Doing my part to fix the internet

I happened upon this tweet from my friend Whitney the other day:

It links to Vicki Boykis’s post, Fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people. Boykis articulates a problem that I’ve been chafing against recently, that I had chalked up to nostalgia. In the early days of the web, and even as the web came into what I consider its adolescence, she writes:

People used to write blogs. Long blogs. Rambling blogs. Blogs they weren’t sure anyone was reading. There was a LOT of noise. But there were also blogs that had fun stories, long posts about how to do something, analyses of government issues, of cooking techniques, of the Civil War. People used to write stuff other people wanted to read.

And then traces the process of consolidation of content and the move of the web from a medium where content was the product to a medium where content is the wrapper and eyes on ads are the product:

Whereas before content used to be spread out on numerous domains in numerous ways, content now mostly makes its home on the three domains that are most hostile to thoughtful human discussion: Twitter, Medium, and Facebook.

Now, she says, those of us who use these services are generating content that they are leveraging to make money off of us. Theoretically, we’re getting their services in trade for this content, but we aren’t where they make their money. We trade our content to them, and they trade our attention to advertisers.

The internet is broken; this is how it is broken. And, she insists, it is in our power to fix it. She identifies five steps we can take to do so:

  1. Write your own blog on your own platform.
  2. Share good content.
  3. Acknowledge creators by paying them.
  4. Use adblockers.
  5. Engage in dialogue with people who are different from you.

In the comments on the post, Chris Aldrich mentions that this advice aligns well with the IndieWeb movement. Well, I fell down that rabbit hole, and here we are: I have put all the tech in place that I need to, I think, for my publishing to happen here at kimberlyhirsh.com, go out to my various social places, and then have responses come back here. This post will serve as sort of a test to find out.

So tell me: are you seeing this post somewhere in the world? Where? 

Of course, that process really only addresses Boykis’s first step. I took a social media hiatus recently and tried to remember how I used to use the internet. And it really was blogs, forums, and LiveJournal. I’m certainly not going back to LJ, and so far I haven’t found forums that satisfy me, but good blogging is still happening, so I loaded a bunch into Feedly. Then I returned to social media a bit more consciously, and I do think I’ve been sharing good content then. But – you guessed it – now, I’m going to share that good content here.

As for the third step, I do this a little bit already, via Patreon. There I support Kim Werker, Emm Roy, and Kate Allan. I keep an eye out for other creators I like to support directly. Serendipitously enough, two posts came across my radar on Feedly from Geek and Sundry introducing their new partnership with Nerdist, Project Alpha. It’s a subscription platform providing exclusive content and other content in advance, and I think I’m going to try it out. I’m also probably going to try Seeso, too.

I have been taking a break from adblockers, but I definitely feel it’s time to get them back into my life.

As for number five, here’s where things get tricky. I can track down good blogs and engage in conversations there. But some of the most important conversations in my life are happening in proprietary spaces: Facebook Groups, Twitter, and Tumblr. As a new mom, Facebook Groups are an invaluable resource. As an academic and professional, Twitter is where many of the important conversations in my areas of interest happen. And fandom, well – it kind of lives on Tumblr these days, doesn’t it? If you have managed to move to engaging these platforms almost exclusively via your own hosted platform, how are you doing that? And are you doing it on mobile devices? Because that’s where a lot of my internetting needs to happen.

For the time being, I think my long form writing will happen exclusively here, but it will probably be a process to move short-form here.

Also on:

Monday Musing

I don’t know if this will become a regular feature, but here’s a quick thought I’m having today:

What happens when the quirky best friend becomes the main character?

I was thinking about this a few days ago when I revisited the paltry amount I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2008.  I, myself, actually preferred my narrator’s best friends to the narrator herself.  And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, maybe I should write THAT book – about those people.

I then thought about books with characters who really tugged at my heart.  It’s a convention in video games that the main character should be rather non-descript.  This makes it easier for players to identify with him or her (almost always him, in games).  This is why it’s funny when you get people talking about which video game character is most like them and the’ll say "I’m just like so-and-so!" and all I can think is, "So you have a mysterious past and terrible tragedy and no personality traits?"

It feels natural to me that books should operate the same way, and I think one of the reasons the Twilight series is so popular is that Bella is (at least in the first one) average and non-descript.  She has average hair and average intelligence, she’s averagely pretty and can’t figure out why anybody would think she’s special, but she IS special… etc.  (I haven’t read any except Twilight so I’m basing all statements on that.)

So for my NaNo I wrote that girl – completely lacking in personality except that she was sometimes sullen but also loved her parents very much (something any girl with good parents can relate to, I think).  But her best friend had loads of personality – wild hair, funny clothes, was a band kid, etc.

And she interested me SO MUCH MORE.  My favorite characters in all of kidlit/YA are probably Lola Cep from Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Cyd Charisse from Gingerbread.  These are both distinctive characters, dramatic and alternachick.  Lola’s friend Ella is absolutely every-girl, and I like her quite well but I don’t find her interesting.  (I haven’t read the book about her.)

Anyway.  I guess those of us who consider ourselves a bit weird need characters that reflect us, which is why we do get those quirky kids as main characters sometimes, too.