liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Slow girl gets it now...

Well, I'm pleased to say that no one on my FList was born yesterday. Snuck over to the frienditto site and did a search on me (because it's all about ME!) and not one hit came up.

Not that I know if I'm doing the search right or that their search engine actually works if you don't sign up for their "service," so I'll just assume that all of you are smart cookies and Net savvy.

I'm also going to assume that most people signed on to frienditto with the best of intentions. They didn't realize what they were doing and only wanted to find a way to archive their own LJs in real time. So, as a service to those people, I thought I'd do some 'splorin and see if I could find an alternative. And guess what? I did.

If you read the LJ FAQ, you'll find that LJ is sort of affiliated with a third-party service called Feedster. It allowes you to search other people's blogs (and not just on LJ) if you're looking for something. However--and these are big howevers--you cannot search blogs that are not registered with Feedster (in short, the owner has to register his or her own site with Feedster) and it will not search FLocked posts.

This might be an acceptable alternative for some people. People who wish to put their blog on a searchable RSS feed can do so without endangering their friends' privacy. You're putting yourself out there, not other people. Plus, Feedster doesn't seem to be asking for anything more than your blog's address. You have to create your own unique username and password for Feedster. Here is the Privacy Policy.

It's interesting to see two trains of thought on this. On the one hand, you have one group feeling very betrayed that their posts are getting fed to a third-party site without their knowledge or permission and that they are exposed for all to see (and yes, you can see FLocked posts on frienditto). On the other hand, you have a second group that feels that this is the Internet and you shouldn't be publically posting private shit (even in a FLocked post) where anyone can read it.

Not surprisingly, I think both camps have a point.

Anyone who knows me shouldn't be shocked. When given a choice between A or B, count on me to go pull out the C option.

This morning I was tooling around on my FList trying to figure out the whole frienditto deal. I think I remain somewhat mystified by it because my brain just might be wired a little differently than most people's.

In responding to hernewshoes's post, it sort of hit me why I'm a little confused. hernewshoes speculated that frienditto was somewhat playing on LJ users' fears about losing their blogs as a result of the combined one-two punch that was the Great LJ Blackout and 6A buying LJ. People were looking for a way to archive and there was frienditto just waiting to take them in.

It sounds like a reasonable supposition to me.

But I think this is where my cognitive disconnect comes in. I don't see anything posted on the Internet as something that's permanent or even necessarily meant to be permanent. Yes, the Internet has a frightening memory, as one who's made use of Google, the Google cashe option, or the Wayback Machine can attest. But at the same time, these electronic bits and bytes are ephemeral, for lack of a better word. They can be wiped out so easily by something as small as a power failure, something as heart-breaking as a hard disc failure, or something catastrophic like an EMP blast.

So what we have here are a series of electronic snapshots that more permanent that we realize, but more delicate than we're willing to believe.

As an archiving medium, the Internet is just not that good. What it's good at is linking people up to information that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get. It's good at connecting people and communities. It has a memory of sorts that has been built by people who actually use it. However, Web sites can drop off the radar, be neglected, or simply cease to exist.

Furthermore, the flow of information on the Internet can be disrupted by governments trying to block information (as in the case of the famous "Chinese firewall" that was all the rage to talk about a few years back); downed servers that can litterally shut down entire swaths of the Internet; DNS attacks; or, something even less far-reaching, something as simple as a FLocked post.

That's not to say there isn't a way to get around all of this (because there alawys is), but for the less technologically savvy, it is a significant roadblock.

What I'm trying to say in my long-winded way is this: The Internet and it's contents are not permanent and we are making a mistake by thinking it is. We are making a huge mistake in believing that it should be.

As I said to hernewshoes in this response to her post:

Paper: The Gold Standard in Archiving. It'll never go out of style, it'll never be made irrelevant by technology advances, and the only special equipment you need to read the contents is at least one working eye (or a sense of touch if the contents are written in braille). Paper, not just another good idea. Brought to you by 6,000 years of history.

And it still holds true even in this day in age. I work in technical medical writing. It requires a lot of referencing. Those original references need to be stored. And they are not stored electronically. Yes, we do have an electronic archive for most of the references and we do keep them on a server. However, the permanent archive is paper-based. We hold them in the office for easy retrieval for a few years. Then the paper records are shunted off to a storage facility, even though the information in those records may be out of date or less than useless for our purposes.

