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IndieWeb Summit 2019 Keynote

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This is the talk that I gave at IndieWeb Summit 2019, in Portland, OR. This was my first Keynote ever. I was nervous.

And the video! IndieWeb Summit 2019 at Mozilla!

We start our journey with our world shaking in nothing but contractions. It then explodes into an immeasruable expanse, and we are left in the cycles of contractions and expansions until we shuffle off this mortal coil.

Because fundamentally, this is what life is: a series of contractions and expansions.

We start out small, unsure, excited, and interested in everything. We take our first steps. We learn. We expand.

We fall down. We are yelled at. We are told not to do this, not to do that. We contract.

We try again. We explore. We taste everything. We watch. We continue to learn. We expand in our joy of this existence.

We touch the hotplate.

It burns. We recoil. We contract.

In time, We try again.

We make friends. We explore with these friends. We expand.

We lose friends. We sit in our ball of pain, and our world becomes even smaller. We contract.

We fall in love, and the world is an incredible magical place. We expand.

Our hearts are broken, and we contract.

We hear, "It gets better."

We hold on. We survive. We thrive, we expand.

And life happens. One cycle after another.

New schools, new friends, new relationships, breakups, marriage, births, adoptions, new homes, new jobs, new states, new countries, new bosses, old hangups, death, loss, cancer, disability, job loss, age, the unforeseen and the unplanned.

We withdraw from the world.

And we find our causes. Sometimes our causes find us. We explore our world, and it expands.

We are criticized for our gender, for our non-gender, for the color of our hair, for the color of our skin, for simply being the people we are, as if being ourselves is somehow wrong. We know it isn't, but we contract none-the-less.

We find our tribe, those who understand the parts of us that are beautiful, the parts of us that should be without shame, the parts of us that simply are, and we can be ourselves. We find comfort and strength in those tribes. We expand.

We have expectations. How hard can it be? And we are disappointed.

We share. We give our creations life and set them free. We give them to the community, we give to the world, and we get crap back. There's this bug. There is this flaw. It isn't perfect. You aren't perfect. We aren't perfect. We contract.

We grudgingly give our time to those who demand it, and joyfully to those who appreciate our time for the gift it truly is.

We who create, create, because we can't not create. We need this creation to exist. We need this object, this project, this process to exist. We will it into creation. We expand.

Mishaps befall us, and we break. In that breaking we hurt. In that hurting, we contract.

And then we heal.

And in that healing, we realize our breaking had a story, a lesson, a gift. And we expand.

We realize we cannot change human nature. There will always be jerks and trolls and assholes. There will always be those who choose to destroy instead of to create. And with this knowledge we contract.

Until we realize that while we cannot change human nature, we can influence human behavior. We can demonstrate what a good person is, and with our demonstrations, with our actions, with our understanding, with our empathy, we expand.

How easy it is in these expansions to flitter out to the silos to share our lives. The silos are easy, they are popular, they are cool. We want to be cool.

So we make connections, join new networks, we expand again.

We trade privacy for ease, and hand our data over. We expand in some way, even as we have loss.

We can justify the loss in some way, right? We report all ads as spam, so that we aren't a sentiment on some research scale (yes, I do this). We opt-out so that we aren't told what to think, which person or mistake to pile on in Twitter's Outrage of the Day.

We can pretend all we want in these silos, but we lose ourselves, even if only a bit, in the process.

The only way we know the true arc of our story, the only way we understand the true depth of our experiences, the only way we come to a true understanding of our own hero's journey is if we have all the parts.

When our data is silo'd behind a login page, when our data is lost when a company is sold or goes under or just loses our data, the database died, when we become a trend instead of a person, we lose a part of our own story. We become the blind men describing an elephant: a tree trunk, a wall, and a rope, each correct, all incomplete, each silo only part of the picture of who were are.

Our memories fade, the fish becomes bigger, the intensity of the moment lessens, the rawness of our emotions settle, the wound heals over and we tell our tale from the position an observer instead of a participant, as the narrator instead of the hero of our own story.

When we own our own data, We can understand the contractions and expansions of our own lives.

We see the data we want to track, and track it, not because it is important to some corporate entity, but rather, because it is important to us. We expand when we delight in the patterns we see about ourselves, for ourselves.

When we own our own data, We can look back at who we were who we thought we were. We can see who we really were, who we are, and, most importantly, the trend of our becoming who we want to become. With our own data, we can curate, we can shed who we were to become who we want to be, and we can write the end of our own story.

For this is the true power of owning our own data: to understand the cycles of contractions and expansions, to understand our hero's journey, and to write our own story.


I, along with hundreds, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of others, are grateful for you, those who learn, who build, who scratch your technology itches, who share, and with your effort and successes, help the rest of us be better too. With you, we expand.

Thank you.


Hi Kitt, your keynote was my favourite part of the summit. Thanks for sharing!

Oh, yay! Thank you, Malcolm!

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