I have had a long blog entry/article perculating around in my head for several months now about the role of services in our personal computing frameworks, and how they’re going to be support and maintained. Services like del.icio.us or audioscrobbler, or flickr for the blogger community, other services like geocoder, for different communities. This is not that article.
There are a number of tensions at play. One of them is the desire for control. Control to ensure that a key piece of personal architecture doesn’t go away, change beyond use, or become unreasonably priced. This is a lesson learned poignantly by anyone who was an active web user through the dotcom era. Control also to have the flexibility to use your data in the ways you want to, in creative collaboration with other tools, including other services, and home rolled solutions. Too many systems choose the roach motel approach.
Tugging against control is the desire to delegate. Life is short, and busy, and the ability to designate expertise to someone else, make it someone elses problem to develop the domain knowledge, and keep the servers up, and replace the disks when they fail, etc.
Also in direct tension to that control is the social aspects of all these services. Frankly I don’t get much value out of the social aspect of del.icio.us, but I could, and we all will, in the future, need this kind of social collaboration to help with data overwhelm.
I don’t know what the answers are, but there is nothing like del.icio.us being offline for most of the day to bring home how much control you’ve delegated. (rafe is feeling the pain as is Michael, also see Simon’s ode), We need to start thinking about alternatives models, and reaffirms for me the descision not to jump to using Flickr to maintain my photos. (and makes me wonder about the wisdom of using the chronically overwhelmed audioscrobbler for even a non-critical piece of my infrastructure, especially as there seems to be no export).