[In a June 6, 2016, post on this blog, I introduced my proposal for developing the WordPress Personal Digital Home (PDH), “the starting point for your digital life.” This is the second post in this WordPress PDH series.]
Past — Present — Future
To understand Personal Digital Homes (PDHs), stop for a minute to think about the past, the present, and then the future.
1996: What was your digital life like twenty years ago. Most people weren’t on the Internet. Many people didn’t even know what the Internet was. For most people in the world, a telephone meant something connected to the wall with a cord. Personal computers were plentiful in America and many other countries, but billions around the world didn’t have access to personal computers (PCs), and billions didn’t directly interact with the digital world.
2016: What is your digital life is like today? That depends greatly on where you live and what your economic status is. But just about everyone in the USA has access to a cell phone and to the internet. The internet has become so commonplace that in 2016 the people who decide how words should be spelled announced that internet should start with a lower case i instead of an upper case I. The vast majority of Americans have access to a PC, even if it’s only a friend’s or one at the local library. In 2016, many smartphones have more computing power than PCs of 1996, and for an increasing number of the world’s population, a smartphone is their primary computing device and their on-ramp to the internet.
There are still isolated pockets of society that are minimally impacted by the digital world, but in America even homeless people either have a cell phone or they know another nearby homeless person who has a cell phone. Amish, Irish Travelers, and other people who have chosen a non-mainstream lifestyle are still affected by the digital world. Some aspects of the mainstream world are only accessible through the internet. If you’re under 40 or 50 years old, when was the last time you used a phone book to look up someone’s phone number, or the phone number or address of a business?
2036: What will your digital life probably be like twenty years from now? Take into account what it was like twenty years ago and how much the digital world (not just the internet) now affects you.
If you’re in mainstream America or if you live somewhere else but your income is above the global per capita median (your income is higher than half the people in the world), trying to imagine your 2036 digital life is fun, terrifying, exhilarating, pointless, difficult or mind-boggling, depending on your personality, point of view, and other factors.
The only thing we know for sure about the future is that we can’t accurately and knowingly predict it. Humans went to the moon in 1969, but we haven’t been back since 1972. Just think what was probably predicted in 1970 about space travel. Although human travel to the moon or beyond isn’t part of our lives in 2016, you can bet that in 2036 the digital world will be affecting much more of your life than it currently does. At least 95% of the people on earth twenty years from from now will be much more impacted by the digital world than they are today.
A Baby Born In 2016
Imagine a baby born in 2016 in the USA. Think of how immersed in the digital world that baby will be. If it was your baby, or your grandchild, what would your plan be for managing their digital world? Where would you put all their digital photos, records, data, their online presence, and the digital tools and services they use or that affect them? How would they find those things when they wanted them?
Maybe your personal attitude is that you’re going to protect that new child from the internet and from an invasive world. I know one parent who decided not to put any of their kids’ pictures online. He felt that level of public exposure was unsafe for them. He keeps all the family’s photos on hard drives and USB flash drives.
Contrast that with how some parents you probably know put hundreds or thousands of family pictures online, including their children or grandchildren. They most likely upload those pictures to Facebook or another free online service that allows you to store photos (and other parts of your digital life) on their “cloud computers” which are under their control and under their rules.
There is a reason those companies let you put all those photos and the rest of your digital life on the cloud computers the companies are paying for. The reason is they make money off your information and your digital presence on their computers. They, not you, decide what is done with your pictures and your data. If the company with your digital life goes out of business, or wants to change the rules about the access to your data, your digital life and your real-world life can be seriously affected.
You have decided (knowingly or unknowingly) to give Facebook or other tech companies control over your photos and your digital life because they give you free online services. But do you really want the entire digital life of your child or grandchild stored on and controlled by Facebook, Apple, Google or any other company? Is that the decision you want to make for your child or grandchild, giving their digital life to a company who controls what happens to that data?
Who Controls The Starting Point For Your Digital Life?
The above discussion about who controls your photos might sound a bit paranoid or unrealistic. But you really don’t have control of what you put online if you don’t “own” the starting point.
The Father of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, spoke earlier this week about trading your personal data for “free” online services.
“…At the session on Tuesday, computer scientists talked about how new payment technologies could increase individual control over money. For example, if people adapted the so-called ledger system by which digital currencies are used, a musician might potentially be able to sell records without intermediaries like Apple’s iTunes. News sites might be able to have a system of micropayments for reading a single article, instead of counting on web ads for money.
“Ad revenue is the only model for too many people on the web now,” Mr. Berners-Lee said. “People assume today’s consumer has to make a deal with a marketing machine to get stuff for ‘free,’ even if they’re horrified by what happens with their data. Imagine a world where paying for things was easy on both sides…”
Chris Hardie, who has dealt with the online world for nearly 20 years, also addressed this issue of who owns online data and content. In a September 2015 post he said:
“…I worry about others who take for granted that the digital things they create will always be there, accessible, under their control, searchable/viewable in a way that makes sense to them.
…I want to fully understand the security and privacy issues involved in where they are stored and how people get to them. I want to know I can back them up, export them, move them from one place to another, or even delete them when I want.
I don’t want commercial entities dictating how, when and what I can publish, or exploiting what I do publish for their own gain without my explicit permission. If I’m to contribute meaningfully to online dialog, I don’t want it to be deleted as soon as someone gets tired of hosting that particular conversation (or worse, decides they want to delete dissenting thoughts)…
When I use a WordPress site as my digital home, this kind of ownership is built in. I can post content – words, images, audio, video, and much more – and store it in a single place that is self-contained and unquestionably mine…
By comparison Facebook (for example) is a relatively fragile digital home, and yet so many people use it as the primary or only place where they create content and express themselves. But a corporation with a profit motive ultimately controls its features and functionality. Content is not easily searchable or sortable, and disappears into the past quickly. Some people won’t see or may not be able to see content posted there. Content and conversations can be deleted on a whim…”
You NEED A Personal Digital Home
It doesn’t seem right to have your digital life kept or primarily accessed from someplace where “content and conversations can be deleted on a whim.”
You NEED a personal digital home, and so do people you care about, whether they’re children, grandchildren, other family members or friends.
WordPress is the software that powers over 25% of the world’s websites. It’s open source, which means no company owns it. That means nobody owns your data and content but you…
Maybe a WordPress Personal Digital Home is right for you!
Other posts related to IndieWeb and Personal Digital Home
“WordPress: Default Personal Digital Home (PDH)”
“WordPress Personal Digital Home, Part 2: In The Year 2036” — today’s post
“WordPress Personal Digital Home, Part 3: Pick A Problem”
“WordPress Personal Digital Home, Part 4: Baby Steps”
“IndieWeb Summit 2017 & WordPress PDH”
“Coder Cooperative June 20th Meetup: IndieWeb And Personal Digital Home“
“IndieWeb and PDH: Talking Points For Coder Cooperative June 20 Meetup“
“Day-After Report: June 20 Coder Cooperative, IndieWeb & PDH“