The Photo Album (lost)
Why we allow the web to not care about the things we care most about.
I just heard a fantastic talk by Anil Dash, The Web We Lost. He makes a powerful argument about the past, present and future of the web. I was particularly struck by one specific idea, a specific “image” he describes:
The Wholesale Destruction of our Wedding Photos.
Dash describes the TV news scenario of the burnt-down home, and family who says to the reporter, “we got our photos, everything else is just ‘stuff’ and we can replace it.” Versus “success” in Silicon Valley which is defined, in a way, as destroying those photos. That is, every time a startup is successful, this week the example is Posterous, they get bought, in this case by Twitter, the founders become rich, and they email their millions of users and say, “we’re deleting all your wedding photos, we’re rich now, see ya!”
There are many cultural and tech considerations here. I’ll just make a small point. It kind of goes back to Richard Stallman’s “Free Speech & Free Beer.” When you put your content, your ideas, your precious memories, on a “free” platform where you are the product, not the customer, you take a great risk. Almost nothing will perfectly guarantee the forever security of those wedding photos, but I’d like to see people having more control of their own content. Maybe Flickr won’t go the way of Posterous, but even if they survive, they still do reclassify your images on occasion, like the time they randomly changed Violet Blue’s photos from “general” to “mature,” not “adult,” just “mature.” But that still meant that in countries like the USA, you could see, but no longer search for those images, and could only see them if you were logged in to Flickr. In countries like Germany, you could no longer see 4 years of her work at all. Blue complained for a long time and ultimately got her work reclassified by Flickr ONLY because she was Internet famous and had connections.
How do I have more control of my own content? We seem to have lost the idea of having websites. I recently complained that it was outrageous how much time and money we let students invest in a university degree, yet don’t require or help them to have a website or ePortfolio. The reply I got was, “ Isn't having a LinkedIn good enough?”
If I’m going to try to control my own content, what platform might I use? I am a big Wordpress fangirl, and think it’s a great choice. I’m exploring three interesting new platforms at the moment: Authorea, Scalar, and right here at Medium.
This is my first Medium post, and given the above, I’m obviously nervous about creating and depositing work and ideas on Medium’s servers. But we have to keep moving. Have to keep water running over our gills. Have to explore and consider the new.
Authorea seems like a great tool for scholarly multi-author article creation. Scalar too seems to want to focus on scholarly works, but seems to more deeply swim in the ever emerging semantic web of connections and flow. Because of the almost insane richness of Scalar, it seems, unfortunately, especially vulnerable to leaving creative works orphaned if it turns out not to persist. Sure Wordpress or someone will have an Import plugin to “suck in” your “old” Scalar content, but I don’t think it will know what to do with the bounty of metadata that Scalar powerfully and uniquely encourages us to swim in as we “cow path” our mental universe.
And now we have Medium. Evan Williams & Co.’s vision of returning to words, ideas, and interactions. After a generation of “micro,” a return to text matters. The beauty and interactivity of Medium seem immediately apparent. How long does it live? What is the long term fate of my ideas on their servers under their TOS? IDK. I do know I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to explore.
Wordpress. Authorea. Scalar. Medium. And on. Or maybe we just live in a Glass world. But I hope it’s not a Google Wave Glass.
Considering the demise of new platforms the day you sign-up for them is interesting. A little weird. Curious. Very Robert-Smithson-The-Monuments-of-Passaic-New-Jersey.