Thinking about public spaces and microtransactions.

These two things are not related.

But I'm still thinkin' about 'em at the same time.

1) We got no public spaces. They're mostly gone, usurped by commercial spaces.

2) Payment processors have rendered payments of less than roughly $1.50 worthless.

I'm going to discuss each of these things in thread form.

There's a park in front of my apartment complex, and it has a giant electronic billboard facing it, that plays video and audio 24 hours a day. It's a public space made commercial.

We treat coffee shops like public spaces, but they still close at 10pm, and give you dirty looks if you don't buy something.

Hell, three nights a week when it's cold out the lady and I will just go wander around various retail establishments so that we can get some walking in, and not be out in the wind and the rain.

When I get together with friends, we mostly have to do it in someone's home, because our options are that or a bar or a coffee shop, because even commercial spaces that were at one time geared towards socialization and drawing a crowd have either disappeared or shifted their business model to one that places greater emphasis on consumption.

(Most arcades are gone, for example. Tabletop stores are moving towards a more event based model, where there is some kind of buy in for the evening.)

I can't blame these retail establishments for doing these things. Money is tight, inflation eats it away. Wages increase at a rate bellow inflation, anyway. Our buying power is lower than it has ever been.

Of course businesses are struggling to keep up.

Of course traditional public spaces are being eroded by more value extraction.

There's so little to go around from all of us, and capitalism is a game with winners and losers.

I never lived on a college campus, but I had lots of friends that did. I spent a large portion of my late teens and early 20s in the Public Spaces that college campuses provide. Every building, it seemed, had a huge ground floor with tables and electricity and wifi, and some of them also had free coffee.

I imagine that this is what it would be like if we made libraries more focused on being community spaces, gave them longer hours, and encouraged socialization or events in the evenings.

And my apartment complex has that kind of a lounge area. Many apartment complexes do.

But when I was hanging out on campuses, I would just walk in to a building, plop down, and start working.

I've never been to an apartment complex that didn't have access control on the doors to the building, the doors to the lobby, the internet connection, and the printer. You know?

Heck, at this place I have to swipe my dongle to get a cup of coffee.

It's almost a public space, but it isn't really.

In my home town, they have a "community center" that is allegedly available for community events.

The sign says "community center"

If you call them, they answer the phone "Senior Center"

You can rent the building for events two nights a month, if you've already rented it before.

Every other night of the month, it's closed.

I'm not sure what even is the point.

But even in other towns that have "community" centers, you're still looking at a pay out of a few hundred dollars to get an empty room and some chairs for the evening.

It'd work if you wanted to host an event, but it's not really what I would call a community center, in that it is by design not at the center of any communities.

Anyway, I don't really have a point here other than that our lack of public spaces is wearing us down as people and we should work to create new public spaces.

So microtransactions.

Digital stuff costs nothing to copy other than power, bandwidth, and storage space. For most digital items those numbers are so small as to be actually negligible, you could charge a penny or a dime for access to an item and conceivably make a profit.

Except payment processors won't let you.

@ajroach42 "nothing to copy other than power, bandwidth, and storage space" plus also sysadmin time and customer service had BETTER be included. And none of those are free or even cheap in bulk, and you can't "lose money on each transaction and make it up in volume", although I think that's the current standard practice online.

Contrariwise, I don't trust payment processors to tell us what their real costs are although I think it's possible that micropayments cost them real money.

@clew @ajroach42
For big platforms the trend is to downscale both of those as much as possible. Sysadmin time by ruthlessly optimizing and automizing everything (not necessarily a bad thing). Support time by just not offering any or at the very least making it as inaccessible as possible (leading to amongst other things the horrible moderation of Facebook).

If your scale is "practically everybody on the planet" the relative cost per sysadmin or support employee is also negligible.

@clew @ajroach42
I don't think that's a sustainable business model. I do think it's the Facebook model, or the Google model. The ratio of employed humans to free users has to be as low as possible otherwise there is no way of making a profit by offering free stuff.

@clew @ajroach42
I wonder if that ratio is useful for evaluating the "success" of a company like this.

According to the first page I found Facebook has 25,105 employees and 2.271 billion users. That gives us a ratio of 90,460 users per employee.

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@clew @ajroach42
Sorry Andrew, this got quite far away from the topic of micro transactions...

@kingannoy
All good. It's all the same conversation at the end of the day. Value extraction.

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