The Curmudgeon’s Manifesto

I believe that Luis Suarez has started something in Curmudgeons Unite!:

I guess I could sum it up in one single sentence: “The more heavily involved I’m with the various social networking sites available out there, the more I heart my own personal business blogs“. As you may have guessed, this crankiness phase I’m going through hasn’t got anything to do with the world of social computing in general, but more with a good number of social networking sites. And, funny enough, they all happen to be some of the most popular ones.

It all has got to do with something as important as protecting your identity, your brand (And that one of the company that may be employing you), your personal image, your own self in various social software spaces that more and more we seem to keep losing control over, and with no remedy.

It’s not just about owning your data online, though I think this is important, but also the fact that social media come and go and even change the rules. One way to keep information accessible is to use an open, accessible, personal blog as the centre of your web presence.

blog central

As I thought about Luis’ post, I realized that there are a lot of social media applications that aren’t worth using because they lock you in or just make things more complicated for your content in the long run. Luis cites Facebook and LinkedIn: “Do you realise that by making heavy use of either of them you pretty much lose all of your rights to the content that you generate and therefore should own by default?”

In addition, Luis criticizes Slideshare but counters with Twitter as a good example of an open platfrom. My own list includes URL shorteners like that send you to their site or append lengthy additions to the original URL. It makes it very difficult to make citations to the original work, a major pain for anyone who blogs regularly, as Stephen Downes noted about Feedburner’s Link Pollution.

I’ve decided to start the Curmudgeon’s Manifesto, which may serve as a call to arms to start dumping platforms that don’t understand how to play nice on the Internet. It’s our playground, and through our actions we get to set the rules of conduct.

Here’s my start (additions welcome):

  1. I will not use web services that hijack my data or that of my network.
  2. I will share openly on the Web and not constrain those with whom I share.
  3. I will not lead others into the temptation of using web services that do not respect privacy, re-use, open formats or exportable data.


A suggestion from Doug Belshaw:

Change the name of the Curmudgeon’s Manifesto to the Open Educators’ Manifesto (or similar). Back OpenID and OpenSocial. People like to sign up to positive-sounding things that cite big players or existing traction.

11 Responses to “The Curmudgeon’s Manifesto”

  1. Alan Levine

    I could not agree more with the sentiment about making your blog your own hub, though am not sure why Luis limits a scope to “my own personal *business* blogs”, though I just assume it his his scope of work.

    But I cant really hop a bandwagon to be a “curmudgeon” — “a crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas” or “a cantankerous person; an ill-tempered and disagreeable person.”

    It’s not about being stubborn or cranky, but being pro-actively pragmatic and looking out for your own future.

    I don;t need to go as far as “I wont use your service”– I am just selective about what I let them have. For example, I cannot think of anything I have put into LinkedIn that I can see really is all that precious. Maybe I just dont LinkedIn enough…. no, I do.

    For Facebook, I only let them have one image, because they are StingyBook with media — thet will suck in media from other external sites with open APIs, but they wont let content flow the other way

    Have fun hanging out with the other curmudgeons, maybe y’all can start a NIng 😉

    • Harold Jarche

      But I meant the new and much nicer Curmudgeon 2.0. Alan!

      I agree with your recommendations, which I pretty much follow anyway – losing Facebook or LinkedIn would not be a big deal for me. My main interest in continuing this conversation is to ensure that others understand the cost of creating content on proprietary platforms and then losing control after it’s too late. Maybe I should I re-name it the “Pro-actively Pragmatic Primer”?

      BTW, I’m sure my kids would say that I meet your definition of a curmudgeon 😉

  2. Dave Ferguson

    Well, Alan Levine said much of what I would have, only more intelligently.

    I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot recently, especially since my old-style PDA no longer syncs with the data on my PC. I’m about ready for a smartphone and considering an Android model, but I am far from crazy about the idea of Google having access to my contacts and my calendar.

    Ditto for gmail: why should I allow a bunch of rich geeks to scan the content of my mail? I haven’t heard a good answer yet; the value proposition is often more a proposition than a value.

    Having your own domain (so you control where it’s hosted) and your own web presence is essential, I think, even if a bit technical for someone who’s never done it. The tech barriers are lower but not invisible. Still, it’s kind of like learning to write and speak on an educated-adult level: something with far more benefits than drawbacks.

    (I may need to consider OpenID again, though it felt really clunky and cumbersome to me.)

  3. Julian Elve


    I think that you have an excellent point, and indeed I would extend it – so many of the sites you allude to are less than predictable in what they will post or display over time.

    From the perspective of having my key content where I want it, and in a place that can always be associated with “me”, I was inspired by your post to make a few changes to my personal setup:

    1) I’ve stopped auto-posting to Facebook and LinkedIn. I still use both sites but for a controlled subset of my online activities for which they are a good fit.
    2) I’ve installed the necessary plugins to aggregate my “Lifestream” on my own site. Although I still have Friendfeed, that is more as a backup rather than a key “point of presence”.

    Oh yes, and I like Doug Belshaw’s suggested rename, or perhaps the “Open Learner Manifesto” ?


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