging platform created by a nonprofit organization. As with most of my blog posts, I wrote this rather quickly, and with little to no editing, so I apologize for any typos, half-baked ideas, and leaps in logic. If you’re interested in continuing the conversation or asking me anything, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know I’m going to miss Tumblr’s Ask feature, so until I get something like that built (likely never), feel free to ask me questions via email, and I’ll either reply directly or publish my answer here.