Social Equity and Web ME.0

What if everything we thought about how the web worked was wrong? Suppose we had been duped into believing things are intended to work one way, when it really should have been another? That might very well be the situation. This space is still so new, how could the rules be clearly defined? Particularly when change happen so frequently and new terms come around daily to keep us spinning and confused. I think the time has come to reassess what we’ve experienced to date. I think the time has come to take the internet in directions it needs to go.Up to this point, we have been playing in someone else’s space. Sure, many people (particularly now) have their own corner in the vast sphere of the internet. From your own hovel, you can talk about what you like. You can show pictures of your choosing. You can even decide if your realm is open or closed to the public. Enterprising souls run their business and creative spirits sell their wares. It is all very good and well in that regard.

However, many more people do not have such luxuries and are reliant on others. They set up pages within social networks and build relations within. Hours are spent outlining their lives, interests, hobbies and their friend network. All of this time invested, but none of it has been really theirs. Inevitably, those networks close and your years of patronage are finished. A new land is discovered and the process starts again. And again. And again.

Why? Why not take control of your online existence? Why not have your own home in the wilds of the web where you have your own information, kept for your own use and posterity? Now, above I mentioned some people have this, which is true. However many of them still participate in other communities. Giving up their information and data to others. There is the moment: loss of data.

The web is all about information. Finding it, learning it and sharing it. The internet is nothing without people participating on some level. Otherwise, where does the treasure trove of 1s and 0s come from? It does not create itself. Companies out there gather your information, wrap it in a ‘social’ situation and then funnel advertising, potential friends and interest your way. All your data makes this possible.

Now, what if we switched that model? What if we kept that data privatized? What if we held the keys to our thoughts, hopes and dreams? What if we were our own social networks without the need of mysterious third parties needing to get in the way? What if we took back our data from companies and forced them to deal with us on our terms? What if this were already possible?

The fact is, the social networking of the web has been there from the start when it was a vehicle for people to share their findings with others across the globe. There were no slick and glossy interfaces. It was largely uninspiring aesthetically and limiting in what could be sent with any sort of speed, but it was social. This revolution is simply a repackaging of what was already in place, but now there are dollars attached to it. Yes, many services are free to use. Many of these still manage to make substantial profits from having your data. All I am suggesting is taking control of the information and deciding if you want it to be shared with specific companies. I think if money is to be made off of you, you should be entitled to it.

More importantly than fiscal, though, is the archiving and retaining of your time and efforts. Yes, if you hosted your own site the company could go away over night and all would be lost. While that is always a possibility, it’s more likely that a social network folds. Not even folds but rather falls out of favor. Then, even if you can reclaim all you put in, would you know how? Think about what spaces you play in now. How would you go back and capture your thoughts, images, links and comments from one week ago? One month ago? One year ago? This assumes it is even possible.

Those difficult to access bits are the nuggets companies retain and parse to the delight of their partners. That is how they monetize your life. It’s searchable on some level and part of algorithms on others. While you might not be able to touch it any longer, you can bet they can. Why should they have access you do not. Why should you not be able to take your data with you if and when you chose? Most importantly, why do you not care?

You need to take care of your data, particularly as more and more of our lives get shifted online. You need to understand your social equity in the scheme of the internet. You need to have your own site and build your own social networks. You need to force companies to deal with you, and not the other way around. You need to start this now.

This is not meant to be a complete document. It is to serve as a starting block for thoughts I and Joe Craig (twitter @joe_craig) have been developing since 2008.

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