The value of content

Last week I finally got round to making a donation to a podcast that I enjoy and listen to regularly, "No Agenda". Yes, it's controversial and yes, I don't always agree with what is discussed on the show and it is rather US-centric, but it does make me think about the spin that is put on any news disseminated nowadays. The podcast has no sponsors; it is funded by listeners, so is able to maintain a level of independence. I decided this was worth some of my money, so I donated. I was very fortunate to be the only person donating at a certain level, so got an executive producer credit. At some point I will donate again, as long as I keep listening to the show.

Many people have written on the subject of getting things for free, particularly on the Internet, so, unfortunately, here is more of the same. Nothing new, just my thoughts on the matter - and how my view has changed in recent years.

Like a lot of people, I used to think it was absolutely fine to have information and/or entertainment available for free on the internet. I grew up before the internet was even a thing, so I have seen it grow from an entertaining diversion, to the all-pervasive behemoth it is today. I think there was a time, somewhere along the way, where information was available as a public service, intended to help and inform. That is, largely, no longer the case. I have also matured and become disillusioned with a lot of things in the world. One of these is the lack of truthfulness (I don't go so far as to say it's a lack of basic honesty). Questions asked of politicians are evaded, with no straight answers given. People are generally lied to by their elected representatives, yet nobody seems to hold them to account. Gradually I have become more aware of the amount of manipulation that we are being subjected to all the time; in politics and in our daily lives. I sometimes wonder if any truth is written/spoken by the media nowadays. Certainly the news programmes in the UK do far more than present the facts. There is always someone who explains the story, or pontificates on the impact, or what might happen as a result. Me, I generally just want the facts on the news; if I want to hear dissection and discussion, I will tune in to one of the magazine programmes.

I digress, though, as the main reason for starting this post was to put down in writing some of my feelings about being manipulated and "owned" by big corporations. As I get involved in more social media I become aware of the amount of data that is collected and used. For example, I understood that Facebook would collect data about what I liked, who I followed what I posted. It took a while for me to realise that it tracked what I did outside the app. Adverts appear on Facebook related to things I have browsed for in Safari. That unnerved me more than a little and I don't like it at all, but I still have my Facebook account, because it's a convenient way to keep in touch with people. However, I don't post a great deal. I joined Twitter before Facebook and enjoyed it, which I still do. I use a third party app, which makes the experience a little better, but it is still a shouty place, which exists to serve up ads (that I don't see).

As a result of all this, I mostly interact on, which is a platform run by one man (and his dog). He hosts my blogs, runs a social media element and is developing more facets to the service. I pay for this (not a lot) and because I pay, I am the client. People have said: "if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product" and this is so very true. Over the last few years I have all but abandoned my Wordpress blog, along with some other free services. I'll admit to using Instagram, though, as I enjoy it. I have moved to paid services for rss feeds (Newsblur) and for saving links (Pinboard). I have also been looking into the Indieweb more and more recently, although I don't really understand it. The way I see it, the only way I can really own my data is by self-hosting, which is something I don't have the time or skills to do. For now, I will be content with paying for hosting, both on 10C and, more recently, This is clearly a journey I am on, with the learning that accompanies it. To that end, I am grateful for all the advice and assistance I receive from people far more experienced in the web than I.