Own your stuff

Because the only constant is change, you shouldn’t depend on others to keep your content online.


One thing can be said for being really sick for a while, as my wife and I have been throughout much of this month: it gives you time to sit back and watch things happen. And, boy, howdy, has this ever been a month for that in the online space.

I’ve already written enough about the continuing drama at Twitter, so be comforted in knowing this isn’t another post about that in particular. Instead, I simply want to reinforce some points I’ve been making throughout this site’s years of existence, because what’s been going on in social media in general proves those points’ salience.

  • If you want to put your content online, don’t depend on social media platforms to keep it safe for you. — Platforms rise and fall. The only constant is change. A social media platform that lets you post for free and keep your stuff there indefinitely can decide tomorrow that only paid customers get such niceties and, thus, it’s purging all the free content it’s been holding for years. And don’t kid yourself: it doesn’t get much better if you are paying for the “privilege” of letting a platform host your content.

    There was a time, back in the early 2010s, when even major corporations told people to visit not those corporations’ websites but, rather, their Facebook pages. (As a small company’s webmaster at the time, I was horrified by this trend.) Over time, they realized that wasn’t wise. That was true for Facebook then, and it’s true today for not only Facebook but also Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Medium, Substack, and on down the list.
  • You should host your online content on your own website. — And by “your website,” I mean one with a domain you own (i.e., as opposed to something that ends in wordpress.org or whatever). How you get it hosted on that domain is up to you, although my recent “Blasts from the past” piece has plenty of fodder for that. By the same token, how you do that online content is also up to you but, again, that same linked post has a lot of thoughts on that. Spoiler: you should learn about static site generators (SSGs).

In the end, it comes down to this simple question: do you want control over the longevity of your online content? If so, heed my admonitions above. If not, well, hey, it’s your stuff — or, at least, it was before you handed it over to Big Social Media.

Update from the future: Of course, I claim no exclusivity to these points, much less to their collective validity. Similar sentiments have appeared on the web for years, such as in Chris O’Donnell’s “Own your words” or Scott Hanselman’s “Your words are wasted,” both from August, 2012.

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