Where do you go for community?
(It is a little known fact that every time a pub closes, an angel dies)
I use the site Blipfoto to do the photo a day thing. I’m not that active over there, but it is one of those sites that some people really, really, love. It has developed a strong community over the years, but this week it was announced it was going into liquidation. It may not be lost, as a buy-out may be on the cards, but it’s a reminder of the fragility of these things. It doesn’t bother me too much, I started a WordPress blog to do the same, and I’m in the lucky position of having my main network elsewhere. But for many users, Blipfoto is the place they go to connect with people.
Of course, the obvious solution is to own everything yourself and self-host. But there are two issues with this – if you want to connect around a particular interest you need to go where others with that interest are located. You can build up a network through self hosted blogs, as many of us have done, but a specific site is an easier thing to manage, and also allows for more serendipity I think. I have seen photos from people who work on North Sea oil rigs, people doing relief work in Mongolia, others who have the same dog as me, as well as connecting with the people I know through other means. Those other connections don’t always happen through your self hosted sites. The second reason is that while I might just about manage to host my own WP site, it’s really into something a lot of people will do. The ease of use and simple purpose of such sites is their attraction.
Ultimately I think it’s just one of those things. Online services have no more right to permanence than physical ones. We have complex, emotional attachments to buildings because of the social function they perform. Think of the impact the closing of the village pub has on that community. Why did we imagine online spaces would be any easier? Enjoy it while you can, make sure you have a backup and remember nothing lasts forever – that’s about the sum of it.
Do you think microformats, Webmentions and other Indieweb stuff might help with serendipity for the self-hosted? It’s something I plan to learn a bit more about, and to try out…
Hi Simon – it’s a good point. Must admit I haven’t looked at them much. I think they might be one of those things that end up being a bit too techie for many people. The joy of a specialist service is that it does the thinking for you, and makes it easy. But who knows?
Diaspora, that’s what we needed. Shame they couldn’t actually implement it. WordPress.com is the closest we’ve come to it. There is a genuine community there with serendipitous discovery around individual hubs.
There are few things sadder than a closed pub.
I’ve done some writing about Blip and agree with you. I think it’s interesting that people look at Facebook, an online environment which seems to have some longevity, and imagine that they will all survive while forgetting all the other services which have disappeared (Bebo, MySpace, etc)
No-one foresaw the demise of MySpace at the time, certainly not Murdoch.