Points & Lines is a custom Drupal microblogging application which I started writing in 2010. As of 2013 today, I am still using and tweaking this tool so this project writeup is in flux and ain't too formal. As an artist and software developer living online at the height of the social media era, I had the desire to host my content at my website instead of spreading it about. If If I am going to share photos, videos, jokes, poems and other daily creations with folks, why just give it all to social media corporations? Could I trust these companies to treat my data with love and respect? Is that too much to ask? Isn't this data essentially my life? Plenty of folks participating actively in the social networks must think about this but don't know what actions to take. I've heard some say collecting and archiving such mundane data isn't worth the trouble.
So I decided to roll the dice and create my own microblogging system, calling it Points for a number of idiosyncratic reasons:
- because each post is 1 point for me and 0 points for social media corporations
- because i want the social networks and search engines to point here
- because data points hint at the existence of a larger data structure
- because i love ragged-right bullet-point lists and used them in the design
- because many of the weird things i say and do purposely appear to be pointless
I created the Points here and pushed them out via OAuth to the social networks. And here, under my control, the Points soon grew into Lines........ riffing off a famous quote by one of my favorite artists Paul Klee who said "a line is a dot that went for a walk". Lately I have started to think about Shapes or Forms as arbitrary groups of Lines but that is another story. As you can see I am fascinated by the invisible structures that exist underneath website content. Crafting tools for content creation and organizing the content data - to me this is a rich form of art I have since been calling Content Art. Resisting a high-and-mighty formal definition, content art to me is any website content type, considered and crafted as a tool by its creator, which results in content data that intermingles with other content types, data, and metadata. When using a content-focused engine like Drupal or Wordpress, this idea seems obvious, and maybe it is. I have been using Drupal for 7 years and it has turned me into a content-oriented thinker.
At first, the content posted to Points & Lines was the stuff of social networks, mimicking what I would have previously posted to facebook, twitter, tumblr, flickr, instagram, dumpfm, etc. Status updates, links, poems, mobile photos. The initial objective was to create the content here and then post it to other sites. (Comment threads could occur spontaneously at either place, but it was rarely here.) After a year or so the points loosened up and became their own thing, as I stopped worrying about whether these microblog posts reached an audience... or not, which was increasingly the case. I think people liked the general idea, but it fell out of fashion quickly and I grew isolated.
What started out as a social project became a personal one. Something I learned real quick - if you take your data away from the social networks, you are leaving your friends and connections behind. Duh! Websites don't yet communicate properly to one another. In the social media context nobody cares about your website when it can't easily become part of the conversation. Someday this may change, when and if people start owning instead of renting their online home.