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Owning Your Own Work

Before I start my article, I am dropping this short paragrpah and link here - after publication. I only became aware of it it recently, through my friends on micro blog. It is dated August 24th, 2011 - and today, on December 12th 2018 - every bit as relevant.

I draw and paint on paper using pen, ink, and watercolor. I then scan and publish my work on this web site. People then visit and read this graphic novel, or if you prefer, webcomic. Occasionally, I write a blog post like this one. There is art and there is commentary, but there is no content and there are certainly no consumers.”

Don Macdonald - here

And so to my article:

There I did it. I said content’. I truly hate that word. To parpahrase myself;

Content is a horrible, generic, cheap, anything will do’ kind of word. Which is why content’ has no value. It is in the best interests of buyers of our sweat, labour, thought and time to keep their prices down. So they pretend it is homogenous. It is not.

And so - given that it has no value … why do you care if you own it? I’ll come to that, but first a little more on that 7 letter word. C-O-N-T-E-N-T.

Creators should;

STOP using THEIR words to describe OUR work. OUR soul. OUR belief. OUR effort.

START using OUR words to describe OUR work. OUR soul. OUR belief. OUR effort.

Words like book, novel, short story, article, white paper, promotional piece, advert, painting, sculpture, song, opera, photograph, image, graphic art …. you know what you do better than I.

Use those words. Don’t use content.

Dear Harvard Business Review

I would like to submit to you my content for consideration to be published in HBR.”

See what I mean? You will see my fix for this as you read on. And it isn’t yet a play on the Salesforce no software’ logo; - but hell - why not?

But there’s more … what about ownership’?

A couple of weeks ago a large discussion thread built up on Micro Blog

It all started with a post written by @Belle, a developer in Australia, about why she was leaving Micro Blog. I didn’t weigh in, no need. Plenty of others were doing that.

BUT

But. I did read the comments and that content word kept popping up. And I think it popped up because Micro Blog is part of something called the IndieWeb community. A community that proclaims on their web site

Your content is yours

When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.

You start to understand why that word is bandied around so freely. But there’s something more. IndieWeb says;

(Your) Content should belong to you.’

But what does that mean? I am not going to repeat the Belle post and threads here. If interested you can read it here, but once you have read it, together with the comments1 it is seems to me that there isn’t an agreed understanding of what owning your own’content, means in the indieweb / microblog community.

For example. just a few open ended (rhetorical even) questions …. if you own your own content

  1. Do you have to own your own server?
  2. How much control do you need over that server?
  3. Is it ok to run it in a server farm that actually belongs to (say) Rackspace?
  4. Do you buy your own server - or rent it?
  5. If I run my server at AWS, do I own my own content? (If I don’t then neither do Netflix, Adobe, Comcast … who all run large chunks of their business there … if not all).

Bottom line, I took Belle to mean that since Micro Blog necessitates that you host your content on/at Micro Blog (wherever that is), then a Micro Blog user does not own’ their content … ok, IP.

On this I 100% disagree with Belle. Even by IndieWeb terminology, everything I put up at Micro Blog I can pull back to my files. In fact everything I publish (if I choose) could be replicated on a Wordpress Site or at Github. I can even choose not use Micro Blog at all - and just use Wordpress.

But where is my Wordpress server? For me I happen to use Siteground, but in all honesty I have no idea where in the world those servers even are. I will guess Chicago, but I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter.

Why? Because I can always get at my content hosted on the various servers any time I like. In fact it is so flexible that the content on my WP servers in Chicago are backed up - weekly - to servers in Australia (well I think they are in Australia - the company that does that for me (WPMU DEV) is strailian’. The point is it doesn’t matter.

But as I have intimated. This ownership stuff. It really isn’t ownership. And that is where I think it gets - well - yes - lets use the word … dangerous.

Intellectual Property

To me, the owning your own IP (because at the end of the day that is what it is, your Intellectual Property) is the key.

Do you own it? Is it protected? Can someone lift this entire article and post it as their own? THAT’S the ownership debate.

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It also includes other types of rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs, can all be protected as intellectual property. It was not until the 19th century that the term”intellectual property” began to be used, and not until the late 20th century that it became commonplace in the majority of the world.”

Wikipedia : Read More

IP includes copyright. patents. trademarks, industrial designs even geographies … just ask any wine maker that makes Champagne’ somewhere that is not in the French region of Champagne in the North East of France.

At one point Manton Reece (the brains behind Micro Blog) weighed in and referenced a post he wrote in early September.

Content ownership: Controlling the writing and photos you post online isn’t about open source or the technical experience to run a server. It’s about using domain names for identity, so that you can move your data in the future without breaking URLs. I’ve written more about this here and it’s a fundamental part of the book I’m writing about microblogging.”

Manton Reece

In the more about it’ post he doubles down …

Owning your content isn’t about portable software. It’s about portable URLs and data. It’s about domain names.”

Yes - but it is only the bit of the Iceberg above the water.

My Take

When Indie Web talks about owning your own writings and photography and creations, it is really talking about permanency’ of what you put out there. I post a tweet and it can be found somewhere.

But if Twitter closes (can’t we hope), Facebook changes its permalink structure, Tumblr, bought by Yahoo, bought by Verizon suddenly goes through a transformation … where are your words?What happened to your image?

In terms of real ownership, when you signed up you more than likely gave up all your rights to the corporation who faced you down with a multi-page documents of ToCs - which you didn’t read and accepted. So whatever they choose to do with their world is theirs. Not yours. Indie Web and Micro Blog seeks to change that.

Post to your spaces, at URLs that you control to own your stuff.

Well, I think that is part of it and I would wholly agree that unless you do own the DNS that you publish under, you haven’t even started to take control of your own content, but it is far from the whole story.

To Conclude

Let’s say I own my own domain, the URLs, the machines, everything .. and then let’s say I publish this - do I own those words?

Here’s another thought. As you read this article, know that these exact words are actually on a computer I own. In fact, it is a computer that I always keep with me. If I change a word in the file on the computer, it will change on this web site .. just like that .. if I might borrow a phrase.

So, according to the arguments of IndieWeb, there is no argument that I own that content. It is published to a sub domain of philpin.com … specifically blottings.philpin.com, so I have passed the URL mobility test. Wherever I choose to host philpin.com, wherever I choose to point it, or sub domains to - that is all my choice. But here’s the thing.

Click Here. to visit that page example above.

Now Click Here. to view the actual text in the file.

You see, everything I wrote above is true - but that file is synced with dropbox - so though it is on my computer, it is also on Dropbox. Who owns it? (Sorry I haven’t read Dropbox’s ToS - life is too short).

And it is the cleverness of a software solution called Blot that allows a single folder in my dropbox account to be made available through a web interface. What you see on that site, with navigation etc is driven by Blot on their servers. So I guess they own that? But the look and feel of the site? Well the basic shape is served up by Blot and one of it’s Mustache templates, but the colors, font, lines - the styling if you will comes out of a service called Codepen. This is the CSS I use. My CSS. Their server.

By the way - having passed all the tests - I think the estate of one John Steinbeck might take issue with my claim to ownership to most of the writing on that page - it is the opening paragraph of his book Travels With Charley.

Facebook is right about something. It’s complicated! That’s what I am playing around with Creative Commons, though it is not yet fully enabled.


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  1. I wonder who owns’ those comments BTW?

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