The vanishing personal site

OUR PERSONAL SITES, once our primary points of online presence, are becoming sock drawers for displaced first-person content. We are witnessing the disappearance of the all-in-one, carefully designed personal site containing professional information, links, and brief bursts of frequently updated content to which others respond via comments. Did I say we are witnessing the traditional personal site’s disappearance? That is inaccurate. We are the ones making our own sites disappear.

The vanishing personal site.

Obliterating our own readership and page views may not be a bad thing, but let’s be sure we are making conscious choices.

Interactive art director Jody Ferry’s site is a perfect example of the deeply decentralized personal page. I use the term “page” advisedly, as Jody’s site consists of a single page. It’s a fun, punchy page, bursting with personality, as intriguing for what it hides as what it reveals. Its clarity, simplicity, and liquidity demonstrate that Jody Ferry does indeed practice what the site’s title element claims: Interactive Art Direction and User Experience Design. All very good.

It could almost be the freshened-up splash page of a late 1990s personal site, except that the navigation, instead of pointing inward to a contact page, resume, blog, link list, and photos, points outward to external web services containing those same things. Mentally insert interactive diagram here: at left is a 1990s site whose splash page links to sub-pages. Structurally, its site map is indistinguishable from an org chart, with the CEO at the top, and everyone else below. At right, to re-use the org chart analogy, a site like Jody’s is akin to a single-owner company with only virtual (freelance) employees. There is nothing below the CEO. All arrows point outward.

Most personal sites are not yet as radically personal-content-outsourced as Jody’s, and certainly not every personal site will go this way. (Jody’s site might not even be this way tomorrow, and, lest it be misunderstood, I think Jody’s site is great.) But many personal sites are leaning this way. Many so inclined are currently in an interim state not unlike what’s going on here at zeldman.com:

  • There are blog posts here, but I post Tweets far more frequently than I write posts. (For obvious reasons: when you’re stuck in an airport, it’s easier to send a 140-character post via mobile phone and Twitter than it is to write an essay from that same airport. Or really from anywhere. Writing is hard, like design.) To connect the dots, I insert my latest Tweet in my sidebar. I have more readers here than followers at Twitter, but that could change. Are they the same readers? Increasingly, to the best of my knowledge, there are people who follow me on Twitter but do not read zeldman.com (and vice-versa). This is good (I’m getting new readers) and arguably maybe not so good (my site, no longer the core of my brand, is becoming just another piece of it).
  • Like nearly everyone, I outsource discoverable, commentable photography to Flickr.com instead of designing my own photo gallery like my gifted colleagues Douglas Bowman and Todd Dominey. Many bloggers now embed mini-bits of their Flickr feeds in their site’s sidebars. I may get around to that. (One reason I haven’t rushed to do it is that most of my Flickr photos are hidden behind a “friends and family” gateway, as I mainly take pictures of our kid.) Photography was never what this site was about, so for me, using Flickr is not the same as outsourcing the publication of some of my content.
  • As I’ve recently mentioned, links, once a primary source of content (and page views) here, got offloaded to Ma.gnolia a while back. From 1995 until a few years ago, every time I found a good link, an angel got his wings and I got page views. My page views weren’t, brace yourself for an ugly word, monetized, so all I got out of them was a warm feeling—and that was enough. Now my site is, brace yourself again, monetized, but I send my readers to Ma.gnolia every time I find a link. Go figure.

I’m not trying to get rid of my readers, nor are you trying to shake off yours. In the short term, including Flickr, Twitter, and Ma.gnolia or De.licio.us feeds sends traffic both ways—out to those services, but also back to your site. (Remember when some of us were afraid RSS would cost us our readers? It did and it didn’t. With RSS, good writers gain readers while often losing traditional page views. But that’s another story.) I’ve certainly found new websites by going to the Twitter profile pages of people who write funny or poignant Tweets. Behind a great Flickr photo may be a great designer whose site you might not have found if not for first seeing that photo.

Site of André Gonçalves

But outsourcing the publication of our own content has long-term implications that point to more traffic for the web services we rely on, and less traffic and fewer readers for ourselves.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Not every person who designs websites needs to run a personal magazine on top of all their other responsibilities. If your goal in creating a personal site way back when was to establish an online presence, meet other people who create websites, have fun chatting with virtual friends, and maybe get a better job, well, you don’t need a deep personal site to achieve those goals any more.

But if world domination is your goal, think twice before offloading every scrap of you.


An authorized Belorussian translation of this article, Нуль персанальны сайт, appears on designcontest.com.

