Free Services are Not Free

As my post about hating Twitter gets traction, the main thrust of pushback to my stance seems to be this: “Hey dude, it was a service they provided to you for free, get over it.” That is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. You don’t get to play that card. I Want Sandy didn’t have a pay option, so it’s not like we were freeloading when they were trying to get us to pony up. IWS deliberately pursued the public to make it a part of their life and work flow, to be an essential bit of their day and to help them get work done. People did, which created the value that Rael has now monetized by being acquired (almost literally, he was acquired if the reports are true). They worked to anthropomorphize the service in the persona of “Sandy” and to create a personal connection. To now blame people for being connected and personally invested is disgustingly disingenuous.

But really, any of these services are not free if they take any significant amount of my time setting them up and using them. I can’t overstate this point: I care more about my time than my money. Time is more limited and precious to me, so making me waste my time is worse than wasting my money when they are anywhere near, like within an order of magnitude. The switching cost of putting in a new service and getting used to it is non-trivial and I and every other user of Sandy or any other Web 2.0 service have every right to be pissed when you successfully convince us to insinuate your service into our lives and then pull the plug.

I’m willing to use my time to check out your service and if I like it, I’ll use it. I’m begging you, don’t betray me. Don’t sell me out, and if I get mad when you do, don’t you dare push it back on me. I did what you asked of me, I cared about what you built. You are the one that failed to hold up your end of that contract, so don’t tell me the failure is mine. That karma burden will not work out well for you.

Why did I move this workflow from Sandy to Google? Google may be becoming the Borg and they may scare the hell out of me, but I trust them not to shut down Gmail and Google Docs and Calender on or before December 8th, so that puts them ahead of I Want Sandy and Twitter.

Update: Here is a very similar take to mine on this subject from Devan at Cloud Ave.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

4 thoughts on “Free Services are Not Free”

  1. Eyebee says:

    I didn’t use ‘Sandy’ so it’s no loss to me but that’s not the issue here. The issue here is that you did use it, you did integrate it into your life, and you now feel the loss, and the damned inconvenience of not having it, and also of having to learn and adapt to something else. Of course you’re angry, and rightly so.

  2. Ian says:

    Great post, and the one about hating Twitter was an excellent post as well.

    I used the I Want Sandy service constantly. It was my virtual assistant and was deeply integrated into my daily workflow. I had no plans of moving from the service any time soon, but when I was presented with a fortnight notice that they were closing… well… that’s just lousy.

    I don’t know if the plan was to sell out all along or not, but Sandy was a service I would have gladly paid for in its current incarnation. Perhaps Twitter will revive, but I doubt it will be in the same form. Pity, too.

    In any case, I’ve already begun migrating my workflow to other services (mostly Google ones) that I know, as you said, won’t go away. If Twitter does revive the Sandy service or something similar, I won’t be moving to it because there’s no guarantee of service or features.

  3. dave says:

    Eyebee and Ian, thanks for the comments. This whole fiasco puts into sharp relief the idea of trust and stewardship in Web 2.0. I think Twitter has demonstrated a history of being poor stewards unworthy of trust, so I’m not using my time on their products anymore. I agree with Ian, even if they revived Sandy or something like it, who would trust it now?

  4. Devan says:

    Dave, thanks for the pingback! I must say I am very very disappointed at Twitter’s silence on this whole matter. Their blog welcomes Rael to the team, but they don’t even have the temerity to mention ‘I want Sandy’ by name even.

    Just shows what little value they place on the service and the brand. Massive ‘fail’ on their part!


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