It's Okay Not To Keep Everything

My co-host on the Flipping Tables Podcast and I had a discussion on episode 033 about note taking, blogging, tweeting, transient data, and recording everything. It’s a great discussion and you should totally go listen to it but there is a specific part of that discussion relevant to this blog and blogging in general.

You are who Google says you are

You’re responsible for who you are online, as much as you are offline. You don’t want the only search result on Google for you to be a dead MySpace profile. To that end the indieweb folks thing you should control as much of your data as possible, namely all of it. While I’m empathetic to their “be technically literal and control your own destiny” mindset, I think there is a compromise.

Our every utterance is not worthy of enshrining

You should consider anything you post online to be permanent and public for the purposes of not making an ass of yourself. On the other hand, I don’t need the security of a multi-datacenter-version-controlled-backup of my tweets. I used to think I did. Maybe some people do(?), but I’ve decided that just like I don’t keep a record of everything I say during the day, I don’t need a record of everything I tweet.

It’s okay to favorite, +1, reblog, like, or whatever you do without being able to reference that interaction in twenty years. For one thing, when you give this data to a company you must consider it to be transient. You gave it away, it’s theirs now. No promise you can get it back (or get it back in a usable form, Facebook…) Second, you think you’ll want to look at all of these things later and find patterns and uncover hidden insights, but you most likely won’t.1

I am who I say I am

In the spirit of the indieweb I encourage everyone to have a space on the web they control and maintain. For me it’s this blog, but I am active on twitter and Google+ as well. I still believe different tools are suited for different purposes (you’re probably not going to see a lot of blog posts about my beard) but until now I’ve considered my behavior on social media to be canonical.

Going forward the plan is to shamelessly copy the method I’ve observed on Daring Fireball and others of (micro)blogging things I want a record of. Just because something is tweet length doesn’t mean it has to live on twitter. Just because something is wordy doesn’t mean it has to live on Google+. Those places are public, and so they represent me, but they are impermanent. The things I want to maintain I need to control.

What about comments and discussion?

The iterations of my blog over the years has almost always had comments enabled. When I switched to jekyll I decided I didn’t want them anymore. I don’t want the visual clutter, the increased technical overhead, and now I don’t want the illusion of permanent record. I’m always happy to talk to people through channels meant for discussion, this blog just isn’t one of those channels. If something important or note-worthy comes out of a discussion on social media then I’ll make a note of it. Otherwise the experience merges with the background of my life like everything else.

How very zen.

Want to vehemently agree with me? Want to tell me how wrong I am? Want more updates about my beard? Follow me on twitter and Google+.

1 I know this flys in the face of data scientists and big data and analytics. There are interesting things to be learned from observing our habits and behaviors, but there is plenty of self-reflection and personal growth to be done without pouring over your Facebook likes. Particularly when you consider that “liking” something on Facebook, “+1ing” something on Google+, or “favoriting” something on twitter has no consistent and predictable meaning person to person or even the same person time to time.