Creative Problem Solver. Programmer. Bodysurfing. Sometime Comics.
Blogger since 2001.

own yr www rn! #IndieWeb

Mistrust-Based Technology Choices

The latest news in tech has been excitement about reports that Automattic has the intent to sell Tumblr and website data (read that as “your blog posts”) to a Large Language Model-based company for big dollars. Putting your stuff on a companies servers usually means they get to do what they want to with them, including make money selling it even if they don’t cut you in on the sale. This got me thinking about how it is I don’t have much in the way of content on those servers, and what I do have there I don’t feel strongly about whether it gets sold. I do use WordPress – the dot org version, which does not flow through and is not subject to the servers that Automattic runs. That’s my own view, but it also got me thinking of why I have not gone all-in on services writing on servers that host my own stuff and only appear there.

I chose to start blogging back in 2001. I was late to the blogging world but I had a fine list of blogs I checked regularly and it appealed to me, to write things regularly.

Blogger gave me two choices as to where I could send those posts. I could choose a subdomain of or maybe even set up a whole new domain and blogger would be the web host for it. Or I could do a trickier thing–using FTP to send the blog files somewhere when I published.

By that point I had used both AOL and earthlink’s hosting (Yes, ISPs used to give you web space! Do any do that anymore? I’m pretty sure Spectrum and Verizon don’t give me any web hosting with my cable modem and cell phone). And I’d had troubles with each. Sometimes it was flaky, or I hit limits. Using someone else’s server was inherently limited.

I chose the trickier thing out of an instinct: these were my words. They ought to live on my server. And I will be less limited by what I want to do with them if I have it on my host.

FTP publishing meant that sometimes I could not post because of downtime. As the blog grew it took longer to publish. Each time I published it would have to send all those individual HTML files to my server, and sometimes that took more than just a few seconds.

But it worked. And I put enough trust in blogger to use their fancy user interface and editing tools, but not enough to serve the content.

And it’s turned out that for me, making decisions based on mistrust has been the right choice. When I don’t have a thing as files on a thumb drive I don’t trust it. So how do I get that backup and keep it up.

Part of why I am involved with #IndieWeb things is my strong belief that people should own their stuff. And for me, that means if I put something up on someone else’s website I want a copy for myself at some point. In the case of this website, for example, anything I put on Instagram I pull back into my personal website.

That’s mistrust.

And I just remembered that I did the same thing with my bookmarks. That bookmarking site was sold, sucked, and died, and was exhumed more or less. Kind of a zombie case. Even if something goes on living, it might never be what it once was.

How does a site death happen? Products come out and the excitement is so strong. “LOOK AT THIS AWESOME NEW WEBSITE! USE IT! IT’S FREE! IT’S CHEAP! IT’S A FLOOR WAX! IT’S A DESSERT TOPPING!” Then the money runs out. Or the investors and owners cash out and sell the product or the whole. Or maybe they just get beaten in the marketplace. They don’t view it as their job to keep things online when they run out of money. Shimmer will go away. In a college marketing class I learned of the “product lifecycle:” introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Teenage me was a natural contrarian, so I couldn’t help but think of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. But exceptional products are exceptional. Not many companies, let alone products, live longer than an average human lifespan.

When a product I use dies I tend to put the email text as a blog post on this website. The shutdown tag includes mentions of Google Reader. Google Plus. tvtag. This is My Jam. And from 2008 here’s Yahoo! Mash Beta – which was a social media site I don’t remember. The IndieWeb website has a page called Site Deaths which documents the history of the phenomenon far better. It’s pretty sad.

If you find yourself thinking–maybe this time–this product–will be different. Don’t count on it. And it’s not new to this or even the last century: The Dead Media Project a list of dead media that goes back millennia.

In the long view, mistrust is a regrettably useful strategy to use when making technology choices.

Further reading: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

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