Like everyone else, I’ve got opinions and experiences to spare and to share. So why not simply haunt the usual online communities and contribute there? Why go to all the trouble of starting an isolated blog? Three reasons: to control my own data; to spare innocent users of all the other sites the burden of my opinions; to see whether this is a feasible model for personal interaction on the internet.
Probably first and foremost, it annoys me immensely that the dominant service model for social networking on the internet is warped by the need to monetize. (Same is true of search, but let’s not get distracted…) I’d like personal interaction, whether it’s socialization or education to be direct, though computer-and-network-based services cannot be zero cost. We’ve seen the first round of widely adopted services (lookin' at you, MySpace, FB, Twitter) try the model of free to the user, but they end up having to insert themselves into the peer interaction to make a buck. Banner ads, autoplay videos, sponsored links, pop-overs and pop-unders are all examples of the problem.
I think there’s room for a more mature subscription model. Enough of us are hooked enough on the experience that some of us, at least, would pay something out of our own pocket to support the service for all of us. Individual and family plans, pay as you go on your mobile phone bill (you pay for texts…). This promotes the user to the status of paying customer and gives him/her standing to drive and direct innovation on the platform, to take advantage of competition. Just consider how much work FB (or Google) put into insuinating advertising into the experience, supporting the commercial goals of advertisers and locking the user into their particular service. Don’t get me wrong – there has been a lot of very good technical and business innovation directed to these areas, but it’s all secondary to the user’s benefit.
I’m thinking a different way. What if the social network were an appliance that you could own, embedded in a pervasive network of communications and standards that reached every person (and dog and toaster) that you could wish to engage?
The end-point would have to be cheap and easy to operate, capable of supporting all the modes of interaction you like. The network would have to be… and many othe requirements and areas of requirements that I have yet to realize… I do not have ideas for even 10% of the issues I’m raising. But I do have some ideas, and this blog is the prototype for them.
- the endpoint is a self-contained little server. Recycled from other uses.
- It connects to the internet, which is about as ubiquitous and pervasive as I can manage.
- It supports interaction by text and pictures, because that’s about as far as my technical reach goes, and I’m a words-on-the-page kind of guy, anyway.
- It can support the kinds of interactions I want to have with social networks: casual comments on the happenings of the day that might otherwise end up on Facebook or Twitter; technical Q/A that might otherwise go to StackOverflow or (MS)GitHub and some subreddits; rants and manifestos that would go on a blog like this anyway.
Particular goals and challenges:
- Responsible interaction. I want to interact with real people who are representing their own personal interests. You’ll have to provide a verifiable identity to play in my yard and be willing to … your reputation as I have done by my post. I am willing to interact with agents and bots to the extent you have delegated your reputation to them.
- Scope of interaction:
I want to be able to share my wisdom with users stuck on FB, Twitter, etc. So when I respond to a thread, the response needs to reside on my blog in the first place but be cross-posted to the source thread as well. When I do respond, you should be able to get the context from my blog. Here I expect to run into copyright issues with the social network providers – they monetize by keeping their users inside their platform, won’t stand for “their” content leaking out. And that’s fair, users in the context of my pithy comment didn’t give me their content. So some thorny issues…