I had just stood up the Mastodon instance for my API Evangelist account, logged in, and was staring at the empty message box. What would I say? I had no followers. Nobody would be listening even if I did say something. So I followed my Kin Lane account, and then followed API Evangelist back. Now at least I would be talking to myself. This seems much more appropriate. I don’t need an audience. I’ve always (that’s a lie) done API Evangelist for myself, and secondarily for others. Over the last decade of storytelling I’ve developed a pantheon of characters I am talking to when I publish any stories. Some were made up from real people I come across in my adventures, others are made up entirely just to fit in with the narrative I am peddling. I like to pretend I don’t need an audience, but I am also hyper aware of an on again and off again need to feed the ego, and actually have someone out there reading and engaging with my writing.
It is terrifying to not have any social followers. A significant portion of my social presence is wrapped up in my identity as the API Evangelist and now the Chief Evangelist. Twitter has played a significant role in feeding my ego, and paying the bills. You experience ego whiplash when you go from 13.6K followers on Twitter to 0 followers on Mastodon. I have 17K followers on my Kin Lane Twitter, and experienced the same whiplash twice over this week. Honestly, I love it though. A little ego flattening is essential in this world. However, it isn’t just ego, and I’ve honestly been working on the Twitter plantation since 2007, and these 13.5K + 17K followers are the building blocks of digital identity. Not just my identity, but my career. I’ve made a couple of million dollars through my blog and my Twitter account since 2010. So, should I be grateful to Twitter for this? Is it purely their “network effect”? Or is this just a fraction of what I could have made if I couldn’t have fully controlled my contribution to the Twitter community? Similar to what I am now doing with Mastodon? Rebuilding all over again.
What happens when I am suddenly nobody? Well, that is a little dramatic, as many of my API people were pretty easy to find on Mastodon. I guess some of my brand translates. Partly because I’ve built in on the apievangelist.com domain. Grounding my storytelling within my own domain(s), and being thoughtful about which networks I engage on, and syndicating my stories to is the number one reason I’ve been able to make a living through my use of social media. I am not afraid of having to rebuild this via Mastodon, and other federated solutions. I am not quitting Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks. They are necessary evils to a certain degree. I am even considering how I can leverage other platforms I’ve used like Tumblr in new ways, but with Mastodon operating within my domain at the core. Leveraging my blog(s), and messaging, social, and other APIs to orchestrate, automate, and help me be more organized in my approach to how I use these platforms. Once again, I find myself thinking about the value of my digital bits, this time it is the value of a message with nobody following me. Sitting here staring at this empty text box with zero followers on a federated network is humbling.
Why do we post messages with text, images, and video online? Do we do it for attention? Do we do it to help educate and inform others? There are many positive and not so positive reasons we post messages online. I do not think many people publish text, images, or video online without intending to influence and communicate with one or many other human beings. I do it to get my ideas out of my head. I do it because I like crafting stories, and having a real or perceived audience helps with this process. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in this moment contemplating the posting of a message that nobody would read. I opted to be all business, acknowledging this wonderful new federated world, but quickly getting to work automating my presence here using the open source Mastodon API for both my Kin Lane and API Evangelist instances. You see, my identity is all wrapped up in APIs in many different ways-—it is APIs all the way down. Which is why I can write posts that nobody reads because I am not just just pandering to my audience, I am actually building out an automated information network about APIs using APIs. Now, let’s get to work building out this network, so eventually somebody will read these messages.