Open Web and Your Social Signature
I had recently expressed my hope for more people to own their identities online.
There is nothing wrong with attempting to control what you post online, to make sure it stays online till you want it to. I do also realise that it is naive to think no one getting online will find this process irksome. Even though well defined, the (open web) principles are not for all. The simplicity of using and posting on social media services will continue to attract regular users. However, here’s wishing that at least a part of these users are inspired to get their own personal domain.
An innate wish there is that more people would leave the silos behind and get online as themselves, express thoughts that are their own, not mindless reposts and shares, and at the site they control - their blogs1. At the same time, the hope is the hosting platforms make it simpler to book such places online and get them up and running easily.
I think there has already been a huge improvement on this front. There are numerous platforms, like Wordpress, Ghost and others2, that are making it simpler to get your own blogs up and running. They also allow you to link these blogs to your domain without fussing over hosting/maintenance. The promise is simple. Jump in with a free tier — if you are happy and if you want to, just switch to a paid account.
But then comes the million dollars question? What’s the point if what I write reaches no one? If no one reads it or talks about it? If everyone keeps shouting in the void without anyone listening, one better not spend the energy. After all, we are sociable. We like interactions, we want feedback.
RSS is a powerful protocol that could have solved this problem. Unfortunately, that’s what it remained, a protocol3. It needed a system to be built on top to gain any traction amongst masses. That’s where I believe lies an opportunity for Micro.blog. It brings in that social layer to the thoughts you pen on your blog.
You can either host your content there or get your posts from existing blog to the micro.blog timeline. You write on your blog, it’s visible for others on their timeline, just as a tweet or a Facebook post will on their respective siloed timelines.
But it doesn’t allow repost. It does not glorify numbers of likes and comments and followers.
Such behaviours and numbers are the signals for bots to game the machine curation systems. Tristan Harris put this very well during one of his podcasts appearances.
Outrage just spreads faster than something that’s not outrage.
When you open up the blue Facebook icon, you’re activating the AI, which tries to figure out the perfect thing it can show you that’ll engage you. It doesn’t have any intelligence, except figuring out what gets the most clicks. The outrage stuff gets the most clicks, so it puts that at the top.
So what do we do then? As Don MacDonald pondered in one of his posts, is sharing a problem? Shall we just stop sharing?
I doubt that will be effective. It will work when we make it work. We need to take control of what gets presented to us to consume. It cannot be done by a corporate inclined primarily first to maximise its margins. It cannot be done by an algorithm that’s designed to gallop every signal and spit a feed to maximise engagement.
Once we start consuming, reading, healthy, we will think healthy. And we should think. And share, and respond we should. Let’s just make sure it is a space that represents us. A space that one can point to and say that’s my thoughts in there. My social presence, a signature. Let open web be that space.
I use blog and site interchangeably throughout this article. I do not want to get into the technicalities. And I am just focused on individuals, not companies.↩
A lot many for professional sites too — SqaureSpace, Wix etc. Again, the idea is focusing primarily on individuals.↩
Of course, I am intentionally jumping over a phase when RSS was the buzz word. In Reader, Google had upped everyone’s hopes from the platform. And in Reader, it dealt RSS a dull shrug.↩