UPDATE Jan. 26, 2013: It's been about a year since I originally came up with and was going to launch plebd. It was actually live for a number of months but was unsuccessful as I discovered that my ethos (documented below) was misguided at best, and at worst completely missed the point that a file sharing service such as I was describing was neither necessary nor something that I really needed to build for myself.
To say it another way, plebd didn't solve a problem that anyone actually had, including me.
Thanks to the folks to who did try out plebd, and who gave their feedback on alternatives and the overall (lack of) utility of the design that plebd was. Even though the project itself was a failure, I'd say I learned a lot along the way.
If I had to sum up my learning experience with plebd in a sentence: "The internet doesn't need a 'legitmate' file sharing service; it is already, at its core, a data exchange platform, so plebd is therefore redundant."
So, I've been preparing a file sharing service called plebd for release in a few weeks. Check out the feedback survey to get early access.
Here's what plebd is all about:
plebd is an experiment in transparency + file sharing
I'm tired of the stigma around file sharing, and the assumption that it's just being a bunch of people stealing content. We all know that there's plenty of legitimate sharing going on. The problem is, if we keep posting files in the same places where illegal activity is going on, we're going to get blamed by association, regardless of whether we're doing anything wrong. So, I'm simply choosing to create a service where what we do and the files we share are fully public by default.
Think of it like the Twitter of file sharing. Everything you upload is public to everyone, and whatever you share has your name on it. Having your name on it means you get credit for being awesome and sharing it with everyone. It also means there's transparency so we can see where files come from.
Transparency is really important, and probably the most interesting and controversial part of this experiment. But there's a good reason for it. Transparency is a force that fosters a self-governing community of people that want to share awesome content, but don't want to be treated like criminals. When we start communities where the blatantly illegal stuff isn't allowed, we take control of our own community, and the accusations largely go away.
Furthermore, I fully support the voices trying to point out that file sharing can be so much more than a scapegoat for illegal activity and failing business models in the digital era. plebd is my contribution to that effort.
The internet is awesome, and sharing rocks
There's tons of awesome free and independent media out there to be discovered. I don't mean that in a, "Support local artists," kind of way, where the appeal to your conscience is supposed to make you feel a twinge of guilt, and thereby get you to participate. I mean there really is awesome stuff out there being created by independent media artists, and I want plebd to be, in part, a place where people can share that kind of stuff with each other.
I love free, but not freeloaders
Don't worry, I'm not about to accuse anyone of anything. Stick with me.
I think it's 100% okay for someone to put a price on the content they create, especially if it's an independent artist trying to make their way.
I don't, however, like freeloaders. I'm not talking about people who think the prices of digital media are too high (in many cases they're right). I'm talking about folks like that "friend" of yours who has been living on your couch for six months without paying a penny of rent, and can't fathom why that's not okay.
I sort of look at independent media the same way. Artists gotta eat. If all they ask from me is a few bucks for their work, then I should either pony up, or move on; I don't just take.
Rather than complain about the RIAA / MPAA...
...I prefer not to host their content in the first place, or allow it to be distributed on plebd. I'm one of those people that basically stopped watching television years ago, and the music and movies I do consume, I pay for.
But that alone won't change the way digital media is distributed. There needs to be an alternative to those sources of media, a place that focuses on promoting independent digital content and files that aren't produced by the RIAA and MPAA folks of the world. That means, I don't want plebd to ever host any files that belong to the RIAA, MPAA, or other rights groups. I want to build a place for the independent artists.
While many will continue to use file sharing to take content from RIAA / MPAA for free as a form of protest, I just prefer not to consume their content to begin with. The internet is this amazing collaboration and sharing platform, and with each passing day more people are utilizing it to promote their amazing work. I want to try being part of that community - the future, really - and in my own way help build and support services that are moving in that direction.
Won't you join me?
plebd will be opening for early access in a few weeks. Check out the feedback survey and get on the short list!