[tags]personal sites, blogs, blogging, de.licio.us, ma.gnolia, flickr, twitter, jodyferry, outsourcing, content, readers, readership[/tags]

183 thoughts on “The vanishing personal site”

  1. I really don’t believe in offloading all my content to 3rd party sites. I do use Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn etc. but to me they’re of secondary importance. My Flickr feed is integrated into my website but I don’t see the need to add tweets as they’re (at least in my case) mostly for people with an actual interest in me as a person rather than just as a blogger.

    I do agree that the ‘personal homepage’ is disappearing. Social network profiles take over this role for most people who don’t care about publishing lots of content. Social networking site profiles rather than a one-page personal homepage I think. At least for most, let’s say ‘non-bloggers’.

    I won’t be offloading much of my stuff any time soon. I’m even taking back some of my photo content to my own domain in the form of a photoblog I’m building because I feel my best photos deserve a bit more than just be on a generic Flickr page.

    As far as static ‘personal homepages’ that never got updated anyway I’d say: good riddance :)

  2. My reluctance to “offload” my photos, playlists, links, etc. to external services has led me to NOT actively participate (at least not as much as many of my peers) in the native communities of Flickr, Last.fm, Delicious, etc. Instead, I’ve been waiting for when I finally find the time to finish designing and implementing an elegant and inspiring way to publish photos, music, and links on my regular blog/site. I just need to find the time to do the work. But I’ve not quite found that time yet. (Where could it be?)

    So instead of offloading, I do almost nothing at all.

    This has been, for me, a mistake.

    The lesson? If the use of offloaded publication platforms means you are actually more likely to get around to sharing your stuff with the world, then you should just do it.

  3. There’s some sort of magic to having content on your own domain, in a space that is fully yours. Posting a picture from your custom blogging engine feels better than posting a picture to Flickr.

    One of the main problems with outsourcing your content is that it’s not in one place anymore. Let’s say I’m a del.icio.us user without a magnolia account – it would take more effort (as in, knowing whether it’s going to be worth my time) to make me subscribe to a magnolia feed than to a delicious one, because I’m very used to the latter. In that case I would just add you to my network and be done with it.

    Friendfeed solves the problem of knowing where someone posted something new but also creates a lot of noise.

    On a sidenote, I have the feeling many of those Jody Ferry type sites outsource the publication of content to social media services because that’s the new hip.

  4. I am in the process of designing a new website for myself. I thought about constructing it entirely from external sources like Twitter and Flickr but then thought better of it.

    Why? Several reasons. I like to have complete and total control over my data, what I can and can’t post etc. I’d rather there was an outage for my entire site than for bits to just blink out if a provider goes down (OK that’s not likely for any of these large service providers but you never know…) And finally I can have a centralised comments system if I store all my own data.

  5. Hah. I started writing an entry about this very thing an hour ago. A few weeks back I lamented my lack of writing on the blog and thought about Twitter and how much more I write there.

    On one hand, services like Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and all the other stuff ending with -r are really amazing. On the other hand, I’m starting to feel like I’m spreading myself thin across the internet and make myself hard to follow what with posting stuff on half a dozen different sites. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to tie it together. We’ll see what I can come up with.

  6. I’m one of the many domain owners who like it exactly like that: Personal. And it will probably stay that way. Other than to clean it up just a little further (to remove countless duplicate links!), I like it just the way it is.
    But, that being said, I’ve read this article and it’s few comments (thus far) … and can see how I can make it a whole lot better, display my various RSS feeds within the site … and still keep it my personal site.
    Thanks for putting it all into perspective with a bucket of clarity.

  7. Two things have changed for me since I launched my blog eight years ago:

    1. My audience changed. It used to be a small group of local bloggers here in Seattle mostly talking to each other. Now, though, I’m talking to people globally in multiple circles — work, group blog, friends, whatever. And that did lead to most of my online communication moving to Twitter.

    2. At the same time, though, I got tired of blogging. I used to write long pieces. Now twittering is the best I can do. With everything else going on in my life, it’s hard to sit down and write. And since I was never a big linkblogger, that left me basically using the blog to talk about the family. My readership fell away as I blogged less.

    I’ve considered doing a major rebuild, turning the blog into more of a roundabout to let people head off to all these other places I post. I don’t have a lot of time, though, with everything else going on.

  8. I’ve never been a fan of offloading my stuff. So, despite having a Flickr account, I cross post everything to my personal site, where it’s all hosted on my own server. The same goes for Vimeo, when I post to there I’ll also post the same thing to my own blog (but in higher quality). And I never used the delicious or magnolia accounts I made either.

    I don’t trust other people with my stuff, basically. I like to know that if Yahoo crash and burn taking Flickr with them, it doesn’t matter. That if Vimeo gets taken over by some corporate soulless behemoth, I can just hop off that train without having lost anything. I value certainty of future access over convenience.

