On Owning My Words
You might notice the Projects page on this site. In it I have things like book and movie reviews as well as some original poems I’ve written. The question is, why are these things hosted here instead of on sites like Goodreads, Letterboxd, or Hello Poetry? Truth be told, I’ve asked myself that same question a lot. It’s definitely easier to publish on these platforms than to mess with my site’s HTML and CSS while also tweaking Jekyll to work with the new directories and page types. It’s not difficult to do those things but sometimes it does feel like I’m shooting myself in the foot. Let’s look at why I prefer that to using the aforementioned services:
One of the great benefits of platforms like those mentioned above is that social interaction is part of the core functionality. They’re social networks in a sense. And that’s not a bad thing. But I just want to share my thoughts without the overhead of a social network bearing down on me. Social networks also tend to invite the feeling that you’re not as “good” because you don’t have enough followers, likes, friends, or whatever other metric. You can make the case that page views are analogous to that when hosting on your own site but I don’t have analytics so problem solved there.
Platforms designed for specfic functions like sharing book reviews tend not to allow much, if any, customization. A profile picture and a bio? Sure. But what if I want to change the entire look of one poem compared to another? Not so easy. And that’s not a dig against any of these services. I think their interfaces look anywhere from fine to great (Hello Poetry in particular is really minimal and emphasizes the text nicely). But the fact is that I want to control not only what I write but how the page looks, too.
This is more common with bloging platforms (looking at you, Medium) but data ownership is a concern for me. I don’t want to lose any of my data just because I don’t have access to a specific site or service. If everything is hosted on my site then I could still lose access but it’s very unlikely to happen. And there’s no worry of not having my preferred username available. victorbilgin.com will be mine for my entire life unless some freak accident happens or someone offers me a million bucks for it (feel free to send your offers).
I also don’t have to worry about how my words are used. No need to read dry policies about what a company can and can’t do with what I write.
Doing things this way is more of a hassle. I’ll admit it. But I think it’s worth it in the end. Services die off but this site will be around for as long as I can use a computer (hopefully a very long time). I can always cross-post to external services if I want to. For now, though, I’ll continue this experiment. We’ll see if it works out!