What is THE canonical place for your ‘stuff’?

One of my favorite question to ask people is: “where do you store your photos – the ones that are on your phone right now?” One of my co-workers recently responded with “on the cloud…I think”. Now this was for photos of course, but it made me think of the rest of my “stuff.” For the intentional information that I send out to the world – where does that gets stored? If I tweet, then Twitter holds my posts. If I blog, then WordPress holds my posts. If I use Facebook then Facebook holds my posts (and my social graphs, and my personal information like my phone number).

I’ve been trying to answer the “what’s my canonical source of information?” question. If Twitter or Facebook were to go away tomorrow – what would happen to all of my posts…all of my ‘stuff’? While my posts may not be valuable to anyone else, they are certainly valuable to me, so I can’t rely on any publication platform that can change its rules of publication or disappear at any time (besides storing my information in a proprietary or questionably exportable way).

In a recent episode of the Post Status podcast the ‘canonical’ issue came up. The theme of the episode was about WordPress mobile apps, and this issue was a somewhat indirect result of Brian suggesting that he would want like to see an opinionated mobile app that allows his WordPress site to be the canonical source of all the information that he publishes. In other words, when he posts pictures on his WordPress site, then they automatically get posted to Instagram (based on some criteria of course), or when he posts a bite-sized post on his site then that shows up on Twitter, and so on.

While Joe suggested that the WordPress REST API would be the key to creating such an app, the key issue would still be keeping up with new social media apps (i.e. publication platforms) and whatever new developments occur around the process of publishing one’s information. Furthermore, there is also the issue of platforms like Snapchat where you can’t post your video from another service to Snapchat – you need to user their app to do so.

The pragmatic approach to this canonical issue is coming to it from the other side. Rather than find or create the one application that rules all current and future publishing platforms, it makes more sense to use services that push your information from the publishing platforms of your choice to your canonical source. While IFTTT and Zapier are proprietary in their own way, their goals are to provide connection points between various platforms (in a more narrow sense this also applies to Buffer).

So rather than going from WordPress outwards, I’ve used IFTTT to push my published information to my WordPress blog. As an example, for Twitter posts the “Post my tweets to my WordPress blog” recipe has been very useful as has the “Sending a new tweet with a certain hashtag creates a post on your WordPress blog” recipe.

Because WordPress is an open platform – I can easily export all of my content to a format that can be easily parsed by another system. This openness makes WordPress a great canonical source. Is it the perfect place? Probably not, but it’s the best solution that I have found so far.

If you have a better solution or approach to this issue – please let me know via Twitter (@eli4d).

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