We Need An Identity Re-Aggregator (That We Control)

The subject of "owning your own domain" has been covered to death in our industry, with excellent posts from Anil Dash and others (Fred) explaining the importance of having your own place on the web. I've also weighed in on the importance of "The Independent Web," where creators have…


The subject of “owning your own domain” has been covered to death in our industry, with excellent posts from Anil Dash and others (Fred) explaining the importance of having your own place on the web. I’ve also weighed in on the importance of “The Independent Web,” where creators have control, as opposed to the Dependent Web, where platforms ultimately control how your words, data, and expression are leveraged.

But not everyone gravitates toward having their own, independent site – at least not initially. Even those who do have sites don’t necessarily see those sites as the best place to express themselves. I was reminded of this reading a Quora thread over the weekend entitled “What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?” (The subtitle of the thread is hilarious: “Don’t they know how bad it is before it comes out?”)

The question elicited a well written, funny, and informative post by one Sean Hood, a professional “fixer” of scripts who had worked on the recent “Conan the Barbarian” movie – apparently a big-time summer flop.

It’s clear that Hood was inspired to write a wonderful post not because he wanted to muse out loud on his own blog (he does, it turns out, have one), but because of something particularly social in nature about Quora.

The same, I’d wager, can be said of Google+, where a lot of folks, including well know “traditional bloggers” like Robert Scoble are content to post at length, regardless of the fact that Google+, unlike blogging software like WordPress, is not a platform that they “control.” Ditto places like the Huffington Post, Facebook, ePinions, Amazon Reviews – you get the picture. The web is full of places where the value is created by authors, but control and monetization accrues, in the main, to the company, not the individual.

Scoble, who is paid by the hosting company Rackspace to be nearly omnipresent, is clearly an edge case. He’s a professional blogger, but he doesn’t really care where his words live, as long as they get a lot of attention. Traditional authors, like, for example, the folks behind Dooce or The Awl, are far less likely to leave their core value – their words – all over the web, and in particular, they don’t see the point of given that value away for free, when their own sites provide their economic lifeblood (both sites are FM partners, but there are tens of thousands of others as well.).

The downsides of not owning your own words, on your own platform, are not limited simply to money. Over time, the words and opinions one leaves all over the web form a web of identity – your identity – and controlling that identity feels, to me, a human right. But unless you are a sophisticated netizen, you’re never going to spend the time and effort required to gather all your utterances in one place, in a fashion that best reflects who you are in the world.

Every site has a different terms of service – rules which guide what rights you have when you post on the site. I haven’t read them all (most of us don’t), but I’d imagine most of the would allow you to take your own words and cut and paste them on your own site, should you be so inspired. On his personal blog, Sean Hood, the film writer, has linked to many of his past answers on Quora. But he hasn’t “re-posted” them – which I think is a shame. Because while Quora is a great service, should it go dark, Sean’s words will be lost.

Earlier in the year I wrote a piece called “The Rise of Meta Services,” in which I posited that we need a new class of services that help us make sense of the fractured nature of all the sites, apps, and platforms we’re using. I’d wager there’s a great opportunity to create such a service that follows individuals around the web, noting, indexing, and reposting everything he or she writes back to his or her own domain.

Or maybe there’s already a WordPress plugin for that?!

10 thoughts on “We Need An Identity Re-Aggregator (That We Control)”

  1. I use this logic in every “how to blog” training I do– owning your own domain gives you a better guarantee that you’ll own your own words than writing in anyone’s free space.

    I think there are a lot of aggregation options out there for those who care to broadcast one message to multiple audiences. Tumblr is the one I see used the most by friends and peers, sharing a single post across multiple platforms.

    As far as Scoble goes, though, his ubiquity wound up being something of a turn-off for me, and it’s informed my decision not to totally aggregate my online writing. I unfollowed him on Twitter because he was SO active, and hearing that he’s that way on Google + is just one more reason not to rush to get active there.

    Great post!

  2. Backtype used to scan the web for my comments and aggregate them all in one place, but I lost track of them. Doing a quick search, it seems they got acquired by Twitter.

    Also, check out the Salmon Protocol. From their website: “The Salmon Protocol is an open, simple, standards-based solution that lets aggregators and sources unify the conversations. It focuses initially on public conversations around public content.”


  3. I actually take the opposite approach now. I start with all of my content on sites I own )I have 3 main sites I use) and post everything there. Then I distribute my content on the appropriate channel. I use Tumblr for most of my Twitter posts (excluding reply’s) and Posterous for Twitter and Facebook. Both have my own URL. I guess the next step would be to put them on sites I actually host.

  4. exacto lo que tendríamos que hacer es renovar nuestro control para así salvarnos del spam y tener un sistema mas sofisticado, hoy por hoy existen muchas companias que las pagan por hacer spam entonces por que no crear una plataforma antispam..precisely what we should do is to renew our control in order tosave us from spam and have more sophisticated systems, todaythere are many companies who pay for spamming so why notcreate a platform for antispam ..

      1. It’s called Mibrary. Most easily explained as the Pinterest of insights… as you create content across the web on various platforms (blog, quora, twitter, YouTube, slideshare, etc.) you send it to a library and express what the content means to, or why it’s important (a single “insight”). In the end, you have a library of organized insights that serve as a gateway to your strongest signals across the web.

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