I just wanted to quickly bring this back to the top of my blog in light of people’s freakout reaction to the new Facebook layout which just launched (which happens with every update). I just want to reiterate that while you may want to abandon Facebook, you probably won’t. However it’s still a great idea to control your own content if Facebook falls out of fashion someday (which also probably won’t happen since they’re now closing in on 1 BILLION users).
So this week Facebook launched a couple new features: Subscribe and Smart Lists. I’ve activated both on my profile and they’re pretty cool. Subscribe allows people you aren’t friends with to subscribe to your public updates. This is similar to following people on Twitter and is good for people with a ton of friends or people who have started a fan page to consolidate the fan page into one account. Smart Lists basically groups your friends into predetermined lists automatically based on relationship, workplace, location, etc. and allows you to choose to share to certain lists, or publicly to anyone. I normally just make everything public. It makes organizing friends a little bit easier and both of these features allow you to control who gets to see what you’re posting. Some of this seems like a direct copy of what Google+ is doing with their Circles feature.
Facebook is the biggest player in this game with close to 800 million users at the time of this writing. Things change and Facebook needs to make those users happy, so they must keep advancing the product. Sometimes that means taking competitors ideas and trying them out. Facebook has been known to “borrow” alot of things, and they’ve also been know to try things out and ditch them if they don’t work. The wars between the different social networks make good tech headlines and movies, but are not really ours to fight unless you work at one of these companies.
One of the issues that is of your concern is privacy and Facebook has had alot of criticism and controversy surrounding what they are doing with your data and personal information. I am not going to quit facebook or any of these social sites because so many people I know use them, and they are great communication tools. But if anyone is going to benefit from what I am posting on the Internet, it ought to be ME. I am agnostic when it comes to social networks and long ago decided to use them all to my personal and professional benefit. I will keep the bulk of MY online content here at MY personal website, and broadcast it out to the social networks in hopes of bringing people back HERE. This way I control my content and have a permanent record of it for myself or others to browse in the future. My Facebook and Twitter feeds go by so fast that I don’t even remember what was posted yesterday, let alone a year or two ago. Web companies rise and fall. Who knows, Facebook might go the way of MySpace or Friendster in 5 years? I want to control my destiny with my own site. I’m going to tell you why I think WordPress is your best option to do this.
WordPress started out as a free open source blogging platform that began about 8 years ago. Fast forward to August 2011 and now 14.7% of all the websites on the internet use WordPress as a content management system. Being an open source project as opposed to a for profit company means that the WordPress code belongs to everyone can use it or modify it as they need, as well as contribute to the project. Thousands of people contribute to the success of WordPress because they love it, use it, or make money from it in some way. This means that it’s survival in one form or another is pretty secure, so you can build a WordPress site with confidence. Another thing is that WordPress can import content from almost any other prominent content management system, and you can export as well if you want to leave.
This site here is a WordPress blog with a lightweight theme called P2 from Automattic. I haven’t prettied up the design yet, and I don’t really plan to do all that much to it. P2 turns a regular blog into the equivalent of your own personal Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus profile. When logged in, the P2 theme will allow you to post right to the site without even going into the dashboard, just like you can with Twitter, Facebook, Or Google Plus…except it’s all yours. There are also great Mobile Apps for posting to your WordPress site for iOS, Android, Blackberry, WebOS, Windows Phone, and Nokia. WordPress is also working on responsive design making things even better for posting and viewing on any device without using a dedicated app.
You can create your own WordPress blog easily on most any web host for next to nothing, but P2 is also an available theme to use on your free WordPress.com blog if you choose to build your site there. Keep in mind that if you host your own site, you have more control with widgets, plugins and other aspects of your site that WordPress.com may not allow. But if you’ve never had your own site, WordPress.com is a great place to start. And if you want to move up to your own self hosted blog, you can export your WordPress.com blog and import right into your own self hosted WordPress site literally in minutes.
So let’s say you follow my advice and get a WordPress blog running with P2, and start posting away. Now how do you get those posts into your Facebook & Twitter accounts? There are many ways to do this with different WordPress plugins, external services, etc. But I think that currently the easiest way to do this is with the RSS Graffiti App on Facebook. This app lets you take the RSS feed of your blog, input it into RSS Graffiti and then every time you post to your blog, it automagically syndicates it to your Facebook Wall & Twitter Account. It also works with Facebook pages. There is nothing yet that I know of that does this for Google Plus, but I’m sure something will come along soon now that the API is open. Perhaps RSS Graffiti will build that into their service.
Also if you have a bigger personal site or community site and want to start your own Social Network, WordPress can cover you there too as the WordPress community has also created an open source plugin called BuddyPress that allows you to create your own social network right inside of WordPress. But I’ll save that subject for another blog post… 🙂