Well, look what happened to Twitter. It’s a good time to re-evaluate my online presence.
The Before Times
I used Twitter more as a social garbage posting-and-watching space than anything worthwhile. An early adopter (2008? 2009?), I closed my account when it was clear it wasn’t a healthy place to spend a lot of time. I came back in 2017 when my coworker moved on to another job. I wanted to keep up with the hot takes I used to get from her on the company chat, so I rejoined. At that time, I made a conscious choice to not follow any tech people other than her (a position I’ve softened over the years because coworkers keep following me, and I don’t want to seem rude). I instead followed writers, artists, and real-life friends.
It’s been mostly okay. Until now.
A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned that they were giving Cohost a try. I figured I would, too. Maybe I’d find something there for me. What I found was a renewed interest in writing and posting again.
I very rarely posted on Twitter. I watched, replied, and occasionally retweeted. I didn’t want my identity to be tied to being a software engineer. I definitely didn’t want to scrap and fight to become a thought leader. But on Cohost, my pals were participating in Jenn Schiffer’s #microblogvember, which gave me a reason to post regularly. I’ve enjoyed it! You can find me at https://cohost.org/bobholt/.
I never looked into Mastodon before, because I didn’t find enough to distinguish it from Twitter, and figured that it needed a critical mass of users to be useful (whatever that means). I was skeptical of it ever hitting that threshold. When I started poking around this time, I was surprised by the activity. I was initially worried about finding the “right” server to join, but once again someone had led me to the right answer. The one my former manager joined seemed right up my alley.
hachyderm.io is a server full of respectful tech professionals run by Kris Nova, it’s got tons of interesting discussion, and it has reinvigorated both my interest in technology and in being part of the community.
I’ve found new topics to research (like sociotechnical systems), and a bunch of like-minded software engineers and architects willing to share their knowledge. It makes me both want to learn and contribute in a way that I haven’t in years.
Here I am. Completely renovating my web site and bringing a blog back.
I’ve had several blogs in the past. I’ve eventually let them all go away, and, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve deleted all of that history. I tried to make the immediate previous version of my website as little about my career as possible. I slid that work-life balance slider all the way to “life.” I’ll try more balance for a while.
So I’ll start fresh. If I dig up archives of old posts, then I’ll put them back up. But I want to have this place that is 100% mine, and also restart a dialogue with my tech community. It is an important part of who I am, and I see that it was somewhat selfish of me to be so dismissive of it for so long.
But starting the move away from Twitter and restarting my own thing brings up other questions. Namely, the Meta properties. I have Facebook because for a while, it was the only place my kid’s classes in school posted any information. Similar to Twitter, I had an account that I deleted and then rebuilt. Now it just sort of sits there, and I hold my finger over the delete button from time to time. But there are some photos I put there I may not have readily available anywhere else.
As for Instagram, it’s where most of the people I know from non-work real life still hang out. It’s a way to keep updated with what’s going on with them, but there are probably better ways that don’t show me adds every five seconds.
I’m going to make a push to get off the stuff I want to keep off of those platforms and delete my accounts in the next few months.
There’s still a place for ephemeral posting that doesn’t need to survive the heat death of the universe. To me, Mastodon is that. It’s great for finding and building a community, but if hachyderm disappears, so do all of my… toots.
Cohost is also that. I can post nonsense there, and I don’t care if it gets deleted.
Are there other services I can use ephemerally for the community?
I thought about checking out Tumblr again. But I never really used it, even if I still have a login somewhere. It’s basically equivalent to Cohost for me. It’s still someone else’s garden, which makes it ephemeral, and I wouldn’t want to put anything permanent there.
I briefly signed up for PixelFed as an ephemeral replacement for Instagram, but then I thought… why? In contrast to tweeting, the photos I tend to post on Instagram (which still aren’t many) are usually things I want to remember. If I want to remember them, shouldn’t I have control of where they live? So I’m going to experiment with posting them here. I’m also going to go back through my historical posts and relocate them here for posterity. Will it clutter everything? Will it become an umaintainable mass? Who knows?
So the plan is to build this up. I’ll post more here about things having to do with software engineering and architecture and building strong teams. I’ll also post personal stuff that I want to keep around. I don’t want to separate all those things, but I’ll try to make it so that if you’re here for one or the other, it’s easy for you to ignore the rest.
I’m going to eventually leave Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and whatever else. I’ll keep Mastodon and Cohost around, at least for a while, but with the full recognition that I can’t trust either of those farther than I can throw them. But I will trust them farther than Musk- or Zuck-owned properties.