Alongside the “Great Resignation” of 2021-2022, we are witnessing the “Great Recognition” of the simple fact that the #openweb is the only digital space where you can leave a true legacy as a thinker and a writer.
Walled gardens like #Facebook, #Twitter, Medium, and many others have tried to capture words over the decades. They failed. 100 years from now, when people look back in time to witness What People Thought, they won’t be gleaning the highest wisdom and deepest insights from tweets and likes and shares.
It will be Articles. Essays. In other words, Blog Posts. (Before you say “what about Newspaper Columns?”—in this day and age they might as well just be considered Blog Posts because we typically consume them the exact same way.)
Medium-to-longform content, written by individuals, and largely posted on independent websites for all the world to see. Not trapped inside a social network, but freely accessible*. I’ve never been more bullish on the power of the #openweb to both contain and promote forward thinking than I am today.
* Rest assured I’m not making a case here against paywalls—even paywalled #writing can be “freely accessible” on the open web in the sense that you don’t need to join a Big Tech platform to make #payments in order to access the content.
Look, I get it. You already subscribe to too many newsletters. So much to keep up with. But guess what? I only send out a newsletter once a week. And if you‘re feeling curious, peruse the Creator Class archive. You might find something that resonates with you! It’s a great way to stay current with what I’m publishing, and newsletter recipients always get some extra insight just for them. So what are you waiting for? Let’s roll!
I used to blog a ton about #freelancing and maximizing your productivity and success as a “free agent” — I even tried running a local meetup here in the #Portland area.
It just occurred to me I hadn’t done much of that in a long while. I do still talk about #creativity and time management on occasion in my Creator Class newsletter and in the podcast, but not specifically about working as a freelancer.
As I look ahead to some of the product-driven work I’m participating in this year, I think it may be a good time to start this up again. Juggling client projects and product efforts (including open source software) is always this intricate dance of managing energy levels and expectations (and income!). Takes a lot of practice. I’m not saying I’ve reached “expert level” or anything…but it’s a nice feeling to know I’m performing much better now than in years prior.
One might perhaps come to the conclusion after following me in recent times that I’m just a technology skeptic. I must believe all the tech bros are jerks, and I hate anything newfangled. Cue the Old Man Yells at Cloud memes.
But believe me when I say this: I’m not a technology skeptic. I’m a bad technology skeptic. If I think a technology is fundamentally poor and ill-thought out, destined to (maybe) benefit a select few at the expense of the many, I’m going to call it as I see it. And we’ve had a bucketload of bad technology hype cycles lately.
But one major technology I’m actually extremely bullish on, one that I think does have tremendous potential, is the concept of the metaverse. And no, I don’t mean anything actually being built by Meta right now. I mean the initial conception of the term, which I understand to be a pervasive digital virtual reality where what you do matters.
Many of us use what I might call “proto-metaverses” all the time. My favorite is Minecraft. My kids and I have a handful of home servers we engage in regularly. And what we do there matters. If we build something today and come back a week later, it’s still there. If somebody drops a TNT block next to the wall of my house and it detonates, my house is destroyed. If I decide to go off exploring and find an exciting new landscape to play in, I can write down the coordinates and teleport there again in the future. I have memories of things I’ve done in Minecraft, just like I have fond memories of playing the Myst series of games—as if I were actually there, in a real place. That’s the magic of digital worlds.
The first metaverse I ever experienced was Second Life. (This was almost two decades ago!) I spent a lot of time there, built a lot of things, made friends. I ended up choosing to leave because I got really addicted. I was spending too much time in my “second life” and not enough time in my “first life”. That’s the danger of this technology. The addiction.
Still, I’m an unabashed fan of metaverses, and I’m always excited to hear about and possibly try out new ones. What I’m ultimately hoping for is that the World-Wide Web evolves into a #metaverse platform. If I could easily invite a bunch of friends over to “jaredwhite.com” and we could hang out in VR, wouldn’t that be amazing? I like think so. But it needs to be a truly #openweb solution, built atop open specs and open protocols. The worst thing in the world would be if any one corporation ends up “owning the metaverse.” We must resist that at all costs.
