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I'm a technology-obsessed reader, writer, husband, and father in Washington, D.C. Blogging since 2002, taking control of my content since 2018.

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Where's my universal flu shot?

I really enjoyed this video by Verge Science, which I found to be very informative and interesting. It is good to see that we are getting closer to a universal flu vaccine that can either reduce the frequency with which we need to be vaccinated, and/or increase the efficacy of each shot. The flu virus is fascinating because of how frequently it changes and how poorly our bodies are able to cope with the infection when we get it. The flu makes us feel miserable as our body floods our systems with defenses against the aggressive virus. Many people die every year because of something they can catch from someone else's breath, which reminds me of just how fragile human life is.

If you haven't gone in for a flu vaccine yet, please do so. It is critical not only for your health, but to protect those that are unable to get the vaccine (like babies) through herd immunity.

You can still get the flu after being vaccinated (but it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine), but your symptoms should be lessened and your likelihood of being hospitalized is reduced.

Just because you "never get the flu" doesn't mean you can't, and it doesn't mean that you won't infect someone else that may die because of it. I "never die" but I still take steps to try and stick around a bit longer.

 

Nitin got me thinking about why I value my content and what made me choose to start posting primarily through my own website (powered by Known). While I like to see commercial endeavors that support IndieWeb and encourage personal ownership of content, I still worry that services like micro.blog will disappear in the near future. These options are still better than primary posting in a closed ecosystem like Facebook or Twitter, though, because your content is more easily portable.

That does not answer Nitin's question about why we don't worry about our data on these closed services, though. I wonder if the value of data is related to our decisions made when creating and sharing content. I think we worry about data when we have to make decisions about it. Signing up for a micro.blog, creating a WordPress blog, or setting up a website powered by Known involves a number of decisions. A host must be selected, software configured and maintained, and money is often paid somewhere along the way.

With Facebook, for example, we were encouraged to use the service in a certain way that evolved slowly. We initially shared small status updates about what we were doing right then (data hardly worth "owning"), and later began sharing longer status updates, and pictures and videos, and check-ins, and suddenly found ourselves locked into an ecosystem with everyone else sharing wildly without much consideration, choice, or decisions to make. Maybe we didn't value this data because we were taught to treat it as a fairly insignificant moment that will last briefly in a news feed, waiting to be replaced by the next update from another friend.

A personal website is a much more... personal option. It's all about the owner. Facebook is all about everyone else, prioritizing a news feed cluttered with "friends" brands, companies, and organizations. I think we value the data on personal blogs and websites more because we have specifically chosen to create a personal haven, uncluttered by content we don't choose to publish. It feels more permanent, like buying a car instead of leasing one, or buying a house instead of renting an apartment. It is your chosen, permanent, space that will require constant decisions and considerations and we place great value in them because of this.

 

Fears of the IndieWeb

3 min read

Prior to diving headfirst into the idea of taking back control over my content online, I held a number of reservations about the ongoing process of true ownership. I’m the kind of guy that likes to let other people worry about things when I can and, despite being a fully capable systems administrator, I generally avoid running my own personal servers, hosting accounts, or platforms. I have, traditionally, outsourced this job to hosted platforms like Blogger, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and countless others. Only MySpace has failed me so far, erasing much of my early adulthood from the internet. Why should I turn this control over to smaller teams of developers that may not remain motivated to maintain the projects I’ve, now, come to rely on?

Setting up Known on server reminded me of some of the exciting things about owning and hosting your own content. I appreciate the fact that I have full control over my content, where and how it is stored, and can freely move it between providers, platforms, and software as I desire. On the other hand, I’m worried about the long-term survivability of this as a whole. With Known, specifically, I noticed that many of the plugins required for syndication and backfeeding are either maintained by extremely small groups of people that do not update them frequently (the Twitter plugin, for example), or others that require non-monetary motivation to keep up their service (like Brid.gy, for example). While it is great to see community-driven projects and services like these, I worry about waking up one morning to find that my content no longer syndicates or talks to other services. This is not wholly a terrible thing for someone that owns their own content. It is far better than waking up to find that Twitter or Facebook have experienced major issues or shut down, rendering many years of content lost forever. What it does do is break that link between the IndieWeb and the World Wide Web. At least for now I believe this link to be crucial to the success of the IndieWeb movement.

Most of my online friends and acquaintances will never understand or participate in the IndieWeb, and so I require a bridge between these worlds. On one side I choose what content to post and how it is stored, and it exists mainly on an island that few visit regularly. On the other side is nearly everyone I know, blissfully ignorant of my real home on the web and unable to see any content shared there without manual intervention or working plugins.

This does not all seem bad, though. Maintaining control will require more attention be placed on managing my content, and this time must come from somewhere. I imagine that I’ll slowly begin using social media less, writing more, and learning more about how to develop solutions to problems that arise within my setup. I look forward to the challenge, learning experience, extra writing time, and to hopefully contributing something nice to the IndieWeb community.

Some of my favorite memories of writing online were during the early days of Blogger, prior to the Google acquisition. Personal journals were still a fairly new idea, with fairly few people publishing them. We were a community of people and of writers and we had a connection to each other and a desire to share, help, and enjoy unique content online. This feels like that.

Do you have any thoughts? Ideas? Encouragement? Suggestions? I’m interested to hear them!

 

So, IndieWeb. Giving this a try. Thanks to indirect suggestions from people like @cleverdevil, and through the help of Known, I'm working to bring my content back under my control. Hoping this post, syndication, and backfeeding works as expected!