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Humanist technologist. Equality and adventures.

I co-founded Elgg and Known, worked on Medium, and now invest in innovative media startups at Matter.

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ben@benwerd.com

 

Two years of being on the #indieweb

2 min read

For the last two years, I haven't directly posted a single tweet on Twitter, a single post on Facebook or LinkedIn, or a photo on Flickr. Instead, I publish on my own site at werd.io, and syndicate to my other services.

If Flickr goes away, I keep all my photos. If Twitter pivots to another content model, I keep all my tweets. If I finally shut my Facebook profile, I get to keep everything I've posted there. And because my site is powered by Known, I can search across all of it, both by content and content type.

My site is Known site zero. It's hosted on my own server, using a MongoDB back-end. I'm also writing 750 words a day on a withknown.com site - kept away from here because this site is mostly about technology, and those pieces are closer to streams of consciousness. Very shortly, though, I'll be able to syndicate from one Known site to another.

The indie web community has created a set of fantastic protocols (like webmention) and use patterns (like POSSE). I'm personally invested in making those technologies accessible to both non-technical and impatient users - partially because I'm very impatient myself.

This is a community that's been very good to me, and I find it really rewarding to participate. I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it as it goes from strength to strength.

 

Introducing the Indie Dash Button! #indieweb #vrm

4 min read

I wish I knew how to quit youWe've all been there: you're standing by the washing machine, about to start a load, and you realize you're out of laundry detergent. Or you're getting ready for bed and you realize you've forgotten to buy more mouthwash. Less often, you find yourself wondering how to fly to a particular destination cheaply, or needing a good deal on a new car.

You don't want to deal with a single vendor for each of these things, but you also don't want to spend ages doing price comparisons. What would be great is if you had a personal shopper that would find the best version of these things and automatically get them for you.

For regular, low ticket value essentials - laundry soap, mouthwash, diapers - wouldn't it be nice if you could get these products in a vendor-agnostic way by pushing a single button?

Here's how it works.

What you'll need

A website running on your own domain, with the ability to accept webmentions. Hey, Known does this! So do a variety of other projects!

The request

First, you need to publish a request on your own site. To you, it's a simple statement: something like, "I need some more laundry soap". (The button could make this statement for you.)

On the back-end, the statement is marked up using microformats, and a note is made to a PubSubHubbub hub that there's new content.

A product request aggregator is subscribed to your request, and is notified immediately via PubSubHubbbub. Your request is pushed to an aggregated feed of requests from all over the web. Vendors can subscribe to the requests, or filter them by location, or other profile characteristics that you have published on your own website. Again, these profile fields are just published as HTML, using microformats; there's nothing fancy or proprietary here.

Over time, as vendors build relationships with individual consumers, they can subscribe to their feed of requests directly. There's no requirement for a middle-man.

Making an offer

Vendors can then respond with an offer.

Offers are written as HTML statements too: product details, the quantity, and the price. For example, a statement could include a box of Tide at a particular price.

This statement is published as a reply to your original request using webmentions. In other words, your request to buy something - an item on your personal URL - is answered by a corresponding offer, which is an item on the vendor's personal URL.

Accepting an offer

You can peruse all the offers that have been made on your request. But you could also tell the platform that runs your URL to automatically accept offers within a certain range (for example, if you're offered Tide at a reasonable price, or airfare from SFO to LHR under $800).

To accept an offer, another statement is made, again written as HTML marked up with microformats. This just says something to the effect of, "yes please". Using webmentions, it is attached as a response both to the vendor's offer, and to your original request. That means that any vendor can see that you have accepted an offer, and the vendor can see that their offer has been accepted.

All of this happens behind the scenes, and although the formats involved are very simple, the user gets to use their phone, their browser, or another familiar interface. Again, it could all be done with a simple button.

And then the connection is made. If you have no prior arrangement with the vendor, they get in touch with you (via contact methods published on your URL) to arrange payment and delivery. Otherwise, if the arrangement is already set up, you're good to go.

Finally, another webmention is sent when the product has been shipped - or if the order had to be canceled or changed for any reason.

Why does this make the world better?

This model for commerce - commonly referred to as Vendor Relationship Management, or VRM - turns traditional advertising on its head, and removes the need for complicated targeting technology. Customers readily identify themselves, creating more valuable sales channels where guesswork is all but eliminated.