New technologies come along and inevitably we call them progress. And any detractors of said technologies are immediately labeled luddites.
(Which for some reason is a pejorative even though the history of terrible working conditions in early factories is undeniable—and with all of the benefits brought on by the Industrial Revolution, it was by no means a clear “win” when it comes to ethics, humane treatment of labor, and corporate responsibility!)
Yes, new technologies arrive on the scene, and folks look at them all starry-eyed and imagine how stellar the future will be.
But we rarely take the opportunity to consider the costs of these additions. I don’t mean just monetary costs (although that’s legit). I mean ethical, cultural, sustainable, mental, spiritual costs. What do we gain, sure, but also, what do we lose?
Free things in life are rarely free.
I was once given a free hot tub. Free!! Incredible, right? Turned out to be a terrible mistake.
It was going to cost money to set the hot tub on a proper foundation. It was going to cost money to clean. It was going to cost money to hook it up to the necessary plumbing. So we never set it up. An unused hot tub sat there in our back yard for months. (Years?)
And that wasn’t the worst part of it…it ended up costing us real money to haul it away when it came time to move!
The free hot tub…wasn’t free at all.
Technology is rarely additive.
The philosophy of #minimalism has taught me to realize that every new thing I add to my life—whether it’s an object or a technology or a social network or a hobby or a job or even a friendship…everything comes with a cost.
Sometimes those costs are well worth it. Few obvious downsides and the potential rewards are significant. Worth the effort. Worth the risk.
But there’s always a cost. And sometimes the cost is just too damn high.
Any time someone tells you about a mind-blowing new technology (web3) that’s going to revolutionize everything (#generativeAI) and change the world forever (self-driving cars), ask them what the costs are. If they can’t tell you, either they don’t know (because they’re ignorant), or they don’t want you to know (because they’re grifters).
Either way, do your due diligence. And inform the oncoming hordes shouting Luddites! Luddites! that their myopic view of history needs profound correction.
I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. As an artist, to a certain extent you don’t want to lean on nostalgia. It feels lazy. You should always be pushing the envelope, trying to be edgy and provocative. Original in some sense.
But nostalgia can be a worthy muse if you let it. The moment you cross over from old & tired to retro & vibrant isn’t always easy to pin down, but it’s absolutely real. And to master the subtle art of the throwback, the revival, the clever pastiche…well, there’s nothing lazy about that. #creativity
Fun fact: this is the first post I’ve made in quite some time using a CMS (Content Management System).
But wait! you say. Your #website is built with Bridgetown. Are you saying Bridgetown now has its own CMS?
Well, I could tell you, but then I’m afraid I’d have to kill you. 😎
A brief bit of context here: I’ve built a number of CMSes over the many years I’ve been a web developer—several just in the era of Jekyll. Because of that prior experience, I have deeply resisted building a CMS for Bridgetown because I know how incredibly “easy” it seems at first and how incredibly hard it actually is in practice.
But I think I may have finally cracked this nut, and it has less to do with building a CMS per se and more to do with building a platform and a toolkit which lets developers build themselves a CMS. That’s all I can say for now. Stay tuned. 😄
Over the years, I’ve settled on Bear as my note-taking Mac/iOS app of choice for most “brain dumps” / “draft posts” / “future content ideas” purposes due to its understated minimalist design, excellent Markdown support, easy tagging, and rock-solid sync between all my Apple devices. (I also use Craft, but that’s reserved more for “knowledge base” information like technical solutions, saved bookmarks, and other resources.) Most of the recent content on this blog, my newsletter, and my podcast all start life as #writing in Bear.
But don’t I feel like a dummy today! I only just learned that Bear features easy wiki-style links to other notes. Discovering this gave me a brilliant idea: I should create a Bear Home Page for housing an up-to-date presentation of my most relevant notes in a freeform setting. (To be clear on terminology, I don’t mean a “homepage on the web”…I’m talking about a special note in Bear that’s pinned to the top for easy access.)
