Owning your own content, part 986

Posted by Conor O'Neill on Friday, February 9, 2024

I’m one of those tech elites, that Ben Evans is digging at on Threads, who thinks everyone should have their own blog (he said WordPress site). I think his artisanal/mass-production angle is missing the point. The issue is about control and ownership, as always.

I was reminded once again of the importance of owning your stuff this morning. This is a topic I banged on and on about from 2005-2010 when I finally gave up and accepted that Twitter/Facebook/etc had won. People don’t care about the things they post and write. If it all disappeared tomorrow, so what? Heck, Snapchat led the way in making disappearing content a feature.

But I do wonder if there’ll be any cultural sign we even existed in 1000 years time. Apart from landfills packed with old electronics. The old chewed bones of our society.


Back to today’s story. I got a warning from Google that a review on this blog couldn’t be parsed. I was chuffed to see that it was an 18 year-old review of a long-closed restaurant in Bandon. The memories came flooding back as I re-read it and a bunch of fantastic comments from locals. This was 2006 before the comments section on sites/blogs became a toxic cesspit.

I had used Marc Canter’s Structured Blogging WordPress plugin back then to generate machine parsable reviews in hreview format. Those who know me will remember where I ended up in that particular area!

The plugin eventually died and I moved from WP quite a while ago to finally end up on Hugo/GitHub-Pages. Here we are in February 2024 and this blog has been going since 2001. Admittedly the rate of blogging has collapsed and I promise every year I’ll do lots more. But even if I don’t, it really makes me glad that there is 23 years worth of stuff that I wrote still accessible to everyone and running for free on GitHub. If they decided to stop offering that Pages feature, it’d take me 10 minutes to move it elsewhere and point conoroneill.com to the new location.

Sorry sorry, off-track again. So I had a blogpost full of random broken markup which I decided to fix today. Whilst Google still parses hreview, it prefers LD-JSON. Over the past year or so, I’ve moved some ancient reviews from broken-hreview to LD-JSON. It’s a horrible format for humans but I now have a template I just copy/paste and fill in with the business/product details.

It took me two minutes to fix the post. But then I noticed something. The images were still being hosted on Flickr after all these years. I thought it was a bit of a miracle they still worked, given the number of owners/changes on that site. Then I checked another old post and realised the images were hosted on Pix.ie, a long-dead Irish photo site. And other set of images on Nokia Ovi, which shut down in 2011.

Damn it, at least Flickr still works. So I immediately downloaded the images and saved them with the blog. Now they are back under my control. I’ll see if I have local copies of the Pix.ie and Ovi ones. Otherwise they are lost to history.

And sure, we can laugh. No one cares about your food photos from 2007 Conor. Say that to an archaeologist sifting through the bones of meals eaten 3000 years ago.

And when I die, I have at least 2 children who could keep this blog running. Maybe we could make it competitive. As one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Irish blogs, how many more decades/centuries can we keep this thing running? It’s all just text markdown and JPEGs. Presumably we’ll need to make a Vision Pro version available to go with the General Magic one.

Of course if I was really serious about it, I’d print the whole thing and secure it in a fire-proof/flood-proof safe. Now that would be funny.

I’m a huge fan of mass production and the green revolution in agriculture. But the reason people keep their blogs running has nothing to do with craft vs industry or e/acc vs Luddites, it’s control. Most people don’t want that, and that’s fine. But if they don’t, all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

UPDATE: The amazing Wayback Machine had copies of my missing images from Pix.ie so I’ve managed to restore some posts from 2008-2010 to the full low-res glory.

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