The answer is not to not “only [be] relevant to geeks”, but rather, reframe it as a positive, and be relevant to yourself. That is, design, architect, create, and build for yourself first, others second. If you’re not willing to run your design/code on your own site, for your primary identity on the web, day-in and day-out, why should anyone else? If you started something that way but no longer embrace it as such, start over. Go Selfdogfood or go home.
It’s thought-provoking, and worth a read: On Silos vs an Open Social Web.
Tantek defines “selfdogfooding” as “using your own creations on your own personal site that you depend on, day to day.” That’s an important perspective, because for one thing, many of us don’t have personal sites anymore, and yet more of us never did. Some of us have social networking profiles, but I wouldn’t classify those as sites.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I interface with the modern web, and in the wake of the Google Reader closure that’s an even more important discussion. I like the POSSE: (Publish Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere) approach very much – by publishing to something I directly control and then pushing out to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, I’m the one who’s in charge of my presence on the Internet, without losing any of the network effects.
This poses other questions. When you control the entire platform that your presence runs on, and you know how to write code, what should your presence look like? Right now I’m using WordPress to power this site, and ThinkUp to process my interactions with the wider social web, but what could I build myself?
This dovetails nicely with another question I’ve been asking myself lately. I designed the architecture for Elgg 0.x in 2004, and the original 1.x architecture was set down two years later. What would an easy-to-use open source social platform that was easy to deploy onto shared hosting look like, given the set of technologies we have available to us in 2013? Let alone what we know now about user behavior and design? It’s a different web out there, and I don’t know. But if I want to, I can explore; the best way to do that is to use it myself.