Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Self host, pay host, free host - we lose

I came to Brad Kozlec's post, The Puzzle of my own Personal Cyberinfrastructure via a rather down and dirty comment exchange over on the Bava. Let me switch gears, and civilly join the conversation being had under Brad's post.

I'm posting this here because Brad's blog rejects my comment as spam, rather than hold it for Brad to decide. And anyway, the content of this comment explains another reason why I should post here instead, in the true blogging tradition of building and preserving the network.

First, highlighting Brad's latest, yet all-too-brief point made in comments:

"You all are entrusting me to be a caretaker of this conversation."

To my mind, this concern out weighs the concerns about massive advertising companies care taking [over] our culture (that started happening long ago), and undermines the worthy vision that Jim wants to bring to us all  (see comment 6 on Brad's post).

An all too frequent scenario:
Someone posts something remarkable on their BlueHost (or whatever hosting company), self managed blog. A slew of insightful comments follow. It didn't take off as a meme though, it just stayed in its corner, important to a few hundred people, possibly more important to some historian later. A year or two pass by and that person forgets or neglects to pay their hosting company and their domain rego - its all over. I can see this happening hundreds of times in the case of Jim's DS106 open course - where he is asking people to DIY their websites. If even 50% of those then decide to let that site's fees slip and the content go into the extinct URLs, not only will Jim's record of DS106 be compromised, but the longer term asynchronous learning will be impacted. We might as well give it all over to Blackboard and leave the deletion to the institution. The business model, that deletes content because hosting fees aren't being met, is a irresponsible model. But Jim's reasons are good.

Contrast to this with services like Blogger - under the Google mission to make sense of the Internet, and make advertising and database money doing so - its in their interests to keep the content up. So, one person moving on in life and forgetting to pay their bills, doesn't render whole swaths of content and shared experience, void.

I'm not suggesting that the Google model is ideal. Far from it - control of ones own online record remains an issue here. I am pointing out that the business model of the little hosting companies and the domain registrars who take content offline if their fees aren't met, is crappy.

Perhaps we should use established not for profit services like Ourmedia more, started by JD Lassica, author of Darknet. Its not commonly recognised that Ourmedia (and the archive that makes it possible - most likely started all this Web2 crazy by announcing back in 2004 that they would freely store, host, serve and manage and unlimited content forever. Soon after, Youtube stole the limelight. Even though has been storing and serving unlimited user content since 1996, and despite the front end changing its tune a little - focusing on activist media more, non of it solves Jim's mission of showing the world the value of peer to peer DIY/conviviality.

What we need is a service like Ourmedia, not-for-profit, or running on a business model that ensures preservation of content, that enables people to access and control all levels of the production process, but doesn't put all our networked artifacts into the fickle hands of monthly fees. Essentially what the likes of BlueHost do, but taking out the precariousness of fees to keep it all up there... perhaps a fee to keep it up forever, or until the author says stop. 50c a post say... that gives me 10 posts a month, and those posts stay up... or as with a nice little copy distributor, where the video is sent across to as a kind of backup. Now we just need URL forwarding in there for when the original goes offline...

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