go ahead...grab my flag


Mary Dean

Today you can buy yourself a domain name for $15. Then you can go to Digital Ocean and rent a server, that you control, for $5/month. Then, for free, you can install Ghost, the open-source blogging platform that I am using right now (Digital Ocean will even pre-install it for you), and voilĂ , you will have created your own, cozy home on the web.

I think everyone should do that. That every single person should have a home on the web that they control and that belongs to them. Not so they can advertise for Google. Not so they can attract a million visitors. But so they can express themselves, whatever that means to them.

What's cool about my "flag" demo, above, is that I "wrote" it right into this blog post. Ghost lets you do anything that HTML and CSS and Javascript can do, as you are writing, right on your page.

You could write a post in the form of talk bubbles.

You can create your own personal style of footnotes, or popovers.

You can make your own drop-cap and use it anywhere you want to.

But you can only do those things if you control your own blog. Yes, there's code injection, but that's not the same as being able to xyz.

My blog is aimed at those people. Individuals who are trying to create a space for creative expression and independent thought in this vast, complicated, dangerous internet. At people who are not necessarily "coders" but who like the idea of pressing a and making an airplane fly across the screen, or making the word SPARKLE sparkle when you hover your mouse over it.

I am going to focus on three audiences where I believe the need is urgent:

(1.) Independent journalists, who need a space to write in-depth stories that they can keep coming back to, where they can escape the tyranny of "new is better, more is better, and page view counts are everything." A place where they control the advertising. Where they can crunch numbers and include those numbers right in the story for their readers to crunch as well. Most importantly, a site that they control, which allows them to copy their database to a thumb drive and carry it in their pockets if they want to.

(2.) Family archivists, by which I mean families who want to gather and organize not only their family photographs but the stories that go with them. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing people write sincere eulogies to the dead on for-profit "legacy" websites that turn around and hound them for money to "preserve" their memories. Our photos and our memories need to belong to us, in a form that we can control and preserve in forms that we understand and don't have to hire someone to help us with.

(3.) Artists and creative folks. I totally encourage you to make a Wordpress blog, a Squarespace website, a Youtube or Vimeo or Soundcloud channel and show your stuff to the world. It's so easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of running your own website and to lose the momentum that should be dedicated to creating. Plus those places have built-in audiences, which is great. But ultimately, the medium is the message. If you feel the need to own and control your own space, to expand beyond the slots that the corporations "give" you, to create something more permanent and integrated, where you can combine words and music and art, and not have your work serve primarily as a vehicle for advertisers, you might consider an open-source blogging platform like Ghost.

to be continued