A funny thing has happened to the Internet over the past couple years. A swing away from empowered, content-producing users back toward a corporate controlled ecosystem. I blame Twitter, and more recently Facebook, and even, just a little bit, Apple.
See the real and amazing power of the Internet is democratization. My previous post ranting about cable companies isn’t so much about the size of a cable bill, its about the delivery mechanism: one where a bunch of big companies get together and decide what you should want to watch, what comes bundled with what you want to watch, and where you may watch it. DVRs have at least given the consumer control over the when, but they hold fast to control over everything else — and then blast the volume on the commercials, as if to remind you that you should not expect to impose limits on what you consume.
The Internet has been, and continues to be, a mechanism to change that. Not only do you have control over what you consume, and when and where, but you have the power to produce content — YouTube, as low-brow as it may often be, is a powerful example of individuals producing content.
But then there’s the problem of how to monetize it. Twitter somehow manages to survive, despite having no business plan, but the fact remains that the content it allows its users to create is so limited as to be mostly drivel. It allows individuals to produce content — but in such a strangled way as to be useless. Facebook, although it provides more freedom and scope, barely tries to conceal the fact that it exists to sell your personal information to advertisers. Under the pretense of allowing you to produce content, they re-sell your very identity back to those big companies who only want you to consume.
I did finally break down and open a Twitter account. I intended to Tweet from conferences for work. I barely use it. I’m a fairly prolific Facebook user, and I can’t argue against the value of the platform as a social network. But I can’t escape the fact that although blogging has taken a back-seat to these other, far less open, far less noble “producing” technologies, it remains important.
I laughed when I found my “I’m Blogging This” t-shirt in my drawer the other day. Its not so much a mark of elite netizen these days to have a blog. And I’ll admit that I occassionally wonder why I maintain this site when most of those who do read my posts do so via Facebook anyway. But I am increasingly convinced that despite the fact that we, the consuming public, are lining up in droves to buy devices like the iPad — one that barely pretends to enable content creation, and is really nothing more than a (very good, very sexy) media consuming appliance — for the Internet to remain neutral, and democratic, those of us with even a slight penchant for creativity need to remain stalwart in our resolve to continue to contribute to our little corners of this world wide web.
My content may not be the most compelling (although I’d argue that pictures of my kids are pretty darn cute) but it is unique, it is novel, and it isn’t created or controlled by one of those dinosaur organizations that cling desperately to a world where what they deliver is what people must consume.
The latest new look for jonandnic.com scales back, even more, on some of the functionality and content that I used to maintain. I no longer need to code or implement social networking features, or store archives, or host videos — and in some cases, that’s OK. I’m not entirely opposed to capitalism on the web — if companies can offer compelling products to meet these needs, even if they sell advertising to monetize it, then they deserve a spot in the marketplace of the future (the Cloud.) But I will not concede the blog as a whole to Facebook, or relinquish my creativity to 140 characters on Twitter. I will not uninstall Visual Studio on my PC, or Final Cut on my Mac. And I will not give up on blogging.
On the Internet I have the same rights as Fox News, or CNN or the Wallstreet Journal. My content might not be as great, but it is mine. And on this media I can create and share and communicate. And if we’d all stop surrendering our brains to whatever comes out of the idiot box, or think beyond what’s on our Facebook wall, maybe we could start having conversations and exchanging ideas again.