So, what have I learned in those 5 months? First, it’s surprisingly easy to host your own content. WordPress handles the media management. I haven’t FTPd a single file, nor HTMLd a single line of code. Some of the processes are a little less streamlined than the third-party silo tools offer, but even those only require a couple more clicks in an app on my phone (the WordPress app seems to like me to set image dimensions each time, if I want to constrain to 840px wide). Not the end of the world.
I can easily shoot a photo on my phone, process it with an app or two (if I want), and upload it to my blog with just a couple of clicks. The publishing workflow is basically the same as with the hosted silo services.
Looking at the directory on the server, I use nearly 60MB of space per month of media uploads. I’m only posting photos and screenshot images, and most of them are resized to 840xwhatever before uploading. That works out to about 720MB per year of storage. That could add up over a few years. But, hosting packages typically have several gigabytes of storage available. I’m currently hosting my site on mediatemple, and my [gs] grid hosting package comes with 100GB of storage. I can buy more if I need to, but won’t have to think about that for several years. I’m only using just over 6GB at the moment, and much of that is for some BIG videos (that also make up the lion’s share of my bandwidth usage – if I dump them, my storage and bandwidth are pretty trivial).
The hosting of content is easy, and works really well.
What I’m definitely missing out on is the community layer. Things like the “From Your Contacts” page on Flickr. Even though my ephemeral stuff is presented in a similar manner to how it is on Flickr, I have no way of easily following the activities of dozens of people (or more). I can do it through RSS (and I do), but the simple page showing the latest photos posted by everyone I follow? I miss that. That’s the one thing I still use Flickr for – even though I haven’t posted a photo there in 2 months, I still check the From Your Contacts page almost every day.
I’m starting to think about how to replicate that functionality, in a more generalized way. Flickr’s page is handy, but of course it only handles people that post stuff to Flickr. What about people that post to other services, or to their own sites? A more generalized display that is service-agnostic would be great. Since most sites and services already do RSS, it seems likely that something could be built around RSS feeds. I already subscribe to the feeds of many people and follow their activity streams that way, but there isn’t an at-a-glance latest activity view.
This is the kind of thing that is often “solved” by inventing a new tool or app, and just waiting for everyone to adopt it. Because that always works out so well. What’s needed isn’t a single tool, but a way to easily follow activity (not just content) of many people over many sites and services. Feels kind of like RSS, but only geeks seem to do RSS anymore. If there isn’t a simple Like or Follow or +1 button, it’s a non-starter. But then we’re firmly back in third-party silos territory…
The connections between people, outside of the third party silos, is still complicated, messy, and way more difficult than it should be.