Are content silos winning?

created Oct 04, 2014

October 2014 - - Are the silos winning?

Winning at what, exactly? And why do some people worry about whether silos are winning, losing, or whatever? The masses don't care. The masses only want something fun and easy to use. They want to relish in the moment.

From DW's post:

I can innovate out here on the open web. But if this post were in a silo, only the silo-maker could innovate.

I'm guessing that most people are not text content hoarders. People may want to keep their photos indefinitely somewhere, but how many people back up their photos to a DvD disk or some other storage device?

I think users are satisfied with posting their photos and videos to more than one service: Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google, etc.

I used Flickr for years, but I like the Instragram app on the iPhone better, so now I use mainly Instagram. My photos may be scattered across different hosting services, but I back them up at home to DvD disks, so if the service shuts down, at least I still have the photos.

I'd like to be able to store my text content too for the long term.

I think that most people create and share content for the moment, and don't worry much about dredging up old posts in the future. It might be interesting to view their Facebook photos 20 years from now, assuming that's possible. I can still view old photo albums from more than 20 years ago.

Regarding text, how many users of social networking sites want the ability to view their text posts from 5 to 10 years ago or 5 to 10 years from now?

Bloggers enjoy having access to their old posts, but I don't think this is the norm. It's possible many users don't care if their old text posts become inaccessible in the future. They are not text content hoarders.

We hold verbal discussions in person with friends, family, and strangers, and this content is not preserved, unless someone records the discussions. Generally, a sit-down meal and discussion is not preserved.

We have a history of ephemeral content. That's probably why Snapchat caught on with many. We hold an impromptu conversation or heated debate with someone in the hallway for a few minutes, and then that's it. The only archive is what the people involved can recall from memory.

Some of us like journaling or logging both the exciting and mundane events of our lives. Unsure why we do this other than we simply enjoy it.

It's amazing how much we forget. We think that we remember more than we actually do.

Recording this info in notebooks or on blogs can make for interesting reading in the future. And if it's recorded on an easily searchable personal blog or wiki site, the information could prove useful in the future. Example: Somehow I fixed that issue years ago, and I recorded the process in a blog post, and I now I need to do it again, so I retrieve that how-to post.

Recently, I've looked through some of my old blog postings from 2001 and 2002. In those old blog postings, I recorded some events that I had forgotten about. I'm glad that I had logged that information and saved it.

I've also journaled in notebooks for many years, but that grounded to a halt in the fall of 2013 because I used JotHut more for more daily notetaking and mundane-journaling. Content hoarding.

But I have a lot of text in notebooks going back to 1999 that I need to somehow get into digital format, probably by photographing the notebook pages.

I wish that I had started journaling well before 1999. I have some journal notes from the 1980s, which make for fun reading.

But I'm guessing that bloggers and people who like to journal are the exception. The norm don't care about recording the daily aspects of their lives in text form for retrieval many years in the future.

I think that the social networking silos of today understand that most users are only interested in the present. Users are interested in simple functions like "liking" and "sharing" content because those are easy content "contributions" to make. And users are interested mainly in making very short text posts and uploading photos about their lives.

The masses journal by taking photos with their smartphones. That's why I like Instagram so much. In olden days of a few years ago, I would have recorded a note by using a ballpoint pen and a Moleskine or some other notebook. But now I can easily snap a photo with my iPhone and upload it to Instagram and move on. This could weaken observation skills though.

That's why I like sketching with pencil, pen, and watercolor paints. It's an old thing to do. It forces me to slow down and be observant. I could snap and upload dozens of photos in the time that it takes me to make a simple, single watercolor sketch. But the painted sketch on paper could mean more to me.

But it's obvious that sketching the world with pen and paper is something done by only a fraction of the population.

The social networking silos are exploiting the hardware devices of nifty smartphones and tablets creating apps that make it easy to produce and share content on the web.

Hardcore geeks may like plowing through a series of complicated steps to produce and share content in the open web, and this process may seem trivial to the geeks, but it's a technical nightmare to the masses.

And the masses won't take the time to learn. They're busy and distracted, and too many other services compete for their time.

If the function cannot be mastered with two or three clicks, then it's too complex for the masses. The silos make it easy for the masses.

The silo concept simply appeals to most people who have other things to do with their time than worry about the open web. That's a shame, but that's reality, in my opinion.

My wife and I use the web in two dramatic ways. We're not even close with how we produce and share content on the web. I'm in the minority. My wife's web usage is more commonplace.

I've never had a silo-versus-open-web conversation with my wife because I know that it will not interest her. Discussing home beer brewing is more interesting to my wife.

My wife won't be interested in configuring a server and downloading a decentralized networking app, but she likes canning food products.

The open web or Indieweb will be a niche group or "market." It will be big enough to merit monitoring and conversation, but it won't be mainstream.

I guess that means the silos are winning, but it depends upon the definition of "winning." The silos don't own the entire web yet. It's a pretty big web and deep web.

The open web crowd should continue mushing forward, building tools and evangelizing their benefits, but don't badger and yell at the masses.

Slowly, more converts will join the Indieweb crusade. It won't be enough to drastically alter the silo landscape, but small victories or compromises may occur, and that's a reason to continue with the open web or Indieweb concepts.

The masses, they are not even thinking about silos and the open web, so who's winning does not register with them.

For the geeks, some will surrender and assume that the hot silos are the winner, but this will change over time. AOL, Xanga, MySpace, LiveJournal, and others are not as big today as they once were. New networks or technologies will emerge in the future that could drastically change the social networking landscape.

The open web crowd needs to be ready to take advantage of those technologies that have not been created yet.

