Somehow I stumbled onto Fargo in mid July 2013. I was intriqued by its outliner, which was clever, but pretty easy to use. Soon after discovering it, its creator, Dave Winer, started talking about how you could use it to produce a blog. Of course there are tons of platforms for blogging. I had already been using two of them, Google's Blogger and Posterous, plus I was very actively posting in the Bob Dylan community on Facebook, as well as on Google+ from when it was still in beta. What would I need with yet another place or way to post things I write?!!
Posterous Went Away
I had been using Posterous for my Thailand travel blog. But not long after I started using it, the company got swallowed up by another and the buyer decided to shut it down. So I had to do something about moving it, if I wanted to preserve my writings there.
I considered using WordPress (once again), but I didn't pull the trigger. After a desultory consideration of my alternatives, at the eleventh hour, just before Posterous would go away, I moved it to Posthaven, because they offered a very simple path for moving, like a few key strokes. It was five bucks per month, after an initial free trial period (was that a year?)
That was at the end of April 2013, just a couple of months or so before I stumbled onto Fargo. So it was still pretty fresh in my mind. I had realized that my blog could easily be at the effect of companies wheeling and dealing on the Internet. It was not a good feeling.
Facebook Was Even Worse
I had even less control over my content over there. I had posted many comments on threads started by others about Bob Dylan. I was pleased with how I expressed myself on some of those threads. I had been discovering that I really enjoyed writing and if it was a subject that really interested me, I could even write at times in a rather inspired way.
Then one day a woman who had started many threads that I had commented on got in a huge upset with a man there and she abruptly closed her Facebook account. All those threads suddenly disappeared, along with my comments on them! Someone else got temporarily kicked off Facebook and there went all my comments on his threads too. Suddenly some of my writings began to look very ephemeral.
And what about all the threads that I started and all my pictures on Facebook? Could the nerds behind the curtain decide I should be kicked off too? Theoretically, yes. And from what I heard, this could come about from mis-information provided by others (enemies) and there didn't seem to be a lot of mechanisms available to appeal such actions. I was at risk and hadn't even realized it before. I began to realize what it meant when I read people saying that I didn't really own my content on Facebook and other such services.
Let's Give Fargo a Try
Dave Winer doesn't own my content on Fargo. I do. I really do! In fact, it's in my Dropbox account at all times.
Are his Terms of Service as complicated as Facebook's, full of ins and outs, and gotchas all tilted in his favor? Ummm, no. In fact, I believe he is providing a tool (for free right now) and not a service at all. As far as I know, there are no Terms of Service for Fargo! None.
Yes, Fargo could go away, like Posterous had done. In fact, Fargo as a blogging platform did go away for a while! But now it is back as Fargo 2. But when it returned as Fargo 2 it had the added advantage that everything was running in my browser, not on Dave's servers. Okay, I guess there is one thing that does run on his servers, but it's apparently fairly minor. I'm no expert.
I like being involved in something new. It reminds me of the days before the IBM PC was invented when I was using an Apple II+ to do the accounting for our multi-state sales company. Lots of new programs were coming out and there were magazines that covered those and this whole new community. There was no Internet for sharing this stuff. It was in the magazines and what you could learn at the computer stores or clubs, or by word of mouth.
Dave Winer is on a mission to make it possible for anyone's voice to be heard in an independent way. Not as a voice coming from a walled garden or content silo like Facebook or Google+ or all the others (where the owners and/or investors can cash in one day), but just as them saying whatever they want to write in their own independent blogs. I like that. He was one of the very first bloggers and he is on a mission to empower anyone who wants to blog with tools to do that.
I wrote, "He was one of the very first bloggers..." because I didn't actually know the history of who did what in those early days. In the basic What is Fargo article, it says, "Winer was the first blogger, and pioneered the development of podcasting, in 1994 and 2001 respectively." Not one of the first, the first.
I've now learned some of that early history, which makes for a convincing argument that he was the first. Read this, which gives Winer's early blogging history, including links to his seminal articles from October 1994, which he published by Internet email to a list of his friends.
A helpful reader sent me a link to a Wikipedia article about the history of blogging which lists some Usenet groups that were posting things before 1994 that we see these days posted to blogs, as well as some who were posting online journals or diaries, starting in 1994. With the proliferation of things a person could do with a personal computer, it seems there were many people writing and publishing their ideas in various ways with various formats. Identifying the definitive "first" in the case of blogging is problematical, especially with a word like blogging, which seems to be expanding in its meaning as we go along. Rather than identifying the ONE who did IT first, whatever IT is, a more interesting quest might be to sort out just what defines this thing called blogging.
Which is what I did in my later article, Am I a Blogger? and it was Dave Winer who, for me, provided the definitive statement, with a very clear distinction about what makes something a blog, as opposed to other forms of writing.
Types of Motivation
People do things for a lot of different reasons. Money motivation is the common denominator of a huge amount of the activity on the Internet and it is becoming the case more and more every day. When I started using Usenet Newsgroups in the early to mid 1990's, money motivation seemed pretty non-existent. In fact, if someone did something that suggested they might be trying to make a buck, it was like someone had let off a stink bomb in the newsgroup. But now ads are everywhere. Websites are cluttered with ads. Facebook continually has ads running down its right side. Software has been written to block those ads, so now Facebook and Twitter are starting to put ads right into the news feeds of their services, where they can't be so easily ignored. There are a gazillion websites and courses that offer to teach you how you can make money from your blog.
I've thought of using AdSense on my blogs many times. I've taken some of those courses and visited a lot of those websites. But I haven't done it yet. That's not why I like to write. And if I turned it into a way to make some extra money, would I still like to write? I'm afraid I might not, so I haven't.
Above money motivation is a desire to do something for personal gain. Well making money would be personal gain, but here I am referring more to a personal sense of satisfaction at having accomplished something worthwhile, regardless of whether you made a dime at it or not. This is the good feeling you get when you have researched an area and then written words that organize and present the information in a way that is elegant and possibly useful to others. It feels good. One feels bigger, empowered, at having done something worth doing with one's mind. That is why I write.
Above money motivation and personal gain is duty. Here we have the people who are driven with a strong passion to take on some area and make a difference, no matter what. These are the leaders who make a difference in our world, in spite of all obstacles, barriers, difficulties and failures. They just keep attacking the problem, they don't give up. I believe Dave Winer's level of motivation as regards blogging is duty. Fargo is the culmination of tools he started working on decades ago. He seems to already have the money he needs in life. He's not trying to get rich. And his drive is stronger than seeking personal gain, it is a matter of duty. It is his mission. Listen to the fourteen minute podcast in Dave Winer's blog post about the Future of News and you may see what I mean.
I am not at the level of duty with my writing. But I really like the idea of using tools freely given to me by someone who has a mission to empower writers with the tools to communicate in an independent way about whatever it is that is an area of expertise or interest for them. Or whatever it is that pleases them about writing. No strings attached. No hidden agendas that could distort the clarity of my purpose or writing.
That's why I'm using Fargo.