Additionally, the use of indieweb technologies like webmention and microformats here removes the need for complex or proprietary identity technology. The customer can use the platform of their choice, without the risk of a single vendor locking stakeholders into a single service and impeding commerce and innovation over time.

The customer says they need to buy something; vendors respond with their best offer; money is made, products are sold, and everyone walks away happy, with almost no friction.

 

Yes, you can build great products without spying on users. #indieweb

3 min read

Dustin Curtis, the creator of Svbtle, recently wrote:

Apple is going to realize very soon that it has made a grave mistake by positioning itself as a bastion of privacy against Google, the evil invader of everyone’s secrets. The truth is that collecting information about people allows you to make significantly better products, and the more information you collect, the better products you can build.


Cole Peters responded:

Data isn’t inherently good or bad, useful or useless; therefore, access to data does not equal access to insights that will be beneficial to product development (and, ultimately, user experience). One could easily argue that obsessing over user data could impede product development; time spent on analysing data, and attempting to glean from it relevant and accurate insights (again, this doesn’t always happen) could just as well be spent on testing and (re)iteration of the product.


I would go further than this. What Dustin seems to have been talking about was a kind of data-driven user research: getting feedback from users in aggregate.

This is realistically useful for a small subset of the tasks involved with building a great product.

User research is key to building great products. (By the way, we open-sourced our user research materials.) But deliberate research is far more useful than collecting aggregate data about user details, and reducing your userbase to a series of statistics.

Certainly, keeping track of key performance indicators about your platform can help you understand how it's doing. If nobody's posting to a social network after a month, you've got a problem, for example. But I'd argue that building and improving your tools - i.e., actually pushing forwards - requires a more humanist approach.

You need to talk to people. A lot of people. You need to ask the right questions, but mostly you need to listen to them, and understand as well as possible not just the needs they're telling you, but also their unspoken needs. The things they reveal as insights in conversation. Similarly, you can watch them as they use your product, and even go so far as to track their eye movements, individual clicks, and tiny physical responses.

These conversations are often compensated, and they always happen with the full consent of the user. There's nothing hidden or nefarious about them, and they are not asked to reveal any personal information that they don't want to. They're also far more useful than bulk information that's totally disconnected from the individual human context of the user.

What aggregate statistics are useful for: demographic information for targeted advertising. Let's not trick ourselves into thinking that the assumptions that make ads possible are absolute, unmovable, or necessary to build any kind of well-designed product.

 

Why can't you comment on this post? #indieweb

2 min read

I'm sometimes asked why my posts here on my Known site don't let people comment on them.

The answer is: actually, they do. And I want to read your comments. Feedback is a gift.

Known, like p3k, Taproot and a number of other platforms, uses an open technology called webmention to power its comments. Plugins are also available to help WordPress use webmention.

What webmention gives us is a truly decentralized conversation: you can make a post on your site, mark it as being in reply to this post, and it'll show up as a comment here - but you also get to keep everything you've written on your own site. That way, even if my site goes away, you have a record of every conversation you've had with me. (If you want it.)

You don't need Known to leave a comment: you can use anything that supports webmention.

Through the power of webmention and Bridgy, you can also reply to this post on Twitter and Facebook (see the links at the bottom of the page for this post), and your response will show up here.

This isn't to say that we're not going to add public comments to Known. We are. But we want to make sure we do it right. Sites like Medium have shown interesting new models for user feedback that we're very interested in (and there are decentralized counterparts like marginalia).

We're definitely inviting feedback on this, and would love to read your thoughts. What kind of comments would you like to see?

 

Drawing a line from @elgg to @withknown: an adventure in #edtech and #indieweb

6 min read

1. Elgg: a social networking engine for education.

Elgg communitiesIn November, 2004, we released the first version of Elgg to the world. We originally called it a learning landscape: an educational software platform that took its cues from the emerging social web rather than rigid classroom structures. In many ways, it was as much a reaction to Blackboard and WebCT as it was to Livejournal and MySpace.

I'd been building web communities since 1995, so when I arrived at the University of Edinburgh to work on elearning software, I was appalled at what I'd found. Every single person who used the dominant learning management systems, from the administrators down to the students, hated them. Students only used them because they were forced to; as it turned out, administrators only used them because they were forced to.

