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Welcome to the newly revived Disintermedia blog
The Disintermedia blog is back! All you really need to know is that this newsletter will be a place for long form writing about topics like ethical design, liberating technology and independent media, from the perspective of a cage-rattling geek activist.
Just like the original Disintermedia blog, everything I publish here will be freely available under a CreativeCommons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0 or later). But if you support this work and you want to help it continue please consider buying me a coffee or a meal, by paying for a subscription. I’m happy to rework any of the writing here for commercial publications, if you’d like to offer me a commission.
But in case you're interested, here’s a little backstory...
In early 2020, CoActivate.org disappeared from the web, never to return. For over a decade, the not-for-profit platform had been hosting blogs and wikis for a number of projects I was involved in, starting with Disintermedia. Sadly, it seems the stress of the pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Fortunately, thanks to the WayBack Machine at Archive.org, most of the public-facing Disintermedia blog posts and wiki pages hosted by CoActivate still existed. So I started extracting some of the texts into a GitLab server hosted by feneas.org. Unfortunately, that was also a casualty of the pandemic. The Federated Networks Association shut down, along with their GitLab server, in early 2022.
By that time, although I was occasionally musing about how and where to continue my Disintermedia work, I had very little energy or enthusiasm for it. Because CoActivate wasn't the only thing torpedoed by 2020. That year also unleashed a series of lifequakes that left me struggling to keep my head above water, as it did for many people. Especially those whose working hours are mostly spent on volunteer projects in the public interest, instead of earning money to cover us when the proverbial hits the fan.
The good news is that at the end of 2022, I stumbled into a situation that helped me to get back on my feet (thanks in large part to the generosity of an old friend). By that time I'd already got back into posting on my fediverse account, on a Mastodon server hosted by the NZ Open Source Society. But the 500 character limit was starting to chafe.
More and more, I found myself begrudgingly linking to the archive.org copies of my old blog pieces. Or writing mega-threads that could have been new ones. I started trying various ways to republish Disintermedia pieces and long form rewrites of fediverse threads, such as my Friendica account on libranet.de, or a blog I set up for more personal writing at DreamWidth.org.
But these were stop-gap solutions, at best. Clearly I was ready for a new and (hopefully) more permanent host for my long form writing. I thought about setting up a blog on Write.as as a possible host within the fediverse. Along the same lines, I started kicking the tires of the new FireFish software with an account on firefish.nz. I considered WordPress.com, after Automattic acquiHired the developer of the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress. I explored a lot of possibilities. So why SubStack?
I'd been hearing good things about SubStack for a couple of years, from people I respect. I like the fact that writers and readers here are customers, not just eyeballs to be “engaged”, or livestock to be datafarmed for the benefits of advertisers. I’m an evangelist for social enterprises like Snikket and cooperatives like Loomio, and there are a growing number of these running platforms that work this way. But despite VC-funding being a black mark against it in my book, SubStack solves a problem few (if any) of them do, by building in a system for paid subscriptions. It would be lovely to finally get paid for some of my writing (hint, hint).
Finally, given the current political climate, I was looking for a host that had my back. I'm a greenie and human rights activist, with loud opinions about tech policy. My overall political bent could be described as left-libertarian or anarchist (of a vaguely Chomskian/ Graeberian variety). As befits any rational humanist who advocates for human rights, I'm very socially liberal. So if I’m going to blog honestly, I need a host that can and will shield me from censorship by the wowsers and book-burners of the religious right.
But I'm also openly critical of much of the strategy and tactics of "identity politics", for reasons explained beautifully by radical leftists like Frances Lee, Mark Fisher and David Graeber. This annoys some people. So if I’m going to blog honestly, I need a host that can be relied on not to cave to the crypto-conservative Cancel campaigns targeting people like Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Stallman, Michel Bauwens, David Rovics, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Matt Taibbi.
So after a lot of thought, I decided this was the place to stage the Disintermedia revival. Although this metaphor has been somewhat stained by its common usage over the last few years, let's see how deep this rabbithole goes...
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