Why I Support The OTW, by Speranza, aged mumble-mumble
People, listen to me: the web has changed. It's no longer made up of government and university BBS servers and private freaks and geeks. The infrastructure is now owned by for-profit corporations. Moreover, the product of the web is--like network television before it--eyeballs. Network television is (was: historically) "free" because the transaction runs like this: a television show sells an audience to an advertiser: YOU are what's being sold in the television world, YOU are the product. The X Files tells Pepsi, "If you give me $50,000, I will give you the attention span of X number of viewers from X demographics for 30 seconds." That's the historic economic deal behind television, and its the one that the VCR and Tivo and timeshifting and downloading is changing; the television show maker can no longer guarantee the advertiser that many eyeballs for that number of seconds.
The web right now works the same way; people are making money on the web by selling attention span, YOUR attention span, by getting you to look at ads: on google, on myspace, etc. From a for-profit, corporate point of view, fandom is a gold mine: we are a sexy content-generating machine, we are a group of people constantly looking at web pages, constantly hitting refresh, so to speak. Many of us (hi, I resemble this remark) are GLUED to fandom in one way or another. But our eyeballs are seeing remarkably few ads.
Here's what the for-profit web wants--they want a nickel every time we communicate in our "social network"--hey, did you know that you and I are a social network? Well, we are! Welcome to Web 2.0!! And every time I post a story, and you look at it--they want a nickel. Every time I read my LJ--they want a nickel. The web works by putting a toll on the links that people make to each other, by putting an ad in front of the content that people want to view--or rather, flip that, because it's the other way: they are trying to figure out how to create content that people are willing to view ads to get!! We want to see the X Files, we'll put up with ads between chapters. You want to read the next part of that WIP? You want to read my (really terrific) next SGA story about Sheppard and the lesbians? Will you click through an ad for Pepsi to do it?
I would. I would sit through a 30 second flashwave ad to get a new story by fiercelydreamed or see a new vid from sockkpuppett. But I don't think I should have to, because I don't see why THEY--someone else! someone not in fandom! someone who has never contributed or given us anything and who would throw us to the wolves for a dollar!--should get a nickel from me, or from you, or from this community that we built. It's not even that they want to make money off us: they want to make money off us but not give us equal value back. We make Livejournal, youtube, imeem, etc., profitable companies, but our status in these for-profit "communities" is highly uncertain; they can TOS us without qualm, if that's what their advertisers want. It comes down to this: I'm not their user-generated content. I'm a fanfiction writer, and I write for free, for you, and I gratefully read what you give me.
So! The OTW is created on the model of public television or public radio--Channel 13, as we have it in New York. It's free. There are no ads. Anyone can watch it or listen to it. And a few people who care about public television and who can afford it become "members"--you remember the slogan: "this is member-supported NPR, this is member-supported Channel 13." And so I'm happy to contribute my time, money, and energy to help fans buy servers and write software and keep our "social network" a real community. And I hope you will, too.
It boils down to what I said above: I want us to own the goddamned servers. I want us to make our own infrastructure, host our own party, set our own terms of service and play by our own rules.
And that's why I support the OTW.