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Roll Your Own

Jay Cuthrell
April 8th, 2019 · 3 min read

When I started collecting links this week I had no idea how I would arrive at a conclusion. Thank goodness for the tech news cycle and, specifically, Techmeme. I’m already questioning my use of a newsletter service for reasons I hope to make clear below. Let’s get started.


Go Your Own Way

I don’t doubt a Fleetwood Mac reference is slightly dated at just over 40 years ago. Still, one thing I have noticed in my regular reading is a renewed interest in repatriation of content from centralized social platform juggernauts to more self-hosted options.

March of 2008 is where interest piqued but has it peaked?

March of 2008 is where interest piqued but has it peaked?

So what happened in March 2018? Simple. Social media finally saw the culmination of unflattering coverage by both tech press and traditional media followed by a genuine reflection by a sizable number of users asking if there were alternatives. In fact, if you look back at tech press coverage on Techmeme from March 2018 you are immediately reminded of the zeitgeist that mashed up technology, politics, and economics.

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2018 - Techmeme Facebook coverage March 2018

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Techmeme is a great resource to understand the “on this day” view of tech press coverage.

As the saying goes, reaction was swift. Social media was tarnished on a larger scale than ever before. However, another perspective is that wishing to leave as a meme was simply a popularization of what had existed for as many years as the lifetimes of the very services now considered harmful. It’s just a matter of changing perspectives with far larger numbers of users.

Generalization of the Disdain

While it might be simplistic to assign all concerns to a single social platform, it is just lazy. It is more accurate to assess that all centralized social media platforms that achieved massive scale and wide adoption were and are increasingly subject to scrutiny.

Tweet like you mean it.

Tweet like you mean it.

Considering the ownership structure, this is very telling.

Considering the ownership structure, this is very telling.

Rising interest is rising. Alternatives to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Rising interest is rising. Alternatives to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Rising Options and Alternatives

Leaving a social media platform is often where the phrase “easier said than done” but just as MySpace was once a big deal, sometimes the lights flicker at the end of the show is a subtle foreshadow of another phrase “you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here”.

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2019 - Myspace lost all photos, videos, and music its users uploaded between 2003 and 2015

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What?!?! Hey! It’s free! So… Oops?

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2019: Google shuts down and deletes all consumer accounts on Google+

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Allegedly as many as several people were very sad.

If we’re keeping score, we now know that social media was not just where your information might be for sale, be associated with geopolitical imbroglios, etc… but there was the bonus of possibly having your most embarrassing digital items preserved forever in the public domain OR your most cherished digital items eventually lost forever.

While mainstream attitudes to social media have evolved over the past +20 years, the longer term implications of participation are a growing body of concerns.

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1997 to 2019: The History of Social Media

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Six Degrees!

Indeed, there are multiple alternatives and options to the centralized social platform juggernauts. Some alternatives are simply smaller centralized social platforms. Other alternatives, are more interesting approaches: self-hosted options with decentralized, federated, and distributed sensibilities.

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The diaspora* Project

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This was the original call to action from a team of academics that were way ahead of the curve.

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Ethical alternatives to popular sites and apps

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Pointers to less centralized options

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The Mastodon Project has apps

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Federation approach vs. Distributed approach

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Movim

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Another decentralized approach using XMPP

Aether grows past 500 concurrent nodes

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Another example of nodes vs. centralized destinations.

One Last Drag =============

As I was wrapping up this collection of links, I was sure I could pull together the roll your own theme somehow but it wasn’t clear until the results of a recent social media poll were published earlier today.

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What wastes time, spreads lies, and divides us?

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Please retweet this. Oh wait.

The final cherry on top took home the full double meaning and – came from social media. How? Roll your own is a phrase associated with rolling of cigarettes. Like cigarettes, social media has seen massive adoption but the side effects are just beginning to be considered.

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Patrick Moorhead on Twitter: “We see similar behavior with smokers: I know it’s bad for me and those around me, could lead to my early death, it costs others in medical costs, but I’m going to keep smoking. 🚬… https://t.co/7czaEqKLBD”

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Exactly.

Then again, moving from centralized big social media to decentralized smaller social media might not be as healthy but the analogy so slowing your ability to smoke a pack a day might just be slowed down a bit by making it less expedient path to a direct dopamine hit.

For a fun (dystopic?) thought exercise, consider the implication of so-called e-cigarettes and vaping against the post-tempest social media landscape of our rapidly approaching future. So, until next time, please don’t share this on social media. ;-)

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