Own your platform

The Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to build your own platform and identity, but lots of people seem to just default to using pre-built platforms instead.

This website is mine1. That means that I have full control over everything on it. I can use as much or as little space as I want. I have full control of every bit of the presentation, so I can make things unreadable if I wanted to for some reason. I can also delete things if I want to, customize it any way I want (my abilities being the only limit here) and I don't have to worry about running afoul of rules that might change like the wind and having my account silenced, deleted, banned, or whatever.

The Internet lets you do that. If you have sufficient expertise or the time and motivation to develop said expertise, you, too can build a website and put it on the Internet to promote your unique viewpoint on whatever it is that you want. But building a website is hard2. Actually, I'm lying. Building a website with static HTML is pretty easy. It probably won't look very good (especially at first), but it's easy to make a web browser display something, which is hugely empowering. It is tough to find a place to host the awesome website you made, though. Your ISP used to give you a few megabytes of disk space to play with, but that's an archaic practice that's all but died out. And it's not because disk space is super expensive, or that it's some kind of burden for the ISPs to manage that disk space for the users. No, I suspect that it's due to something else.

What follows are some opinions and suppositions that I have no proof for. They're probably wrong. Please don't email me to tell me that I'm wrong. I already know.

Problem 1: More People

There are more people on the Internet now than ever before. Once word got out that the Internet was this great place to do just about anything, the floodgates opened and almost literally everyone was on The Internet™ overnight3. That meant that the proportion of technical users of the Internet was dwarfed by the proportion of Everybody Else™.

That's expected. And it's also expected that Everybody Else sees what The Internet is and what it can do and they decide that they want a piece of that action. That's also expected.

And The Internet, being The Internet, where you can do a lot of interesting things with a little bit of knowledge and some server-side (or even client-side) scripting, means that you can build a service so that even someone with no idea how a computer works other than 'press the ⏻ button and go'4 can hit The Internet like a sack of wet concrete.

This is a mixed bag, of course. We see people with no apparent technical chops who are 'successful' in leveraging these tools into a lifestyle and even a paycheck, but with that comes an avalanche of firehoses of unfiltered garbage in addition to the Good Stuff™. Sturgeon's Law breaks down here. I'd propose an addendum that on The Internet, 99% of everything is crud (and that percentage is constantly on the rise).

What is success?

That brings up an interesting question, though. How do we define success on The Internet? Is success bringing in enough revenue to cover hosting costs? To supplant a paycheck working a Normal Job™? Is success building a destination for your family members to look at pictures of your pet or child doing cute things? Is success just a matter of getting your message out of your own head and into a space where someone else might see it?

For a lot of people (not just Internet people, but capital-P People) success == money. And The Internet seemed like it would change that presumption, and instead attention was the measure of success. Somewhere along the line it was determined that if you already have attention, you can sell off some of that attention for ads and pocket some money5. And if you create a place where anyone can post anything (subject to terms and conditions), you can actully do two things:

  1. You give people an outlet for expressing themselves creatively
  2. You can sell ads and make $Texas without actually having to create anything yourself

Enter: The Platform™

So The Platform is born. You don't need to know how this complicated Internet stuff works! Come publish things on our platform. You don't need to know that messy HTML stuff, just fill in a few boxes on our platform. You don't need to worry about paying anyone anything, our platform is free, free, free!

It does seem like a good deal at first. Until you really think about it. The platform is nominally free to use, sure, but how does it get money to cover costs? Gigantic platforms with hundreds or thousands of employees will have hundreds of thousands of dollars (substitute your local currency here) in salaries alone. The only thing that they have to sell is you. They sell your attention. They sell your usage patterns. They sell everything they know about you to whoever is willing to pay them for it.

But that's old news. 'You are the product' and all that. It's well-known and accepted by a lot more people than I would like. The bigger consideration is that platforms are, by nature, limiting.

Limits of Platforms

The Web, and, by extension, the Web Browsers offer an unlimited canvas to do whatever you want. Blank canvases are daunting for anyone (and anyone that tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something). And a canvas without restrictions for size or colors or layout is magnitudes more daunting. Platforms will give you a space to put whatever you want on the web... if you can squeeze it down and put it into a little box.

Platforms have rules. Platforms have restrictions. Platforms are homogenized.

Whenever you watch something on YouTube, you know you're watching something on YouTube. If I'm creating videos to put on my YouTube channel, all I have is some minor control over the inside of the little box my content shows up in. I can't change the page around the video in any meaningful way.

Whenever I post something to Twitter, I have to keep my thoughts to a generous 280 characters with no formatting. No italics or bold or colors or anything else. I can maybe attach a picture or a video, but I can't materially change how my tweets are presented. What if I want my avatar to appear on the right of my posts? What if I like the byline to be on the bottom?

Facebook is just twitter without the character limits.

And so on.

Posting the right thing

Your continued use of these platforms is contingent on you reading and abiding by terms of service that can and do change any time with or without notice. Sure, you can nominally post whatever you want, and most people probably realize that The Platform can and will take action against their account if they do something particularly stupid or illegal. But what a lot of these agreements are incredibly lobsided in favor of The Platform. They reserve the right to make money off of stuff you provide to them (i.e. your 'posts') without paying you anything. They can suspend or delete or otherwise do anything they want to your account for any reason they want to, even for no reason at all. If they do delete your account, you have no recourse.