And yet, people were learning from each other on the web all the time. Through platforms like Livejournal and Delicious, people with different skills and contexts were colliding and creating a new kind of culture. The web had made it possible for anyone to publish as long as they bought some web space and learned HTML. Suddenly, anyone could publish, as long as they could connect to the Internet at all.

Elgg took the social web, applied it to education, and wrapped the whole thing in an open source license. It took off like wildfire.

Embedded podcastFrom the beginning, it was important to us that users got to control their own space. They could choose their own theme, and hack it, if they wanted to. Most importantly, they could choose exactly who could see each and every post: long before Mark Zuckerberg declared that the age of privacy was dead, our research indicated that students felt more comfortable with web publishing if they could keep tight reigns over who could see their work.

We knew Elgg was bigger than education when non-profits in Columbia got in touch to let us know they were using the platform. Soon afterwards, schools in Bangladesh were featured by the BBC for using it. Over time, as more non-education users emerged - more non-profits like Oxfam and Greenpeace, alongside Swatch, BMW, hedge funds, and the rugby star Will Carling - it evolved into a social networking engine that anyone could pick up and use. We started with a very specific use case - reflective learning in higher education - and widened into something much bigger. To date, Elgg users have included Harvard University, NASA, Hill & Knowlton, the federal governments of several nations, and the World Bank.

I made the choice to move on to new pastures a few years ago. Today, Elgg is managed by a non-profit foundation. The current team is doing an amazing job, and, under their stewardship, the platform has transformed again, into a programming toolkit for people who want to build social applications.

2. Known: the easiest way to own your own space on the Internet.

Meanwhile, individuals are in need of spaces that they truly control more than ever before. In the old days, we thought this was important to help them feel more comfortable with posting their personal reflections to a public space (not everything has to be about maintaining your "personal brand", after all). While that's still true, sites like Facebook are pointing to a more imperative need: a place to publish where you won't be experimented on without your permission, where you won't be spied upon, where you can move your content at any time, and where your content and conversations aren't owned by one of a very small number of corporate silos.

Known is a platform for a new kind of social web. You can think of each Known site as being a single social profile, either for an individual or a group. Each one can interact with each other in a decentralized way (using indie web technology), or they can interact with all the other sites they use - including Elgg, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and all the rest of them. Educational institutions are already asking us if we can integrate with learning management systems like Canvas - and the answer is, yes.

We have privacy, too. Known site owners can choose who can see their content, and they can choose the look and feel of their sites, including what kinds of content they want to publish.

We know that over 50% of Internet use happens on a mobile device, and any new platform has to take that into account. We've made Known fully responsive, so it works on any mobile device with a web browser, including your iPhone, Android phone, Windows Phone device, iPad, tablet, and so on. Even your BlackBerry works with Known. Because mobile usage leads to new kinds of content, Known supports location check-ins and posting photos while you're moving around. And, of course, individuals and organizations can roll their own content types using custom plugins.

On any device, ownership of your site and content, combined with an understanding of your community, gives you a new kind of clarity about your online self. You know exactly who can see each item you post. You know who's responding to you on which networks, and you understand which kinds of content your audiences are interested in. Known is both a safe space to reflect, and a singular site that represents you on the web. And more than anything else, it's respectful software that puts you at the center of your online world.

Known is open source. As a company, we're providing software and customization services to make it easier for organizations to administer, as well as support subscriptions for everyone who uses Known. Finally, we're also working on providing managed infrastructure for anyone who wants to run Known, either individually or for their organization, without the hassle of server administration.

I've been privileged to spend over a decade working on open platforms that empower people and organizations to control their own spaces on the Internet. The pendulum is swinging back to a world where users are asking for that control, and I'm looking forward to making Known the definitive way to own your content online.

If you've read this far, you should definitely check us out: at withknown.com, on Twitter, and on AngelList.

 

My #indieweb life: how my site gives me an awesome social media archive of everything I've ever written

3 min read

Here's how I post from my Known site.

When I log in, Known gives me the option to post lots of different kinds of things: status updates, photos, streaming media, and so on. Because it's what's called a "responsive interface", it adapts to whichever device you're looking at it on: it works just as well on a phone as on a desktop browser. These buttons work great on a touch-based interface, and I post on my phone at least as often as I post from my computer.

This morning, I decided to write a status update:

I decided to post it to my friends on the traditional social media sites too. Above, I've selected Twitter - after I took the picture, I decided to post to Facebook as well.

