Value Propositions with Free Services

I signed up for Google Photos recently because it is free photo storage and the one thing that comes out of having kids is photos. Every time I sign up for a free service these days, however, I struggle with why these types of services exist. Yes, people like free stuff, but in a world where free isn’t really free, you’d think that there would be a different value proposition involved.

This line of thinking was further spurred by an article by Mike Monteiro that I linked to earlier this afternoon, in which Mike discusses the fact that Twitter started out as a rather mundane idea, turned into something that fostered real friendships and connections, and finally became what it is today: a haven for abuse and harassment. The fact is that social media in and of itself should be a rather harmless idea, but instead it has become one that political outcomes and entire wars have been predicated upon.

So why do we as consumers give our time and attention to such toxic places, places that feed on our information and spit out annoyance (in the form of ads) or worse? In my mind, we give our attention to these things because the value proposition of their services would not be enough to pay for with actual money. Twitter in its infancy—the Twitter that Mike discusses at the beginning of his essay— was a place people would be willing to pay to frequent; perhaps, consider young Twitter as an exclusive club, people see its value inherently. A couple dollars a month or more is worth it when you see the value of the relationships formed or, in the case of Google Photos, the output of a service.

In the case of apps, there are basically two options: free apps with ads (or shady dealings) and paid apps that are worth the price. I love well-designed apps by indie developers, so I might be biased on this. The moment an app decides to change from a free with ads or a pay once to a subscription service, there is immediate backlash because the value proposition has changed. Did you know people don’t like change?

Subscription apps, to me, mean that I have to reevaluate the value of an app each time it is up for renewal; I can’t be alone in this line of thinking. Most of the time, especially for the best in class apps that are out there, that value is easy to find, but I have retired my use of others because recurring revenue for the developer or not, my value is placed elsewhere.

In any case, the simple fact is that we consumers don’t value our own attention or privacy that much anymore; those have been commoditized while actual dollars are less available for most of us. I have reclaimed some of that attention by focusing on creating, instead of simply digesting other people’s information. Yet, Google Photos is worth the lack of privacy because there are a lot of photos and they have astounding technology that helps to categorize and surface good photos within a large collection. In addition to all the technological marvel, the service is free.

So will I regret signing up for Google Photos? Almost assuredly. So why did I sign up for it in the first place? Peace of mind. All of my digital photos (reaching as far back as 2003) are backed up and I don’t need to worry about losing them. I’ll check back in when that sentiment changes.

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The Challenges of 2020

TL;DR: Follow this link.

One of the craziest things about Christianity during the protests of the last few weeks is the fact that there are churches out there not discussing the issues honestly, not taking the time to have the hard conversations, not devoting their Sunday services to betterment of the world and people around them. If you’re church isn’t talking about racism right now, if they don’t mention that black lives matter, instead focusing on platitudes that equate to the all lives matter” sentiment, it is time to start looking for a new church.

My wife and I meet with my home” church virtually via Zoom since the pandemic is still a thing. Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ & La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Señora de las Américas (KANSA, together) combined in a collaborative way to create a single denomination focused on the needs of their community. They follow Christ together toward the vision of love, reconciliation, peace and justice. The justice looks like the demolition and rehabilitation of an old church building and its grounds into a community garden and labyrinth open to all who seek peace through contemplation.

I give this elevator speech to mention that COVID has not been kind to faith communities in general. Budgets have been slashed, funding and grants have been cut, and congregations in need are also working to serve those in need, who are less likely to be able to financially support their church in these times. KANSA in one of the good ones. They speak truth, they have the difficult conversations, they preach in a loud voice every Sunday that black lives matter, that racism has no place in the church, that the LGBTQ community deserves respect and support, and that Jesus was a social justice warrior, who fought for the least of these no matter who they were, where they were from, what they looked like.

In fact, Jesus was most harsh to those who had the means to help and decided not to answer the call.

These systems of oppression we are protesting have been around a long time; they have screwed up a lot of lives, they have been the reason for revolution and the downfall of entire civilizations, they don’t work. We need to find a better way to live by supporting each other. And support has to come in systemic, social, financial, and political ways, both national and local.

I am not local to KANSA anymore, but I support their mission, the way that mission manifests in the world, and the simple fact that they follow Jesus no matter how ostracizing that position can be at times. Which brings me to the point:

Thanks to a $10,000 matching gift’ from an anonymous donor, the challenge has become an opportunity. Over the next two months, we plan to raise at least $10,000 to meet the challenge. Through August 31, 2020, every donation we receive toward our 2020 Challenge” no matter how small or how large will be doubled by the matching gift.

KANSA is hurting financially and needs support, they do good work and are unabashedly progressive in their approach to our world. Donate now and see your contribution matched to keep one of the good ones fighting the good fight.

Thank you for your consideration.