I first heard about Manton Reece’s Kickstarter – Indie Microblogging: owning your short-form writing via a couple of tweets and blog posts. The idea seemed interesting, but didn’t really grab me, at first. But there was something about it that kept it in the back of my mind.
In the earlier days of the web, we always published to our own web site. If you weren’t happy with your web host, or they went out of business, you could move your files and your domain name, and nothing would break.
He must be a better, more patient blog site steward than I. I’ve kept and moved old sites with various degrees of success, but thinking for a second that “nothing would break”, well, that’s overstating it a bit for me.
Today, most writing instead goes into a small number of centralized social networking sites, where you can’t move your content, advertisements and fake news are everywhere, and if one of these sites fails, your content disappears from the internet. Too many sites have gone away and taken our posts and photos with them.
I want to encourage more independent writing. To do that, we need better tools that embrace microblogs and the advantages of the open web. We need to learn from the success and user experience of social networking, but applied to the full scope of the web.
Indeed, Twitter had more or less killed my blogging. I’ve been fired up (as they say) since Il Douché’s victory, but before that I was lucky if I posted anything between one annual best-of music post and the next. I’ve always tended to be a link-and-blockquote kind of blogger, so once I could come close enough to that with Twitter, it was over. In fact, my last post on a long-deceased blog on Blogger (lol) ended with, “If either of my former readers are finding it hard to get through the day without these invaluable links to other sites, then you can follow me on Twitter. It’s like a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of this blog, but with bonus randomness, non sequiturs and inside jokes that you probably aren’t in on. FTW!”
But Reece’s idea isn’t either/or. It’s not: Twitter is the devil and writing solely on your own blog is the only salvation! It acknowledges the value of the social network, but also acknowledges there are real problems there, too. It points the way to having more control and independence, without necessarily throwing away all the followers, retweets, and “likes”.
So, I backed the Kickstarter after all, and I also hunted down some of the implementation details that he hinted at, in particular, his post on microblogging with WordPress. And then I set up something similar here, which so far I’m pretty happy with. It’s not everything from my Twitter feed (regular retweets are still only on Twitter, for example), it’s not as quick & easy yet (counting characters is more tedious, and I’m manually shortening URLs with bit.ly like some kind of Neanderthal from 2008), and I’m not even trying to do any of this from my phone. Still, having what feels like a more permanent home for these comments is making me think a little differently about what I post. And I’m hopeful that when Reece gets micro.blog up and running, this setup will be mostly compatible with its simpler writing tools.