Once upon a time, there was a different way to view content on the web, but then something happened. People were and still are producing content, but the right people weren’t making money from it. In the distant past, people would write stuff, and it would be theirs, and they could choose to monetize it or give it away.
Then Facebook hoovered it up. You could write stuff, and post it on this handy medium that all your friends were subscribed to, and they could splatter ads all around it, and the revenue from those ads would go to…Facebook. Not the people writing it. And Facebook realized that they could be in charge of curating it and organizing it anyway they wanted and splicing in stuff from people you never heard of and learned to dislike (spawning more “interaction”) with more ads and ‘sponsored content’, and you’d read it anyway, trawling through all the trash strewn about to get at the gems you were looking for. And thus was doomscrolling born, and Facebook’s coffers grew ever more swole.
Along came Twitter, which at least had the advantage of pandering to short attention spans. People, you will write teeny-tiny bon mots and Twitter will organize them for you and lay them out in an ever-flowing smorgasbord of hot takes, and, oh yes, ads. The revenue from those ads would go to…Twitter. Not the people writing it.
I think there might be a theme here. Get other people to do the creative work that the corporate entity will profit from.
Twitter has succeeded despite
Adding another kink. /1
You have to string /2
Your thoughts together /3
Into multiple tweets /4
In order to assemble /5
A more complex story. /6
We willingly do this despite the fact that there’s another way to do this that’s more organic and straightforward, and that doesn’t funnel profit away from the creator and to a big corporation. It’s these things called blogs.
So why don’t people just switch to reading blogs? There are still plenty of us out there. The problem is that there used to be a popular, easy-to-use way to curate and organize your collection of interesting blogs called RSS — Really Simple Syndication — and there were these things called RSS readers that organized a list of blogs you liked and would highlight new entries for you, so you’d just scroll through a list that you assembled (unlike Facebook) and that you could choose to see either a quick synopsis (like Twitter) or the full length text (unlike Twitter). But that didn’t remunerate Zuck or Jack, so it died or was discouraged. Google killed their popular Google Reader app in 2013.
And thus we ended up here, where Facebook can poison the culture and make loads of money from it, while Twitter is a forum for blipverts where Trump-like loons can thrive. There were loons in the blog age, too, but at least corporations didn’t make billions by promoting the idiots and throwing them in the faces of everyone else.
But maybe they could come back.
Most existing blogs retain a relic of bygone days, an alternative access point through an RSS feed. It’s still there — Pharyngula has one at freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/feed/, but if you read it without an RSS reader it’s an ugly mess of XML code.
So get one. There are ways to patch together readable RSS access to lots of services like blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and even Twitter — here’s a list. With a little work you can reconstitute the capabilities we had in 2005, and also get access to the writings of human beings without supporting a corporate parasite.
There are other options on the horizon. Google may be adding RSS subscriptions to Chrome.
(Oh look. It’s on Twitter rather than in a blog I could link to.)
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me at all, yet. It’s a work in progress, and right now setting it up on systems where it does work is rather awkward.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had more control, and if Mark Zuckerberg weren’t profiting off the actual creative work of writers and video makers?