I’ve worried about data compatibility and posterity since I was old enough to type.
My cousins had IBM-clones while my school had Apple //e computers. My closest friends’ families got Holstein-patterned Gateway 2000 towers while I had been begging my parents for a Macintosh (which quickly changed to pleas for a Power Macintosh 7200/120 with an Intel PCI card capable of running both Windows and Mac OS at the same time).¹
My typed journal entries from my angst-ridden early-teen years were carefully saved to a 3.5″ floppy disk in Rich Text Format, as I wanted to be sure I could open them decades later² on whatever futuristic software had replaced Microsoft Office in the 21st century.
As I aged and the internet grew bigger and more media-rich, my desire to keep data free and compatible grew with it. To share videos and pictures of our children, I secured a domain name and web hosting for a blog. No need to force grandparents to sign up for Facebook or YouTube, just send them our URL. It worked great and I was proud of it.
But years later my wife and I got smart phones. Now content didn’t need to go from a digital camcorder or camera to a computer, where it was then just as easy to post to our blog as to web service. Now we could post straight from our phones to Google+, YouTube and Twitter. We were busy with young children and welcomed the ease of sharing content with relatives who so eagerly asked for more. We explained this migration to Google+ on our family blog and it’s still the most recent post almost five years later.
But the internet is always changing, and it’s more and more owned by corporations that will shut down or change products and services with little warning. The World Wide Web is littered with broken links to non-existent pages as content owners rise and fall and change.
Don’t get me started on the death of RSS.
I was lamenting this publicly last year when a friend tipped me off to the IndieWeb movement. To the uninitiated it can seem a bit confusing. The IndieWeb isn’t something you sign up for, or download, or copy and paste. But that’s the beauty of it. The IndieWeb is an ever-evolving set of principals around which a healthier, more diverse, and longer lasting web can thrive.
I’ll spare you the details, but a tagline could go something like “post here, syndicate elsewhere”. Buy your own domain and use a content management system that is easily customization or exportable. Now you control your links and the longevity of your content. You want to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter? No problem. Post to your personal blog and push that content to other services. Should those services delete, archive, or otherwise change your content on their side, your content is still safe at “home”. Innovative individuals and teams are creating free tools to automate this process too, so your posts can not only automatically go out to places like Twitter, but then replies made there can come back as comments on your posts.
For those interested in learning more, technology writer Dan Gillmor does well explaining why the Indie Web movement is so important, and software engineer Brett Slatkin echos why I have my own website.
So this new blog of mine will hopefully serve as a sort of experiment for me, dipping my toes into the waters of the Indie Web. Will a lack of readership eventually cause me to ignore and abandon this blog? Almost definitely. But it should be fun while it lasts.
¹We ended up getting an HP Pavilion with Windows 95. I felt dirty for about five minutes; then the enormous library of Windows/DOS games and applications washed away any sense of a dirty conscious this ex-Apple fan could have felt.
²This effort was doubly wasted when I destroyed the disk some years later, still a teen but deeming my earlier teen feelings too embarrassing to revisit.