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Binary Balance

Life on the digital knife edge

Why I'm not writing on Svbtle

During September of this year, I was one of what I gather was a large chunk of people that suddenly received an invite to Svbtle (the hosted blogging platform from Dustin Curtis) after applying for said invite so long ago that I can’t exactly remember when it was. Despite my usually cynical nature, I was kind of excited. I mean, sure I worked out pretty quickly that Svbtle was no longer the exclusive hangout that it once was, they’d opened their doors to the plebs to paraphrase one commentator. But whether it’s still trendy or not, I am a huge fan of the minimal ‘let the content speak for its self’ school of web design and I thought Dustin’s design of Svbtle was absolutely beautiful. Great job there, dude.

So I accepted the invitation and started to take a look around the site. It seemed pretty nice. The minimalism carried through to the rest of the UI. Optional email subscriptions for your Svbtle blog… you can BYO domain, oh that’s cool… set up Google Analytics, that’s cool as well. But then I thought hold on a sec, I had better just take a look at their terms and conditions so that I know what I’m getting myself into here.

Ten or so minutes of searching later, I was starting to suspect that there were no terms or conditions on the site. No terms of use, no copyright or privacy policy, nothing.

Well, I got this email that said:

Hey Gaelian, Welcome to Svbtle! We're happy to have you. As you begin writing, we encourage you to publish your best thoughts, stories, and ideas. While we hope you're inspired by the other great members already on the network, don't feel limited by the styles or subjects of the posts you see. Our hope is that you surprise us with new ideas. If you need anything at all, just respond to this email. We're always listening.

So I thought I’d just respond to that email…

Hello there, I've just accepted an invitation to svbtle and I was wondering what your policy is on crossposting of content between svbtle and e.g. a personal blog? More generally, I'm also interested to know what your terms of service and other polices are, particularly in relation to content rights and privacy. I don't seem to be able to find this class of info on svbtle so far? Regards, Gaelian Ditchburn

Almost a month went by, so I figured I’d try another email:

Hello, I sent you an email on the 20th of September 2013 and have not yet received a reply. I suspect you guys were busy after your big bunch of invites went out. So I thought I would try one more time. Here is more or less what I sent last time: I was wondering what your policy is on cross-posting of content between svbtle and e.g. a personal blog? More generally, I'm also interested to know what your terms of service and other polices are, particularly in relation to content rights and privacy. I don't seem to be able to find this class of info for svbtle anywhere. Regards, Gaelian Ditchburn

A few more days passed and I gave Twitter a try:

But no luck there either. I just kind of forgot about Svbtle after that and got busy doing other stuff.

Maybe I’m being overly cautious here, I’m sure Dustin and co are likely nice guys, they probably wouldn’t do anything bad with their user’s content or private info. But it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that there is nothing in black and white on the site to address such matters. Add to this that after several attempts to contact someone behind Svbtle I still have received no response after what is now literally months later. I get that Svbtle started off as a bit of an exclusive hang out for Dustin and his friends, maybe commercial concerns like general use of the system by unknown persons were secondary in the original vision. But I don’t think this can be used as an excuse any longer, assuming it ever was used as one.

One thing I sometimes like to do before buying from an online store is to send them a short email containing a question. The question its self is actually not that important, I do it because I want to find out how responsive they are and how they deal with potential customers before I commit to sending my money to them. It wasn’t my original intention to test Svbtle in a similar way, they’re not providing a paid service for one thing, so I guess that wouldn’t quite be apples to apples in that way. But none the less, when I do write I pay the task time, focus and energy, its one of the few artistic expressions I still practice on a semi-regular basis and its something I take seriously. When all is said and done I just don’t feel comfortable expressing myself on a platform that apparently has no terms or conditions and that seems to completely ignore users. Not really the best way to show that they’re ‘always listening’.

I also signed up to Medium a little while ago, which would appear to be one of Svbtle’s leading competitors in the minimalist blogging platform market. They at least have a Policies section linked right there at the bottom of their home page where you would expect it to be and it contains all the information that I would like to know.

I think Medium is a very nicely designed site as well. But I haven’t started writing there yet either, partially because it doesn’t have some of the features I feel like I’d miss (that ironically enough are on Svbtle, such as my own domain and Google Analytics integration) and partially because well, maybe I’m just a bit old school when it comes to my presence on the Internet, but as a writer I like having full control over where I put the bulk of the content I create and as a developer I like having full control over the source code that runs my blog. Maybe this need for control isn’t important for people without the technical knowledge or inclination to manage their own website, but it matters to me. At least Medium has a facility to export your content, a feature which I don’t see on Svbtle.

So for the time being at least… sorry Svbtle, I love your look and feel, but no dice. Medium, I’m starting to warm to the idea… perhaps I have some use for you, my pretty.

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