I’ve finally been able to slow down my external (non–ALA) work enough to circle back around to working on my own stuff again. I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging, but I readily acknowledge that I’m still not likely to blog at my 2002–2003 levels ever again.
Watching Steve Rubel change his focus from his blog to his lifestream made me realize that the tools are finally available for me to do something similar. Other long-time bloggers such as Robert Scoble and Jason Griffey have been re-examining their online presences, and it’s exciting to follow the experiments everyone is trying.
While I admire what these folks are doing and appreciate the fact that they’re openly thinking out loud, I knew I wanted to try a different approach. Because as much as I love the cloud, I’m getting a little tired of being bitten by the companies running it. Don’t get me wrong — I love most of those companies, I’m very appreciative of the fact that they offer these services for free (usually at a monetary loss), and I still plan to participate in them, but I’ve also decided that I want to own my lifestream and have an archive of it.
So as I started looking at my options, based on my understanding of each tool, I ruled out possibilities such as displaying my FriendFeed stream as my home page or using a third-party site such as Posterous. Those solutions work well for others and are super cool at what they do, but they don’t let me backup or own my cloud. I’m also not interested in sending the same update to every service because I use them all differently.
The solution I’ve come up with is to use the Lifestream plugin for WordPress, which kind of lets me run a stripped-down version of my own personal FriendFeed (but without the comments on individual items). It totally rocks, so a big thank you to David Cramer for writing and sharing it.
By default, it lets me set up feeds from my major sites, such as Flickr (pictures), delicious (bookmarks), Twitter (microblogging), Google Reader (shared items I’ve read about that day) , YouTube (videos), and more. It also lets me add the RSS feed for any service that’s not already listed (this is one reason I still think RSS is the greatest thing since sliced bread and is still very important). Most major ones are already there — I just don’t use most of them. Surprisingly, FriendFeed isn’t listed yet, but I was able to easily add a feed for items I’ve liked. Since I don’t post much original content to FF, it shouldn’t get too recursive there.
There are two ways you can use this plugin. The first is to create a separate page with your full stream, which updates at set intervals. The alternative, which I’m using, is to do a summary post of all of your activity at a specific time each day. This way, I can aggregate all of my non-blogging activity in one post at the end of the day.
Even better, the Lifestream plugin seems to actually import each item so I have a copy of it. I’m assuming these are in a database I have access to, but I still need to follow up on that. Ideally, this means I have backup copies of all of my text updates on any aggregated service, and I can access it in the future if one of those services ever disappears. In addition, adding the stream to my blog means things like my Google Reader shared items, tweets, and delicious bookmarks get indexed there, so I can search for most of my stuff in one place. It’s not really organized in any way, other than chronological, but I’ll be interested to see if having a searchable version gives me any advantages down the road.
This isn’t ideal, but it’s enough of a first step for me to implement this for a while to see how it works. All lifestream posts from the plugin should appear in the Lifestream category, which I think I’ve now excluded from email updates for my site. I’ve also set Twitterfeed to only share links to posts from my site that have the tag #blogpost in order to avoid a recursive stream there. I’m still looking for a way to prevent the lifestream posts from appearing in FriendFeed. I have a feeling I have to add some magic behind the scenes to get an RSS feed for just the “blogpost” tag or category in order to feed just those items into FF.
Another issue is comments, but I haven’t found a good way to aggregate all of the comments on my items back into my site. I’d love to be wrong that this isn’t yet possible, so please let me know if you’ve done this successfully. It’s also unfortunate that I can’t use an RSS feed of just my comments from FriendFeed, because it counts my delicious descriptions as “comments.”
I also have to make a decision about Facebook and my status updates there. It’s the only site I post to that’s even remotely protected, and even though I don’t post anything there I wouldn’t want the world to read, I still like the idea of having one site that really is just my friends and friendsters. I’m torn, though, because it would be nice to archive those status updates along with the rest of my stream. We’ll see if that desire ultimately wins out over having a smaller online circle.
This solution won’t work for everybody, but I’m going to let this solution run for at least a couple of months to see how it works, and I’d be interested in your feedback over time, but I really like the idea of aggregating my own digital identity so that I have more control over it (especially under my domain). I do intend to keep blogging, although I suppose now technically my blog will be the blogpost tag for this site. The blog items won’t always be this long, but hopefully this will get me back into a flow where I can at least post starter thoughts or discussion points for future exploration.
For so long, my online presence was mostly my blog, but it’s become so much more, and this move helps pull it all together. I can also see myself using this process to facilitate that aggregation. For example, I may start posting more descriptive tweets in order to explain something that’s appearing in my stream that I just don’t have the time to blog about that day or maybe using a Flickr picture to augment a delicious bookmark. Regardless of what happens, it will be an interesting experiment.
I’ll try to post updates about how this new flow works for me, but let me know what you think, too.