If I want to do anything quickly today it seems I am going to have to pay for it. I was sent a file with the unusual suffix.rar and discovered that I can download it - if I buy a piece of software online to help me do it. The file transfer system YouSendIt becomes increasingly restrictive if you want to use it for free. I moved to WeTransfer which is a joy - but you have to put up with adverts. We are all used to the distinction between first and second-class post, and Amazon offers both free delivery - slowly - and faster delivery that you pay for. Then today I wanted to download a pdf of an American magazine and discovered that it would take two minutes if I paid for it - or 41 minutes for free.
These are the choices that I face as an independent freelance. I am careful with my money, but also fairly flexible. This is analogous to the situation of small architects' practices, although the volumes of high-quality information that they have to move about are greater, and so are their costs. In larger organisations the budgets will be in place, but there will also be protocols, and an individual is unlikely to be able to make a payment or download software without management approval. Somehow we all still feel that moving data around and sharing it should be free or free-ish. It never has been of course. Think not only of postage, but of the many messengers who used to move drawings and documents around cities, and of the costs of printing and binding. The internet has confused us all and just as there are problems with illegal downloads of music and film in the consumer market, so there are fairly regular swoops on practices in the architectural world for software piracy - much of which is the result of muddle and misunderstanding rather than a real desire to rob. It is an area where we all need to become wiser - and faster, and a little poorer.