No matter what, a paper trail is still a lot harder to wipe out than an electronic record. It would require something catastrophic (fire, flood, natural disaster) to destroy that record over the short term. Furthermore, it's harder to alter the record on paper. Doing it to an original copy would be obvious. And making a "clean copy" of an altered original takes patience and skill. In the electronic realm, you can alter the record in any number of ways and no one would be the wiser.

So what am I getting at here?

I don't understand the mania for archiving LJ posts.

Yes, if my blog and all my electronically stored memories disappeared tomorrow, I'd be upset, even heartbroken. However, it would not be the end of the world. I went into LJ knowing that I was dealing with electrons that could disappear in the blink of an eye and I'd be a fool to ever forget that. While I'm tempted to sign up for Feedster, if only so it'll let me search my own blog more easily for information, I don't consider it an archive because I have no desire to archive my LJ, if that makes any sense.

So that shows my "Why did you bother?" stripe.

At the same time, I understand why people are upset that their blogs (FLocked or not) have been fed to a third-party service without their knowledge. In a lot of ways, LJ is a dream for anal-retentive control freaks like myself. Whatever you know about me through LJ is only what I'm willing to tell you. You don't know my real name, you don't know my street address, you don't know the name of my company, you don't know my phone number. If you looked for Lizbeth Marcs in Waltham, MA, you would never ever find her because she is not a real person. She's a character I created to interact with the broader LJ and Internet community. She's only as real as I make her and as real as you want her to be. She's, in a sense, a shared hallucination.

Now, that's not to say that there isn't a substantial person behind her, because there is (and getting more substantial if I don't get off my ass and join Weight Watchers). And that's not to say that there isn't a significant amount of me in Lizbeth Marcs, because there is. And that's not to say that I'm not honest about the opinions I spout off on my LJ, because I am. You can get a good sense of my RL character by reading my LJ (I hope), but I would never, ever post personal information on any public forum where anyone could find it. I strip as much identifying material from my LJ as I possibly can.

Now, if someone in my RL knew me and stumbled across this blog, I have no doubt they'd eventually put two and two together and figure it out. But first, you've got to connect with both to do that.

There are people who've met me in real life, some of whom I've met through LJ. They know my name, where I live, where I work, and my phone number. I can tell you true things about those people and that, in general, they are as nice and as fun-loving as you'd expect if all you read was their LJ. I remain grateful to those people willing to take the extra step to reach out a hand and say, "Gee, I'd like to get to know you." Because at the end of the day, that's why we're all here in a sense. We all want to learn about one another and we all want to learn about different parts of the world (at least I do), so I'm never bored when people talk about their country or local politics or their interests.

See? It's all about the connection.

While I use LJ for one purpose, I understand that some people really do view LJ as an intimate little affair where they can prop their feet up on the coffee table, share personal conversations with a few friends, and maybe do some confessionals. I wouldn't use it that way myself, because, hello! Anal retentive control freak with a healthy dose of paranoia. I may not I understand why people use LJ that way, but then again, I don't need to. All I need to understand is that they do and it behooves me to respect that and whatever boundries they lay down.

So, even if I look at LJ as version of performance art that reveals some hidden truth about who we are and how we connect to one another, I can very much understand the frustration of finding out that something you've spent time writing (FLocked or not) has somehow escaped into the broader Internet community. In many ways, the writer and the reader, at least for LJ purposes, have an unspoken contract. To afford each other some basic modicum of respect, and that includes respect for whatever boundries the writer lays down. Just like you shouldn't steal an icon from someone without asking first, you shouldn't be archiving someone's post on a public third-party site without asking first. That's just the way it should work.

Really, I do see the arguments on both sides of this debate.

But at the end of the day, we should really make some commonsense judgement calls about where the boundries are for everyone. While I can't get worked up by the possibility that someone may be friendittoing me, I can understand why someone might. Again, it all boils down to my personal LJ behavior: I don't put anything here that I wouldn't be willing to say to someone's face because that shit will bite you in the ass eventually. So I can kind of see why some people are saying: if you're worried about it, maybe you should change the way you behave on LJ since you were stupid to expect privacy anywhere on the Internet.

Obviously, I come down on the side of the betrayed writers here. It's their words. It's their blogs. And we should all be playing according to their invidual rules, and that includes no third-party archiving of their blogs without their permission. And certainly no opening up FLocked posts to the broader public.

There's no way to enforce that, true. And there are also ways around that, true. But it does come down to simple courtesy for your fellow LJer.

And courtesy, well, I'm always down with that.

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