Digg for free vs. Digg for dough

I apologize for any repetition, but I continue to be fascinated by the ideas bubbling up around Jason Calacanis’s offer to the top Diggers and Newsvine and Reddit users (most recent post is here — and yes, I know that writing about Jason only encourages him, like paying attention to a child holding his breath). The latest clash came at Wikimania, the conference on Wikipedia and related “open-source knowledge” projects that was held recently at Harvard’s Berkman Center.

Yochai Benkler — author of The Wealth of Networks — spoke about his theories of networked knowledge systems, and Jason jumped up to suggest that his offer to pay the top Diggers, which has gotten several to jump ship for the new Digg-ified Netscape, contradicted some of Yochai’s theories. This moment could almost have been choreographed by notorious Wikipedia skeptic Nicholas Carr, who recently wrote a post about the contrast between Benkler’s ideas and Jason’s offer (he posted a followup response from Benkler as well).

There’s more from Jason on the Benkler speech at Wikimania here, and Andy Carvin has a nice overview of what happened at Digital Divide. A blogger named Alex Halavais also has some thoughts about the metaphor used by Jason in his response to Benkler (and others) — namely, the idea that while there are volunteer firefighters, there are also paid firefighters, and one doesn’t necessarily make the other less useful or important.

Does paying Diggers somehow cheapen what all Diggers do, or change the structure of the social-networking model so much that it wrecks it somehow? Or does it give others something to aspire to, and reward those who try harder? Will it spark efforts to game the system, and thus remove something crucial from the equation, or can both paid and unpaid exist side-by-side without harming each other? I’m not the only one interested in the idea — Matt McAlister also has some thoughts that are well worth reading.

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