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On Owning my Material

 

A few of the things that are making me thoughtful recently:

  • The desire to pay time and attention in a more selective way, so that I use my time well and feel good about it, a desire that quite likely sends me to spend more time in face to face and personal connections;
  • Spending less time on Twitter, possibly for the same reason, partly in response to API restrictions and the resulting desire to cease adding my own value to a network in which I am a commodity; and partly because I am feeling a little less personal weight, less importance to me, of that particular community;
  • It’s election season, and promoted posts are popping up constantly on Facebook for Jeff Flake, Freedomworks and other conservative political groups. They’re sponsored links, also constantly being LIKED by one or two friends of mine – fine guys but with whom I probably have nothing in common after the time and distance since high school – and I would prefer to not spend any more time wondering “how the hell did that get into my feed?”
  • The energy happening on alpha/app.net – a non-free platform [!] – that is creating interesting conversation, community, and enthusiasm for doing cool things.
    • (Yes, thanks, I get the tension between “spend less time online” and “hey! cool thing online!”)
  • A period of exploring new web hosts prior up to the re-launching of TextDrive as replacement to the what-was-Joyent-hosting that, naturally, originally replaced TextDrive the first time around.

It was this last item that really sparked things. I was angry at the apparent loss of my lifetime hosting deal — about which I’ve noodled more, elsewhere, and may port those thoughts here at some point — and eventually came around to the decision that I’d be just fine going ahead and paying for hosting again: After all, I valued it, so I should pay for it and use it smartly. In short, I spent a lot of cycles thinking about the tools and services I truly value and are therefore willing to pay real money for.

In fact, I want to pay money for these things. This all ends for me with the clarity that I am willing to pay (real money!) for quality online services that allow me to have control and ownership and privacy, as opposed to the free services that need to turn my data – my network, my “social graph” or my eyeballs – into, basically, ad dollars in order to stay afloat.

A little over a year ago, I started movement in this direction when I began using fastmail.fm for mail services. [ Aside: fastmail is great; rock-solid IMAP, flexible options of all kinds, worth every penny. If you find it’s something valuable to you too, I get a credit if you sign up via my referral link ] At the time I was prompted in part by this post by Marco Arment on owning one’s own critical information. With fastmail, I began using a + suffix of my primary email address, every time I signed up for something or gave out my email address, instead of using my gmail address. My whole family is now on fastmail.

I’m not quite prepared to delete my accounts on Twitter and Facebook the way some vigorous Alpha/App.net users are (c.f. @jdscolam’s blog post – for which I appreciate his passion), because I still do get some value there: Twitter has a set of locals with whom I enjoy being in touch; and Facebook has helped me to stay connected with family and friends from various times in my life. But I’ve certainly spent less time there, and a plot of my posting activity would have a pretty steep downward curve over the last month or so.

I have spent some time lately thinking about alternatives to things I have used for free, such as posterous for my son’s blog – but on that score, with mixed success. It’s a strange situation, to be looking for someone to, as the saying goes, take my money, and finding only mildly satisfying options. More on that search later.

So, I’ll continue to look for ways to pay for the things I value, which will tie my time to my money and remind me to treat both with appropriate importance. That’s not a bad idea at all.