What is this Discourse Thing?

TL;DR I don’t like Facebook and I can do better.

…well, not exactly. It’s complicated.

There’s an Internet truism whose attribution is vague (as is common for these things) that goes something like:

If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

It’s not completely true of course but the point of truisms is to be short and pithy and contain a grain of truth. They either resonate with you or they don’t. That one does for me.

I can’t deny that I get a lot of value out of Facebook and other social media sites though. I am able to keep up with the things that people are doing in a way that we never could before. It’s amazing! Even if I don’t interact with you it’s still nice to read about what you are doing and thinking and I wouldn’t want to be without it.

In the end though, I can’t get over the fact that someone I don’t know and with whom I have little influence controls everything about those sites. I don’t like to keep my stuff at someone else’s place. Besides, it just so happens that I have the skills to set up my own place.

If you know me and you’ve read this far, I suspect you might agree with me a little bit. If you do, I want to extend an invitation to you. But first let me tell you about this little place I’ve set up here for myself.

The site your reading from right now is hosted at discourse.standyck.com which is on a server that lives in my garage. It’s a reasonably powerful machine with a lot of drive space. Since I own the standyck.com domain I have control over what gets hosted and from where.

The site runs on a piece of software called Discourse which is designed to facilitate community discussion. It is Open Source software and while it is not super easy to install (though not bad if you have some computer skills), it is insanely easy to administer.

I’m still learning how to use discourse but so far I like what I see. Enough that I’m ready to more or less give up posting to social media sites and just use this site. I’m able to do all the post-related things I do on the other sites (photos, links to things, solicit comments, likes, etc.), plus I can share anything I post here to those sites with a click. I will continue to read things you post on those other networks and like them and share them, but most of the things I write from now on will be here and you’ll be able to see what I choose to show without needing to log in to anything.

Now, I did say I’d be offering an invitation. If you’ve read this far, I must really have you. Here’s the thing. Discourse works best if people participate. The more the better. If you’ve ever felt like I do about social media sites and wish you had your own place but maybe you don’t have the time or skill to set something up, I’d like you to join this community. All you need to do is register with your email address. You can create your own user account here or you can use your existing Facebook, Google or Twitter account.

If you do participate, you can be sure that, though it will be publicly viewable, whatever you put here won’t be mined for advertising or sold to the highest bidder. Your stuff should be yours. Participation will be rewarded. Discourse is designed to start you off with limited abilities that grow as you use it. You’ll get access to private categories, the ability to set up categories, invite others to join and other goodies that I’ll keep secret to entice you further :wink:

There won’t be too much in the way of rules at first (beyond the default rules). We can make them up as we go along (remember, Discourse is designed to facilitate discussion). I have some ideas, some of which I am in the midst of implementing. Once you sign up, you can help me with your ideas.