Been watching all the reaction to Anil Dash’s posts on the web we lost and rebuilding the web we lost.
The alternative to living in the closed ad-driven spaces like facebook, twitter, tumblr seems to be firing up your own self-hosted blog. At least this is what I see in the circles I am close to. There’s a lot to say about owning and building your own personal content repository, but there is also a huge value add in being able to easily place your work in the context of a community. I know of examples at Penn State where faculty and students found it much more useful to all contribute to one shared space than each create their own blog.
Let’s take flickr as an example. I feel my photos are much more useful as objects in flickr then they are just sitting on my website. Flickr hosts billions of photos, rich with associated metadata, weaving an insanely huge photographic tapestry depicting life across the globe in the early twenty first century. My work there is discoverable and aggregated many different ways along with other photos from the community. I am glad to contribute to that. There is value there for me and it makes my content more valuable for others. And let’s not forgot that flickr is one of Dash’s examples of the good old days of the web.
Will flickr disappear one day? perhaps. What happens to that data? Will there be some organized effort to preserve it? A coalition of archivists creating a non-profit foundation to protect it? I could see this happening.1 I don’t see this happening to my little self-hosted corner of the internet. Do I want my stuff to live on forever, archived for the historical record? I don’t know. But it might have a better chance happening by contributing to a large repository of content.
Right now we need less controlled public spaces for gathering and archiving online.
One of my goals in bringing WordPress to Penn State in the form of sites.psu.edu is to create a community which can make everyone’s content more valuable than the sum of their individual contributions.
1. See Dave Winer’s the flickr API is a national treasure