There’s a lot of talk these days about the users of social sites being “serfs” and “galley slaves.” Scott Rosenberg has a good rundown of these sentiments at his blog. What I find interesting is that these writers don’t seem to offer the basic value proposition of sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Posterous, or to an even greater degree, user blogs on sites like the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos.
Social sites enable you to exchange control for audience and convenience. Many people don’t understand this tradeoff fully, but they do understand that signing up for Tumblr or posting their links to Facebook is achievable for them in a way that building their own robust Web presence is not. And plenty of people have moved to positions of more control over the years as their writing gains popularity. Plenty of popular blogs started out under the blogspot.com domain and wound up on their own domains.
I’ve set up blogs in pretty much every way you can, including manually editing an HTML file and uploading it to the server when I created new posts, and for my most recent blog, a link blog for people who are interested in college sports at my alma mater, I set up a Tumblr blog on a custom domain. Why? Mainly because the Tumblr bookmarklet makes it so easy to post things to it. I can just read the news I’d read anyway and quickly turn the interesting news into blog posts.
In the end, most people are writing on the Web for fun, and they’re using the software that lets them keep it fun rather than turning it into work. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of social networking sites far better than the professional writers who see them as serfs.