ownership in a rental world.

saturday, march 25th, 2023.

I've been thinking about my recurring monthly costs lately. Perhaps spurned by the story about the Federal Trade Commission proposing new changes to make it easier to cancel predatory subscriptions, including gym memberships and magazine subscriptions.

Here's some of mine right now:

Plus a few others, which I haven't listed.

Modern tech is absolutely rife with service offerings these days. Why sell a widget for $20 when you can rent it for $1/month and hope that the renter forgets about it and keeps remitting that monthly dollar for years? Do the monster math and the return on that investment likely exceeds inflation by a substantial margin, even including the wise renters that cancel their membership immediately after using the widget.

Anyway, back to my personal recurring costs.

They vary by the value I get from them. Some, like the mortgage and utilities, are practically non-negotiable. Some, like the Netflix subscription, I rarely use and need to cancel.

There's also a middle ground. The things that I enjoy but aren't really necessary, when you think about it. I could, for instance, roll my own offsite backup using a Raspberry Pi and some beefy drives at my parents' house instead of paying for Dropbox.

Recently, I was very tempted to pay for an annual subscription to an iOS weather app, Carrot, based on some praise I saw it receive on Hacker News. I tried the demo subscription out. The app was very customizable and presented the weather is a really nice way. I probably would've paid for it, but then I thought— WHY?

Carrot presents a compelling argument in their FAQ: the weather data they present from a third party isn't free for them. They have to pay Foreca for that data. And I could totally see myself in their position— they wanted to present weather conditions in an elegant way, but collecting that data and creating predictions based on it comes with considerable expense that would kill the idea if they had to also solve that problem.

Generally, I'd rather be the party responsible for covering that cost directly, rather than it being obscured by advertising costs or rolled into, say, the cost of the device I'm using to view that weather data.

I guess the heart of it is that our entire economic system and service infrastructure is interdependent like a really complex set of pulleys, gears, and conduit.

But one aspect of the modern widget-as-a-service economy that really bugs me is "ownership" of digital media. I don't mean to rehash all the arguments and stories (like Amazon clawing back customers' purchased copies of 1984), but wow! it's frustrating that we, as a culture, have decided that we can overload the word "own" with the meaning "purchase a license to (re)download a media for an unspecified period."

We've really gotten spun 'round the axle with the phrase "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch!"

That's all for this Saturday morning! It's time to get my day started and get some adulting done.

Until next time, be well! :)