Ownership and control: how much do we really have?Comments

The ideals behind the #indieweb and, to an extent, Micro.blog are about ownership and control: you own your content, not the network, not the platform, not a silo.

But let me play devil's advocate for a moment.

I wrote back in 2010 that the real social currency is relationships. Not likes, not retweets, not the number of followers but the actual relationships we have with them.

It is the relationships between people, relationships between us and our interests, relationships between data points and their intersections.

Big data.

The value of a social platform lies within its graphs, social and interest, the connections between its users, what they like and how that relates to others. Trends, patterns, spikes, correlations - everything that makes the data useful.

Who owns what?

What do we mean by ownership? Do we associate it with having control over our data or just mean having a copy of everything we post should the services we use disappear?

If it's the former we are deluding ourselves.

Even though we may hold the original version of our posts or photos, and even hold the keys to our base online identity, how much control do we actually have?

As soon as we pass our data to platforms or silos, as soon as we express our interests and connect with others we are handing control of so much more than our posts to those platforms.

Ownership extends far beyond the items themselves to the relationships and data points surrounding them as there is no way for us to own that.

Should we also be asking how much of this we need to own?

Do we need to hold every post, or reply? Is there really value in retaining everything? Or, is it merely our vanity?


We claim to be taking back control from the silos but, if we cross-post in the name of distribution, they still have the power to mine our data (of which we freely hand them a copy) and use it for their own ends.

Unless we keep all our data within a silo of our own we will never have full ownership and total control but that flies in the face of the interactivity the indieweb movement tries to promote.

Ownership and control: how much do we really have?

In transition

In reply to: Perhaps I'm not quite reading your meaning properly, but I'm curious about the portion about your having turned off comments. I also notice your link

When I rebooted the blog last year I aspired to the goals of the indieweb but wasn't yet familiar with the #indieweb movement. I knew I wanted ownership of what I was doing but hadn't filled in the fine details.

Consequently, the site is in transition as I adopt different ideas and find how I've previously done things may have to change accordingly.

But, not all parts of the indieweb are for everyone and no one should feel they need to implement everything.

The core principles are enough.

My initial desire was to take full control of what I was doing, that's what was important to (and for) me and that's why I didn't mind outsourcing replies to Medium.

While opening things up to webmentions on all posts (not just the microblog) I still don't want the aggravation of handling local comments so that won't happen.

Those that want to can own their replies, for everyone else Medium is still a service that I support, especially in light of the decision to scrap advertising for membership.

In transition

Who am I? Who does the web think I am?Comments

One of the biggest issues facing us on the web is identity. Who are we or, perhaps more accurately, who does the web think we are?

We have become an amalgam of usernames, email addresses and profiles, and who we appear to be depends on which instance is being viewed.

You may say that this is no different to offline life where we are "different people" when interacting with family, friends or work colleagues - and you'd be right. But, even against this backdrop, we have our birth certificate, driving license and passport: officially sanctioned ways to say "this is me."

We need this for the web.

Half way house?

I'll admit I am conflicted about different aspects of the #Indieweb like comments, replies and other cross-site actions.

When relaunching the blog last year I deliberately removed all commenting functionality as I didn't want the hassle of handling them at my own site. I did have to re-add a simple comment loop to account for webmentions (how Micro.blog will let you know if replies to posts) but still don't really want to go beyond that in order to support additional elements.

Without the various cross-site actions is it a bit pointless going the #Indieweb route if I'm not all in?

I don't believe so and here's why.

The most important aspect of the Indieweb is owning your identity, your proper identity as mentioned above. Everything else stems from that. And, the most stable way of creating an identity is by owning your own domain and all that's connected to it.

Owning your content is a key part of this but that is not entirely possible without your own site.

Controlling who you are and having a fixed identity (not one framed in the context of a social network) is liberating.

Being able to sign in as you on another web property - literally as your domain - rather than as an external and fragmented instance of you, e.g. your Twitter account, is fundamental to what the Indieweb is all about.

We may be able to associate our domain based identity with these external aspects of ourselves by way of rel="me" links but, what if everywhere allowed you to sign in with a single account.

Truly you

What if you were truly you on Twitter or Facebook, if accounts on disparate services were actually all the same identity. Everything related back to a single point. Your single point.

No confusion, no ambiguity.

It won't happen as these silos want to control this identity, have it feed back and work for them.

So, we should support those services that, in turn, support this ideal. Beyond that, we can always dream.

Who am I? Who does the web think I am?


Aristotle may have been describing connected drainage systems when he said "water seeks its own level" but it is a perfect metaphor for the social web.

Given time and freedom from interference everything finds its level, especially our communication methods.

Things settle.

You will see an extended version of the above quote adding "and water rises collectively" attributed to Julia Cameron, the American author. Like the traditional aphorism "a rising tide lifts all boats."

But here the metaphor ends; not all boats are seaworthy, just as some forms of communication seem destined to cause more problems than they solve.

Now, more than ever, we need our communication tools to bring us together but some are doing exactly the opposite.

In a recent conversation I suddenly realised why.


One thing I've come to appreciate over the past months is that a lot of this comes down to having ownership of our words which most don't have when they throw them away on places like Twitter. I'm not talking about physical ownership but moral and philosophical.

Even when our names are attached, what is said on social networks is not always part of "our message" - despite all the talk about branding. By this I mean our personal message not a business one; it's almost like it doesn't count and the level drops.

But words connect us.

We can only define our lives and experiences in accordance with the vocabulary we own, yet all too often that vocabulary is not sufficient to completely grasp the meaning of who or where we are and what we are doing.

That's why we need the words of others and their phrasing to grant us those eureka moments; only by having what we almost know described to us in a different way do we truly understand.

It's powerful!

The right level

Email lists and newsletters have had a massive resurgence in recent years, it's almost a romantic nostalgia for the way things used to be.

Perhaps, instead of throwing away their words, it's just people finding the right level, controlling and truly owning their personal message.

We'll never recapture the web's heyday, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, but I feel positive as long as there are people willing to try "better."