Free as a cloud!

Maybe we need blunt reminders from time to time of things we should know but some of us forget:

  • Free is a tricky business model: When you’re not paying for something directly, it’s useful to consider whether you see indirect means of support (Gmail’s ads, Google & Bing ads…actually, “ads” are going to be the most common answer). If not, best not to place too much faith in the ongoing existence of the wonderful thing you’re using for free.
  • Clouds dissipate: Sold on the cloud model of computing? Really? Do you actually know where your cloudy data is being stored–and who’s paying for that storage?
  • A name no more identifies a reality than a map always describes the territory: When services are sold or acquired, they can change realities suddenly and disconcertingly. The name may be the same, but the reality may be quite different.

Personal examples

I got hit with two reminders this week, which–taken in tandem–could be interpreted as a sign from The Internet Gods saying “Time to shut down Cites & Insights; the party’s over.” I’m not interpreting them that way, since neither reminder has anything to do with me personally. As for the “free” issue…well, you know, that’s a different discussion.

First example: Bloglines

Its owners told us a few months ago that they were planning to shut down Bloglines, which I’ve used for years as the way to keep up with 500 or so liblogs–which, along with a few dozen other blogs, serve as key sources for most of the stuff I write about.

I exported my feed list and imported it into Google Reader. I was not as happy with Google Reader as I had been with Bloglines.

Then the owners told us that somebody was buying Bloglines, and it would continue. Hooray! I went back to using Bloglines.

This week, the new owners forced us to migrate to The New and Improved Bloglines.


The new version has all the “ooh, let’s make this look very live” Java stuff that bothered me a little about Google Reader–but with some twists all its own:

  • It apparently stopped recognizing that you’d read things. Go back a day later, and it would start showing the same items. Over and over…and the numbers would keep mounting up as you tried to read them.
  • There seems to be no way to alphabetize or otherwise organize feeds–or at least none I could find.
  • About the third time I tried to clean things up, Bloglines just plain hung Firefox–so badly that I couldn’t even close the window without shutting down the system and doing a Forced Quit on Firefox. I have never had to do a Forced Quit in Windows 7, and maybe once in all the time I used Vista. Somehow, I don’t believe that Firefox has suddenly become unstable software.

So I’ve deleted the Bloglines bookmark in Firefox, restored Google Reader to its position (actually, I never took it away) and just finished going through the hundreds of unread posts (I didn’t just mark all read without glancing at them, as that would miss a day or so of posts). The minor infelicities of Google Reader are as nothing compared to the degraded nature of Bloglines.

Of course, it’s still a freebie…

Second example: Delicious

Most of Cites & Insights is based on synthesis and commentary, relying on posts and articles from other people. Until 2009, I just printed out posts and articles I thought I’d want to use later–and, at some point, changed to printing out “leadsheets” (just the first page).

After trying out Delicious, I decided to save some paper (and some money–paper’s cheap and recyclable, but inkjet ink is expensive) by tagging items in Delicious, using it as a virtual file cabinet. I’m a “bad user” of Delicious, since many of my tags are C&I-specific, not much use to other users (e.g., “miw,” “tqt,” “mbp,” “sn-twitter”). Delicious’ overview also helps me discover when I have more than enough items to consider a writeup, or so many that I need to subdivide them. As of now, I think I have around 1,200 items in Delicious.

As you may have heard, Yahoo! is shutting down Delicious. They haven’t said exactly when, and there’s always the possibility that it will be sold to some other company, but that’s the current state.

A number of sources have provided lists of Delicious alternatives. Phil Bradley’s done a fine writeup, and I’d suggest that post as a good starting point.

For now, I’ve started a Diigo account. Since I’d already exported my Delicious file (yesterday), the Diigo import-from-Delicious directions were easy (they basically boil down to: 1. Export the file in Delicious. 2. Import it here. 3. Wait for us to process it.) Since my library hasn’t been processed yet, I don’t know what it will look like and whether I’ll be happy with it. I have managed to move a Diigo bookmark button up to the single toolbar I prefer to have visible, although it appears that I need to click it twice to actually add tags to a bookmark (the whole point of bookmarking!). I may be missing a setting.

