Let’s Make 2017 The Year of the Indie Web

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If one thing became apparent to me in 2016, it’s that we should strive for a more independent web. An independent web with individual voices outside the big social networks and less reliant on corporations making people the product by collecting data on them. Hence, we are making it our mission at iwantmyname to help you becoming an indie web user in 2017 and beyond.

There have been several events triggering my desire of helping you to achieve that:

  1. The current political climate with the rise of right-wing populists globally.
  2. How fake news on social networks like Facebook or Twitter can impact popular opinion.
  3. An increasingly more unpleasant climate in social media with people abusing each other.

But where to start with becoming an indie web user?

As Chris already said in his post-election domain thoughts:

If you have something to say, or a point of view that needs to be heard, get a domain name and start a blog. It’s not hard. Be the thoughtful voice people are sharing on social media, instead of hoping the things you want to read will be written.

Setting up a blog on your own domain is the easy part, but there are a few other things you should consider before publishing your first post.

Get into writing (again)

Whether you’ve published on the internet fairly regularly or want to start as a new writer, try forming a habit first by setting aside a few minutes per day to jot down your thoughts. Not for the public but just for yourself.

Use an app like Streaks to create a habit for at least 3-4 weeks before even thinking of writing publicly. Only then, make the jump to a larger audience. Nobody is saying you need to post regularly, but forming this habit increases the likelihood of succeeding– and as a side effect you become a better writer.

Build an audience by publishing from your domain outwards

An often-overlooked aspect of developing a truly independent voice on the web is publishing content on your domain name first, then going outwards after.

There’s no denying the fact that networks like Facebook and Medium allow you to reach bigger audiences than on your own site. But it’s important always to publish on your domain name first and everywhere else second. Then make a habit of cross-posting (or even better automate it) so people can share and amplify your content’s reach. For example, if you have a blog running WordPress, you could use Medium’s WordPress plugin to have your posts appear on both your site and Medium.

Don’t just chase followers by concentrating efforts on a particular network but deliver great content on your web address, and your audience will grow everywhere else as a result.

Make sure you own your content

In an ideal world, I would recommend choosing a service based on open source software, but I understand that’s not always feasible. There’s nothing wrong with using the Squarespaces of the web if they make your life easier in one way or another. However, you should always make sure the service you choose allows you to export content in case you want to move somewhere else later (occasionally doing a backup of your content doesn’t hurt either.) On that note, there are many Dropbox-based blogging tools worth looking into which let you keep a local copy of your writing.

Support the small guys

I recently came across a new Kickstarter campaign looking to fund development of a new publishing platform called Micro.blog (btw, what a great name using the new .BLOG top-level domain). Try to keep an eye out for projects and companies like this and support them. And don’t just go for the cheapest options available – get to know the service’s motivations and ethics and do your best to support the good ones.

Reconsider the tools and services you’re using

Have you focused on Medium for most of your writing? Maybe it’s time to reconsider and move to WordPress.com instead. This week’s announcement from Medium laying off 50 of their staff shows how fragile centralized platforms can be. I really want them to succeed in finding a model that works without advertising, but always keep in mind that any business backed by venture capital is at the mercy of its investors. No return on their money often means shutting down the business or selling it off (before it most likely will be shut down anyway.)

The list of these platforms goes on and on, and the best way to get away from that world is to make a list of all the free tools you’re using and replace them with paid alternatives. For example, have you ever questioned the use of Google Analytics for your site? And are you still using Gmail instead of a custom email address with your domain? You get the idea.

Join the indie web

Keeping the web open and independent is how it was supposed to work from the beginning. Make your domain the center of everything you publish online, wisely choose the tools and services you use, and consider replacing ones you’ve been using because they are free. It’s time to take the web back into your own hands!