Rebuilding the Web

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Brad Enseln has posted a nice call to action on rebuilding the Web. He argues, and I agree, that one way to reduce the dominance of social silos is to rebuild and reinforce the interconnections between independent blogs. (I also think some nice trustbusting on the part of the federal government w/r/t Facebook would excellent policy.)

We, the little people, need to rebuild the web.  It does not do to just complain about silos and then point out other corporate alternatives, first and foremost the web needs websites built by individual humans, not just corporations, SEO’s and people trying to get their hand in your pocket.  This is the foundation of everything. [emphasis in original]

As I have written before, the ways that large social media advertising companies manipulate us has a corrosive effect on society and ourselves. I’m excited by the work that some folks are doing to get back to blogging, like Brad and Kicks Condor, and others like Duncan Black at Eschaton, who never left. I’ve been working harder to post here on my own site and happy that I am not contributing to something malign. I’ve had good experiences on both Twitter and Facebook, finding new friends on the former and reconnecting with old ones on the latter. But these companies have not been good stewards of the free labor we have given them. Here, on my own site, I published my comic for the first time and was an early web comic artist, trying to hack together weekly pages in comicspress after the financial crisis scuttled a book deal. Even aside from any larger societal impact, I can’t say that anything I have done on social media has been nearly as worthwhile. The past year, since about March, I’ve committed to spending less time on social media, and my creative output is way up. I can see it not only in the posts I’m creating, but also in the artwork I’ve created, on both paper and iPad.

So. Back to blogging. Back to drawing.

World Wide Web Starter Pack

So if you’re looking to do a little less Facebook and Twitter and a little more RSS reading, here’s what I use:

Feedly: Since Google Reader went away, you need a way to organize your feeds that will sync across your various devices. I use Feedly. It’s free for basic use (there’s a pro option if you need to have multiple feed groups or want to follow more than 100 blogs, or want to use it for teams) so it’s a good place to start. I’ve also heard Feedbin recommended.

Reeder: Now, you can use the Feedly app to do your reading, but I use a third party reader, Reeder. NetNewsWire is another good option, it’s in the process of being rebuilt from the ground up, and it’s a bit of a beta right now, so Reeder is probably a better place to start. But what if you want to write? WordPress lets you create a blog for free with an account, and you can even use it as a one-stop shop for reading as well, perhaps obviating the need for a reader and a sync service. I haven’t ever used it this way, so I can’t vouch for it, but I do use WordPress as a CMS for this site, hosted on my own domain. For simplicity of use, I also highly recommend Tumblr. Tumblr is probably the simplest way to get up and running with a blog. Although it is a bit of a walled garden, the fact that a Tumblr blog creates RSS feeds and if fully interoperable with the open web. If it’s a walled garden, it’s a small wall, like a little stone border you can easily step over.

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