Even a chimp can write code

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is this the beginning of a trend?

AOL's Netscape.com recently started offering to pay top contributors to major social news/bookmarking sites $1000 a month to contribute content at Netscape. As anybody who's participated in any community knows, a small percentage of members create content that is consumed by and benefits the vast majority of the community. This is aptly reflected in all things from content on Wikipedia and contributions to the Linux kernel. I think AOL made a smart business move for the newly redesigned Nescape.com; some would say predatory in its targetting of contributors to competitors like Digg and Reddit. In Jason Calcanis's words:
Before launching the new Netscape I realized that Reddit, NewsVine, Delicious, and DIGG were all driven by a small number of highly-active users. I wrote a blog post about what drives these folks to do an hour to three hours a day of work for these sites which are not paying them for their time. In other words, they are volunteering their services. The response most of these folks gave back to me were that they enjoyed sharing the links they found and that they got satisfaction out of being an "expert" or "leader" in their communities.

A lot of Web 2.0 -type pundits have deplored this move saying that people contribute content without monetary motivations. But this doesn't make sense to me. I'm sure these same critics do not work for free. This isn't about charity at all. It's business.

When you contribute content to one of these sites, they host ads and make money off of your content. Now if one of these sites offers to remunerate you for the time and effort, is it such a bad deal for you? Sure you love the props you get for flaming Micro$oft on Slashdot. But props with dollars to pay the bills are welcome too, right? Over the years, I've heard from many c0d3 hax0r colleagues, words along the lines of, "I can't believe they're paying me for doing something I love!". AOL's move will likely spread that cheer. I think this is a sign of things to come.

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