Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

Take back the ‘Web!

I’ve been a heavy Twitter user for a while, enough to help earn me Computer Weekly’s title of Social Media Champion, and historically have been an advocate of social media. However, a while ago it started to worry my just how much of my “thought stream” I was giving Twitter et al. This was especially pertinent since I have two accounts – my public one and a private one, the latter of which where I voice sometimes politically incorrect sentiments (ie. I have a good rant).

That’s why we launched TweetDelete, which automatically “tidies up” after you. When we were building it though we found a problem though: you can only get the last 3,200 tweets from Twitter’s API, which means you can only delete that number. I’ve had the service running on my accounts for some time, though even then there is no guarantee that Twitter have actually deleted it.

I also use Google+, and like it, but actually the reason I like it is that I can write mini-blog posts there which don’t fit on Twitter and that I can organise the recipients into “circles”. The novelty of artificially restricting my musings to 140 characters, reminiscient of the pain of early SMS, has thoroughly worn off. Anyone I actually want to interact with has enough sense to employ brevity when necessary!

Back to Google+, I have a blog already (Kate’s Comment), and it has the capability for people to comment. So why am I giving my valuable content to third parties? I’ve stopped posting those mini articles on Google+ and am putting more on my blog instead. I’m increasingly using social media as just a channel to link to my posts in fact – that’s the way I want to go.

I can’t not mention Facebook. What do I use it for? Sharing photos and organising events. That’s it. I long ago stopped trusting it with anything else. It endlessly frustrates me when people send me a Facebook message and are surprised when I don’t notice (I ignore them) – I have an email address that is not potentially monitored by anyone and is entirely independant. So should you!

Cashing in on the tweets

Today we learned that Twitter has finally figured out a way to monetise their service (I’ve long doubted Twitter’s valuations due to the difficulties over monetisation): they are selling their “back catalogue” of your Tweets, apparently going back two years.

According to Tweetails.com I post 11.34 tweets per day. Their 3,200 limit means that if I had not already been deleting my Tweets regularly with TweetDelete I’d only actually be able to delete the last 9 month’s worth, and they are selling more than that!

Take back the Web!

Well for me this is the final straw. I’m fed up of having my personal data used by companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google. I’m also fed up with the way Facebook in particular are trying to do “an AOL” and partition the ‘Web. I’ve been asking myself why I actually use those services anyway? What on earth led me to entrust my thought stream to these faceless entities? Was I insane?

As for chatting with friends, well not being the trusting type I setup a secure, private XMPP instant messaging service using OpenFire about a year ago. My girlfriend, me, and some close friends use it instead of BBM/MSN/SMS and it is entirely secure.

For blogging (my girlfriend Izzy and I have 3 blogs between us) I use WordPress on my little personal VM – it is very easy to install. It frustrates me that most of my friends use Blogger (or whatever) when WordPress is free, hosting costs almost nothing, and then you own your own content again! If you are spending several hours a month writing even valuing your time at minimum wage it is surely worth a quid or so a month to have your own Web site?

I think I’m going to take another look at systems like Diaspora too – ways to self-host a truly free / open source / social enterprise approach to social networking. Surely there must be some good systems for organising events and sharing pictures that I could self-host too, and if I can then there is no reason every sub-community should not have their resident tech who is entrusted with maintaining their little bit of the ‘net.

The Web used to be open and free; a place of personal expression but on your own terms. The beauty of it has always been that it has been a community-created system but now we find ourselves being increasingly driven to just a small number of sites. 10 years ago all the techies I knew were making their own sites but today people seem content with a Facebook page. Well I for one think that should change. Time to take back the ‘Web!