Today, I’m embarking on a new blogging project. Something that I’ve had planned for a very long time. I’m building my own microblog – just for myself. People who’ve known me for a while know that blogging doesn’t work for me. I always get these huge plans into my head and overburden myself which then leads to me basically never writing a post. I’ve tried to get a blog started with many different approaches over the last decade and it never stuck. I’ve nuked more blogs off the face of the internet than I can remember.
Microblogging, mostly Twitter, on the other hand has always worked well for me. I think I can claim I’m relatively prolific on this front (roughly 116K tweets since 2008). I’ve also tried to get off Twitter several times, though1. The decentralised service identi.ca worked for me for a while, but in the end I migrated back to where all the users were.
My reasons to wanting to get off Twitter a twofold. Firstly, I’ve learned that decentralised services do not work for this kind of application, because everyday users always flock to centralised systems – simply because they are easier to use and everyone is in one place. But I am still not comfortable with a company from the Silicon Valley owning all the content I’ve published on their service. They could delete it off the web simply on a whim. Which leads into my second concern, which is specific to Twitter. Twitter has a well-documented history of disadvantaging and banning people for arbitrary reasons. Mostly if the politics of those users strongly diverge from those of decision makers at Twitter HQ.
If you’re reading this and are thinking “why is he worried, is he suddenly going to start spewing right wing propaganda?”, I’d like to point out that it is not the specific reason for banning and allegedly shadow banning people that worries me. It’s that the company does this based on their own, subjective political ideals. And they do it for other reasons too. I once got shut off from the service for a time for tweeting too much about ice hockey during the 2010 Winter Olympics, if you can believe it. Twitter apparently thought I was posting spam, even though it was trivial to see that I wasn’t. I was just posting a lot. I didn’t know that wasn’t allowed… Meanwhile, I’ve gotten porn spam that’s obvious to spot from 2008 to this very day.
This worries me. I often say things that are unpopular, because I strongly believe in saying what you think is right. It’s not inconceivable that some idiot at Twitter suddenly takes a dislike to something I’ve said and deletes my account. Or that they cave to a mob of assholes who don’t like something I wrote about Star Citizen. I still don’t know why I don’t have a verified account, even though I requested it in exactly the same way several colleagues of mine successfully did. They got verified with a lot less followers and a lot less presence on the web. If you ask me, I think it was because the week before, I wrote a column saying I didn’t like the Milo ban and thought Twitter was behaving like Erdoğan in Turkey. That probably got some sort of flag raised on my account. Sorry that I say things you don’t like, you twats. That’s my job.
Aside from that, I’ve also noticed very peculiar things happening to my follower numbers.2 It’s almost as if my posts don’t appear in a lot of people’s streams anymore. I do know that I’m on a lot of block lists – a lot of them blocked me in the aftermath of Gamergate, simply because of people I followed myself, not based on my tweets or retweets.3
Despite all of this, I probably won’t be able to leave Twitter behind completely. It’s just too important to be visible on the web, not to mention the immense benefit it has as a tool I use as part of my job every single day. But I can try and cut down the stuff I post on there and rather post on sites I control myself. And that’s exactly what I aim to do with this new blog.
For those, who are interested in the nuts and bolts: I’ve built this site with Hugo and my own modifications on Josh Habdas’ After Dark theme. Hugo will hopefully give me the flexibility to quickly get content up as I only need a text editor, the hugo executable and SSH to update the site.
- I actually started microblogging on a forgotten platform called Jaiku back in the day. [return]
- Not to mention that I can’t follow more people myself at this point, because of Twitter’s dumb limits. [return]
- Hello…? I’m a journalist, you fucks. I need sources. You know… for coverage? Following someone doesn’t mean you agree with them! [return]