Why Keep a Personal Site Anyway?

I was thinking about my blog today, and the challenge that I’ve undertaken. I’ve also been thinking lately about other ways that I can get involved in the IndieWeb community besides running an alternative to Twitter and playing around with tools.

I have been interestd in the community from the sidelines ever since I’d heard of it, but like most communities I either never join or wait until years of quietly lurking to get involved. In this case I want to end that and find some project that I can make some contribution to.

The reason that it interests me so much is in part a nostalgia for the older days of the web. Everyone had their own identity and most websites that you visited were low budget affairs made by someone with a passion for the specific topic of that site. Many of my earliest memories of the web were fan sites for the pop culture that I was interested in at the time.

Which mainly just meant whatever book series I was into at the time.
Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash

But why do I bother maintaining my own blog now that the web has been subsumed by Twitter, Facebook, and all of the other social media sites that we pour most of ourselves into these days? Even if I want to write something longer, can’t I just put it up on Medium?

It’s Important to Have Your Own Space

Being able to share and interact easily with others is valuable, and it’s a reason why most of us have moved into the walled gardens that have been created to collect our data. But there are also limitations to playing in someone else’s sandbox.

If you have your own space, you can do a lot with it. You can have those wonderful branded emails that make you look more official, even if you forward them elsewhere. You get to set the tone of the space, and design it to fit your needs and aesthetic. Don’t like the way that it looks? Change it!

You can also dictate what happens in that space, including what is and is not included, updated, added, removed, or modified. You get to be more in control of your web presence, and not just let your presence there be in control of you.

Ownership is Valuable

Let’s not forget some of the dangers of putting most of your emphasis on someone else’s platform, like inadvertently sharing enough data about yourself and others to help swing an election. Or making yourself a better target for all manner of people eager to scrape your data, from marketers to harassers.

You also have portability to worry about. If you chose to leave Facebook today, what would you do with all of the content that you created there? Would you be able to easily move it to another platform, so that all of the posts, pictures, videos, and other content that you’ve created and shared over the years lives on after your account does not?

What happens when those websites disappear and/or delete your data, as so many social social networks have over the years that I don’t even want to link every word in this sentence to one? What about when they get sold to another company that doesn’t share the same values of the original company, and your content is censored like LiveJournal started doing under Russian ownership?

Be a Part of the Solution

The point is, when you don’t own your data and presence, someone else does, and they get the ultimate say in it. Having a space to call your own online means that you always have a refuge from that lack of agency.

There are many ways that you can get involved, and many more that I’m learning the deeper that I get into research. I’m starting with my own site here, and the archives that I keep of things that I do online. What will you do to keep some portion of the web that you create in your control?

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