Monday, August 10, 2009

Free is just too high a price to pay

Robert Scoble seems to be on a roll at the moment. His commentary on the the Twitter ecosystem are fascinating. Last week he discovered that the Auto-follow had made him dumber. Now he is being more selective and as a result the quality of his feed has risen dramatically. His latest post is about the demise of from Nambu and the shortcomings of the Twitter platform. It is well worth a read.

The took two things from Scoble's post:

  1. The Network Effects keep pulling us back
  2. Put your stuff in more than one place.

When Twitter has a bad day, like the Denial Of Service attacks last week, we just wait. Just like how Scoble can't get thousands of his followers to meet him on FriendFeed, each of us is daunted at the prospect of persuading our tens, or hundreds, of followers to move with us to another platform.

Facebook and Twitter probably both recognize this fact. It is not just the followers but how about all the ecosystem components I have connected to my Twitter account. Brightkite, TwitPic,, Delicious. The list goes on. Every application adopted makes a user more "Sticky." The adoption of OAuth by Twitter and Facebook's Connect feature make the respective networks more essential to us.

The need to put our information in more than one place has been driven home to me when Twitter Search "Broke". It is more likely that Twitter deliberately hobbled search in order to manage their resources more cost effectively. We now have access to only a couple of weeks of tweets. This means that the collective thoughts from numerous conferences, camps and meetups have vanished.

This tells us Twitter may have stumbled on yet another business model option. They could choose to charge us for access to that collective hive mind. Would you pay? I would certainly think about - but only if Twitter let me pick up those searches as an RSS feed and republish them freely on my blog, or other sites I use.

The actions of Twitter warn us that "Free" is often too high a price to pay for services from a startup. It may be too high a price to pay from even established companies, like Google.

Free services on the Internet are a wonderful thing. But be wary. You always need an alternative. Put your information in more than one place.

It also means that, if you are serious about your personal brand on the Internet, you need to invest in a domain and look at the tools you depend upon and purchase or use Open Source code on servers in your domain. There are examples of open source URL shorteners.

I think I need to look at my blog here on blogger and how I can reduce my dependence on I may also have to revisit implementing ( on my own platform.