005 · Where's your data?
talking about personal growth & data ownership
I ~ OPENING
Hello friends, hope you are enjoying basking in the first rays of the spring / summer sun. Warm weather in Maine is when things happen, as everyone breaks out of their winter frost and capitalizes on days that are longer and hotter. I wish that everyone stays safe and warm and happy as we enter June and approach the first days of summer.
As cliché as it sounds, I've been working on being myself lately. While this is the most generic & repeated advice in our modern days, authenticity is an antidote to fear, worry, overthinking, social anxiety, imposter syndrome, and various other ailments. It is such because it is an anti-effort, something that has to flow naturally and is actively stunted by thinking.
As intellectual beings, our first instinct is to think ourselves out of problems (to be fair, sometimes that's the only option!). I love metaphors involving people, creativity, plants, and gardens, and this is another apt application of that imagery. You are an organism that requires not only the proper circumstances & nourishment to grow, but also an equal or greater amount of uninterrupted time for nature to take course. You do not spend all of your time thinking or acting on ways to make your garden grow faster. You must set up, check in, listen for natural cues, and respond only as necessary.
I recommend reading about Masanobu Fukuoka (father of "do-nothing farming") and treating it as an allegory for life, identity, creativity, or whatever else you see fit
II ~ THINKING... ONLINE
I recently revisited a talk from 2017, "An Abbreviated History of the Web" by Tara Vancil. It is filled with familiar themes of data harvesting, the attention economy, platform capitalism, and our changing relationship with technology. Not much has radically changed in the 6 years since this talk, we're still existing in the deep grooves carved by our morally bankrupt tech overlords.
Vancil identifies blame in the siloed storage of our data, and thus our existences online. Servers hold (& own) fragmented pieces of our identity, making being online a scattered mess of uploading the same things to different places, perpetually "signing up" hoping to outrun bans, platform shutdowns, consolidations, and other forces that may wipe the slate of our digital identities clean.
While promises of decentralized utopias have existed (RIP Beaker browser, mentioned throughout the talk as well), nothing has been here to stay. We can look to Bluesky or numerous Web3 DAOs as potential saviors, but this is still a distant hope. Likely to serve the fringe at first, Web3 sign-up processes are still a UX nightmare and doubtful to see widespread adoption in their current state. My fingers are crossed, but decentralizing the internet for everyone will be a long and grueling battle. My biggest prayer is for a vastly streamlined decentralized network to emerge in the future. In the meantime, we should consider steps towards data ownership.
There once was a time where all of your files were stored locally, on your computer. With proper backups, this setup was nearly foolproof, with no outside party able to affect your files. As the internet got bigger and faster, we drifted from god's light and put our faith into THE CLOUD. I use this term lightly & nebulously to describe any data storage that is not local. Billionaires promise to keep our data safe & our hard drives light, for the mere exchange of all of our personal metrics & analytics. One may think "this is fine, I have nothing to hide and I WANT them to give me better ads". However true this may be for you, there is now a precedent set where no one has a right to (or sometimes, no one wants to) own their own data. While unlikely, any number of hacks, crashes, outings, or consolidations could eradicate various parts of your digital identity. Instagram & Twitter profiles, photo backups, notes, passwords, websites, etc. could all disappear with only so much as a "Sorry, your data's gone" email as recompense.
Long-winded fear-mongering aside, we should want to own our own data. It feels good. You can do whatever you want with it, and most importantly it's infinitely portable to whatever the Next Thing is.
Download all of your shit.
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III ~ BIG IDEAS
People are people. We're all floundering, figuring life out as we go. You're not uniquely behind, or ahead of anyone else.
Experiment. Fuck up. The only way to get "good" at or learn anything is to do it as much as possible.
Things aren't permanent. No matter how sure something seems, or how set in your ways you are, there is always another option.
IV ~ THINGS THAT MADE ME THINK OF YOU
✳️ A good text editor / notes app - While Apple Notes is great, I've developed an affinity for note editors that let you work from a folder of your text files, stored locally or anywhere else. Runestone / Obsidian / NotePlan / Craft are all great options across the spectrum of complexity. There are a million more options, I'm sure you can find one with a featureset that fits your needs.
✳️ Zero Data Apps - A wonderful repository for apps that let you own all of your data. There's something for everyone!
✳️ Fuse.kiwi - Cool websites and web art! A beautiful algorithm-free collection of hand-curated internet explorations.
V ~ CLOSING
I appreciate you for reading, I hope there was something of value for you in here. I hope you are enjoying slightly warmer weather (depending on where you are) and I hope you are not overthinking your growth.
Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see me talk about, or if you come to any realizations on the topics I've talked about so far.
Please have another beautiful two weeks, I look forward to meeting you again soon.