Known posts the status update to my own site:

But because I selected Twitter, it posts it there too:

And because I selected Facebook, another copy ends up there:

My friends can interact with me over on those sites:

And those replies - whether they're from Facebook, Twitter, or my friends' own websites (running Known or something else) - will show up on my site too, thanks to great indieweb technologies like brid.gy:

This way, I have all of my interactions around that content in one place.

If I want to reply to my friends on the silos, I can do that too. I can just do that from my site using the bank of buttons you've already seen, but if I'm using Firefox, I can use a direct "reply" button integrated with my browser:

Or there's a "bookmarklet" - a button that I drag to my browser's bookmarks toolbar - that makes it easier, which works with every browser.

Either way, those replies will show up on the site my friends replied from, as well as on my own site.

Because I post everything from my own site, I have an archive of everything I've ever written to social media. That means I can look to see everything I've written about "Wimbledon", for example:

And I can filter my search to particular kinds of content:

Because this archive is hosted on my own site, people are likely to find it when they search for me. That means I have more control over how I'm represented on the web. One of the ways I can customize my appearance online is through themes:

But if I'm a developer (and I am!) I can build my own themes and plugins to integrate Known into my existing site, create new kinds of content or radically change the look and feel. It's a pretty great toolbox.

My archive of everything I've posted and all my replies lets me analyze my data in all kinds of ways, that let me post better and participate more directly with my community. I'll be talking more about that another time.

In the meantime, you should sign up to our beta list.

 

Rushing the street: building our #indieweb business

3 min read

We have a William Gibson quote above our desk here at Known HQ:

"The street finds its own uses for things."

It's from Burning Chrome, and serves as a reminder that users will find uses for technologies that its creators were not necessarily expecting. We don't just want to remain open to those new uses; we want to encourage them as much as we can.

We're back from IndieWebCamp in Portland - one of my favorite technology events in one of my favorite cities in the world. Technologists and like-minded creators get together in order to help create web platforms that promote ownership, allow people to communicate with each other freely online, and give people full control of the things they create and share.

I'd started building Known before I aligned myself with the indie web community, but it fits so well: Known allows anyone to publish to their own website as easily as Twitter or Facebook, lets them talk to other people all over the Internet (on existing social networks, on other Known sites, and on blogs and journals), and gives them control over their content.

In a world where the platforms we use every day are spying on us, or even performing psychological tests on us without our knowledge, and when platforms shut down all the time, more people are certainly crying out for more ownership and control. We'll be there for them. Our mission is to empower people to publish to their own space on the Internet.

As part of a discussion on indie web businesses, Amber Case said she thought the market for these products is going to emerge organically. I agree, and it's always better for people to tell you what they find you useful for. Twitter is a great example of a service that has developed that way.

Of course, I also have a business need to sell our product, and prove that it will be useful for enough people to support our growth. We've been having some great conversations with people who need Known: people whose reputations and incomes are tied to their identity online, and the things they make and share on the web. But as any scientist will tell you, anecdotes aren't enough.

Over the next two weeks, we'll begin inviting people to use our Known service. Now is a great time to add yourself to our beta list. It's free - we want your feedback and develop our product hand-in-hand with the people who are using it. We think that's the best way to help the street find its own uses for what we're making, and in the process, create something that changes the way people represent themselves on the web.

 

Gathering content in a space you control: doubling down on #indieweb & journalism

4 min read

Journalism and the indieweb were made for each other.

Because of the way we've been describing Known - particularly focusing on our ability to syndicate content to third-party social networks and important social interactions using brid.gy - we've received a lot of feedback that this is how we should describe ourselves as a business:

Known is a social media marketing application that allows marketing departments to justify ROI using aggregated data from audiences across multiple platforms

For all kinds of reasons, this isn't what we want to do. There are solid business reasons - social media marketing is a crowded market, for one - but there are deeper reasons, too. It's not why we got into this. It's not, on a fundamental level, what we're trying to do.

After all, this is how you could describe the product:

Known lets you own your own social website without having to give up talking to your friends on the web.

I believe in the indieweb as a movement that will empower people to own their own representations on the web. I know that will have broad implications over time, and that the success of these ideas and technologies will make a profound impact on the way the web works. I also think that running a commercial business based on indie web principles is a great thing.

I also think that certain groups of people are ahead of the curve when it comes to privacy and ownership - and journalists are very much among them.

