So Dan Gillmor wrote a piece published on Medium about giving up on Apple and Microsoft in favor of Windows.
More important, I’ve moved to these alternative platforms because I’ve changed my mind about the politics of technology. I now believe it’s essential to embed my instincts and values, to a greater and greater extent, in the technology I use.
Control is moving back to the center, where powerful companies and governments are creating choke points. They are using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often, we give them our permission—trading liberty for convenience—but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission.
I sympathize with Gillmor. I carry two laptops in my backpack, one running Windows and one running Linux Mint. I use the Windows laptop to do a lot of things that simply aren’t available on Linux (or if they are, the free versions aren’t nearly as good as the ones that run on Windows).
On the other hand, at the end of the day I rely on Linux for storing and organizing all of my data, including the things I create in Windows. Windows is a bit like buying a supercar–it is shiny and lets me go faster, but I’ve had it drive me into a ditch at 200 mph too often to trust it for anything that I need to rely on longer than a 6 month window.
Dave Winer criticized Gillmor’s piece noting that at the same time that Gillmor is criticizing closed corporate platforms like Microsoft and Apple, his piece is hosted on the closed silo that is Medium,
It hurts us when very visible users of technology, like Gillmor, gloss over the independence they are giving away, and getting us nothing in return other than a pretty template (which is easily reproduced elsewhere).
It’s why Google has been able to introduce draconian terms on video producers because every producer must be present on YouTube. Soon, it will be necessary for all of us to post our stories on Medium, if we want to be seen as serious, or reach the readers we want to reach. And what will Dan have gotten us in return for selling out this way? Just another silo.
I’m busting my ass for years to create tools for people like Dan, tools that give users freedom of choice, with no lock-in. Mine is not the only choice. Yet when Dan chooses to express his independence, he uses a silo.
I couldn’t agree more with Winer on this point. But based on the reactions I get when I mention that I run my own web server, I suspect people who rely on the open web are becoming like ham radio operators–nice hobby, but there’s probably never going to be a time again when a majority of people are going to do anything but use corporate tools.
For example, I cannot imagine relying on Facebook as my only online presence and yet for many people I know Facebook and maybe LinkedIn form the entirety of their online presence. And in many ways this is completely rational–Facebook and LinkedIn do a much better job at delivering the experience their customers want than something like WordPress or Winer’s own tools.
I love WordPress but it is a fairly simplified blogging tool. Yet, I’m amazed at how many people I’ve run into who stopped using WordPress because it was too complicated and went back to using tools like LiveJournal or Tumblr. I suspect the issue is not that it is too complicated in the sense that it is just too difficult to use, but rather that it is too complicated given the task that users want to achieve.
And I can’t blame them because I am the same way with changing the oil in my car. It is not that I couldn’t change the oil in my car on my own, but that the complexity and time involved is disproportionate to the value of the task for me. I’d rather pay someone else to change the oil so I have more time to understanding WordPress or Linux.
There was a brief time for a few years where if you wanted to be effective on the Internet, you essentially had to behave like a nerd to do so. Even my wife knew what RSS was. Those days are over, and they’re not coming back regardless of what Winer, Gillmor or I might prefer.