What have you ponied up for web 2.0?

Recently the swissmiss blog had a non-visual post that grabbed my attention: What Sites Do You Pay For? Her answer:

2 x Flickr ($25 year)
Typepad ($14.95 month)
Skype Pro ($3 month)
Quicken ($2.99 month)
Blinksale ($12 month)
Backpackit ($7 month)
.mac ($99.95 year)
creative hotlist ($30 for 6months ?)

That got me to thinking about the web stuff I pay for (hosting from dreamhost, several flickr accounts, several domain names I renew every year, DSL from Verizon, and a lifetime membership to LibraryThing I got pretty much the second I heard there was such a thing), why I pay for it, and what I’m not paying for now, but I’d be willing to pay for.

Why I pay for the stuff I do

I noticed she pays for a lot more sites than I do. I really pay for connectivity and running my own stuff. I’m probably paying more for hosting than I really need, but a combination of inertia (easier to renew existing arrangements than make new ones) and anxiety over not being able to do whatever I want (have multiple domain names, customize WordPress to my heart’s content) keep me from switching.

Generally speaking, I don’t pay for sites now — so I guess web 2.0 isn’t directly getting much of my money. (No, I don’t click on ads.) The worthy exception here is flickr. I love flickr and can’t imagine not having it. I’ve given gift memberships; I can see why people would need more than one pro account. For me, it hits the sweet spot in David Armano’s usefulness, utility, and ubiquity diagram.

What I’m not paying for

The two sites that I’m not paying for that I think also hit that sweet spot are twitter and del.icio.us. To put in in terms of Darmano’s 3 U’s, they serve (at least one!) purpose, they foster meaningful (to me) interaction, and they are effective across multiple touchpoints. Would I pay for them? Absolutely.

But I don’t see facebook getting my money, or LinkedIn. Yeah, I use them, but I don’t love them. When I think of the web, I don’t consider them vital. If they started charging for what they offer, I imagine people (meaning: my scrabulous friends and professional contacts) would leave for freely available alternatives. I’d rather use claimID as my resume replacement — or even the search box on Google, for that matter.

What about you?

What are you paying for on the web? Do you think about the usefulness, utility, or ubiquity of a service before you pony up? If you’ve switched from paying for hosting to relying entirely on platform accounts (wordpress.com, flickr, etc.) I’d love to hear about that, too.

Good-bye, little blue robot

For the last few days, I haven’t taken a self portrait. Feels a little weird not to be, too — I’d been taking one every day all of last year. On New Year’s Eve, I finished up my 365 days project.

yes, I did it! (day 365)

I said when I started the project there wasn’t a compelling reason, other than seeing if I can do it and being open to what I’ll discover along the way. So, what did I learn?

I figured out new technical things, as I expected (and wanted) about my camera and about Photoshop. I became more aware of lighting. I realized that pushing for a great photo every single day would make me crazy, and that settling for plain old documenting my day so it would count was not only okay, but sometimes even fun. I learned that putting face out there — not just one time, but pretty often, enough so that people could really see me — changes things.

It’s sounds like an obvious development to me now (and maybe it should have been, considering how many years I’ve been online and writing this blog) but it still came as a surprise when people stopped by my photos and said hi. It was a surprise, and I loved it, and it gave me that warm fuzzy “I love the web” feeling every time it happened.

So I’m retiring my beloved little blue robot, which has been my icon on flickr since I opened that account, and gone on to represent me on twitter and technorati and generally any site that asks for a little square of pixels to be me.

little blue robot and me

Now I’m going to use an actual picture of me. I have enough to choose from, and see the value now in making that choice.

Social software at work: ties and tools

Andrew McAfee gave a great talk at Defrag about Enterprise 2.0, the meat of which appears on his blog as How to Hit the Enterprise 2.0 Bullseye. (His nutshell definition of Enterprise 2.0: “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.”) He provided a concise framework mapping protypical tools to levels of connectedness.

In his version this looked like (you guessed it) a bullseye, moving from strong ties to weak ties, potential ties, and finally including folks for whom you have no ties at all. I think this is an interesting way to think about the tools, and you should really go read his thoughtful post, but of course I wanted to make it fuzzy and mess it up. Because we’re people and our connections are often fuzzy and messy. (Not that he was saying otherwise — he was going for the cleanest way to get his point across. I’m poking around for complications.) So while keeping his mapping, I shifted the bullseye and so far I’ve come up with this:

social software at work: ties and tools

I think tying the “none” circle — people you are really never going to connect with because there is just no reason — to prediction markets is brilliant. You don’t need to connect on any level with other people for prediction markets to work. (In fact, if you are too closely connected, it might not work.) It’s the rest of the circles I want to quibble with and complicate. Notice the + in brackets? Those are things I want to add to each circle.

I don’t disagree with blogging representing potential ties, but I do think it covers more types of ties than that. Social bookmarking — and you know del.icio.us is my favorite here — represents a great way to identify potential ties. I subscribe to both tag streams and people I don’t know (as well as people I do, because I’m obsessive that way) from del.icio.us because I think those feeds are valuable sources of information.

Blogs represent weak ties as much as potential ties (and, if I’m being honest, pretty strong ties, too) in my experience. Some of the folks in my feed reader could as easily be contacts on Linked In or showing up in my facebook feed or part of the twitter stream I follow. Some show up in all four places, even though we’ve technically never met. Weak ties are the messiest category. How would you classify someone whose blog you’ve been reading and commenting on for two years? How do you sort your flickr contacts into “just” contacts, friends, or family? What kind of relationship do you have with the people on twitter you follow? What does ambient intimacy feel like?

Strong ties in a work context generally mean people you are working and actively collaborating with, so in that regard wiki as the prototypical tool makes sense. I just don’t tend to work that way. I think wikis are great tools but they still aren’t that friendly to non-geeks, and not everyone I work with embraces the idea of markup. My work is often about conversations and analysis, and I’d rather do that on a blog. Other people I know would rather do that in QuickBase, or email, or… The one thing we all seem to have in common is using instant message to be in touch when we need to be, and even then, we don’t all use it the same way. I think one of the biggest challenges in this space isn’t which tool to use for what — though that is a significant challenge — it is how we can accommodate different work styles and combine tools into intelligent workstreams.