Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Google blogger and the problem of asymmetric relationships

Google’s blogger hosts about 10 of my blogs, including this one. It has been, by an order of magnitude, the most troublesome of the Google tools and services that I’ve used. Recently Google has been moving blogs from the old infrastructure, which had been fairly trouble free over the past six months, to a new “better” (now buggier) infrastructure. The transition has not been going well; my blogs are too large and complex to move and they currently live on the increasingly abandoned old servers.

All of which has led to some thought about why this relationship isn’t working out. I think it’s a slightly different class of problem form the one that I use to have with Gmail. From my post to a Google Group:

Google Groups : Blogger Help Group > Something Is Broken

... Blogger (and Google) illustrates the generic problem of an asymmetric relationship between customer and vendor. Blogger may produce income for Google, or help tune searches, but the vast majority of Blogger blogs individually produce a trivial amount of revenue….

That would be fine if we and Google held similar opinions of the value of our individual blogs. If we both felt they were of trivial importance our relationship would work. Alas, we may value the content we've produced far, far more than Google values it. The relationship is thus doubly asymmetric; we bring little individual value to Google but we value our work far more than Google does.

The lesson I've drawn from my Blogger experiences over the years is not that Google is particularly evil, it's rather than asymmetric relationships are highly problematic. (Obviously the issue is systemic and applies to personal as well as business relationships.) If and when I move from Google/Blogger, it won't be to another asymmetric relationship. I would only move to a vendor where my voice mattered. Since my blogs will never generate much revenue, this means I will be paying for services in cash. ...

One part of the solution is a level of indirection between URL and blog service — at the very least one must control the URL. The value equation may change, and that may require a change in blog service …

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