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Own Your Writing

On multiple occasions, I have experienced recently how important it is for me to own what I write. For me, this means that I publish my own website and my own blog (this one). This comes at some cost: I own the domain, I pay for the hosting, there is no advertisement. There is also some non-monetary cost: I keep up with the underlying techniques of static site generators, word-press installations, plugins, etc. I do enjoy it, but the point is, other possibilities exist where the setup is simpler and the cost is less. However in those cases, you don't own what you write.

Coincidently, parallel to the events that I hinted at above and about which I might write in the future, there appeared two relevant related posts on Daring Fireball recently: "Fuck Facebook" and "On Giving a Shit". In these posts, Facebook is used as an example for a closed solution for which users do not pay with money. In those posts, John Gruber

  • advises not to link to anything on Facebook (difficult or impossible to read if not a member; possibility of Facebook locking non-members out in future is possible);
  • points out that Facebook posts are not indexed in search engines and are not archived in the Internet Archive;

In another funny twist of fate, I had the old episode 90 of The Talk Show from 2012 lined up on my podcast player, where John Gruber and Dan Benjamin talk about these same and other Facebook issues (starting at about 1:10:50):

  • What sense does it make to require credentials from Facebook to login to Spotify?
  • Are "we" old farts who do the equivalent of using fax machines when we insist on email when everybody is on Facebook messenger?
  • Where does this end up? Will we need a Facebook credentials to get a bank account or an organ?

My thoughts:

  • More and more often I encounter pages online, where the content is hidden to me. I do think this is not what the internet is meant for.
  • You own what you write. In the largest sense possible of the word "own". In German traditional publishing law, there is the VISdP who is responsible for the publication. I think if you are the responsible person, then you are responsible for what you write, with all its possible positive and negative effects. If you do this on your own site, you think about this likely more, before and while writing, so you end up with better quality of your text. This applies not only to Facebook but to other sites that do the hosting for you (e.g., Twitter, Instagram). This is the same reason I support initiative such as There have been other alternatives before, such as or Also, there exist others today, like mathstodon. Somehow, a critical mass is required for these things, and it takes a while for those services to reach this point. Twitter certainly has this critical mass now, but it also started with zero users.
  • Is this really a valid argument, that "the old farts" rely on outdated technology? Or would rather everybody post to their own site, if it was less costly, both technically and monetarily? For my webpage and my blog I have both an installation of pelican running where python, css, and some knowledge about how a static blogging engine works are required, and this blog is running on my own hosted domain in a combination of wordpress / phpMyAdmin SQL. This is certainly more involved than posting on Twitter.
  • Playing is fundamentally important, hence the release of the new JSON feed - format is awesome! Thank's to Manton Reece's WordPress plugin, has now also a JSON feed (in addition to RSS and Atom), and yay, is it nice to read! Check out the New Yorker's JSON feed or the New York Times' JSON feed (via scripting news). This is the reason why I whipped up this pythonic JSON "feed reader":

    It's going to be interesting if and how quickly JSON feeds are going to be supported. The outlook is not bad, for example, Reeder for iOS recently introduced JSON support. There are open source feed readers (on macOS at least vienna and most recently in pre-beta evergreen).

  • Particularly, in the university environment where I work, I want to treat students as equal as possible. This means, I do not want to enforce a membership anywhere -- how do other academics and students see this?

© Claus Haslauer. Built using Pelican. Theme by Giulio Fidente on github.