And, of course, I hope that I’ll remember to export the Diigo bookmarks once a quarter or once a month or so. Will I?

Ah, it’s so easy to trust the cloud and the wonders of freedom…

Not directly related, but…

At the moment, C&I has no direct or indirect support. I’m hoping that will change.

In addition to the Paypal donations that could be a direct form of support (total to date since providing that option: $240.00), indirect forms include buying the limited edition disContent: The Complete Collection or, if you think liblog studies are worthwhile, buying The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010.

You could also, to be sure, buy the 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, or 2006 paperback versions of C&I itself.

To date, three of the 100 potential copies of disContent: The Complete Collection have been sold–none in December.

To date, exactly one copy (a download, not a printed book) of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 has been sold–necessarily in December, since that’s when it appeared.

Or, you know, you could just tell me directly that you regard C&I and the liblog research as worthless, as in “not worth spending any money on.” Or, more optimistically, “it should all be free, it’s up to somebody else to pay for it.” For now, I’m not listening to indirect messages of this sort. It’s December, and things tend to look better in the new year.

4 Responses to “Free as a cloud!”

  1. Ruth Ellen says:

    I had the exact same experience with bloglines, with the additional problem of a long list of blogs that, for some unexplained reason, it could not import. Fortunately, like you, I had already imported to Google reader, which I started using as soon as the new bloglines proved just about unusable. I did not know about delicious going away. I don’t use it often, but it IS the keeper of my bookmarks. I guess I’d better export.

  2. walt says:

    Ruth Ellen: Oh, I’d forgotten that…I think the list that Bloglines couldn’t migrate was >150 feeds, actually. I just re-imported my set of bookmarks; going through the multistep process, one at a time, was absurd.

    Now we’re hearing from Yahoo! that oh, no, they’ll sell delicious, it won’t go away…but, of course, Bloglines was sold, and look where that got us.

  3. ash966 says:

    Thanks for reporting on your experience with exporting to Diigo. I was also a Bloglines user, and have 2280 bookmarks on Delicious. Still, I was also a “bad” user if they were going for social. The only “social” use of Delicious I did was looking at my boyfriend’s bookmarks or searching for “Facebook” and having it come up under “everyone’s bookmarks” because my bookmark was buried under 20 articles about Facebook.

    Favorite uses for Delicious:

    Creating a tag called “class” so I could give patrons one URL instead of a whole bunch when I taught Flickr, Facebook, etc.

    searching by multiple keywords because hey, 2280 bookmarks.

    Having my bookmarks on my home computer, the several public desks at work, and my iPod Touch, especially with the Firefox extension.

    Automatically sending my bookmarks to Facebook and Twitter.

    PS. Do you think Yahoo! is dropping Delicious because people don’t really use the social aspects, making it harder to monetize?

    PPS. I really feel sorry for libraries that used it for their links for the public on their web site.

  4. There is a way to organize the bookmarks in Bloglines and more than one way to look at them. The “reader view” is most similar to what the old bloglines did. And all my folders are still there, plus I can fairly easily reorder the blog list.

    I’m not sure why your account hung up so badly — I had no serious problems at all, once I realized I could re-import my feeds. Although it may have been because I already had a netvibes account? I’m not an enthusiastic user of it — I had it more to test netvibes and never ended up using it much; it just didn’t function the way I liked. I’m not sure I’ll stay with bloglines in the long run, but…I don’t really like Google Reader. Nor do I like any of the other alternatives, since they lack sync-ability.

    I was dismayed to hear about delicious, although their blog seems to indicate that all is not lost. But I’ll be looking for an alternative in the meantime, just in case. Thanks for the heads up.