Open Thinkering


Digital things upon which I *do* and *would* spend real cash.

moneyI’m not a huge fan of spending money on software and digital services. There’s a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I’m an advocate of Open Source Software (see Open Source Schools, of which I’m part). As such, I believe that making software available free of charge – with the source code inspectable – makes for better software and communities built around the functionality the software provides. The second reason is that I tend to like to have something tangible as a result of any financial outlay.

All this is by way of explanation as to why the following are services that persuade me to part with some of my hard-earned money. I follow that with those I use for free but would happily pay for! 😉

Things upon which I *do* spend real cash


I have a number of websites and blogs, all of which need a home on the Internet. I’ve found Bluehost to be reliable and very reasonably priced. They’ve got CPanel installed in the admin interface, which makes installing web applications such as WordPress and forums a breeze!

Flickr ($25 = c.£17)

Photographs are incredibly important things. They are a snapshot of a time that can never be recaptured, and evoke powerful memories. Despite backing up regularly via my Apple Time Capsule, it’s important that I never lose the most important of my photographs – especially those of my son. That’s why I upload all the ones I consider important to Flickr.

Purchasing a yearly Flickr Pro license means that more than just the last 200 of my photographs can be seen and that I can create an unlimited number of ‘sets’ in which to place them. 😀

Remember The Milk ($25 = c.£17)

You may wonder why I’d spend good money on what is, essentially, a glorified to-do list. It’s because Remember The Milk (RTM) is so easy-to-use and fits in with my way of working. The free account is fine if you just want to organise yourself via the web-based interface, but the real power comes if you’ve got an iPhone. The app for the iPhone is only available to those who have a Pro subscription. It’s a work of art in terms of simplicity and adding to your productivity. Great stuff. 😀

Things upon which I *would* spend real cash

Gmail & Google Docs

Gmail features c.7GB of storage With Google Docs providing an online, collaborative suite of office applications that are just a joy to use. Every time I reflect on the fact that I can use this for free, I count myself fortunate. Marvellous!

Super-quick synchronous Internet connection

We currently get broadband free from Orange as a benefit from my wife’s mobile phone contract. We pay an additional £5 per month to upgrade the speed from 2MB/s to 8MB/s. But that’s only the (theoretical) download speed. We get about 6MB/s download and 512KB/s upload.

I’d pay about £25/month for 20MB/s synchronous DSL and would even consider £50/month for 50MB/s. That really would mean ‘cloud computing’! 😉


Twitter is a micro social networking/blogging service with a 140-character limit. I’ve connected to even more people than I had done previously via blogs in the Edublogosphere. It’s real-time and very, very powerful. Some people call it their ‘PLN’ (Personal Learning Network). I’m not one of them. I just think it’s great. 😉

If, for example, Twitter charged the same amount for a year’s service as Flickr does (i.e. $25) I think it would be hugely profitable very quickly.


WordPress is the software that power this and, to be honest, most blogs on the Internet. It’s developed rapidly – mainly because it’s Open Source – and very flexible and powerful. If you don’t as yet have your own blog, I’d encourage you to sign up with Bluehost and install WordPress on your own domain via CPanel. You can, of course, just use

Which software and digital services do YOU pay for? Why?

(image by Joshua Davis @ Flickr)

14 thoughts on “Digital things upon which I *do* and *would* spend real cash.

  1. I just ponied up $45 (£31) for a yearly subscription to Evernote (also available on a monthly basis for $5/£3.5). It’s not that I needed the increased upload capacity (500MB/mo on pro v. 40MB/mo on free plan), but the ability to drag & drop any kind of file – PDF, spreadsheets, text documents, .wav/.mp3s, photos, in addition to typed plain text notes – into a notebook and have it all centrally located and synced for access on any local install, the Evernote website, or my phone is just too useful to my position as school psychologist to pass up. I have a separate notebook for case notes on each student, as well as notebooks for specific topics (transition services, PD opportunities, research articles, etc.). I’m almost TOO organized!

    I’ve considered paying for Flickr and RTM; I’ll probably end up paying for Flickr when I get closer to 200 pics, but unless I get an iPhone, I doubt I’ll pay for RTM. I’m with you re: Google apps, though – I use Google Apps mail, calendar, and docs, as well as Picasa and Reader regularly, and may have to take a second job if they go to a pay-only model!

    There are almost always free alternatives, though, at least for now. I liked Jott, but didn’t use it enough to justify paying for it. When they went to a pay-only model, I signed up for a free account with Dial2Do, and I actually like their service much more than I did Jott. No such thing as a free lunch and all that, but for as infrequently as I use a service like this, I can afford to hop from free service to free service without much of a problem.

  2. @ Doug
    A great post. Yes, yes, and yes. I keep worrying every day before I log into my google account that I’ll have to start paying to use gmail and google docs. I’d pay……. at this point I couldn’t afford not too. And I’d pay for twitter as well.

  3. Doug,

    Point of clarification. cPanel isn’t what allows easy installation of WordPress. Simple Scripts and Fantastico are.

    By the way, it seems you have optimized your site for mobile browsing as it is VERY readable on the iPhone. Nice work.


  4. My list would be the same as yours, Doug, with the exception that I use Toodledo rather than RTM and I would add Google Reader to my “would pay for list”.

  5. Good point about the charges – such as Flickr. It it very important online services establish a reasonable charge.

    For example – Jing Pro – at $14.95 a year is a fantastic cross-platform screencasting tool with a free version too.

    Whereas another tool which used to be a favourite – Sliderocket – – started charging too much $10 a month min. They do still have their free solution but I think they’ve pitched the pricing poorly.

  6. You’ve reminded me that I need to re-up my RTM Pro account… Now when I launch it on my iPhone it quits immediately! That’s no fun!!

    I briefly pondered looking at a free solution, but like you said: You get what you pay for in most instances!

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