If you build up a following and then post The Wrong Thing, your account could get terminated6. If something you post gets the wrong kind of attention, you could lose everything you've built up on The Platform. You can try to start over on another Platform. Or you could have diversified and had a presence on multiple Platforms, so losing one isn't a total loss.

But what if it didn't have to be that way?

Owning Your Own Platform

Just imagine for a moment what it would be like if you controlled your own experience. Your own platform. You can present things how you want and where you want. You can allow comments or not. You can make every item look unique. You can do anything you want (provided it's legal where you happen to be). You will succeed (whatever definition of 'succeed' you subscribe to) or fail on your own merits. It turns out that it's still possible to do that for now, and it's something that I've moved too far away from and am moving back toward.

What does that mean?

It doesn't mean trading in one Platform for another. I.e. trading Facebook for Twitter or Twitter for Ello or YouTube for Lbry or Lbry for Bitchute or anything else like that. It means getting my own domain7. It means finding a place to host whatever it is that I decide to create that isn't at risk of going away because of a glitch in The Algorithm. It means I believe enough in what I'm doing that I'm going to spend time, effort, and energy into presenting them in the way that I want.


Everyone wants the results, but not the work that goes into getting them. I'm not a professional. I make mistakes all the time. I'm creating this website using a technology that is all but dead, not because it was the best tool for the job, but because it's what I knew. Will I rewrite everything the day that XML and XSLT support finally get excised from Chrome and Firefox. Maybe.

I don't have the power of The Algorithm behind recommendations to bubble my site's content to the top of the pile8. But, that also means that there's no Algorithm to game (except maybe organic search results). I'm going to be the one responsible for letting people know about this site if they want to know about me, if they want to contact me, if they want to see the things that I do and read the things I write.

There's no 'built-in' audience. There aren't millions of users of this website that are milling around, guided by The Algorithm, looking for the next morsel of content to consume. Instead, I'm building my own basket to keep my morsels in.

My site could get compromised. I could be the target of a DDOS attack. Someone could copy the stuff I upload, re-upload it somewhere else, and then claim it is their own.

I run the risk of losing contact with people who refuse to communicate with my any other way than via Platforms.

And there are probably lots more cons that I haven't considered.

But I think it's worth it. It's worth it to pave my own way. To be less of a spectator and more of a... whatever the opposite of a 'spectator' is.


Realizing all of this is great. Deciding to take action is also great. Actually taking that action is greater, still. My plan involves extricating myself from the various Platforms that I've gotten entangled with and concentrating my own site(s).

If I make a video, I'll figure out a way to post it that's not YouTube (or any of the sites that are basically just YouTube without the backing of Google).

If I write something, I'll either put it here or on one of my other sites. Eventually I'll probably consolidate all my efforts on one or two of them.

If I want to post a status update, I'll use the bchlog. I'm committed to using Twitter through the end of the year to promote another thing I'm working on. I haven't posted much on Twitter over the last six months or more anyway, preferring to write on my own sites instead.

I jettisoned my FaceBook account in 2017.

I'm committed to using Twitch for a project this fall, but since I only use Twitch once a year, I think I can justify using it until I can find an alternative.

I haven't signed in to YouTube to watch anything or to do anything other than uploading the odd video now and again. I use a Private window on my web browser and then search for what I want to watch. I haven't added a new subscription in years, and the people I do subscribe to are either my friends or haven't updated in years. Sometimes both (usually both). Unfortunately, I will probably have to keep my account open and my channel active, and if I upload anything here, I'll probably also upload it there9.

I have never gotten one job lead from LinkedIn. I mostly use it to see how successful people I've worked with are, compare their careers to mine, and ultimately feel bad about myself. Of course, I only log in to it about once a quarter. I'll either continue ignoring it or I'll close it and put up a resume page elsewhere.

Expected Outcome

There are thousands of articles just like this all over the Internet. Nearly all of them, or follow-ups to them, will tell you how much better their lives are. How much more fulfilled they are, how much energy they have, how fewer distractions they have. How they can run faster, jump higher, have more money, are more attractive, and so on. I don't expect that many of those things will happen for me.

What I expect is that the compulsion to check Platforms will gradually fade and that I'll replace those compulsions with other ones. The trick is to replace those compulsions with things that I want to do, instead of the things that I have been conditioned to want to do.

I expect that I'll continue toiling away at a site. Maybe this one, maybe another one. I'll be doing my own thing my own way. I may never make a nickel, or I might make several nickels. Either way, I'm going to do it on my own terms.


  1. Technically, I'm just renting the domain name, but while I'm renting it, I can do almost anything (legal) that I want to with it
  2. [citation needed]
  3. See also: Eternal September
  4. You might think that this is analagous to letting people who don't know how a car works to drive. It isn't. This would be like letting people who don't know how a car works build cars.
  5. There are, of course, other ways to make money on The Internet (like selling merchandise or selling services or just plain ol' donations)
  6. Paradoxically, the more prominent your account is on a platform, generally the harder it is to get removed from the platform
  7. Okay, lots of domains. I like to buy them and try out different ideas. Everyone needs a hobby!
  8. Does this site look SEO optimized to you?
  9. I guess the bigger question is that if I post anything that someone thinks is good enough to download and re-upload to YouTube, what lengths should I go to to make sure that anyone watching it knows that I did it instead of J. Random YouTuber? Should I even care about that?

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