So that’s exactly what I’m working on today. By defining headings and sections, adding lists, linking to specific notes I want to focus on in the near-term, adding additional context, etc., I can create a living document which is easy to navigate and review.
I realize that for the note-taking/wiki-obsessed people out there, this may seem like a well, d’oh! moment, but I’ve never been terribly successful at managing my notes. Good at taking them, not so good at reviewing them. I’m hopeful this new “home page” will really help me stay focused in the new year. What do you think?
All right, this took me way too long to fix, but I’ve taken a page right out of Dave Winer’s playbook (recent nudges here) and changed my feed output so “titleless” posts (like this one) are truly titleless. Any feed reader these days worth its salt should work with that just fine. Now I just need to get in the habit of microblogging more often here, rather than on Mastodon! (Even though I love Mastodon…) #website#writing
I regret spending so much time contributing content to corporate social media. I regret expending my limited creative and financial resources all in the service of Big Tech.
But you know what I don’t regret?
Publishing content on my own #website. Yes, right here. And in other places I inhabit on the internet. And even on sites that no longer exist, because thank youWayback Machine.
It makes me think that, huh, perhaps I should spending more time publishing content in places I “own”. Even if my website is technically hosted on a service I don’t control, the content 100% belongs to me, and I can take it with me anywhere I want because Cool URIs don’t change.
Maybe the #openweb would be in better shape if more people valued personal domain names as much as they value other things in life. I’m coming to realize jaredwhite.com is one of the most prized possessions in life.
Blog: short for Web-log. A personalized record of content you post on the web.
Web: a shortening of World-Wide Web. A global network of hypertext documents all linking to each other.
So then, why is it rare to find anyone actually doing this with their blog? 🤔
There’s a term in IndieWeb circles called Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere (or POSSE). It sort of captures an aspect of that idea…basically you use your own blog to publish thoughts, link commentary, photos, videos, newsletters, etc., and then disseminate that content out to other services (YouTube, Twitter, mailing lists, your own RSS feed, etc.)
I tried POSSE in a previous incarnation of this site. I ended up not liking it. It doesn’t capture the workflows I instinctively prefer on a regular basis, nor how I wish the #openweb really functioned.
What I want to do is the exact opposite! IndieWeb also provides a term for this: Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site (or PESOS). They don’t recommend it, and the wiki page enumerates some of the reasons why. But I have come to realize I prefer PESOS for a lot of the content I produce, because it’s generally way easier and the UX is way better.
I like “microblogging” on Twitter. [11-2022 update: er, not anymore! 🤪]
I like uploading podcast episodes to Buzzsprout. (I don’t for this site, but I do use it for the Fullstack Ruby podcast.)
I like posting photos on…well, certainly not Instagram any more. 😂 Glass is pretty rad, but I haven’t determined if I want to reserve it for the “fancy” photos I take with my “fancy” camera, or simply give up and flood it with on-the-go iPhone snaps.
I likereleasing music on Bandcamp. (Honestly, I don’t know of any indie musician who doesn’t use Bandcamp at this point!)
So the question then becomes: how do I post all this content elsewhere, then transparently pull in links and import content back to my own #website? Of course on a technical level, it means I’ll be writing lots of Ruby plugins for Bridgetown, the software I use to build my website. But I’m always musing on workflows that can be easily applied to the industry of blogging as a whole. I haven’t seen much evidence anyone’s truly cracked this nut. Also admittedly, dragging your own content in kicking and screaming from third-party silos is often less than straightforward (hence the notion of POSSE), because they have a vested interest not to let you feature your own content on your own website. (YouTube remains sort of a weird outlier here because they make it easy to embed videos anywhere, and youtube-dl is certainly a thing.)
Still, I’m motivated to figure this stuff out. I’ll let you know how it goes! ☺️