Take Control of What You ReadAs 2023 draws to a close, take control of what you read.
As we close out the year, I discovered that the blog feed to email which I’d set up on Substack had broken. I like to make my content available in convenient ways, but for the small number of readers, it’s just not feasible for me to spend time on it.
And as we close out, I want to urge everyone to take control of what they read. Take control back from the mega corporations. Take control back from algorithms that are designed to enrage and outrage you so you keep coming back. Choose what you pay attention to, rather than letting someone else choose how you spend your precious time.
For example, the Shostack Channel on Youtube nominally has 832 subscribers as I write this. And of those, 100 have watched my latest video. Is that because they don’t want to see it, or because Youtube prioritizes other content, from people who adjust how they speak, act, and the topics they speak about to feed the algorithm and become effective Youtubers? Maybe it’s my bad lighting or audio. But I think the folks who subscribed to that channel didn’t do it for my bubbly personality. They know what they wanted, and YouTube is giving them something else. As the Mozilla Foundation discovered, YouTube shows you what they want to show you.
Pay attention to my choice of words. I don’t say ‘my youtube channel,’ because, frankly, it’s not my channel. It’s theirs. They control the horizontal. They control the vertical. They control how it looks and how often it’s shown.
As Prince said, “If you don’t own your masters, your masters own you.” He also said “Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?”
And so I’m going to encourage everyone to take control of their reading and writing. As you read or listen, look for tools that let you control what you read and listen to. That probably means “RSS” and “ATOM”, but can also mean Mastodon. If you really want blog posts via email, there are services like blogtrotter and Feedrabbit, but I haven’t used either and want less email, so I’m not making any recommendation. And yes, as you learn to use these new tools, there’s a learning curve that can be hard. It's harder than other places because no one is paying a team of people to spend their lives making the onboarding as “frictionless” or addictive as possible. And while it would be easy to claim that’s a feature, it’s not. It’s unfortunate. But as you struggle, ask yourself: why is that investment worthwhile to Mark Zuckerberg, to Tiktok, to others? Hint: It’s not because they’re selflessly serving your interests.
The general philosophy here is called “POSSE” (Publish Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere.) I’m going to spend less and less energy to support the “content platforms” and encourage you to do the same.