Private Posts at Personal Websites

created Jul 1, 2019

On rare occasions over a five-year period this decade, I created private posts on my personal website jothut.com. In 2017, I migrated my content from jothut.com and many other websites that I created over the years to sawv.org, which means those allegedly private posts are no longer private here.

I do not create private posts at sawv.org, since my homemade CMS that I use at this site creates static HTML files.

At jothut.com, I used another CMS that I created, which relied on a MySQL database. Since each page was dynamically generated, it was easy to maintain private pages that were only available to me.

It seems that some IndieWeb users would like to offer private posts to others. The concept baffles me. If the posts can be available to others, then those posts are not private, based upon my definition of "private."

I guess the definition of "private" can have many meanings. Private posts might be controlled in a way that only a specific group of users would be allowed to view the posts. Sounds complex. Maybe email would be a better option than a personal website with a private function.

I like more web. The web is exciting. Let’s not let it stay boring with only public, general information. Let’s share the personal here too. And let’s create a way to do that in a more private way, where you control who sees your posts.

I must be old school with my thinking stuck in the late 1990s and early aughts when all personal website posts were public, and many of these public posts were very personal to the authors.

... let’s create a way to do that in a more private way, where you control who sees your posts.

Again, that sounds complicated.

I think by-and-large the IndieWeb community seems to listen—one of the “criticisms” I remember people bringing up a lot last year was the lack of private posts, and then I started hearing IndieWeb people talking about working out how that would work, and it sounds like there was more on that at this year’s Summit.

Hells bells, it's hard enough to get people to buy a domain name and manage their own websites to host public information.

Top comment:

I live by the following hierarchy:

- Anything written down and transmitted digitally will be available to anyone who wants it eventually. Besides my copy, the recipient has a copy, as do any number of intermediaries. Encrypted or not, that encryption will almost certainly be broken in my lifetime.

- Anything written down on physical medium or stored digitally (but not transmitted) will be freely available to anyone that wants it eventually. It's slightly more secure than a digital copy, because I have physical control over the only copy and would most likely know if that physical control was compromised (so my NAS is considered transmitted since it is possibly accessible).

- Anything I say to someone in person is pretty safe, depending on how much I trust them not to record what is said (otherwise it becomes classified as digitally transmitted). Of course now a copy remains in their mind's eye, which is in some cases worse since it can be modified and they don't even know it.

- Any thought I have that I have never expressed outside my body is almost completely safe, baring successful administration of truth serum (or until someone invents adversarial brain scans).

How does this affect me in real life? I don't write down things I wouldn't want other people to know, and I am pretty careful about saying things I don't want other people to know. I use encryption whenever I can because it will at least slow down the attackers, but I never assume something that is encrypted is safe.

Maybe the definition of "private" has been watered down, but if I consider something to be private, then I don't post it on the web. Even my so-called private posts at jothut.com were mainly posts that existed in various states of incompleteness, similar to drafts and possible ideas for future posts.