Deplatforming

Don't Cede Your Voice

By on ::

It is a precarious existence. When you serve at the pleasure of the platforms, you can be de-platformed.

, Twitter banned Donald Trump. As President, he still has ample venues for communication. As a narcissist, he’ll keep checking and pressing on all the other venues for any possible re-entry.

In , Google shut down Google+, dispersing a large number of tabletop gamers. As a whole, I wouldn’t call it a community, but Google+ was a place with lots of conversation and engagement around tabletop RPGs 📖 . . Google+ provided a melting pot of numerous game style approaches, which helped fuel what I see now as an explosion of creativity and mixture of gaming styles.

On , Google shut down Google Reader, removing a ubiquitous tool that helped connect people through syndicated content.

A fascinating site to go wander around is Killed by Google. You can see a veritable field of over 200 services or products Google has ended.

I look at the list of blogs I follow, and see a lot of entries for blogspot.com, a Google provided blogging service. I anticipate in the not too distant future, that platform will go away.

I encourage you all to read Into the Personal-Website-Verse by Matthias Ott. In that lengthy post, Ott describes the problems of relying on these services and lays out steps to own your experience while also using those services.

Twitter and Facebook decide what content you see; When you rely on closed protocols for communication, those messages are at the whim of the provider of those protocols.

Imagine, if some algorithm decided when (or if) you saw email addressed to you sent by people in your address book. Google flirted with this in their Inbox by Gmail offering. I’m not even going to go into search engines.

I encourage you to think about what you’re writing and creating.

What’s Your Plan When You Lose a Platform?

I chose to move from a Wordpress.com hosted site; Partially because readers began reporting that Wordpress was injecting advertisements into my blog posts. Also, because I wanted to have better control over my content.

Wordpress is a great blogging platform, built on open source software, and committed to content portability (e.g. giving you access to all of your content if you want to migrate it elsewhere).

If you are looking for a hosted blogging service, go with Wordpress.

They’ll be around longer than Blogspot. Wordpress’s mission and values in action tell me that even if they go away, there will be a strong commitment to help ease the migration of everyone’s content.

As of , the entire content of my website sits on my local machines and a few remote servers.

That content is all of the HTML and image files for this website, as well as the components used to build those HTML files.

One perk in this setup is even if I am disconnected from the Internet, I can reference what I’ve written, make updates, and write future posts.

update: I use Nearly Free Speech to host my site. Why the move? Because I’m angry at Github’s recent firing of a Jewish engineer. Also because Nearly Free Speech’s hosting policy regarding free speech is as admirrable as I could hope.

As of , I use Github Pages to host my site.

When I publish my site, I copy up to Github my hosting provider the HTML and image files. You can even navigate these files as code.

If Github were to end that hosting service, I would find another hosting service. I would need to do some DNS 📖 work to point to the new hosting service. Then I would copy my HTML and image files up to that host, and be done with it.

Conclusion

If you value the content you are creating, spend a bit of time reflecting on what it would mean to lose your platform.

What content have you created and released that you’d want to continue to be available? What does your presence or voice on that platform mean to you?

What about the relationships you’ve established on those platforms? If that platform went away, how would you communicate with those friends?

The almighty algorithm will curate your experience, don’t cede anymore to it than you must.

Postscript

One strategy I’ve developed is to syndicate content from my blog onto Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Mastodon. I also publish three types of feeds for my site:

I also use an RSS 📖 feed reader which pulls content from a wide variety of blogs and news feeds.

The feed reader I use, doesn’t curate what and when I see something. In other words, at the top of the list are the newest articles from all of the sites that I subscribe to.

I encourage you to adopt an RSS feed reader, but make sure that it doesn’t algorithmically curate what and when something comes through your feed.

For example, I wouldn’t trust Google News or Apple News to provide you with an unadulterated timeline of posts.

I use Elfeed for my RSS client. I’m certain that it does not modify the order in which I see content.

In the past, I used Inoreader, and found it to be a wonderful experience.

Post Postscript

If you have any questions about finding a suitable RSS reader, please ask.

Likewise, if you have questions about a personal website, please ask.

Getting started in this technical landscape might be intimidating, but I promise a personal website can be a fun place to fiddle around and learn some stuff.