silos of people


I’ve been experimenting with bits of software to take control of my online content. The functionality is all there for me to run my own stuff, without feeding corporate silos. I can post text, images, photos, videos. I can store files and access them from anywhere. Without having to hand my bits over to any company.

Except when I want to play with others. To do that, I still need to wade into the silos. Flickr isn’t about photo storage or hosting - it’s about seeing what my friends and family are photographing. Twitter isn’t about posting 140char updates - it’s about seeing the flow of activity from the people I care about.

Although I can reproduce the content-centric functionality for posting and sharing content online, I can only do it in an extremely antisocial way. I do it by myself, on my own. Away from others. Alone.

I’d nuked my Facebook account long ago. I was happy to not be feeding Zucker’s beast. Until I realized that (nearly) everyone I cared about was there - people who would never post to a blog, or maintain a photo site, or anything that’s content-centric and close to the metal. They just want to hang out and share stuff with people they care about. So I sucked it up and recreated a Facebook account. I’m torn - on the one hand, it felt like a failure. On the other hand, it feels like a great way to keep up with what friends and family are doing - especially since many of them would never venture out of the corporate silo to post things on their own.

But the feeling of failure is pretty strong. I think we’re failing as a culture, when the only effective way to connect with people is to hand our social (online- and offline) network graphs to a corporation to monetize at will. Our social connections are far too important to trust them to Google, Facebook, Twitter, or the next big shiny thing. We need to step up, somehow, and take control back. I have no idea how that could happen. There have been many false starts1234, but they’ve been so highly technical that the people that really need them wouldn’t have even known that options existed (and so they didn’t, really). That’s why corporate silos have been so successful - they make the plumbing of online social connection disappear as much as possible.

We need a human-scale, non-technical way for individuals to manage their connections with other individuals, without having to hand control over those connections to any company to mine and monetize. It’s not about content - it’s about managing connections to people, and to the things they are doing.

Update: As usual, Boone Gorges is already thinking about this, in far greater depth than I managed. Awesome. I’ll be thinking through how I should Reclaim. Sign me up.


  1. OpenID - own your online identity! ↩︎

  2. Diaspora - Your own personal Facebook ↩︎

  3. FOAF - xml describing your identity and social graph ↩︎

  4. probably a bunch more that I just can’t think of right now… ↩︎


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Last updated: November 28, 2022