  9. I have very little use for most of the online services mentioned in the article. Sure I use Flickr once in a blue moon to post a screen shot quickly, but that’s about it. For me, a dedicated non-blogger, my site is more or less a brochure for the services I provide. I don’t care to have people “track” me on the various sites mentioned. I regularly update my site with new content to better describe the work. I think it’s “neat” what all these sites allow people to do, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

  10. …Even I’ve done this for the past three years. Running one’s own site is, to put it mildly, a pain in the ass. I meanwhile, have my own reasons (closely related to recent communications).

    On the other hand, you’ve just identified for me what it is that seems to have sucked out so much of the vivacity that I remember seeing in the early Web.

    Thanks for the illumination.

  11. For me blogging and other updates to my personal site has always gone in waves that compliment my current fascination, curiosity or as an overflow valve when I’m working through some big picture type stuff at the ‘day job’.

    I may seem to go silent in between those periods, because I feel like I’d be contributing little more then reposting links found on much more popular sites like Ajaxian, and just adding noise to the “conversation”.

    Twitter, Flickr, Ma.gnolia and other services may have taken away from some of the filler, and I’ve toyed with ways to capture that, but I haven’t yet found a good way to weave that information into more of a narrative presentation that I might want on my central personal or portfolio site so it has enough focus for someone to want to read it [mixing web, photo and outside interests like hockey or local news as my ma.gnolia, newsvine and twitter streams might cover].

    If and when I solve that to my own satisfaction, my own personal site might show more life then a highlighted photo or a few links once a week.

  12. I have actually been attempting just the reverse. Using Facebook, Twitter and everything else to send traffic to my site rather then the reverse. It has certainly worked with Twitter and a bit from Facebook, though I get such little traffic anyway, it is hard to measure how successful it has really been.

    I like to think of it all as a solar system with my site at the core and everything else revolving around it. How long this will be the model is hard to say though.

  13. Great reflection on a rising trend Jeffrey. I’m guilty as charged, myself.

    I feel that the main attraction of outsourcing most of your content to sources like Flickr, del.icio.us and the like, besides all the social and sharing stuff, is the convenience of not having to “roll your own” (which is something so late 90’s anyway) and how easy you can repurpose said content on other sites. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel anymore. Granted, this comes at a price – and a heavy one at that, if you are that concerned with being subject to the corporate whims of these Web companies over time and your content.

    But here’s the catch-22: Unless you are someone insanely famous, most of your peers will be asking if you have an account on this or that site so they can be “following” you. It’s just what’s kind of expected these days. Somehow, telling them to go visit yoursite.com doesn’t sound so appealing like it used to be. The web 2.0 socialite madmen have taken over the building.

    Plus, most non-geek people won’t bother with a personal home page anymore. MySpace and Facebook already provide them all they could possibly want. Again, this all isn’t necessarily bad – it just goes to show how the Web is anything but static and will keep transforming itself, along with their users.

  14. I’ve always thought there were three things leading us to the death of the personal page. The first being the “mass amateurisation” of the web, geeks in areas other than the web will simply spend less time crafting their online personas than will those of us who live and die by our bits. The second is the mass siloing of content (“verticalization,” to use a really corporate synonym instead my made up word), where registering and using a Flickr / Vimeo / Ma.gnolia account is way easier than rolling-your-own (or even installing your own) photo / video / bookmarking software. And the third is the mass miniaturization of content, because the barrier to entry on a Twitter update is substantially less than that of even a minimally-crafted blog post.

    I know I’m guilty at least of falling for these things. Though I did roll-my-own blog tool, I did it to specifically pull in content from other sites so I didn’t have to build and host my own photo gallery for example. And I know I haven’t actually written something resembling an actual blog-post in an internet eon.

    I’d love to see personal homepages turn into our own personal life “editor’s page,” where we say “these are the best things I’ve done at these other sites.” Not where we see every photo, or every video, or every Tweet (that’s what Friendfeed / etc are for), but rather where someone sits down and culls from all their generated content the best pieces that they’ve done.

  15. Hello Heath Kit Flashback!

    Some people might not remember them. Heath was a company that gathered the parts, project boards, instructions and sometimes attractive (in a 50s, 60s, or 70s-kind-of-way) cases for electronic gadgets that would have then-geeks squeeing with delight. The company started making more and more pre-built items because demand for the roll-your-own was declining, and they eventually went belly-up.

    Go into a Radio Shack thirty years ago and you would see many different electronics kits that boast “Perform x Different Experiments” and a wall of project components. Go into a Radio Shack now for components and you’ll peruse a dusty cabinet of drawers tucked between the iPod accessories and the radio-controlled dogs.

    When something becomes possible, first we learn how to do it for ourselves, then we see others doing it and want to copy it, then we accept someone else’s prebuilt solution that might not do everything we want but at least we don’t have to put it together, and then finally we forget how to do it and just use that other thing. It’s the age-old fight between pragmatism and creativity, and every time creativity gets an early age but eventually pragmatism rubs its face in the mud.

