Pioneer spirit

I used to be an early adopter, I was among the first to put my name down for anything.

I joined Twitter early before hardly anyone even knew what it was, or what it could be. I signed up for every clone that came after and virtually every other service that appeared.

I have long abandoned social accounts strewn all across the web because I just had to be there and try “the new thing.” Some accounts I’ve closed but most I’ve forgotten so, if the service survives, they exist as little forgotten pieces of a fragmented social identity.

Bragging rights

I was a beta tester for anything I could get my hands on, a total geek veering into nerd territory.

I used to think that being at the forefront was an adventure, an opportunity to see and shape the future but, much of the time, it was for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be first to be cool, for bragging rights.

The realisation that I didn’t need to be this person, combined with a period of consolidation and stagnation on the social web, meant that I stopped diving headlong into things.

A few products seemed exciting but weren’t really sticky for me and the dominance of the major players, gathering data into their silos, meant any new players didn’t really stand a chance.

App.net was an attempt at breaking the control of the big social companies but, while it was a very solid product and had massive potential, seemed to come from the wrong place. It was born out of bitterness and resentment of how Twitter had treated the developer community.

It was incredibly capable but became synonymous with its proof of concept app Alpha – an ad free Twitter clone. Most couldn’t see beyond this and its closure was, sadly, inevitable.

Is it time?

Now, micro.blog has got me excited again. It takes us back to the roots of the open web, to good old fashioned RSS and hosting our own content.

The pioneer spirit of the old web feels like it’s making a comeback.

There may be a frustration at the status quo and the dominance (and long term uncertainty) of the major platforms, but micro.blog strikes me as a genuine attempt to build something that improves and simplifies short form web publishing whilst leaving control in the hands of authors.

Why should it survive when so many others have failed?

Although micro.blog will act like Twitter – there will be an app with a timeline where you follow others, reply and favourite posts – it is not just a social network but an extension of our existing blogs.

Control and ownership are paramount.

Against a backdrop of online abuse and fake news there is a real sea change, a rising swell of distrust. Algorithms are everywhere with their inherent biases and, although they promise to show you more of what you like, it is becoming harder than ever to see what you want.

Compromise

We have traded privacy for convenience but are always going to be on the losing side of that deal while networks rely on advertising and lock-in to survive. Everything on the social web is about compromise.

Medium’s recent move may be a step in the right direction but, with a general reluctance to pay for content, there is no guarantee of a new business model succeeding.

App.net may have come too soon, maybe the web wasn’t ready, or the environment that spawned it may have been too toxic for it to flourish.

But attitudes are changing. Perhaps the time is right for a new approach and something like micro.blog can succeed.

Things feel different now.


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