The last few weeks I've been taking back control of my content from the larger sites. A have a few reasons for doing so: (1) the Instagram hubbub got me thinking about content and control; (2) I started a new job at Automattic, purveyors of fine blogging software and want to eat some dog food; and (3) I have stuff scattered about with no real rhyme or reason on where I'm publishing something and a new year brings a resolution to make sense of it all.
If I took a photo, I might publish it to one of six sites being Facebook, Instagram. Flickr, Twitter, Google+ or my personal site. Not to mention texting a photo to a friend or sending via e-mail, but those are more communication mediums than publishing.
Ownership and Control
Domain ownership is fundamental to really owning and controlling your content. If I own the domain, I can move it to wherever I want, I can configure DNS to go to a cloud hosted solution such as WordPress.com or I can point it to my own self-hosted servers. The beautiful part about this is I don't have to tell my audience (assuming I had one) to update bookmarks or navigate to a new place when I make a change.
Imagine the scenario that I use Flickr for all my photos and then wanted to move them to Google+, getting your photos from one site to the other is one issue, but fairly technical and solutions exist. However, the bigger issue is all the people familiar with seeing my photos on Flickr will no longer see them there. There is no way to seamlessly redirect users from Flickr to Google, so you have to work much harder to publicize and link your content in a migration. This is not a technical issue easy to solve but one of people and habits.
If you can't export and use your data elsewhere, you don't really own it. In migrating my content, the only site that made it easy was Google+, so kudos to Google for allowing me to download a zip of my photo albums, this made it easy to download and import them to use elsewhere. Instagram gets the worst grade for making content accessible, but since all of it already existed on my phone nothing was lost. Just took time to find the quality photos I uploaded with all the bad shots I didn't. However, if I had lost my phone it would have been a pain.
Notifications and Driving Traffic
The best thing external sites and social networks provide is the built-in audiences, Facebook is fantastic for this. Almost all of my friends are connected to me on Facebook and uploading something there is almost guaranteed to get me at least one like and a few comments. This is the allure, but don't fall for it. Use the social networks for what they are best at: networking. Instead of putting your content there, provide a link to your site, this is the web, links to other sites not walled gardens.
True, you may receive less comments and likes by doing this but giving up some control for ease of use is enticing but ends up locking you in. Users might take an extra step or two to click, view and like something but those that do are from people really interested in a comment and not a drive-by liking by old high school acquaintances.
Twitter does this best, linking and notifications, it has ended up being a great RSS alternate which for some reason RSS got stuck with just the tech-savvy. With Twitter, I can publish all my links at @mkaz and the people who want to subscribe will receive the updates. Most of my geeky non-family links get published on Twitter, and cute babies for the family links on Facebook, but I might cross post an extra cute photo or two.
Taking Back Control
Now after taking back control, the majority of my content is being published on domains that I own. I did end up with a few sites but still half as many. My personal site mkaz.com, where I publish random posts and articles that tends to be lots of development and geeky stuff. I have a family site at kazmierczaks.com which is where I post family photos that I previously might have posted on Facebook, this is good too for Grandparents who aren't on Facebook they can still see the kiddos.
All these sites are running some version of WordPress be it the self-hosted as is the case for mkaz.com and photos.mkaz.com or cloud hosted by WordPress.com which is the case for kazmierczaks.com and mkaz.wordpress.com.
This isn't just because I work for Automattic, I've been using WordPress for awhile; its because WordPress meets the criteria I'm looking for: it is open source, I can extend, customize and use anyway I want. I can manage my own domain and even the hosted solution gives you the complete ability to export your content and move to a self-hosted site if you wanted to.
So with the new year and resolutions upon us, I ask you to consider, do you control the content you are publishing? Is it yours or does a large corporation own, control and will do with as they please?
- Why I'm Quitting Instagram, by Ryan Block, NY Times blog
- Guardian kills its Facebook social reader regains control over its content