I spent 2008/2009 playing a lot with social networking, trying all the new sites that came along, looking at how people benefit, or don’t benefit from all the connection and sharing. I’ve decided to change what/how I share in 2010 based on this. A quote I read this morning from Brian Clark of copyblogger.com that summed it up neatly. "For me, there’s really no appeal in spending a lot of time creating “user-generated” content via a social networking application. That’s like remodeling the kitchen in a house you rent."
First, I’m going to be a lot more choosy about where I share what content. In 2009, I hooked up my kencooking site, this site, as well as my flickr account to Facebook. My reasoning was sound, I don’t have any intention to make money on my hobby cooking site, and certainly didn’t expect to make money on my personal blog, so why not just publish the content widely? After all, I thought, it might bring more readers to my sites, and start some conversations. Also, my family has started getting on Facebook, they’re not online browsing folks, they are far more likely to see what’s going on if I put it in one place.
Interestingly, this route had an expected, but unintentional result. I got conversations and interest, on Facebook. My friends and family didn’t go read any of my blogs, they just responded to things on Facebook. After all, putting a feed in Facebook means your content is copied there. And, unfortunately, only the first revision is copied, so if you update/correct it later, Facebook doesn’t update the content. To keep content current, I now have to manage my blog and manage it’s copy on Facebook.
Earlier this year, I created my own URL shortener . I actually created two, also installing YOURLS. I did this because several companies were getting funding based on their aggregation of MY data! These companies started catching on because of the popularity of Twitter, another site that caught on based on MY data!
By using Other Peoples URL Shorteners, you’re increasing their value, but you’re not getting paid for that, nor are you increasing your value. I suddenly realized I was again helping creating an industry that wanted to track me, my usage of the Internet, and make money from it. That may not bother the majority of folks, but if you are creating something of value, and someone else is going to make a living off what you create, doesn’t that make you think just a little bit about that? Especially if you’re creating something, and want to give it away for free, are you OK with other people making money on what you’re choosing to give away? As Google, and a variety of other companies are amassing huge amounts of data about you, and what you do online, and correlating that to a variety of other information, does that make you want to own any of your data a little bit more?
This data is only valuable in the large aggregation of it. And, it took me 15 minutes to set up my very own shortener. I own the data, I know how many people clicked on my links, and I’m not giving someone else data I generated that they can turn into a statistics stream. I also don’t have to worry about the links disappearing at some point in the future, so I can safely use the shortened links in my own blog entries.
Which brings me back to Facebook. Facebook copies content linked to it. It doesn’t point to it, Facebook doesn’t want you leaving Facebook. There’s a lot of value in that model for Facebook, but not much for anyone who creates content outside of Facebook.The same concept goes for Twitter, although Twitter is more "stream of consciousness". But, with Microsoft and Google making (lucrative) deals to archive all Twitter content, it’s back to other people making money on your contributed and free content.
A small example: I create a recipe on kencooking.com. If you go look at that recipe on kencooking.com, the web site tracks that, I can look at my statistics and find out that pulled pork bbq recipes are the most popular. That tells me that if I wanted to, I could focus on BBQ recipes, because people who visit the site read those more. If I publish that recipe on Facebook, I will only know via comments if anyone has seen it. I get no statistics at all about what people read, unless they comment. As any blogger knows, there are a LOT more readers than commenters!
I also started getting concerned about Facebook late last year, when I began getting "recommendations" for people I might know that weren’t based on any data I’d provided to Facebook. I didn’t give Facebook my address, and I’d only provided a nearby city location for one company, yet I got two recommendations for people who lived on streets I’d lived on in the general area (and not necessarily the same city!). Facebook must have gathered information about places I’ve lived from someplace else to get those very specific recommendations. It always concerns me a little when a company is amassing information about me, using information it’s gathering about me from other public sources. Especially a site like Facebook, which is suppose to be about sharing information!
I’ve decided I want to be a little smarter about how I share my content. I want people to visit my own places on the Internet to get information, not to give it all away for others to make money from. I don’t plan on making any money from the majority of this content, but that doesn’t mean I want other people to make money from this very same content! I’ll track my own statistics, and get more actual information about what people read or don’t read. Of course, that means weaning myself from services I depend on, such as Google Analytics, but there are alternatives that I can run myself. If my content is worth time creating, it’s worth a little more time to manage the statistics gathering and reporting myself.