Paul Ford on free but kind of crappy hotels

Paul Ford wrote a quick essay on latest Twitter brouhaha:

So: Remember six or so years ago, when we all moved out of the houses we owned, into the big free hotel? I mean, could you blame us? Keeping up a house is a nightmare, things are always flooding and you have to wash your own sheets, and all of our friends kept telling us we had to come to the free hotel. It was fun.

Then after some years had passed, management changed the wallpaper to advertisements for branded goods. That was annoying at first. We all came to realize that giant free hotels can be alienating, compared to having your own small house and neighbors — but it still beat having a leaky roof. So we’re all still living here.

It’s a thorny problem and Ford does not provide any answers, but it’s a pretty good analogy.

This question comes down to the fundamental balance between the cost and trouble of maintaining a service yourself versus a free service over which you have no control versus paying for a service that you at least control. The challenge with Twitter is that, for the specific service they provide, they have been the dominant player for long enough that there really are not any alternatives.

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