  16. I’d love to see personal homepages turn into our own personal life “editor’s page,” where we say “these are the best things I’ve done at these other sites.”

    Co-incidentallly, that is almost precisely what we’ve just created for Denna Jones and posted about in depth. Aggregating distributed personal content in a single person domain also solves two other problems: Firstly, it lower the bar to publishing by requiring almost nil technical ability, and secondly, puts all the control in the author’s hands.

    It was fantastic to see Denna’s enthusiasm for learning about her own site, and tweaking the content to refelct and develop her personal house style.

  17. I didn’t figure this out until after we sold to Yahoo! and I was 6-months gone, but MyBlogLog is exactly the social network for people who don’t want to give up their personal-domain centricity in favor of twitter, linkedin, etc. MBL keeps growing as more people make the decision to own their real estate, instead of having pages spread out hither and yon.

  18. And maybe it is the other way around? Maybe in the near future we will see a reviving of the personal site? A place where your online life will be aggregated? A place where your blog posts, twits, flickr picture, youtube videos, what not, will show up in a single time line? A place where you will have your resume, links to your active social networks. And from this personal site you will have a single RSS feed that your friends will be able to subscribe to and they will have access to your unify online life? Maybe even a the blogroll will make a comeback? Need to think more about it.

  19. Social networks take content out of our homepages/blogs, but until microformats are widespread. Then, any search engine would be able to create social networks on the fly…

  20. How about the opposite view? Not outsourcing but aggregation.

    My blog site accumulates content that I have posted on Twitter , Google reader, and Delicious / Flickr. The social networking platforms are a great place for outreach that can then lead to a personal site as a central focal point. It works great, and it allows both a boost in pageviews and a spread in audience. A personal site can be both a blogging platform, a portfolio of featured work and a mashup of online social involvement for a developer. Now people who find me on twitter, get a chance to read my blog and add me to LinkedIn as well, and vice versa.

    Sharing full articles over RSS was nice in the beginning, until shady sites started pirating my content, stripping it of links and credits, straight off of my feed and publishing it on heavily monetizing pirated post aggregators. As a result I have learned that sharing excerpts is the best way to go with RSS, and it still brings traffic back to the personal site.

  21. I think some folks trendspotting and memespotting online haven’t a wide enough lens…it’s hard to see anything as cyclical when you’re zoomed in close enough to read and expel 140 character chunks.

    Personal sites may not be “of the moment,” but that status could change next month or next year.

    Despite using twitter and flickr, me, I like being ‘master’ of my own domain, and I like having enough discipline to write (what seem to me like) column-length ideas…that start with a thought, develop an argument or two, look at it from multiple perspectives, reinforce and annotate your points, and then wish the reader a good evening.

    You know, kinda like what you did in this post.

  22. Good post, and good comments, too. I’ve been tossing over the idea lately, as well, but came to a realization that’s worth sharing. I have little reason to blog in the classic sense because I blog through both my work (msnbc.com) and Digital Web Magazine. Both take up all my serious writing energy, as they should since they are literally my professional credibility. My name associated with either is going to be far more effective to me (and others) than lamely blogging on my personal site. In the long term, I’d like to think I’ll be working for organizations, for causes and with people that supersede too much self-absorbed focus on my “online brand”. (In order to feel less guilt about leaving behind an anemic blog on my personal site, I turned it over to Tumblr’s tools, which actually proved effective enough that we’re working Tumblr into the next version of Digital Web, too.)

  23. Sorry not interested in your Tweets… I use blogs for timely and engaging opinions on important or interesting topics, especially those that link into depth on the web. If it just comes down to keeping up with your social networking activities–then you no longer offer the expertise that I come for. Yes, your expertise and opinions are a facet of your personality, but I have my own social network, the majority of which occurs in the real world off the ‘net.

    As for cookie cutter offloading, it’s your choice to run with the herd.

  24. Solid piece, JZ. I was referred to the post by a friend, and I am diggin’ what you are laying down here. The comments have been insightful as well. For some time I have wondered about aggregation, dilution, presence and branding. On the one hand, I love having a space for people to touchdown and map to other spaces I lay bits. On the other, a lot of the time I prefer to have all of that traffic directed back home (and like some others here, I have a sneaking fear of external sites beyond my control going offline, downtime, conversations existing there and not on my own site, etc). This is a trend to keep an eye on. For me, the question is, “what is really the best face for my expressions?” We’ll see.

