A few days ago I saw a comment on another blog’s posting that made me start thinking about this concept of the word “free”.

It was a fairly innocuous comment stating to the writer of the blog that he would have liked to see a little bit more information on some of what she was sharing with all of us to get her insight as to why she was recommending some things that she was recommending. I wrote back that I thought she was giving us a lot already and that I was at least happy for all the time that she was putting into giving us what she was giving us.

However, it got me thinking about it just a bit more because I realized that there are times when I am like everybody else in expecting a little bit more than what I’m getting from something even if it happens to be free. There were a few people who made comments on a review post I wrote on Six Figure Blogger Blueprint wishing that the author had given us a little bit more detail on how to specifically do something, and I remember thinking at the time “hey, it’s free, what do we want?” And yet, when I think about it, there are a lot of things that I get for free online that I’ll write about.

For instance, I’m running a WordPress blog. There are times when I’m complaining about something, such as those constant updates that seem to irritate most of us, and every once in a while I remember that this is a free program. There are a couple of other things I’ve written about that I absolutely hate, such as Disqus, Intense Debate and Blogger, but when you think about it those things are free also. Of course, I’ve chosen not to use any of those things, and instead pay for my hosting and my blog, and don’t filter my comments using either of those other two things I mentioned or anything else, but it’s not much different than just openly complaining about something that’s free.

What should we really expect from “free”? Should we expect that everything we get for free give us full details as if we were paying for it? I’m thinking that’s what blogs are for, because there are a lot of us who give a lot of information out to people absolutely free. I think I’ve done some tutorials on this blog and one of my other blogs on how to do things step by step, and yet I don’t get paid for any of those things. I don’t mind that because it’s a blog after all, and I like sharing information whenever I can. At the same time, you notice over there on the left that I have three things that I’ve created, and each one of them also has some step-by-step information that I am expecting someone to pay for if they want that information.

Here’s the thing about “free”. “Free” still takes a lot of time to create. Whereas I can write a blog post usually in less than five minutes, there are people who take upwards of an hour or more to put together a blog post. How many of you have actually written a book? How many of you have actually written a report of some kind outside of school work? These things do take time to put together, especially if someone is trying to do a good job. If they do it like I do anything, they probably start off with an outline, then a brief sketch as to what each outline point is supposed to contain, then they write or create the thing, then they edit the thing, then they might take the time to pretty it up somewhat before it’s ready for delivery. I’m bad when it comes to the “pretty up” part, but I’m not so bad at the rest of it.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to have some kind of expectation that what we are either going to use or read at least in some fashion addresses the topic we’re hoping it does. Getting something free and finding out it has nothing to do with what it said it did is diversionary and sneaky, and that’s not right. But for everything else, I think we have the right to try it out, and if it works for us or we can get something out of it then great. If we can’t get anything out of it or it doesn’t work right, then at least it didn’t cost us anything and we should probably be happy for that. It doesn’t mean that something free can’t be criticized, but it does mean that the level of criticism should match how much it cost us.

It’s just something I’ve been thinking about over the past few days as I remembered something I had written a while back ago asking the question How Do You Value. How do we decide when something we get for free is valuable even if it doesn’t give us everything we want?

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