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Where exactly is all this content in Facebook, Twitter, et al. coming from?

Feed reader revolution (Chris Aldrich | BoffoSocko)

It's time to embrace open & disrupt social media

@chrisaldrich asks us to think about "Where exactly is all this content in Facebook, Twitter, et al. coming from?"

Feed reader revolution (Chris Aldrich | BoffoSocko)

It's time to embrace open & disrupt social media

If you want to read content in Facebook, you have to log in and have an account and participate there directly, you cannot just subscribe to five peoples’ content via RSS and read it anywhere you want. This monopolistic behavior is exactly the reason we call them silos. Content goes in but doesn’t come back out. Like the early days of AOL, some people now think that Facebook is the internet. Once you’re inside and using their system, they literally do everything they can to keep you from escaping including framing external content within their app so that you can more easily go straight back to their addictive Facebook stream.

But let’s ask us an important question: Where exactly is all this content on Facebook, Twitter, et al. coming from? While a significant portion is coming from individual users whose entire online presence and identities are on these platforms, a relatively large part of it is being pumped into these silos via API or similar access from blogs and other websites in an attempt to increase their reach and interaction.

Just think for a minute about how close the New York Times and other news outlets have come in the past several years to potentially shutting down their own websites to push all of their content delivery into the capable hands of Facebook? Or how many magazine outlets transitioned from other platforms like WordPress and even Tumblr to Medium just before Medium made their recent pivot and let go of a major part of their staff? Can you imagine how troublesome or even catastrophic things would have been or would be if sites like Medium or Facebook went down, got bought out, or disappeared altogether–potentially taking all their data with them? Or what happens weeks, months, or even years later if those social silos change their minds?

So if we go back to our first paragraph and think about what we’ve just covered, we might consider the fact that most traditional feed readers have simply become middle-man software for feeding data into social silos while extracting little, if any data, back out. This is a lopsided bargain and is, in large part, what is inexorably killing the traditional feed readers’ business model.

Preach it!

Chris is working on a book; a sort of users manual to creating more open spaces. I can't wait to read it.

I wrote or linked to a number of articles in 2014 and 2016 about the downsides to social media and my attempts to free myself from Google and Facebook's experiments. I no longer spend any significant time on either platform but I am quite excited to have found the tribe that understands the vulnerabilities these entities present to an open web.

Back in 2012, I read John Battelle's responses1 to Facebook's change in terms of service:

As the years have progressed the web has gotten a lot more social, and it makes more sense to have our own brand and site. We can still be ‘on’ Facebook in the sense that we plug into News Feed and fan pages, but having our own brand gives us full, top to bottom control over the product experience, something that we think is critical for building the best tool possible for organizers to create campaigns for social change., a blogging platform made for love, not profit

I've recently started using, an open-source blogging platform that it's developer, John O'Nolan, hopes will bring back the art of "just blogging1". Ghost, unlike established players like WordPress or Joomla, has no interest in being a content-management system. It's meant to be simple to setup and use. I liked the promise of Ghost. Unlike most blogging platforms today which are based on PHP, Ghost is built on top of the popular server-side2 JavaScript engine, Node.js.

Today it's no longer about media outlets broadcasting, and instead, users now participate as publishers on the platforms of their choosing as content creators as well. Ghost stands on the shoulders of those that have come before, thereby having an extremely unfair advantage. Further still, we enable both companies and individuals to retain complete ownership of their content.John O'Nolan

Getting setup on Ghost is easy or challenging depending on if you want to build your own setup from scratch or want a turn-key solution. Very few hosting providers have an environment that supports Ghost and Node.js and the online documentation doesn't explain this clearly. It took me a while to realize that my shared hosting provider's environment was unsuitable to the task3.

Fortunately hosting provider Digital Ocean has embraced early adopters and provided both a one-click installation for Ghost as well as very detailed instructions if you want to do it all yourself.

" Editor Screenshot"

Once you have a working Ghost install, you can start blogging right away. Ghost has a straightforward text editor that uses the Markdown language to insert objects such as images and links. This is not a what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor. However, you can see the output of the Markdown editor on the right hand pane of the editor. The Markdown is parsed and converted to HTML tags in real-time. It works but it can be a little disconcerting when the preview pane jumps as you insert images. I do a lot of photo blogging.

Despite the dogmatism of some people on the Ghost forums, Ghost could benefit from providing WYSIWYG options via plugins. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to enter Markdown text on a mobile device keyboard. I love my iPad but for blogging on my iPad I use Poster. The GUI makes it easy to insert images and Markdown-formatted text and links into my articles. Perhaps this feature will be addressed by a plug-in in the future.

Here’s and example of some Markdown.

This is a [link to my blog]( will produce.

This is a link to my blog.

Here’s the Markdown for inserting this image.

![ Preview Screenshot]( Preview Screenshot

The Ghost Editor has no spell checker, and you can't add one via plugins at this time. For a lot of my blogging on the WordPress platform I use now, I use an OS X Markdown text editor, Byword, and a small utility called Quick Cursor4. The app, Byword, has a spell checker, and QuickCursor allows me to automate the process of copying/pasting text between Byword and any text input field — whether in a browser or another app. Unfortunately, the Ghost text editor is written completely in JavaScript so that browser-based spell checkers won’t work, and integrated editors like Byword won't work either. Hopefully, once the plugin architecture is complete, third parties will write a spell checker.

Once you are done creating/editing your post you can click the "Save Draft" button or click the little down arrow to publish your entry. This is simple and straight forward publishing. However, there is a down side. The current alpha version of Ghost does not support setting a post date into the future. You'll have to publish your content in real-time. This is a temporary problem as a "future post date" feature is planned for the next release of Ghost.

However, this makes things difficult for people like me, who often get a burst of creativity at hours when most people are still sleeping or watching TV. This means that I can't schedule my posts to be live and be posted to social media at the times when people are most likely to be in front of a computer screen. This is the number one thing holding me back from embracing Ghost as my main blogging platform. To embrace Ghost fully now, I would either have to save all my posts as drafts and remember to come back later and make them go live at the right times or I would have to change my blogging habits and blog live. I’ll wait for the update. User Profile Screenshot

The settings page is where you can adjust the user profile and change blog settings such as themes. Most of the Ghost themes I’ve seen appear very similar, but I can say that about WordPress themes as well. There is a small but growing market for premium themes, but I may take it upon myself to learn enough CSS to build my own.

I’m not sure about the purpose of the user profile, and it's big Google+ like banner.

I'm not going into every feature currently available (or planned) for Ghost but the roadmap is lengthy. Someday soon, I may have a blog post announcing my switch to Ghost. In the meantime, the lack of a spell checker, plugin architecture and post scheduling makes me hesitant to move way from the tried and true, WordPress.

  1. I'm not sure what that means really. For some blogging might be just text, for others like me, it’s text and images. I think defining this too narrowly could limit the feature set of the platform too much. 
  2. Yes, server-side JavaScript is making a comeback long after the death of Netscape. 
  3. Media Temple’s shared environment uses nginx to server user content and Apache for the administrative console. That means I had no way too install or configure nginx as a reverse proxy. 
  4. QuickCursor is no longer in active development but you can download source code on Github.