The hardcore geeks are fairly loyal or stubborn, but the masses are fickle, and they will jump to what their friends are using, as long as the new service is still super easy and fun to use.

To me, this jumping around from one social networking service to another is proof that the masses don't care about preserving their old content, especially text content.

I think that they view their text content as temporary, so they have no qualms about moving to another social network and leaving their old content behind. I doubt they lose sleep over losing their old text content.

From Dave's Oct 4, 2014 post

Tom Foremski said yesterday on Twitter:

"Unfortunately the silos are winning."

I thought about that for a while, and I don't think it's right. Let me explain.

Sure there are more silos all the time. Places that force you to give them your ideas on an exclusive basis, so that people in other silos, or on the open web, can't see them.

Nobody is forced to use silo-based websites, unless it's done for work, and the employer orders employees to use a social network, but in that odd example, the employer is doing the forcing.

For personal uses, people choose to join and use a silo like Facebook and Twitter. If they join because everyone they know is using that service, it's still a choice to follow the crowd. And they make this choice because the service must be at least somewhat enjoyable.

"Joy" could be underrated. Web standards, APIs, and RSS mean nothing to the masses compared to joy. If the service is not a joyful place to use, the masses will struggle with the service for a while longer before moving on to something else.

Facebook is not my kind of place to use. I check my account once every two or three days, sometimes longer. I don't read Facebook for news. I don't use Twitter either. I get my news my own way. I don't quite understand the resharing of news items mixed in with original user-contributed content. I would unfollow people who reshare news that I've already read elsewhere.

I could see following a niche audience of users, such as birdwatchers and people who like to crochet, provided that's all they talked about. Once they swerve into other subjects, then I lose interest.

But most people have many interests, and a lot of people enjoy sharing ALL their interests on a silo social networking site.

I'd like to follow topics over following people. Maybe that's why Quora appeals to me more than Facebook. I'd like to read about crocheting, birdwatching, bread baking, watercolor painting, mountain dulcimer playing, designing, and programming.

If something interesting appears on Facebook, I get a briefing from my wife. And I inform my wife of interesting nuggets of info that occur on, the message board that I started in January 2003.

Toledo Talk is my social network. I've met in person many people that I met first on that message board. I make friends with strangers. For some reason, I like that more than conversing or sharing info with known-friends on a social network like Facebook.

More from DW's post:

Yesterday my friend Jay Rosen posted a great essay to Ello. If you want to read it you have to go there. If you follow Jay on Twitter or Facebook, or read his blog, the only way you can find out about it is if someone posts a link to it there. And if Ello goes kaput, so does Jay's post. All record of his judgement, gone. Not a good way for an academic to work.

Same thing applies to Winer's unique content contributions on Twitter and Facebook. That content does not appear on his personal site, so I cannot read it if I only access his site's RSS feed, which I do often.

Early this past week, Dave's RSS feed went quiet for two or three days, which seemed strange. I decided to do something unusual for me and check his Twitter and Facebook pages, and I found that he was quite active on those silos.

Why would he post comments and other content on those silos and not on his own site? He seems to be engaging in the exact behavior that he dislikes.


But the open web is bigger than any of the silos. This post, for example, is on the open web. What that means is that it is included in my feed. The source code for the post is public, it could be rendered in any context. Especially if I post a pointer to it. A smart CMS could load in all the text from the feed itself! And render it in its own way.

True and good points. But only a small percentage care about CMSs, article markup code, and RSS. That doesn't mean we stop caring, but I think Dave is too far removed from how "normal" people use the web and what motivates them.

The Indieweb people use a lot of sophisticated tools and techniques to post content first on their own personal site and then syndicate out to their social networks.

The lo-fi approach of cut-and-paste may take a few more steps to complete the syndication process, and this less technical approach will the lack the benefits of having the conversations that occur on social network sites coming back to the personal sites like with the Indieweb people, but cut-and-paste is a good start for the masses.

Geeks should encourage the masses to start a blog at Tumblr or Next, the masses could use those services or something else to buy a personal domain name and map it to their blog. Now they have a personal web space.

It's not good to demand the masses get Linux web hosting accounts in order to download, install, and configure content management software. That would be fun for me, but not for my wife. Actually, creating the web-based publishing software that I use is more fun to me than downloading existing code.

Anyway, when the masses post something interesting on their blogs that they wish to share, they can cut-and-paste the content into a Facebook note or simply share the link to their blog post on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

And if they engage in interesting discussions on other sites, what's wrong with cutting-and-pasting their discussions from a Facebook thread to their personal blog?

I've done that a lot here at JotHut by copying a comment post that I made at Toledo Talk and pasting it here as a blog post.

With a script, I plan to migrate all my thread posts at Toledo Talk to JotHut. Over a long period of time, I'll manually copy most of my comments at Toledo Talk and paste them here at JotHut. I want to save my content that I posted at the silo-like site

The geeks revolt at the copy-and-paste idea proposed by a normal person, and that's flawed thinking by the geeks. That's rudeness by the geeks. The geeks should be supportive of the copy-and-paste notion as a first step towards a more open web.

Get the masses to start with a personal blog and syndicate via copy-and-paste from their blog to their social networks. And copy-and-paste their unique content from their social networks to their personal blog if they feel like keeping an archive of that content.

Small moves. Don't belittle the lo-fi approaches, like copy-and-paste. The geeks can build all kinds of tools, but the masses understand copy-and-paste.

Later, the masses will use the sophisticated Indieweb tools after a period of getting comfortable with maintaining their own personal domain of content.

Don't push nor rush the masses because that could turn people off from the ideas espoused by the open web or Indieweb people.

We geeks need to be patient, tolerant, and supportive of how people use and enjoy their silo-based social networks.