Archive for August, 2018

Should you care about digital waste?

Watch my video and see why it’s so important to minimize digital waste.

Are you aware of how much digital waste your WordPress website is producing?

Did you know this waste carries an actual cost for both you and your website’s visitors?

Digital waste is an especially poignant topic in open source software (like the WordPress ecosystem), where the barrier to contribution is extremely low.

Wherever you have a lower barrier to entry, you also have lower quality output on average.

Consider, for example, the WordPress Plugin market, which is brimming with “solutions” to every problem (and non-problem) on the internet.

The general perception about Plugins is that you can find one to solve any problem you might have.

But this is precisely the wrong outlook.

The question you should be asking yourself is not, “Can I find a Plugin to do what I need?”

But rather, “Can I find an efficient, organized, and well-maintained Plugin to do [x] that I can rely on both now and in the future?”

Obviously, the average WordPress user is not equipped to ask or answer this question.

Which leads us to a pretty huge implication…

Developers—not end users, who bear the actual cost—are responsible for digital waste

When it comes to websites and digital waste, end users are just pawns in the game. After all, they’ll simply use whatever solutions are both popular and accessible.

This basic fact puts the responsibility for managing digital waste squarely on developers.

Unfortunately, developers have very little incentive to minimize digital waste because this process:

  • Is difficult
  • Takes a lot of time
  • Requires care

For software businesses, these all add up to costs, and in the absence of external pressure, costs are antithetical to a typical profit motive.

As a result, most software companies essentially cannot afford to care about digital waste unless it impacts performance in a significant way.

At first glance, this seems like a dark and gloomy indictment of the web software industry, but the news isn’t all bad because…

The need for efficiency increases every day

The external pressures to reduce digital waste are mounting with each passing second.

People with poor connections on mobile devices still want—and sometimes need—immediate access to information.

Of course, the presence of digital waste slows this access time considerably while also increasing the bandwidth costs associated with access.

And the pressures don’t stop there.

We know from both Amazon and Google, for example, that customers spend more money more often as site speed improves.

This means there is indeed a profit motive attached to the reduction of digital waste.

But that’s not all.

When we explored the idea of centralized vs. decentralized platforms, we noted that the technical debt of these platforms—which is a first cousin of digital waste—is heaped on you, the user!

In other words, even though WordPress users aren’t necessarily responsible for the creation of digital waste, they will indeed be responsible for dealing with it whenever a critical juncture arises in the future.

(“Critical junctures” are simply points in the future where things break or where it becomes obvious that something must be done to rein in the waste and debt saddling a particular website.)

If I’ve learned anything from a decade in the software industry, it’s that people hate dealing with messes they didn’t consciously create.

And when this costs them money, it makes them feel cheated.

So there’s a basic human incentive in play here, too. Sooner or later, people will “wake up” and see the writing on the wall:

Reducing digital waste is a way of ensuring a more manageable and less complicated future.

What does a decentralized WordPress environment look like?

Watch my video and see what a decentralized WordPress environment might look like.

Almost everything we rely on to operate online is a centralized platform. WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, you name it—they’re all gigantic, centralized platforms.

Ok, sure, but why does that matter?

It matters because the bigger centralized platforms get, the less freedom users have.

We see this lack of freedom in obvious ways—bans, suspensions, and outright censorship—and in more insidious ways like being forced to accept and adapt to functionality people may not want or need.

If freedom and control over your own stuff are important to you, then this idea of centralization vs. decentralization is critical to your future.

The big lie of centralization

Centralized digital platforms are appealing for a few key reasons:

  • Popularity — Everybody uses them (oftentimes without even questioning this decision)
  • Access — They’re the gatekeepers to a global audience
  • Easy Onboarding — They make it quick, easy, and often free to get started

With social media giants, the promise is that you can “join in on the fun” and access the worldwide audience with purpose-built publishing tools.

With WordPress, the promise is that you can build a modern website and extend it in infinite ways to do whatever you need.

These promises are true…until they aren’t.

Time always reveals the truth

Relying on a centralized platform is a Faustian bargain:

Initially, you offload some effort and responsibility in exchange for immediate access and gratification.

But over time—and because you have absolutely zero say in how the centralized platform operates—you are forced to deal with whatever the platform throws your way:

  • Accepting new features
  • Changing the way you operate based on new guidelines (codes of conduct, etc)
  • Possible censorship and/or restricted access to the global audience

Bottom line: As centralized platforms grow and gain power, you become smaller and lose power relative to them.

And given enough time, centralized platforms will reach a point where they only serve themselves at the expense of their users.

So the question you need to ask yourself is this:

Is it a good idea to give up all your power and control to centralized platforms, or should you be looking for a de-centralized solution that preserves your freedom?

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