The second day of the hottest Internet conference in the region, WebFest.Me, started with Zé Fontainhas, the founder of the Portuguese WordPress community. He is a developer, core contributor and the translators’ team lead. When describing himself, he lists as his main activities, in this sequence: rock’n roll, dry martinis, WordPress. However, his main worry is content:
“Your content, my content is being posted everywhere and there is a real danger there. The question is, who owns what? Who owns the content when you post on Facebook, Twitter, everywhere? If you do not read the terms of service, how do you know what you are giving up and if you want to give it up?”
Fontainhas was willing to bet money on the following: Facebook will die. Everything dies, he explains:
“Companies die, morph, transfer into other things, investors come in…. You are not paying Facebook anything, the investor is, so it’s the investors’ say.”
At that point, users will lose their data. If what you create (be it a photo, post, idea, status) goes directly to Twitter, Facebook, Flick and similar services – you have no control over it any more. It is stored on someone else’s server and quite literally, out of your hands. We need a way of going to the social networks and retrieving the content, or something will happen to it. Someday.
Fontainhas learned this lesson the hard way. His own personal website was on GeoCities that was 3rd most visited website on the net at the time. After some time, the investors got in the picture and GeoCities shut down.
Doing it right
This is not supposed to scare you, just make you think a little bit about how you are using the web and why. Now that we know that what we’re doing is wrong, how do we do it right? Fontainhas offers a solution: the hub. He explains your personal website should act like a hub from which you will send things out to other social networks.
All you need is your own .ME domain name and WordPress.
“WordPress is the best thing since sliced bread, but apart from that, why I recommend it is the reasons that distinguish it from other CMS’s out there. It is better because it has a monumental share of market, the estimate is that it powers 15-20 percent of the web. The result is that it has a huge community, so you can bet if you have a problem that someone else had it and there is most likely a solution out there.”
It is open source, whatever you install is yours and you can tinker with everything. There are plugins that do just about anything you can think of, mobile apps to let you access your site from any device and you are able to export your data. It is free and yours and nobody can tell you how to run it.
Doing it better
If you want to take it to the next level, you can do it not only right, but do it better. You should control not only what comes out of the house, but capture what comes back. An example is Instagram: there are ways to make it so that everything you post somewhere else (not on your hub) comes back to you as content.
An excellent tool that integrates most API’s is: if this, then that. It is a simple tool that allows you to connect APIs to eachother, meaning you can teach it to do something on one site based on what happened on another website.
Fontainhas is not telling us to stop using Facebook and Twitter, just to use them in a way that we can control. We should define where our important content lives. The enemy no. 1 is laziness, he says, because it is convenient to go on Facebook and do something with what we were given… but at the end of the day, many people do everything on Facebook.
“You yourself have to decide what is worth keeping and what is not. Maybe you really do not need every tweet and every Facebook post, but the important pieces of content, you should have control over it. You should have it on your own servers and your own hard drives.”