There is a long-term trend towards greater ownership and privacy. Partially this is due to post-Snowden sentiment, but it's also driven by factors like generational differences, a growing commercial dissatisfaction with Facebook, and security breaches at companies like Target. Providing a service that is as easy to use as Facebook, while being respectful to its users, mindful of privacy, and yours, is a good idea. There will be a tipping point where people will be looking for something new, and we will be there for them, alongside other software in the indieweb ecosystem.

But there's also a growing need for this right now. Edward Snowden's whistleblowing was, of course, an important moment in journalism. We participated in a workshop run by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism on newsgathering in a post-Snowden world this week, and were inspired by the renewed focus on protecting sources and swiftly building stories, while being simultaneously dismayed by the lack of effective software to support them. Journalists value ownership, privacy, control and ease of communication - which, of course, are indieweb fundamentals.

We're investigating how Known, and the indieweb, can be effectively harnessed for journalism. This includes heavy research into the workflows people are using today. My experience with latakoo (which is used by professional newsrooms around the world) has told me that every organization is different - but then, my experience with Elgg tells me that it's possible to build a light-touch tool that allows people to customize it for their own needs. In fact, that's what Known already is, whether you take the open source code and build on top of it, or use the hosted service we'll launch this summer.

Journalism is fundamental to democracy. We need to know what's happening in the world around us to make effective democratic decisions. We're also living in a world where journalism is being pinched by changing models and rapidly evolving audiences. If we can help, we would love to.

If you're a journalist, or if you work in a media or news organization, we would love to talk to you. You can email me at ben@withknown.com.

 

How we're on the verge of an amazing new open web #indieweb

5 min read

The Open Stack

Web 2.0 was only the beginning.

Ten years ago, the read/write web was picking up steam. Services like Blogger, Flickr, Delicious, Upcoming and the nascent Facebook were doing something amazing: building publishing platforms that anyone could contribute to. You could share resources, build professional networks, publish to the world and gain audiences without any development expertise: you could just write, hit "post", and you were done. Publishing had never been as easy in the entire history of the world.

There is some consensus that these platforms were the seed for massive cultural change. We're still feeling the effects. Learning happens when people with different contexts, knowledge and assumptions encounter each other, and this is happening more than it ever has before.

But the social web was a proof of concept.

All weblog postsWe needed a space to experiment. There's an old maxim that says perfect is the enemy of the good: it's nearly impossible to create a perfect platform straight out of the gate. You need to figure out what works and what doesn't work, and iterate. That's why developers like to release early and release often. That first release probably isn't great, but the sooner you get your software in front of users, the sooner you can learn from how they use it, and change appropriately.

So it goes with Facebook, Twitter, and the other services that have come and gone over the years. We've learned a lot about social behavior. We understand how to create a great user experience that people find comfortable to use; we understand how to make it easy to share and to publish. Those things didn't come easily, but we have them, and the learning was made easier by creating simpler architectures: centralized systems where user activity could be observed.

It's time for the next step.

Open follows closed.

We know that we need to open our platforms, and that mass surveillance by governments around the world is a problem. It's even fair to say that it's a problem that's been enabled by creating these centralized proofs of concept. Luckily, the next evolution of the web is taking place.

The idea is simple: instead of everyone giving all their information to a site like Facebook, they keep it themselves, but still get to communicate easily using all of the great user experience discoveries we've made. You can still share selfies, make friends, listen to music together and share links, but now you do it in a space that's really yours, and that you get to have more control over.

The result isn't just more privacy. It's better experiences.

You can control how you appear on the web. Not just your profile photo and a background image, but the complete look and feel. You can use designs from people around the world, and mix and match them to create something that's completely unique. If you're a developer (and you don't have to be), you can create something new from the ground up, and share it with the world as well.

(And, hey, we've got more developers than ever before, thanks to great publishers like O'Reilly Media, sharing high-quality tutorials and technical content in an accessible way.)

It's not just about look and feel, though. Developers can create new kinds of content, and new apps, and let anyone else on the web use them. You won't need a Facebook account or a Google account; you'll be able to use them because you're on the web and that's what the web does. Nobody will control the new web, and that's going to allow for unprecedented creativity, and new markets for tools and content. It's going to be beautiful.

Not just that, though. Knowledge is fundamental to democracy. The web is going to continue to be a platform that ushers in new freedoms all around the world. That's already been happening to some extent, but when you connect the ease of use of the "web 2.0" movement with the decentralized, interconnected nature of the web, you empower people at a level never before seen.

