scratch your own itch

From IndieWeb

Scratch your own itch was an early IndieWeb focus, and is a metaphor for the current IndieWeb principlemake what you need” that encourages creators to understand and take care of their own itches (what’s bothering them), making things that at least make a difference to their own needs & wants.


Criticisms of "scratch your own itch" as a metaphor or principle.

Over time the expression "scratch your own itch" has fallen out of favor in the community for a number of reasons, including inducing a sense of discomfort more than encouragement.

Associated with bodily discomfort

2008-06-23 The New Yorker: The Itch CW: addiction, drugs, icky/gross body things 🤢

Renaming and refocus

Accepting that there may be more direct and broadly appealing ways of saying "Scratch your own itch", the IndieWeb community brainstormed about potential replacements and came up with the following options. With the most support for "Make What You Need", that's now the preferred page to reference when discussing this as a principle:

and the metaphor:

See below for discussion of various alternatives that were considered.

Self-determining wants

Many of these metaphors have an implied principle of self-determination of what you want, rather than being told what you want.

I try to be deliberate, and social networks seem more and more to say: You don’t know what you want, but we do. Which, to someone who, you know, gives a shit, is pretty dang insulting.

Craig Mod

Make What You Need

Main article: make what you need

More direct than a metaphor, make what you need, expresses a method of focusing that parallels well with another principle, use what you make. As a metaphor, we could use "cook what you want" or "cook what you hunger" (see the next section for the cooking metaphor in particular).

  • +1 Tantek Çelik proposed "Make What You Need". I like "cook what you want" as the metaphorical expression (see below) because it parallels the "eat what you cook" metaphor, and cooking/eating is more tangible, more relatable to more people than the more abstract call to "make" something. Still I think our principles should be literal, not metaphorical.
  • +1 Chris Aldrich
  • +1 Anthony Ciccarello to "make what you want"
  • +1 Kasper Zutterman
  • +1 Ana Rodrigues I prefer this one to any food analogies because "food" is a "content note" itself. I wonder if it could accidentally upset anyone with any relationship with food that they find difficult.
  • +1 Calum Ryan I agree Chris' - "make what you want" seems more appropriate, not to be confused with a focus in efforts on what is or isn't essential in the context of a website.

Or variant "make what you want". Not sure about need vs want as a focusing framing. Which is more similar to "itch"? Which is more broadly appealing?

  • Perhaps the difference between the two is something which could be prioritized? Make first what you need, then make what you want, which allows one to focus on creativity and exploration. This is similar to the human need for attaining basics like food, clothing, and shelter and then creating something beyond that. Making what you want is definitely more aspirational and perhaps inspirational, though it can have the tendency to turn off those who don't have the basics yet. — Chris Aldrich
  • There’s a spectrum between need and want, that perhaps goes even farther:
    • need - want - satisfied - full - annoyed - uncomfortable - overwhelmed
  • I also think we need to be careful about drawing comparisons with "basic" needs, except to perhaps draw a contrast with creative activities. — Tantek Çelik

Cook What You Want

Main article: cook what you want

cook what you want (now created) is the counterpart (preceding) to eat what you cook, and a metaphor for focusing your IndieWeb efforts on your own wants & needs first.

Other consumption metaphors:

Other similar metaphors:

More generically:

  • Create the thing you want to consume
    • +0 Tantek Çelik: I like the abstraction from a broader understanding perspective, though then it loses the ease of relating (and positive emotional association) that a metaphor provides which I feel is more important especially for new folks

Thoughts on which metaphor:

  • Tantek Çelik: Of all those metaphor variants, I think "Cook what you want" is perhaps the most universal / approachable / relatable, as everyone wants to eat, and everyone has at least financial (nevermind health etc.) incentives to try to cook/prepare at least some of their food. It hits more fundamentally in Maslow's hierarchy (i.e. compared to writing, painting, podcasting, toolmaking). Though obviously even regarding food, there are real problems in terms of food deserts etc.
  • ...

Criticism / Weakness of "cook what you want"

Be The Change

"scratch your own itch" is as much as admonition to actually do the "scratching" yourself, as well as prioritizing "your own itch". In this regard it is expressing the "Be the change" expression common in forms like:

  • "Be the change you want to see in the world" (misattributed to Gandhi)
  • "Change yourself and you have done your part in the changing the the world. Every individual must change [their] own life if they want to live in a peaceful world", from "Para-gram" by Paramahansa Yogananda
  • "If you want to make the world a better place, Take a look at yourself, and then make a change" - Michael Jackson, "Man In The Mirror" (all profits from that single went to charity apparently, per

Create for Yourself

Make or create for yourself seems better than make what you want. It focuses the creation act as something you do for you, not for anyone else.

See Also