Reply, Identity, Home


In the olden days of blogging, before there were comments, if someone blogged about something and you wanted to reply publicly, your option was to post something on your own blog.

All of us early bloggers had blogs, so, you know, that made some sense.

Eventually bloggers wanted to be able to have people comment on their posts, so blogging software added the ability to leave a comment. A grand idea! Collect all the comments in one place, attached to the blog post, and you can easily see the discussion. Heck, people could even leave a comment and link back to their own blog with an expanded post on the subject. This was before the days of link spamming and even rel=”nofollow” nonsense.

So as you see in the screenshot of the comment form, it wants your Name and your Email address. This is all good, accountability, identity, etc. There’s also a field for “Website” which made sense, right? All of us early bloggers had blogs.

I think many of us believed that some day everyone would have their own web site.

Having your own web site isn’t the equivalent of owning your own home. I think that used to be part of the “American Dream” if you ever bought into that sort of thing…

People are fine being sharecroppers, and if they want a “home” on the web, huge corporations like Twitter or Facebook are happy to rent them some space. If your landlords are cool, then it should all work out, but if things turn sour, well… Let’s just say it’s nice to have a place to call home.


Let’s talk politics!

Vote No!

It’s that time of year… Let’s talk politics. You choose one side, and I’ll choose the other. It’ll be fun. (But not really…)

I read a post yesterday about how someone was amazed by how they could feel so different from their friends, neighbors and co-workers on certain issues, and how the divide in US politics seems to have widened more and more in recent years.

To some degree, I blame the Internet for this (supposed) widening of the gap. By that I mean, I think people being able to freely and easily post (to a worldwide audience) their beliefs has made these divisions more apparent.

Ten years ago you’d probably have to go to a specific political forum on the Internet to get into politics, and maybe five years ago it was political blogging that let people spew their beliefs freely, but now, with the recent rise of things like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and other sharing tools, it’s way to easy to determine someone’s beliefs. In some cases a single photo, or even a post of less than 140 characters, is all it takes to determine the political affiliations a co-worker or acquaintance has. Are posts the new bumper stickers and yard signs?

Times were, you didn’t discuss politics at work… and while that may still hold true in many places (and I think it should in many places) it’s become fairly easy to determine the beliefs of others by what they say online, unless they say nothing, or are selective in what they say… which for some of us, is pretty damn hard.


Activists, meet Freedom

Free Hugs It seems some folks are in awe of how a service with rules about how it can be used are affecting their activities: Activists upset with Facebook.

You’re playing with Facebook. It’s their ball, it’s their bat, it’s their field… they run the place, they make the rules, they can change the rules, and they can create new ones just to ruin your life.

One group that has been critical of the policies of Facebook and other social media sites, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the boycotters have discovered the perils of relying on a website run by a private, commercial entity.

“They’ve set up this walled garden and when people use these things for organizing in this context they’re buying into the arbitrary rules,” said the foundation’s Richard Esguerra. “This is a risk or consequence of doing these things in walled gardens……It’s important for them to decide what they might be giving up, what kind of overarching control they might be giving up whether it’s on Facebook or any other social network.”

This is why I believe in the free and open web. Would things be different if they had set up their own domain and their own server as their home base instead of relying on a private, commercial entity? Probably…

I know the barrier to entry on Facebook is low… perhaps too low. It’s easy to set up a page on Facebook, and it’s even even easier to click a ‘Like’ button to join a cause, but for every 10 people who click a ‘Like’ button, there may only be one person with the dedication to actually follow-up and do anything useful. Sure, setting up their own site outside of Facebook’s walled garden may have resulted in less people ‘liking’ it or signing up, but the quality of the people involved may have been higher. And yes, getting a domain name and a server may cost a bit of money, but again, there’s a barrier to entry, and if you’re serious about a cause, you should be willing to put some resources towards it. Invest in what you believe in.

Using Facebook, Twitter, and other sites (be they “social media” or blogs, forums, etc.) are great ways to spread your message (respectfully please!) but your central base, your headquarters, your home on the Internet… owning it, as opposed to sharecropping, is a good idea.


Facebook can Die Like the Rest

In the post Planning for the future my point was to tell you that the future is unwritten. It hasn’t happened yet, which means you can still have an effect on it.

Facebook is Dead

In Keep Making Social Networks, Facebook Hasn’t Won, Ben Metcalfe gets into it, reminds us of the past, and tells us that the future is open. It’s encouraging because there are times when I think Facebook has all the cards. Right now they’ve got a lot of users, a lot of data, a lot of mindshare, and we’re at a point where the usage of the Internet by “common folk” is exploding, or has been exploding for quite some time, and many of these new people join Facebook and think “this is what the Internet is all about!” and they’re wrong. So wrong…

I do use Facebook, just like I’ve used many tools in the past, to the limits of their usefulness. But I also don’t just settle. I like to think that things will get better the next time around. I still believe in a free and open web, and I’m not satisfied with how Facebook fits into that future.

So when I say “Facebook can Die Like the Rest” I’m not talking to Facebook, telling them what to do… I’m talking to you, telling you that it’s a possibility. Maybe if we work together we can make it a reality, and replace it with something better.

Keep on disrupting!




I unveiled the Evil-O-Mator during the September 2010 Web414 “Mystery Show!” It will tell you if your favorite web company is evil.

You may want to ask about Google, or Facebook, or maybe even… Twitter!

I built the Evil-O-Mator because I needed a small project to play around with HTML5 and also because I couldn’t sleep one night. (And also because we had nothing planned for Web414 and I figured this could chew up a good 5 minutes of time…)

So go on, ask me about evil, and when you’re done, think about how you can contribute to Web414. Thank you, and good night.