On archiving your content + my thoughts on POSSE

Squirrelling away your content

Your content is yours: this is a central tenet of IndieWeb. It’s a philosophy that promotes ownership of your online content and it’s been labelled POSSE, an acronym for “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.” Some in the IndieWeb community take this to the extreme and save literally everything they do on the Web, from tweets to check-ins and much more. AltPlatform contributor Chris Aldrich is in this camp – he’s even come up with an elaborate workaround to post onto Facebook, via his own website, but without getting the familiar “mom-autolike” (when your mother likes everything you post, because…well, she’s your mom).

I admire the POSSE philosophy, but I don’t fully agree with it. That’s because I have no desire to post everything I do online onto my website. This is partly due to my profession: I’m a professional writer, so I see my website as kind of an aggregator for all the types of writing I do. I list and promote my books there, I do the same for columns I write for media organisations and posts I write for AltPlatform, I showcase my career archive, I even write the occasional personal blog post. But…I don’t wish to tweet from my website, nor do I want to use it as a social network (that’s what Facebook is for). My website is the central place for anything related to my career, but it’s not a place for me to post a family photo or tweet about the NBA.

That’s just my personal viewpoint, so I’m not saying my way is the best way. Just as what feed reader you use is a personal choice, what you do with your own website is up to you.

The POSSE philosophy did, however, make me think harder about my career archive. Before a few weeks ago, I’d never thought much about archiving all the content I’ve published online – dating back to 2002. Most of that content, and virtually all of it from before 2013, lives on external sites. ReadWriteWeb was the main repository, since that was the professional blog I founded and ran from 2003 to 2012. When I looked into it, I discovered I’d written nearly 3,000 posts in nearly a decade. That’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Yet there was no record of most of those posts on my personal website. So I set out to rectify that and create a career archive.

This week I completed that archiving project. I ended up archiving not just all my ReadWriteWeb posts, but all the articles I’d written for ZDNet and a few other sites. I’d like to tell you this was an easy project, but actually it was very time-consuming. Mainly because most of the original sources (ReadWriteWeb in particular) have changed significantly over the years. So not only was my old RWW content difficult to find on the current site, ReadWrite.com, but almost all of it was buggy (e.g. missing or corrupted images) and looked out of place in the site’s current, rather bland, design. To make matters worse, ReadWrite had deleted some of my old content entirely. Long story short, I used the wonderful Internet Archive to do almost all of my archiving. But that in itself was a painstaking journey – e.g. re-formatting lists of my posts, finding missing months through various hacks, correcting broken links, etc.

You can read more about how I constructed my career archive in a post I did for my personal site.

My point here is that although I don’t wish to post everything I do online on my personal website, I do wish to have a record of all my professional writing work. To me, IndieWeb (a.k.a. Open Web) is about taking care of the content that is important to me from a career perspective. Of course there is content I post on Facebook that is important to me too – such as when I post family photos or post about a show I went to see with my wife. But IMHO that content is native to a social network, not my website. All those likes and comments which may accumulate on a Facebook post belong on that platform. Sure the content may disappear in time, if Facebook ever goes under or (more likely) turns into a massive Virtual Reality social network. But I’m willing to live with that, because I simply don’t want that content on my personal website. It doesn’t belong there.

Of course this is just one person’s perspective, so I’m curious how you view the POSSE philosophy – and how you want to take care of your online content over time.

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