Transitioning to the Closed Web: Telegram and the Portability of Ideas

I’ve always wanted to use a main website as the central hub of my work and thoughts. And it was very possible just a few years ago: the website was the destination for many people, where the homepage of a blog can keep someone apprised of the author’s activities. I have unfortunately found that I came on to the “open web” a few years late: the homepage has been replaced by news feeds and timelines, and discussions have transitioned from comments sections to messaging apps or more centralized link-sharing services.

In other words, the consumption and dissemination of ideas has become mobile, in both portability (text condensed into 140 characters or as an excerpt on a feed) and interaction. Smartphones now dominate most reading. I personally use a tablet for doing these tasks, where my laptop can do the in-depth file management, research or multimedia production. So the goal would be to find services that match this possible beckoning of the future, services that will kindly transition most people from “mobile-friendliness” to “mobile-first”. The next goal would be to discover services that fit one’s own mantras and ethics.

From an ideological standpoint, I have found that WordPress and Telegram provide me 80% of what I want in publishing services:

WordPress provides a:

  • … cheap webhosting service that will host media and a custom domain, as well as customized page templates.
  • … direct connection with other WordPress users through its own social network, as well as support for automatic sharing to microblogging services (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook Pages etc.)
  • … simple, easy-to-use editor that scales with custom CSS but does not extensively require such knowledge
  • … strong integration with Markdown editors on iOS and MacOS. Namely Ulysses.
  • … robust scaling between desktop, tablet and smartphone screen sizes.

Thus, I am able to create a blog that is vaguely my own, customized to showcase my written work, but also plaster on the headers links to my audiovisual work as well. It is great at its “mobile-friendliness”.

But I also want to sink my teeth into mobile-first. However, this side of the internet is highly regimented and controlled, optimized for passive consumption and advertisements to pop up if one is not paying subscription fees. The new web in its app-ified form is tragically siloed – so I would want to maximize my agency within this constricting reality. This is where Telegram comes in.

Telegram provides a:

  • … streamlined experience of setting up “channels” in order to broadcast updates to followers or visitors.
  • … secure way to chat with followers and visitors should they choose to message my public Telegram handle (@aleksaxyz for those curious!).
  • … communal format of discussion that does not encourage as much passivity in consumption; one actively seeks out Telegram channels rather than flipping through an endless feed.
  • … compartmentalization of varying types of feeds: I currently host three channels: one dedicated to adding thoughts to my articles (t.me/aleksablog); another dedicated to my music production with the moniker The Degree Zero (t.me/degreezeromusic); the last dedicated to a photoblog that I’ve taken that might be worth sharing for their aesthetic or intellectual value (t.me/aleksaphotos). Rather than forcing these three streams of content down the throats of a follower, they can choose which parts they may enjoy from my output (of course I’d love for them to follow all!)
  • … recess from a degrading open web, where conversation can be maintained without constant analytics tracking and data seeping to the outside: group and one-to-one conversations are private. They exist to formulate bigger ideas that should be effectively shared with others.
  • … file management system that allows me to easily re-download and export files/conversations/data back to my computer – one of the most important aspects of combating the ills of the closed web.

Where WordPress is my window to the open web, Telegram is my refuge in the closed web. It is built by ideologues who have spent the last four or so years developing it into a service conducive to community and free speech, unencumbered by anonymous faces and intrusive bots and ads.

The Good can be the Bad

By opting to default my output to WordPress and Telegram, I am sacrificing my “SEO”; the links I would receive through Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook/Medium. Instead, only word of mouth and discovery on WordPress will bring people to the blog and to the Telegram channels. My solution is to not put everything into one basket: I will prioritize WordPress and Telegram, and when I have time to post to the secondary ring of social media, I will.

I will also be putting effort into Instagram as a video host. This is inspired by my enjoyment of Vine and its six second limitation: I wish to start creating low-budget, “low-effort” video adaptations of my work as an experiment in audiovisual as a way to extend the portability of written ideas. Instagram is limited to sixty seconds, and has a social graph that has strong reach through its hashtag system. Because of this, Instagram will be my primary means of attracting those interested in the videos to the blog and by extension Telegram.

So my words will be WordPress, images, thoughts and music on Telegram, and videos (maybe some photos mixed in) on Instagram. This will be the strategy I’ll be employing for the next year, so long as implodes or it becomes cumbersome. “Mobile-first” ideas will carry so much further throughout the world: Southeast Asia and most areas outside the West depend on mobile as the primary means of online communication. I want to be there as they enter the closing web. But I want to be there on terms that allow me to have agency, to have a semblance of the control I had when blog sites like WordPress and Blogger were in their hey-day.

Most of all I want to connect people with each other through discussion. I’ll see if Telegram will be the beautiful glue that holds us all together.

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