Bartering with Web Service Providers

Eric Goldman's principled rant against Scribd is making me reflect about my own relative passivity regarding Disqus dropping "reactions" to my posts.

Eric has announced that he will no longer post documents to Scribd because, having linked to them from his blog on the assumption that his readers would be able to access the docs for free, Scribd has now unilaterally decided to put the documents in back of a paywall.

I've had some back and forth with the folks at Disqus and they are always responsive when I ping them, but the problem with "reactions" doesn't really get fixed.

So rather than keep bugging them, I have simply turned "reactions" off. I'd rather subject myself to the inconvenience of going to my Disqus dashboard and turning reactions back "on" every couple of weeks, to test whether a fix has taken or not, than to harp out of all proportion to what I am paying Disqus. Which is $0.00.

Except that Goldman's post, and an excellent responsive post by Mike Masnick, and the good comment streams to both posts, make the case that I (and all others using the service for "free") am in fact paying something of value to Disqus.

Responding to comments "suggesting that if you're not paying, you're not a customer and, thus, have no right to complain," Masnick's post counters:

"This is silly -- and wrong. It's where the often artificial distinction between 'customer' and 'user' and 'product' gets blurry and, at times, questionable, especially in the realm of 'user-generated' content. There are more ways to 'pay' than with money. In Goldman's case, he's actually been 'paying' Scribd by providing it with valuable, sought-after content that he uploads. Scribd is 'paying' Goldman with free hosting, bandwidth and services. Advertisers are 'paying' Scribd with money. Users are 'paying' Scribd with their attention. All are 'customers' in some sense, while also being users and, potentially, 'the product,' as well. Focusing only on the relationships where actual cash exchanges hands misses the point (greatly)."

Point well made and duly received, but I'm still not getting my back up. In my case, Disqus is not (now) doing anything as crass a running ads. And the fact of the matter is, I can't imagine getting along without their platform for comments. I know I may have to find another solution for reactions, and am fine with that.

I hope I can pay cash for it!


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