What FREE gets you

My son is a former Marine.  Yesterday, I went with him up to Portland’s VA Hospital.  It’s a big ugly place that reminds me of the communist buildings in Eastern Europe.  Even the toilet seats look like they’ve been there since the 60s.

While my son was in his appointment, I asked the fellow at the counter if the VA offers sleep studies, as I suspect my son has sleep apnea.  He told me, yes, they do offer it.  But it takes THREE YEARS to get an appointment.  My jaw dropped.  THREE YEARS?!  Yep.  He knows because he’s been waiting two years himself and was happy that he only has one year to go. 

The VA is like the free Internet.  We think that the Web is fabulous because that’s all we know, but it’s not half what it could be.

The thing people don’t understand is that free has an opposite end, and you can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other.  Getting something for free means somebody else is supplying something for nothing.   What will that eventually do to quality and quantity?  What will that do to the money supply?  No shared revenue.  No research and development.  No innovation and job growth.

Where things are free, there is no bustling economy.   Incomes are low for the few jobs that exist.  Quality is relatively poor.  The engine of wealth creation is turned off.

Look, would you rather be able to earn $100 and have to pay for $50 worth of stuff, or get $25 worth of stuff for free and have no income?

Too many Internet users are choosing the latter.  They don’t understand that the Internet’s free culture has been a disaster when it comes to art, culture, and economic growth.

We have movie actors and television actors.  Why are there no Internet actors?  Because of Free.  Why is the Family Guy guy the only tv professional creating Web-only content?  Because of Free.  Why will even geeks have increasing difficulty making a living off the Internet?  Because of Free.

Thankfully, there are other hospitals – and sleep clinics – besides the VA.  There is no other Internet besides the free Internet.  That’s going to change.  And those people who keep an open mind will be the first to appreciate those changes and to profit by them.  It’s not going to be an easy transition for a lot of people, just like Eastern Europe hasn’t made an easy transition from communism to capitalism, but in the end, the vast majority of people will declare their lives better off because of it.

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6 Responses to “What FREE gets you”

  1. Lord Matt Says:

    The counter to that is that what is created is driven by passion alone. The software that runs your blog (wordpress), the server that it runs (apache)on and the language it was written in (php) came from a free culture. In fact I would bet that the OS is free as well (linux) all driven by passion alone.

    The irony is that from this purely free background has come profitable business models (redhat and Zend spring to mind). Also innovation has sprung from this too. Facebook, for example is written in PHP and attracts a lot of venture capital even though users use it for free.

  2. Dawn Douglass Says:

    I agree, Lord Matt, that good things have come out of the free culture. But by natural law where your heart is, there shall your treasure be. Why shouldn’t people be able to make a living off their passions? Why should “passion” necessarily condemn somebody to “no payment allowed”?

    The reason free worked for tech is because it was a nascent world. The more free code that went out, the more demand was created for paying tech jobs. It’s like running railroad track over a hundred years ago. The track created towns along them and lots of prosperity. For a time.

    Regarding Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire, at least on paper. I’d rather have a Web culture that supports “making a living” no matter what your talents are, rather than crowning kings from one industry alone.

  3. mermaldad Says:

    The reason free has worked for tech is that the marginal cost to provide these services are very small per individual user. So most web based services can use some other model (such as advertisements or merchandise) to generate the revenue needed to maintain the site.

    Free as a PART of a business model is nothing new. Before cable, no one paid a dime for television programming. You might argue that culture suffered there as well, and it would be hard to disagree. However, now, many people are paying cable and satellite companies for television programming, and what do they get? Lots more of the same kind of culturally shallow programming. So I’m not sure if I buy the idea that if we just paid for the Internet that it would be much improved.

  4. Dawn Douglass Says:

    Mermaldad, sorry but it isn’t true that “no one paid a dime for television programming.” Writers, actors, directors, camera crew…all these people got paid. Do they on the Web? Did even one of the people who created all those YouTube videos get a dime of that $1.65 billion dollars when YouTube was sold?

    There are movie stars and tv stars. How many Web stars do you know and how much money do they make? And, sorry, but porn Queens don’t count. 🙂

    Why aren’t tons of shows being produced JUST for the Web? Because of free, that’s why. When Google got the Family Guy guy to produce Web-original programming, he had to bring in a team of lawyers to figure out how he would get paid, and he still didn’t personally understand it.

    I think the Web should be treated like newspapers and television…syndicates and studios pay the creatives and in turn get paid by advertising. I’ve created is a model that could make that work online, but I can’t get funding to implement it, so there you go.

    As for cable, HBO gets a lot of critical acclaim for their original programming, don’t they? Since a lot of advertising dollars have left TV, we’re stuck with all this cheap-to-produce stuff like game shows and reality shows. But there is still some good stuff here and there. I love Damages.

  5. Ty Says:

    How did the tv stars of old get paid? By advertising from sponsors who wanted to use the free medium to market their products to their audience. Think about google and you’ll see how it works.

  6. Dawn Douglass Says:

    Ty, tv stars didn’t get paid directly from advertising. They were paid by studios.

    And Google doesn’t work. Not for creators. Google wanted Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane to create original work for the web. He was quoted as saying that even with his large team of lawyers and financial advisors, the payment plan was so convoluted he couldn’t understand it.

    Think about how tv stars of new don’t get paid when their shows are on the Web and you’ll see how it doesn’t work.

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