Global Constant
Steve Nay's ramblings

Owning my data

Two months ago I decided to switch to Octopress. The idea of writing posts in Markdown and compiling them into a static site was appealing. The problem was that I had to be on my laptop at home to write a post, and I hadn’t quite mastered the quirks of the system. As a result, I haven’t written a blog post in two months, so I decided to switch back to WordPress.

One of the main arguments in favor of a system like Octopress is “owning your data”. Rather than use a “free” hosted service that mines your writing to produce useful data for advertisers, it’s better to pay a little more (in time or money) and host your writing yourself. I moved this blog to my own server a few years ago, and it has been worth it.

Project Reclaim I read about Boone Gorges “Project Reclaim” today and found it intriguing. He’s on a quest to get rid of as much proprietary software and systems as he can and regain control of his data. Seems like a worthwhile endeavor that I want to pursue as well. At the moment, the following services are my biggest hangups:

  1. Gmail, not just for the email itself, but for Google Docs, OAuth-like logins, and Chrome Sync
  2. Twitter. I am a heavy user of Twitter, but all the content I produce there disappears into Twitter's unsearchable archives after a matter of weeks. I need a more long-term solution in which I control my writing, but it needs to be just as easy to use (desktop, web, and mobile).
  3. Instagram. This is my platform of choice for photo sharing on Twitter and Facebook. I'm currently porting everything to OpenPhoto, which lets you use your own S3 bucket to store the images. All the photos are stored in my own S3 account.
  4. Dropbox. Owncloud looks like a great alternative, as they have desktop sync clients and possibly mobile clients in the works. As soon as version 5 comes out (which supports using S3 instead of the server's own disk space), I'll install it on this domain and give it a try.

There are a few others, like Facebook (to which I rarely post anything) and Mint.com (no matter how trustworthy Intuit may be, I’d be better off using something like YNAB on my own machine and importing transactions manually). But I’m not as concerned about those at the moment. I first want to own all my important content production–writing and photos–and then I’ll work on the rest.

Current objectives As I mentioned, I’m moving over to OpenPhoto. A few days should tell me whether it’s good enough to replace Instagram.

I’m also going to create a new linkblog on this domain. I had hoped to use Dave Winer’s Radio2 software, since it stores its data on S3 and produces a nice output. But it’s Windows- or Mac-only software, and I am only running Linux servers. I’m hoping I can find a good way to do that with WordPress. Once I do, I’ll start having those feed into Twitter and then use their native clients only for conversation and less-important writing.

I may also decide to move away from Gmail, choosing something like hosted email from Rackspace, about which I’ve heard good things. At $2/month, it’s an affordable alternative to Google’s data mining.

Later article
Veriphonification