Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

No More Content Feudalism

Internet companies rise and fall. Sometimes the descent is slow and painful (MySpace), sometimes a crash (Magnolia), sometimes the downward trajectory hasn’t started but is clearly inevitable (Instagram). Every company that relies on your content to support its business model is a point of risk for you losing your information. Even services with honest revenue models (Flickr,, Pinboard) can go down without warning.

I have no problem giving my content to other services. My poor Twitter followers know that. But I do have a problem when I become dependent on that service to store my words. I refuse to cultivate content in a feudalistic publishing ecosystem; I refuse to be a serf reliant on a distant lord for access, permission, and privacy. I want to share my content, not have my content sharecropped.

Our websites are our own. Graphicpush, in particular, houses a decade of writing. To me, it’s worth protecting.

Three Categories of Content

  1. Ephemeral bullshit thoughts. Music opinions, political links, cat videos, insipid brain farts, anger management speed-therapy, and thinly disguised argument baiting. Twitter is the dumping ground for this collection of crap.
  2. Important bookmarks and slightly longer thoughts. These are not passing links, but referencable bookmarks. They include a sentence or two of commentary.
  3. Long-form articles and blog posts. The quality and timeliness of these vary, but they required time to write and are, for better or worse, part of the permanent archive.

I could publish all of these things on graphicpush, and then syndicate out to miscellaneous services. That’s overkill. “Poopin” tweets do not need a permanent home. Frankly, if I don’t want my own mom as a follower, I’m pretty sure I don’t want a future archivist digging up my tweets.

But content categories #2 and #3 are worth publishing from a central source and syndicating out. Graphicpush is the source, not a facsimile. This is the model Tantek Çelik described. Others, including Jeremy Keith, have evangelized it.

Pushing It Out

Thanks to Textpattern’s ability to create arbitrary XML feeds1, services like IFTTT, and third-party APIs, syndication can be automated. A sample of some of the plumbing installed here:

  • Links on graphicpush have their own XML feed. A new bookmark gets published to Delicious and syndicated to simultaneously.
  • If I give the bookmark a hashtag of #tw, it gets syndicated to Twitter as well.
  • I created a new category called “256” for short-form thoughts. This also has its own XML feed. Items published to this category appear in the main feed of the site and are simultaneously syndicated to’s lovely API handles both the text of the post and reference the post’s canonical URL. (Sample.)
  • New long-form posts, no matter what length, push an update to Twitter,, and Feedburner (who make it pretty for traditional RSS readers)2.
  • I’ve started a photo-pushing service, but I don’t much care about pictures so I’m not sure that will ever get done.

So the tedious linking to these services is eliminated, and my website remains the central content authority. If Twitter,, Delicious or any future service crumbles to dust, my content remains intact. If my website fails, I have a SQL backup. If that fails, I have a backup career as a park ranger.

Can This Apply To Organizations?

Actually, even more so. The larger the organization, the more complex the governance of content, and operating it from a Single Source of Truth — whether that be a WCM, WPS, a third-party application or a homegrown system — becomes increasingly important.

Blog post syndication, new webinar announcements, job openings and more can be orchestrated together. Some of these become automated based on triggers, but most of it is simply planned and written more efficiently. Less guesswork. Fewer mistakes. Consistency and scheduling that support a broader content strategy.


Content is mine, not theirs.

Content is centrally maintained.

Content is syndicated automatically.

Content is archived on my rules.

If a service goes out of business, gets hit by a meteor, jeopardizes my privacy or alters their TOS to a point of incongruousness, that faucet can be turned off and those sellouts can go fuck themselves.

1 Textpattern has built-in feed generators, but its rich template system enables creating feeds for authors, future-dated content, recent comments and more.

2 I do not have a Facebook account. I’ve sold my digital soul to every demon except Zuckerberg.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Sunday April 7, 2013

Hi Kevin,

I really resonate with these straightforward ideas of how content feudalism can be resisted. I talk about it all the time in a slightly different context in my work and on my blog.

I wonder if you have any ideas about how we can make content ownership more accessible to non-technical creators (and I’m thinking of the prolific photographers of tumblr here).

You also have to put a lot of faith in your web host, that they won’‘t disappear with all your content in a crash or downward spiral of their own. How do you resolve that? Do you duplicate your content across the web? Do you have systematic backups in place?

Looking forward to your thoughts!



wrote the following on Wednesday May 8, 2013

Ann —

Thanks for the comment and questions. I’ll answer your questions in reverse order:

* I do have systemic backups in place. Since graphicpush is my primary content vehicle, I grab regular MySQL dumps and store them locally and on Dropbox. If my host and their servers were zorched, it would be a simple matter of spinning up a new instance of Textpattern and importing the MySQL file.
* I do not duplicate content across the web. To me, that undermines the premise of “the Web” and the concept behind a “URL”. If we all start duplicating stuff, we end up with a mucky wiki.
* I use Dreamhost, who has been in business for a long time, and who has always shown me nothing but the most gracious support. I believe in their organization, and their business model. While they could drop off the face of the planet, I have backups so migrating to a new host could be done in an hour.
* Content ownership for a non-technical audience is a bit of a catch-22, because the entire premise of services like tumblr and is providing content publishing to non-technical folks and 99.9% of the world is totally cool with that. The best we can ask for is a common format (RSS? XML? JSON?) where we can export our data and import it to a different provider. This is long way of saying “I don’t have a good answer”.

No matter how much of the ownership we bring inhouse, we’re always dependent upon a higher power. Even if we run our own server from our house, we need our cable company to connect to the backbone; even if we own a cable company, we still need the backbone to work. It gets tiring to think about. :)