Superhighway Pileup


As many are starting to gather, you don’t have to be a woman, nor any particular age, to find interest in, or identify with the topics shared here. And today is no exception. Although this post may seem a bit of a diversion, it's entirely relevant, as this site dwells within the crowded lanes of the overpacked information superhighway.

I tried tucking A WOMAN YOUR AGE in a more off-the-beaten-path of the interwebs. Where the skies are clearer, and you can see the stars a bit better. There are neither tolls, nor tracking. But when it comes to the internet of 2018, we all breathe the same air, regardless of how hard we try to minimize pollution.

Leading me to today’s post on the World Wide Web. Once a promise for the curious and entrepreneurial, has become, frankly, an absolute nightmare.

I’ve been having a difficult time as the beauty of the interwebs is what empowered me in my indepence from the corporate design farm. And to be quite specific, has subsequently become my livelihood. It was the web’s democracy and endless possibilities that enabled Design Seeds to become my career.

Yes, it took endless allnighters, and risking my own personal money, so it wasn’t a 100% Cinderella story. However, it was an opportunity. It was glorious, people were amazing, community was real, and creativity was pinging new heights.

In 2018, it is startling how opportunities are becoming a rarity as gigantic corporations now dominate and run the web. And it is important to note the following three things that big business really don't like: innovation, entrepreneurship, and the unexpected. Corporations are behemoth machines that don’t pivot or move with agility. This is one of a bajillion reasons why they thrive to write the rules for everything from consumerism to legislation. They want to control the narrative. The woman in Spokane with an innovative new app, or family start up in Poughkeepsie, are irritants they rather not have buzzing in their prosperity garden.

I think it's beneficial to look back a bit, and see how we got here.

See, my love for the web started back in the 90’s, spending long lunch hours exploring a startling unpopulated web. However, despite the minimal amount of information available, the possibilities sparked my imagination. I would explore around Netscape, both bored out of my mind, and dazzled by the potential. Then the 2000’s happened, and blogs were my addiction. I could binge read amazing stories, anecdotes, and find endless inspiration.

A big issue for me with the evolution of the web in the aughts, was that I was an inhouse designer. And just as they like to control the narrative, big companies really like big firewalls. It’s not just the information they battle to keep in, it is that which they battle to keep out. So when I would log on to do research and gather inspiration for collections, I literally was hitting walls left and right. Firewalls, that is.

It hit me like an anvil on my head, that the future as a designer was the web, and I had to get out and give it a go on my own so I could learn more, and potentially contribute my own work online. It was the future for information. And if I waited too long, I would be too antiquated to maneuver and grow with the web.

So when I got my wild hair in 2009, it was my first step to my online career. And indeed it was a wild hair.

I was in Hong Kong on a business trip, calling home to check on my daughter. As my heart wrenched from the loving squeak of my daughter’s voice far too many miles away, a truth rang loudly within me when I disconnected from that call. And it hit me. Hard.

I was done with the corporate conveyor belt life. Burnt out by overseas development trips that resulted in a line being dropped before it was even received back Stateside to be reviewed. I knew I, and my family, deserved better than how we were existing. Existing apart, overworked, underslept, and just getting by was not why I became a designer. Nor was it what I ever aspired for my family as a wife and mother.

So without a single client lined up, I hung my shingle and opened up my own little consultancy. And thank Sweet Baby Jesus, clients knocked on my door. I took on work including everything from designing footwear collections, to setting up branding strategy, to supplying trend and inspiration reports. Most my work came from folks I worked with, or were recommended to me by those who had.

And when I started my consultancy, starting a blog was also top of my list of to-do’s. At the time, after fifteen years working in house, what I felt that had most to offer was my design work. And I have an insatiable love of color. It’s not just what I did as part of my job in setting up color palettes for seasons and collections, but it was what I creatively breathed and loved. 

No one at the time was doing anything with color, so I created the concept of Design Seeds. A passion project I self funded until it went viral and became my day job. It has been an amazing journey these past nine years. Ones I cannot grasp words to express my gratitude, nor the tremendous amount of work it took, and continues to take.

Leapfrogging to 2018, I am a bit (understatement) shattered by what has become of the world wide web. The world I was escaping, has infiltrated it. Corporations, who dismissed the web for decades, and had employees firewalled away from it, now are buying it, controlling it, and misbehaving on it. 

Even worse, feckless political leaders know how to use Twitter and tweet their vitriol. People who bum most out in real life, have learned what a hashtag is, and bring their suitcases packed with racism, misogyny, and entitlement online. And all of them are polluting social feeds and comment sections.

Then there is the whole career of internet marketers that push for people to monetize every conceivable aspect of online and email, in a way that is toxic to the point the pollution hides all the content that once made the web so exciting. Where there is a penny, and most places there shouldn’t be, there are people marketing, selling, and optimizing a whole bunch of nothing.

So what the hell happened? Will we ever wrestle a section of the web back? How does one find their tribe in the clusterfuck of Web 2018?

Or do we simply need an all new web? One that corporations will ignore for decades, and ideally be too tricky for people to generally understand, and be unable to passively spread vitriol from the comfort of their smartphones.

Social networks are dead. And a chronological timeline will never come back on them. And honestly, chronological timelines were all they really had to offer that was of value. And many people are still is under the mistaken impression these networks want to sell them ads, and that’s why they’re free to use. While the actuality is that they make good coin off ads, but they really want people's data. They want to train and mine the human mind for either their own tech innovation, or sell the data to others. 

Networks are not a place to be, hang, or discover. However, a majority of people in 2018 stay parked on them, or in their apps. Plugged into their algorithms, feeding them their data from clicks and even their entire data rich phone. All the while not discovering anything, or contributing meaningful content. And they really don't mind. At all. As long as an entertaining post or two float through their timelines, and they get likes from the BBQ photo they posted yesterday, they'll keep parked on social networks all day, every day.

And so many websites have become equally horrible with their data collection, running ads that do freaky tracking things, or are riddled with affiliate links. Finding good stuff seems as possible as finding a juggling unicorn.

So in my post of despair, I am looking for hope. Looking for shoutouts or gems we can share with each other and support. I am searching for the optimism, or a sunrise, of what feels like an apocalyptic web.

We have been made the commodities, but we can change that by simply not playing the game. By not living on social networks, but supporting directly what we love. We can visit and comment on indie blogs, explore well behaving sites, buy from small business shops, and share innovative content.

What do you love online? What are your favorite sites or folks to follow?

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What do you do to keep control? Of what you see, while protecting your privacy?

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