The problem with good free hobbyist websites is that some people misunderstand; just because these good things are free does not mean you are entitled to have everything on the web for free.

[@simonwoods]( I would love for this fact to be more noticable again. Not only does it allow creators to earn a living but it also creates something valuable for the consumer: scarcity itself. If taken seriously, it restricts you, you'll have less choice, which I think is a good thing, because consumption decissions become important again.

[@matti]( Yes exactly. We don't have these expectations in the physical world and I've yet to see somebody justify how it is we change that for the web, you know?

I was going to answer to this ongoing conversation within the thread but ran out of space and I thought it is interesting enough to warrant a titled post1:

Simon’s observation is interesting to me because I think it relates to my point from the other day about social problems being naturally occurring emergent properties of the social.

The question of why do some people feel entitled to demand everything to be available for free on the web is, I think, mostly answered by the attitudes they hold2: Is it important to you (to acknowledge that you ought to pay for stuff and/or be fine with not having stuff), or not? And I think this is universal and holds actually true for physical stuff as well.

Given suitable conditions, the same demands will pop up in the physical world. Example: My partner works in a national park. In the customer service center of this park, they offer printed maps of the area for free. In other parks the same kind of maps cost money. Some People are upset by this state of affairs.3

If this behavioral pattern is not confined to the web, the question then becomes a question of how to change the attitudes of people - given, that we want to problematize this observation. Can we? And more importantly: at what cost? This question is interesting to me, because I think it relates to my point about social problems being emergent properties, that I mentioned earlier.

Attitudes and values are not one and the same. Values are part of the social and individuals might have an affirming or rejecting attitude towards those values. The way to get to an individual is through the social - you’ll have to be social to interact. This means that to change an individual’s attitude (or more efficient: make attitudes matter less) is a social problem - and, again, as I said in that other post: social problems are more social realities than problems, so changing attitudes can only be achieved by suppression4. Suppressing anything - even for a moment in history - takes lots of maintenance. To make it last, you have to establish structures within the social. So this social question becomes cultural - if you want to make it last.

I will stop here and ask, if the amount of resources needed to do this is worth it. And I’ll answer that it is not. Akin to locks keeping honest people honest, the real task is to get more people who are sitting on the fence (or peeking over it) on the “right” (“our”) side. As far as I can tell the best “above board” way to do this is to communicate clearly what is free and what is not and give people varied options to buy what needs to be bought.5 Giving reasons why to buy can help. Letting your personality shine through also helps.

In short: People behaving entitled and demanding things for free is not tied to the web only. These behaviors are the result of undesirable attitudes that are too hard and too expensive to change sustainably. Therefore the real task is - apart from understanding the initial problem better - not changing the attitudes but to offer the people which are close to doing the right thing options to follow through and not worry about the rest.

  1. I want to thank Simon for giving me an opportunity to think out loud. This post took the above conversation as a starting point, but it is not an attempt to argue with Simon, show off, or troll. I just took our conversation and ran with it. So the “you” or the opposing voice in this post, does not refer to Simon. It does not presume that Simon hasn’t thought about these things as well, etc. This post is meant as an exploration, not an agitation. ↩︎

  2. This is mostly an argument of plausibility: I do not claim to know exactly what attitudes they hold, but I do claim that this line of thinking makes their behavior plausible, therefore possible, explainable, understandable. ↩︎

  3. I will admit that I was a little upset, too: Because it was inconsistent and hard to anticipate what to expect. And I like to be able to anticipate what comes next. It’s comforting, it makes me feel I’m in control. This could be another plausible set of attitudes - as opposed to not believing that paying for stuff is important - of why people are behaving this way. ↩︎

  4. I’ll restate that suppression doesn’t need to be a negative thing. Think of it more like selective breeding. ↩︎

  5. I’m excluding dark patterns here, that exploit human nature to get the desired result. Instead of persuasion these patterns rely on seduction. ↩︎