Why you cannot interact with me on this website

Published: 2022-06-06

In some ways, my blog is unique: it's a one-way street. No likes, no comments, no analytics; I don't even log traffic at the time of writing. That might seem weird to some in this day and age but it's a very intentional choice. Here are some of the main reasons I made that decision.

Privacy & complexity

The fact of the matter is that most platforms that facilitate interactions in one way or another are bad for privacy. For example, one platform I might have considered using is Disqus. It takes approximately .3 ms of googling to find out that Disqus has some problematic behaviour when it comes to privacy. Another dead giveaway is the 4 main phrases they use to promote themselves: "Engage your audience", "Understand your success", "Retain your readers", and "Monetize engagement" (source). This reflects a worldview that I do not ascribe to. Namely that privacy is a resource to be used, that violating privacy is simply "the cost of doing buisness". Not only that, but it is also just not how I want to run this blog.

I think this way of viewing privacy as a resource is convergent behaviour. Doing interactive stuff is hard and in a lot of cases both expensive and potentially lucrative. We often don't think of it as being expensive because it is everywhere these days, but it really is. That's why there is a market for ready-made solutions that focus on converting privacy into currency. There are, of course, ways to do it privacy-friendly, but those are less effective or more meantenence heavy and thus do not attract investors or users in the same way that something that is promising to make you money does.

Another part of this is that once you start storing what you need to interact with people you have to be GDPR compliant. This adds even more complexity. So far I've mostly talked about off-the-shelf solutions, but GDPR compliance on its own is complex enough to make homebrewing a solution not a good idea in my opinion.

Ambitions

I think a part of this overall point I'm trying to make stems down to the ambition I have for this blog. Here I use the word ambition to mean "intention", rather than a hard to achieve goal. In fact, my intentions for this blog are deliberately low. They say that "if you do what you love for a living you'll never work a day in your life," but the past decade has taught me that if you make your hobby your job you'll never have a moment to rest for the rest of your existence. This a sentiment that has been echoed by youtubers as well as FOSS contributers, to name just a few groups that I'm familiar with.

This is why I'm okay with the upload frequency of this blog (if you can even call it that) being so inconsistent. This is a hobby, not a side hustle. That means that I work on it when I have the time and energy for it and I have no intention of turning this blog into a content farm. If anything, it's mostly a place for me to practice my writing, experiment with aesthetics, structure my thoughts, and occasionally serve as a resume with a more permissive format. I don't intend to make money on this blog, at least for the foreseeable future (but never say never I guess).

A huge inspiration for me in this regard is the writer Veo Corva. Not only are they an absolutely wonderful writer (and you should definitely check out their books), they stream quite regularly on twitch in a way that I admire immensely. They stream twice a week, for 1.5h with a fairly strict limit. They've refused Twitch partnership meaning they don't directly earn money on their streams, and both the chat and other community places they host are small and cosy. They are open to newcomers but not growth-oriented. This is not an anti-capitalist comment about them selling out or not, it is admiration about how they work to keep a hobby a hobby in a world where there are incredibly strong incentives to turn everything into a revenue stream. If I ever do something that requires community management I hope to be able to do it in the same way they do it now.

I strongly believe community management is an obligation that anyone who has an audience ought to take seriously, and so I'm not going to put myself in a position where I might have to take on that responsibility until I feel ready for it.

Sanity

That last point about non-growth centred community leads nicely into my final and perhaps most important point. I want to protect myself in several ways. One thing I know about myself is that I'm quite an obsessive and neurotic person. That's not me being self-deprecating, that's just an observation. I tend to worry about numbers and whether they are high enough once they enter my life in one way or another. This is of course highly encouraged by all of the platforms out there since that is their business model. Platforms like Google and Twitch are the creative landlords of our era and I do not want to be beholden to them. That is why this website is self-hosted instead of on some platform like Medium.

However, you might argue that, so far, I've made a case against analytics, not interactions. I think this misses my point, but it does have a grain of truth to it. For me, it's not just about protecting myself from myself, but also protecting myself from other people. Anyone who has used the internet for more than checking the weather forecast in the past decade or so knows what a hellhole it can be. Discourse on the internet is terrible, and everybody knows it.

If being in academia & government for nearly a decade has taught me anything it's that you have to be very selective in how, when, and from who you solicit feedback. Not all feedback is created equal. Contrary to what people seem to believe, feedback is not relationship-independent. However good the feedback, it simply makes a difference in who is saying it, whether for better or for worse (insert discussion about "white saviour complex" here).

This doesn't mean that people you don't agree with can't give you good feedback, but it does rely on whoever is giving the feedback to be able to communicate with you effectively. So it's not that I'm not open to criticism of any kind, just that I'm not open to it being hurled at me from a firehose. If you know me, or can get into contact me I'd love to hear what you think. Having a bit of confidence that the other party realises there's an actual bonified human behind the keyboard typing this goes a long way to foster proper discussions from all parties involved in my experience.

How you can interact with me or this website

Even though I've just explained why there are little to no interactive parts to this website and why that will stay like that for the foreseeable future, there are ways you can keep up to date with this blog if you so wish.

This website has something called an Atom feed (which you can find here). Often they are also called RSS feeds but for all intents and purposes those are interchangeable these days. Applications that can read one should also be able to read the other. This is a part of the website that presents most of the content of this website in a machine readable, rather than a human readable way so that apps can keep track of things like updates more easily. Many apps can read a feed like that and will allow you to either read the content there in the app if you so choose or just let you know when there is a new post. This is a really old-school way to do it, but it is by far the most privacy-friendly one I know of apart from by smoke signal.

As for interacting with me? Well if you know me, I'd love to hear what you think. Despite the number of words I've spent on why I don't like to interact with people on this website, I do actually appreciate getting other people's perspectives on what I put out. It's just that I like to have a bit more control over how and when I have those conversations. I am curious to hear what you think, just not here.

  #website#opinion#privacy