I decided, today, to check out PodTech, the site that WordPress recommends you use if you want to embed audio in your blog. It was really rather an interesting outing. It’s true, as they say, that there’s no such thing a s a ‘free lunch’… in reality, then, it seems, there’s no such thing as ‘free’ hosting either. I found this set of aggregated news on PodTech over at the tech news company VentureBeat – it really made me think about the rationale behind ‘free’ content hosting on the web and what companies true intentions are, the underlying activities linked to the user experience that they employ to generate profits, because, let’s face it, truth be told… a company that’s not in profit eventually is dead in the water… as can be seen from VB’s tracking of PodTech and it’s financial/content construction troubles.
I wanted to find a solution because, although I can do what I want blogwise, hosting my own solution and mixing and matching related services pretty much as I please, because I have the technical know-how… others whom I help to use blogging in their teaching don’t have that option and need something easy, flexible, quick, reliable and so on.
This whole thing around content aggregation and embedding content and the application of rules to that activity have really got me thinking, though… and it’s the first time, really, I’ve come up against this use/subscribe dichotomy.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think people should receive payment for their work and we couldn’t use these online services if someone wasn’t generating the technology to enable us to do so… but I do object to being forced to participate in certain ways… for example, I don’t even like the content on offer over at PodTech, so why would I want to go there? The site is unruly, difficult to follow – it’s not even clear if they allow users to host their own content there… Weird! I would be happy to subscribe to a secure online space that only I control… from which I could embed content onto a blog… I hate the ‘acquisition of content’ rules hosting services embed into their Terms and Conditions… in which the user basically rescinds pretty much all rights/control over content they host in these spaces. At the moment it seems to be pretty much balanced in favour of the host rather than the owner… and whilst I understand that the hosts need freedom to distribute/share content… the fact that many of them also want the right to chop it/repurpose it, etc. makes me nervous!
I think there’s a very real tension here between a company’s need to generate profits and to retain flexible control over the content they host and the user’s need for privacy, security and control over their own content.