If you want a better web, stop asking big platforms to find stuff you like. Do it yourself.

Via a retweet yesterday, I ran across this statement/question:

@jack @biz @mrdonut It's up to us the users to reject what @jack @biz etc have done to their own product, I guess. Anyone recommend great tools to create an archive of tweets to move away from Twitter? I'd love a tweet-archive-to-Jekyll option.

There are a bunch of replies suggesting less popular microblogging services—micro.blog, Mastodon, etc.—which are advertised by their proponents as having “no Nazis.” That is certainly an advantage.

While I know that Twitter could do better at moderating content and dealing with abuse, my guess is that these other services’ only real advantage over Twitter right now is that there are not as many people on them. Were their usage to grow to Twitter-like levels, I’d bet good money they will start running into similar problems.

My guess is that what a lot of people complaining about Twitter want is for Twitter to be like it was before it got big. The problem is that in our in our economic system, there seems to be no space for a modestly sized social network platform that is there to support a stable base of loyal users. The user base has to keep growing in order for the company’s investors to be happy. Additionally, none of these platforms is really even about supporting its users. They are about selling those users’ data and generating advertising revenue off of them.

All of which makes me think that if want a social web that is not horrible and exploitative, big platforms that are centralized and closed are not the answer. In order to support themselves, such platforms must either charge users (which will inhibit the crazy growth investors demand) or make money from ads and data (which turns them creepy). If that is the case, then maybe need to go back to the pre-Facebook web—something akin to blogs and RSS, with the addition of some layer whereby readers can easily contribute money to the artists and authors they follow.

If this proposed ecosystem is all (or mostly) decentralized and independent, the big missing piece is discoverability—the recommendations and suggestions you get with platforms like Facebook and Twitter, or even Medium. I wonder if the absence of such functionality would be such a bad thing, though.

Part of me thinks the annoying, tedious work of building and maintaining a list of interesting people and sites to follow is critical to becoming a thoughtful and deliberate user/consumer/reader. The ongoing process of sorting through a big pile of content and figuring out what you like and you don’t, what is important to you and what isn’t—that process itself is how you learn and grow, how you become discerning.

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