Own Your Content (Or, Start Using Your Blog Again)

Any time Facebook proposes some kind of change to their terms of service, the user base gets whipped into an uproarious frenzy. “How dare they!” a million angry commenters rage, doing a copy/paste of some boilerplate “I still own my stuff” message as their latest status (which, by the way, is entirely ineffectual). The irony, however, is that the terms of service have always been such that you don’t own or control your content. The trade-off for “free” usage is that you grant a fairly permissive license to monetize your content. While some social networks offer better terms than others (Twitter, Google+), the basic premise is still the same: you’re not really in control.

Any content of value that I create should remain mine (even if I do publish it under a relatively open Creative Commons license). The only way it can really be mine is if I publish on a platform where I own the content and can extract it any time I want to. (This dovetails into the things that Phil Windley writes about regarding personal clouds.) To that end, I’m going to be using the blog much more than I have the last few years and you should too. I see more than a few good, coherent reasons for doing so.

  • Ownership. It’s my content, not Facebook’s, or Google’s, or Twitter’s. I want to be able to dictate the terms of usage, even if it is permissive. Sharing sites all too often pull the Darth Vader “pray I don’t alter it any further” and I don’t want to take it anymore.
  • Reputation. Leaving my content in one of those companies silos may isolate it from general consumption, even if I choose to make it public. Facebook and Twitter both lock it up really tight within their own fiefdoms. Google is better at letting the data be more public in their search results, but mostly with your contacts. I want my content public explicitly to share it and define my online reputation; silos inhibit this.
  • Verbosity. Social networks encourage us to make quickie drive-by postings rather than really expressing our thoughts. That’s fine for things of little consequence (“check out this cheese sandwich”, “my kid threw up on me”, “Man I’m really craving a bacon maple donut right about now”), but for anything of greater substance, a blog post encourages greater depth. (And also, it’s a great way to work around the 140-character limit of Twitter or the forced truncation/expansion of Facebook or Google+.)
  • Sharing text content. One of the most annoying trends on Facebook is slapping text in an image and resharing the ever-loving daylights out of it. Text is text, pictures are pictures, and sometimes the two go well together. But something like 90% of the “pictures” being shared on Facebook are text on a colored background. That’s kind of like putting bacon on everything you eat. I get why it happens; Facebook has made it so that you can easily share pictures, but you can’t really share a status update. It’s all designed to keep you in the silo. But you know what is text and can be shared VERY easily? Yeah, a link to a blog post.

If you have something to say worth sharing, you have something worth owning. Consequently, I hereby declare 2013 to be the year of reviving the blog. Won’t you join me?

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3 Responses

  1. David says:

    I’m in.

    I’ve been thinking about this recently. Life has been chaotic and I have not been as good about using any of the tools as I have wished but I have decided to start writing more and I am going to own my content and simply share it in other places – in fact I think I have a couple of Google+ posts that I should copy back to my blog.

    • Jesse says:

      That’s my rationale as well. I can share the link on social networks and get the same audience affect as posting the content there without ceding any ownership.

  1. January 14, 2013

    […] all comes back to what I’ve said about owning your content, and I’d argue that extends to owning what users, good or bad, choose to contribute to it. If […]

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