I'm grateful for the people who have pioneered web publishing, and who continue to build amazing new experiences. It's fun to see that creativity start to funnel into the indie web, and it's a privilege to be working on some of those tools myself.

It's been a great ten years to write software. I think the next decade on the web is going to be very bright indeed.

If you're interested in these ideas, Indie Web Camp is being held at the end of this month in multiple locations. You should also sign up to learn more about Known, the indie publishing platform I co-founded. We're launching later this summer, and it's going to be great.

By the way, that picture above is the debut of something called the "Open Stack" in Digg's offices in 2008. It included lots of truly open technologies, including ActivityStreams, which is still used today.

 

Backing up the #indieweb: some evidence

5 min read

While there are lots of anecdotal stories about the , lately I've found myself wanting to back them up with hard, quantifiable data. For some people, the underlying principles of ownership, control and reach resonate and make sense; others need further persuasion that the movement is gaining momentum.

I think this kind of evidence-gathering is a good exercise. And of course, it has a selfish purpose too: backing up the need for Known.

The ideological case

Dan Gillmor made the broader case most clearly over on Slate:

We're in danger of losing what's made the Internet the most important medium in history: a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks—that would be you and me—don't need permission to communicate, create, and innovate.

Privacy

Nonetheless, the statistics suggest that the most readily-apparent value of the revolves around privacy. Last September, the PewResearch Internet Project found that:

[..] growing numbers of internet users (50%) say they are worried about the amount of personal information about them that is online - a figure that has jumped from 33% who expressed such worry in 2009.

People would like control over their information, saying in many cases it is very important to them that only they or the people they authorize should be given access to such things as the content of their emails, the people to whom they are sending emails, the place where they are when they are online, and the content of the files they download.

Meanwhile, Forrester Research suggests that the cloud isn't eating all software:

According to research outfit Forrester, businesses are moving to public cloud services in big numbers. By 2020, the firm says, cloud computing will account for about 15 percent of the IT market, which spans all the hardware and software and services that companies use to run their operations. But many analysts and other industry watchers believe that certain companies — especially those bound by government regulations, including financial and healthcare companies — will keep certain applications running in their own data centers. “It’s not about having everything running externally or everything running internally,” says David Cearley, a vice president at Gartner Research. “It’s about both.”

Privacy continues to be a driver for ownership, helped by the fact that 2013 was the worst-ever year for data breaches:

Working on data from the Open Security Foundation and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the OTA estimated that over 740 million online records were exposed in 2013, the worst year for data breaches in history.

Placing personal data in a central location creates a giant honeypot for such breaches.

Commerce

Not owning the site you use to communicate with your customers can hurt your ability to actually reach them. AdAge reported that the number of users seeing Facebook posts from brand pages they'd engaged with was dropping:

Research conducted by Group M Next (a unit devoted to sourcing new technologies) into pages operated by 25 brands finds that the share of Facebook users seeing organic posts from a brand they "like" was down 38% in the five weeks after Sept. 20, from 15.56% (consistent with the average 16% Facebook has often reported) to 9.62%.

This trend has continued. AdWeek reported that Facebook referrals to sites like Upworthy, the New York Times and Business Insider had dropped by up to 50% since November 2013. AdAge noted that Facebook in the past had "particularly objected to the inference that [..] changes had been made to spur marketers to spend more on ads to make up for lost reach":

But now Facebook is making the case for marketers to do just that. In the document, titled "Generating business results on Facebook," the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution "to maximize delivery of your message in news feed."

Valleywag alleged some very drastic numbers associated with this strategy:

A source professionally familiar with Facebook's marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells Valleywag that the social network is "in the process of" slashing "organic page reach" down to 1 or 2 percent.

In other words, now they've convinced everyone to sign up to their network, Facebook is charging people to get their messages through - something that would be free if this communication happened over a decentralized web.

Growth

Each of these trends is growing. More people are thinking about owning their own platform overall; people are more concerned about privacy online than ever before; the social networks we've all been taken for granted have been taking more liberties with the form, reach and content of our communications.

More data is needed, and I'll be posting regularly with new facts and statistics. If anyone has anything you'd like to add, or if you'd like to get in touch for any other reason, feel free to email me: ben@withknown.com