  25. Interesting you’d bring this subject up as I’ve been faced with this issue just lately. My personal blog had become such an accumulation of different subjects in which I dabble, that I overwhelmed the main audience of my personal site: friends and family and people interested in general blogs and some art etc. with little mixed in this and that. Having more and more CSS and code related stuff intermingled with design resources began watering down THAT side of me. So I decided very consciesly to have a specific ‘work related’ blog which is concentrated on design and code. And this works well. This does not mean that the little here and there gets lost on the original blog, but rather that it is made easier for THAT audience to read and find their way. Adequate linking on that site makes it easy for anyone interested to find my ‘off-sites’. Me for one, I feel this step was a good step. Then again, I don’t see myself as somebody writing interestingly enough little tidbits of my personal life to entertain nor interest people interested in the design aspect of my life. There ARE sites out there of artists who incorporate personal and business just beautifully, and in situations like this I agree that it’s a pity if such places get split into many offsites.

  26. Love the article.

    I am one of those people that like to have control over his own content.

    But not only that, I also hate spending time on most convulted (f)ugly web 2.0 sites like Flickr and last.fm … Although some of their services are quite fun, they’re pretty pointless and they often make you feel like you’re just filling in a blank template on a dating site.

    And even besides that, I often think poorly of sites that boost links to 35 external services crammed in footers and sidebars, filled with flashy information I don’t care about (books the author likes etc etc). If he really likes a book, he can write about it? If not, I don’t really care.

    As far Jody’s page, it’s open and close in five seconds for me. It’s like watching an out-of-box-template-Wordpress blog. If the author doesn’t have the time to put time in his brand, I don’t have time to put time in the author.

  27. I think it’s a change in requirements. It has been a long-standing joke that homepage content often sucks – ‘please enjoy’ etc. You go to someone’s site to contact them, find out who they are, and maybe get their myface/flickr/etc. There’s no reason not to do that on one page, and yes my site has been shrinking just as you describe – I’m not too worried about it.

  28. I personally don’t like outsourcing things to other websites. First of all, I’m a web designer/developer, there really is no “web 2.0″ site that fully meets my needs to the point that I’d completely give up on my own website. Second, I get a great deal of pride building things from the ground up and learning along the way. If I simply just use flickr and not bother creating my own photo gallery, what did I lean from that? Third, these services aren’t going to last forever. Eventually Google will just buy everyone and rename it gFlick and gDigg or just stop the services from existing. Then what happens to all your data? Its gone. I do use external services but I often times use them to link back or I’ll import RSS feeds on facebook importing my personal website blog and photo gallery.

  29. The Wall Street Journal has written about this post:

    GOODBYE TO THE PERSONAL WEB SITE

    Designer and blogger Jeffrey Zeldman sees a transformation underway in personal Web sites. In an essay generating attention among bloggers and other Web denizens, Mr. Zeldman observes that the growing use of services of what some call lifestreaming services is moving individuals’ information off their personal sites and into these other formats. Examples of such services: the Flickr photo-sharing site and Twitter, the popular service that lets users broadcast brief “microblog” updates on the go.

    More inbound links

  30. It just ain’t 1995 anymore.

    basically function has taken over form.

    geocity sites became myspace/facebook for social aspect,

    designer’s personal sites became vanilla blog templates.

    i find very little personality in web design these days. everything sports a “web2.0″ look. i understand people focus more on good content a site has to offer, than how it looks. however, i long for the days when i checked HighFive for clever designs(usually with terrible usability).

  31. Great post.

    Ironic also since this excellent essay was published and kept where it belongs: right on the author’s own web site http://www.zeldman.com and not some silly 3rd party site using free content w/o paying for it.

    Hmmm, think about that one for a sec. I’ll wait.

    See the irony yet? Thought so…

    We’ve never use any of those flik-twit-magnolia whatever sites. If we are too busy to upkeep our own content ourselves, we should rethink our time and schedule management.

    Regarding using 3rd party sites to house your content: Writing is an art. Photography is an art. They are also marketable skills and good content is a valuable commodity. Just ask the writers in Hollywood after the recent strike. Would they put their stories, scripts, movie treatments, or other content on somebody else’s web site? I doubt even the authors of Ishtar would place their screenplay on MyTwatterSpace2.0.

    You don’t provide your services and content for free to other parties just because it’s either a “2.0” fad or because other trendy designers do it. Keep your precious content, ideas, articles, and designs in your own storehouse and off the Wal-Mart2.0 social sites of the internet—unless of course they pay you for your ideas and put food on your family’s table each week.

    Or, go grab a job at flik-twit-magnolia since you are essentially working to bring them their income and ad traffic for free anyway…

    I’m glad that Zeldman’s “The vanishing personal site” was posted on his own web site. I think I’ll return here in the future to this personal site to check out what other things he has to say. Hmm, while I’m here at http://www.zeldman.com, maybe I’ll check out other areas of his site and grab a copy of DWWS.

    Maybe I’ll even bookmark this web site in my web browser’s favorites.

