Customer vs. Product

There's been a little bit of talk about silos and microblogging and middling and such which is probably synchronicity but I choose to believe it's because tilde is making us think about these things. Or maybe I'll choose to believe my last post influenced everyone.

Anyway, I think I should clarify my thoughts a little. I'm not agin' centralization in some cases. I keep my bookmarks on Pinboard, for instance, because even though we (~raven and I) have our own server, it doesn't mean we want to maintain everything. We run our own Tiny Tiny RSS server, and of course a web server and mail server, but sometimes it's a pain and I certainly wouldn't expect most people to do it.*

No, the real problem isn't centralization. Specialization can be good. The real problem is the weird ad-supported model. You can't get angry at Google for shutting down Reader, because you were never Google's customer. You were the product being sold. I can get mad at Maciej, because I paid him money to use Pinboard. (I suspect getting mad at Maciej would mostly give him snark fodder for Twitter, but that's okay. I knew that danger when I signed up.)

I don't know how to get away from the Internet's ad-supported, free-to-play culture, at least in the social/blogging sphere. I can go off to my blog here or on, but my family will never bother to check it much less start blogs of their own so I can quit checking Facebook. And with the regular "they're going to start charging for Facebook" panics, I can't see convincing a critical mass of people to move to a Facebook-equivalent that's subscription- rather than ad-supported.* Pinboard is nice, but it's clearly a service for nerds who are eccentric for even caring about this sort of thing.

Or maybe I'm just pessimistic, and I should start building a Facebook-equivalent for my family members, collect a monthly or annual fee pitched as a "let's all chip in for the server" at first, and just let it spread from there.


* Carl's a professional systems architect and I'm a software dev with enough sysadmin experience to know it's always a permissions problem in Unix. And to know that the best way to aggravate a sysadmin/architect is to say, "Never mind, I'll just chown it 0777."

* Maybe "ad- and data-supported" is better? I should coin a scary-sounding phrase for "you are the product" services.

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