Negative Waves


(Originally posted on G+.)

Here I am, spreading these negative waves …

Reading all these farewells to G+, I can’t help but think of something my father said, well maybe once or twice: “You get what you pay for.”

Cold comfort, I know.

In 2004 I bought a domain of my own and I’ve been paying $60 a year for Web hosting. So far I’ve done relatively little with it. Definitely not $60 a year worth. Part of that is that building something like Blogspot or LiveJournal is hard.1

But the technology keeps improving and becoming easier to use. Sure, not everyone has time to learn technology; I found hugo and jekyll easy to use, but others might not. Certainly not everyone can spare $60 a year for space on somebody else’s servers, although even that cost may drop in our new Cloud Age.

But Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the rest offered a better solution, absolutely “free”. They invited us to share our lives with people across the world on their network. But we should have looked this gift Trojan horse in the mouth. They lured us into a false sense of security to learn everything about us, aggregated the data to learn how to manipulate us, and then left it lying around for sufficiently motivated thieves to take it. And now we’re paying for it, randomly and unfairly.

For most of us, I suspect the gift Trojan horse has already bolted.

Right now I’m in the (uncomfortable) position of starting my life mostly from scratch, so with the exception of the ubiquitous Social Security Number2 and the house I currently own I have the luxury of cutting everything else out. Other people, I know, have acquaintances, friends, and family they still need to keep in touch with. They have art and words they’d like to share. They have busy lives that preclude running their own site, and expenses more important than renting server space.

But honestly the lesson of all this is Own Your Own Data. Keep it on your laptop and/or a thumb drive, and maybe keep an offsite backup or two. Don’t wait until a service dies to grab an archive of your words and pictures; the next one might not give you a chance. Don’t tell strangers your whole life story unless you’re comfortable with strangers knowing your whole life story. Never give out your name, address, and financial details to anyone who doesn’t absolutely need them. TRUST NO ONE … except trustworthy people.

And yes, I’ve made a copy of this rant for my archives.

  1. Never mind a whole community like G+. Sure, there’s software for bulletin boards, but I used to help moderate one and beyond technical issues (which I really didn’t have access too) keeping everyone playing nicely is hard. G+ was built from the ground up so that if someone’s pissing you off you can just cut them out of your update feed. Not perfect, but better than, say, Twitter. ↩︎

  2. Can we change those? ↩︎