    Chris

  32. This conflict is the basic reason I decided to “offload” content onto these third party services, but then use their APIs to pull it all back into my own site, as well — creating a one-stop place where you can find everything I’ve published at all these different services, but still letting you enjoy the content in its native flickr, or ma.gnolia, or twitter, or upcoming, or whatever context, as well.

    For me, the real kicker was the tools that were offered by the third-parties. I’d much rather use the Flickr Uploadr or iPhoto plug-in than I would manage some crappy PHP gallery application on my own server. Not to mention, offloading my photos to flickr saves me a boatload of bandwidth.

    For me, it’s all about the best of both worlds.

  33. My concern with all of this is in a historical sense…what happens to our generation when we are dead? All of our thoughts, pictures, letters that defined our lives are spread around the cloud on services we hope will be there tomorrow.

  34. I’ve always considered my domain as more of a business card than a content-engine. I tried running my own blog software and photo gallery for a time, but I felt like I had created my own treehouse in the middle of a forrest. “Outsourcing” the heavy work allowed me to feel like a part of community and focus more closely on the reason I was online in the first place; to connect with other people of similar interests.

  35. Hank Lynch:

    What happens to our content now when we are dead? Who’s going to pay to keep yourblog.com online? Nobody. How meaningful will most of your content be ten years after you die? Assuming a billionaire decided to keep your blog online in perpetuity, would its content be accessible ten years after you die? Put another way, will valid XHTML 4 or HTML 5 mean anything sixty years from now?

    If you want immortality, buy archival paper. We still have documents written by the scribes of the Pharohs. Digital content obsoletes itself.

  36. Trends are going more and more towards a distributed personal online presence. OpenID and other emerging tools are going to be more important in the near future to keep everything organized. I want one universal profile that I can share with any site, and that aggregates all my activity into one stream. With one login/password to remember. Centralized De-Centralization, if you will.

  37. I totally agree with this approach. A few years back I had the epiphany that while I still wanted my personal site, I no longer wanted to edit it, as I updated third party apps far more frequently than my own static pages.

    So, I stripped out any page/section that I couldn’t pull in through an API. Today you can find “robleto” via WordPress, Twitter, Flickr and Delicious or it’s also automatically captured together in one site at robleto.com.

  38. I used to have the desire to roll my own blog-gallery-you-name-it software but like others in this list I never found the time. I’ve finally surrendered the do-it-myself-because-I-can-do-it-better mentality because I’ve come to the realization even if I can I’ll never have time. So now I’m more in the if-I-can’t-do-it-better-myself-I’ll-just-aggregate-it-from-everyone-who-does-it-almost-as-good-as-I’d-like. Of course the software (like Flickr exporter for Aperture) had a lot to do with that, like Jeff Croft stated, but if I ever wanted to finish my website I needed to do something!

  39. I am facing precisely this problem right now (of how to structure my “online identity” in a coherent way which includes all those web services)

    I have around 30 various people’s personal pages open right now and I am constantly looking at more pages, to draw some inspiration. I’m yet to find a good solution which I like though…

  40. one reason “personal sites” are falling off is cause in 2008 it’s real easy for creators to observe that their “fan base” is an interchangable, meaningless clump of useless clods who only subtract dignity from the proceedings.

  41. Thank you so much for this post! I am a budding site-maker, and this post really motivated me to stick to my single-page Adobe layout and design. Jody Ferry’s page is effective and compelling and easily takes the place of a good business card. Do you have any other simply designed sites that one can visit for inspiration?

  42. I recently finished reading the old classic We’ve Got Blog. It really captures the spirit of what you’re talking about here, and something I’ve tried to do on my own personal site.

    Back then our blogs worked as filters for the web. The links that made it to our pages were interesting because they expressed our likes and dislikes. When Blogger came along we added the diary/journal aspect, which I think was really cool. Twitter gives us another glimpse of what could be done but it may take some time before its adoption materializes on our personal site. Yes, I can email my site, but I can’t text message it. Better yet, I can’t call it up and leave a message for my readers on it. Not without using a third party. At least right now.

    It seems like an evolutionary process to me. New stuff comes around like OpenId and eventually they will become available for us to use without the 3rd party involvement. I run my own OpenId server now. Another 6 months and anyone will be able to install an OpenId server plugin (courtesy of Diso, likely) on their WordPress blog.

    At any rate, I’m really starting to miss the good old fashioned personal site, but I think the new technologies may just come full circle one day and land on our own personal sites.

  43. I’ve longtime resisted, but now I even use the ning social network platform, outsourcing about all the code you can think off.

    I do post the most important articles on some other sites as well (blogspot, vox, newsvine, ekudos.nl et alia), just to make sure I don’t loose everything when a service would go down.

    The more an information is valuable to me, the more places I post it.

    The same goes for good links that I microblog about. The better the link, the more mentions I make of it on microblogs all over the place.

    I do believe that microblogs, blogs and profiles are filtering the web. The real good stuff will still be findable on a real homepage.

    I did develop my own video page on my homepage, capable of playing .mpg – but I haven’t really used it, as I don’t create videos as yet.

    Meanwhile youtube exists and I’m afraid I’ll use my channel over there (but posting the best videos also on dailymotion, vimeo and some others, just to be on the safe site).

    Anyway, I now believe I can reach to much more people with my ideas than back in web0.1, that my ideas have much more chance of surviving myself and that people can discover me more easily then ever before.

    Pieter Jansegers
    microblogs.ning.com

    Microblogs are changing the world.

  44. I’m johnny-come-lately both to this post and to blogging. I have spent countless hours over the past year or so pouring over the archives of personal sites like this one and soaking in vastly interesting and informative content. I shudder to think how uninformed I would be today, had Twitter killed blogging a few years sooner. At least for the time being, I can read the archives of what was once an exciting, vibrant, and meaningfully engadged design community. Too bad I missed it.

  45. And for the record, my vote as a Zeldman reader is for an unfragmented Zeldman Brand. I want one feed where I can get “all things Zeldman” without having to be a member of every free service the internet provides.

  46. Thanks, Franky. :)

    The mighty Jeremy Keith has weighed in on the vanishing personal site and the changing nature of personal publishing.

    Deepa Mehta, Jeremy’s post includes links you may find illuminating.

  47. I hate to appear to be advertising here, but that fragmentation is exactly why I created Soup.io, a hybrid between a tumblelogging and lifestreaming service — but fully CSS-customizable and optionally accessible at your own domain.
    In my opinion services like Friendfeed that aggregate personal content do so in a much too impersonal, app-like manner. While Friendfeed is a great tool, it’s just not really a solution to the problem of fragmented content and too many profiles to aggregate them into yet another branded, uncustomizable profile on some site that doesn’t feel like it belongs to (or represents) you.
    A personal site today needs to be both really easy to update and post to, and also able to automatically pull in what one creates elsewhere.

  48. I use Flickr regularly, I post an occasional Tweet, and I bookmark pages (not as much as I should) at Ma.gnolia. These are places I go and things I do, but as a web developer, my personal site is my home. An analogy: No restaurant is so good that I’d convert my kitchen to a pool room and order take out every night. The vanishing personal site is probably an apt observation, but it’s sort of sad in a way — a loss in some way.

  49. hello……….
    hellloohoo…
    I’m new
    fresh
    to blog
    to web
    to webdesign
    to xhtml
    to php
    to css
    to W3
    standards
    rss

    in fact,
    to computers, world wide web, and whatsoever
    until very recently
    I got a notice about all this stuff going around,
    never heard about twitter and flickr

    and I realize that you guys probably can’t imagine how I still
    can survive without having a mobile phone number
    trying to design websites (amongst other things)

    let’s say
    I ss…sss.s..s..suddenly woke up (a princes’ kiss, an earth quake, sudden enlightment, take it as you wish )
    and I discovered this world spinning
    without me
    and
    I desire
    somehow
    to join in
    (not dominate it)
    to have part

    to me blogtime started 2008
    yesterday

    after all these years
    I may discover a wheel (or three)
    anew
    not hindered by the canon
    (just peeping every now and then)

    an on line presence
    a personal site concerning my work
    a channel to connect with people somewhere, somehow,
    people who I most probably would not meet just as easily in every day life
    making my personal site appear

    all history is a reflection of a perception
    over and over again

  50. Mea culpa!

    not only am I one of those ‘good riddance’ haven’t updated in weeks what kinda blogger djou think you are sorta folks…..

    but I was just about to step over that line that meant everything I did wouldn’t necessarily come from me.

    Thanks Jeffrey. You saved me.

  51. Jeffrey,

    Definitely you need to take a look to Popego: http://www.popego.com

    It solves part of the issue that you notice here, centralicing all the info in just one place. The app is still alpha, but seems really cool and a solution to the problem that you point here.

    Cheersm
    mbavio

  52. The most extreme example I’ve seen of this offloading to third-party sites is the recent redesign of Modernista.com – would never guess that a major agency would take this route. It’s interesting though, and not necessarily a bad move. I’m still pondering it.

  53. wordpress and other blogging softwares are killing personal sites.

    I used to write my own html\CSS pages on Sefati.net but ever since I installed wordpress, I got rid of the old site and replaced it with a very flexible blogging software.

    An I love it. Bye Bye Personal sites!

  54. THE RULE SHOULD BE never contribute meaningful information to a site (read social network) that you cannot import back into your own site.

    This is why I have stressed in the past that my friends not use Facebook as their primary means of communication since it is hard to export. For example, I bring only my favorite tweets into my WordPress blog that I host myself via a hacked version TwitterTools.

    Utilize your social networks to promote your content not create it, and if you create do create it there, export it back into your website for posterity.

    The problem for the non-technical is how to manage all this information on their own site. No one wants to do that unless they want to do that. It’s a lot easier to post photos of Flickr than manage your own Gallery2 website. I prefer the latter myself.

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  56. I think as a whole, people are sharing less. Sure we are posting pictures and tweets, but the act of writing has all but vanished. I think this has to do with the stigma of the personal blog and MSM saying “blogosphere” 1,000 times a day.

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  61. My concern with all of this is in a historical sense…what happens to our generation when we are dead? All of our thoughts, pictures, letters that defined our lives are spread around the cloud on services we hope will be there tomorrow.

  62. The personal site is still the jumping-off point though. It’s the index. The definitive location you put on your business cards. Plus if all those other services were a bit better at data portability, the personal site would seamlessly integrate all the content from other sources into one single stream (jaiku lifestream style, but not on a third party site). Currently you *can* do that, but it’s not quick and easy, so most people don’t.

  63. Creating meaningful content is time-consuming. With kids in the mix, finding three-or-so hours to craft a well-written and researched post is simply not as doable now as it was in 2004.

    I’m seeing a lot of flatlined RSS feeds.

    That said, short bursts on Twitter can keep you connected. It it meaningful content? Probably not. Is it fun? Well, yeah.

    Maybe it is just time to lighten-up a little.

    I think a previous commented offered a good balance:

    Utilize your social networks to promote your content not create it, and if you create do create it there, export it back into your website for posterity.

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  65. Reading all comments above, it is clear the example JZ posted has conducted the discussion on a aut/aut distinction. Everything decentralized without personal content (intended as written personal content) or Personal Site.

    The article’s title says it well, of course. ‘vanishing’, not ‘vanished’. Mutation, maybe?

    In my opinion there is no need to abide to the ‘main repo’ paradigm but you can use as main repo a thirdy party ‘blog’ or a personal slimmed dynamic site and use the Social yada-yada for everything else.

    A main page as Jody Ferry’s one linked to personal blog for more structured writing, to tumblr for less structured writing, to twitter for tidbits and so on.
    All the main informations about you and your content would be on the blog side of the world, the rest is there open to a quick reference. More often than not, a twit can mature in a interesting post on your blog where the twit-twit can move itself to build a more consistent discussion.

    In this way, you have a more than adeguate signal to noise ratio cause you’ll separate your rants, links, plugs from your meaningful original observations (as JZ said and does).

    This mimic the very nature of human social interaction. You don’t meet your friends everytime in your house, confortably on your sofa, don’t you?

    The same linguistic interaction is a non-stop contextual based code switching (think about a quick coffe conversation, a street meeting, a sms or a phone call in office, a phone call in metro etc).

    The monolithic approach is a brick&mortars old firm vision. Your clients comes and you’ll receive them showing off what you are capable (your portfolio and so on). They say ‘yes’ and you start working.

    But, in this digital age i find myself more and more traveling. I go to my clients and work in strict partnership on the project at hand or communicate with them with a chat, a quick call, an email while collaborating with my distant co-workers with the same tools.

    More and more you work because of a network effect and not by your only individual self-promotion. And the network effect is made by a bunch of communication codes and relationships.
    Think about the ‘new’ marketing and business best practices.

    For the ‘don’t drive traffic to them’ argument, i must point out that we all are driving traffic and feed content to Google. Everytime, So, why don’t let Google do something for me too.

    About the content. Well, i don’t think (as JZ pointed out) all the stuff we say every moment is so important. Let the communication flows and achieve his goal and stop it only when there is something valuable in need of an elaboration. That content is the most important for you and you can use a bunch of tools to keep it safe on your HD. Time goes on and you’ll be surprised of the useless stuff in your digital basement.

    Yes i care about the ‘where i can reach JZ for his well considered stuff’. For this i have RSS and a ‘blog’. An unified RSS for all the JZ code switching would be perfect.

  66. In regards to the “personal pages” of the 90’s – I say good riddance, as they were rarely updated with useful content. I think in terms of offloading, everyone has to find their own balance in terms of what they keep local and what they send to Flickr etc. I think though that if you can find a way to integrate the social media services into your blog in some fashion that you will find you can greatly expand your readership.

  67. I think this post is a call to reality for a lot of bloggers. We all find ourselves stretched thin across many different “identity providers” and sometimes we forget what makes our site our own.

    All those other “profile” sites are Slash Daddies. They want to be the most valuable part of our identity, but we still have the power to own it with a great personal site and solid content.

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