Paying the users — an ongoing saga


Kevin Rose talked at a conference about a bunch of things, including the “me too-ism” of Web 2.0 companies (he doesn’t want to add tags just because everyone else has them) and the fact that he doesn’t like the idea of paying Diggers. He said: “It’s important to us there’s no outside motivations for submitting content to the site. We don’t want to discourage the people who aren’t getting paid from submitting quality content.” Wired quotes him saying much the same thing here: “It’s very important to us that there are no outside motivations for posting stories to Digg. When something makes it to the front page, the only motivation should be that the story was interesting to somebody, not that they were paid to do it.”

Original post:

Weblogs Inc. founder and current Netscape supremo Jason Calacanis (who I most recently tangled with on this post about Steve Irwin), has posted a memo that he sent out to staff of the Digg-ified site recently, updating them on the performance of Netscape since Jason tried to hire away the top submitters from Digg, Newsvine, Reddit and Slashdot (which I wrote about here).

Needless to say, things seem to be going swimmingly. Jason says that “votes and stories submitted broke records every 2-3 days over the last two weeks,” although there’s no mention of what those records are, “and Netscape’s web pages are growing again.” Not only that, but according to Mr. Calacanis the tide has turned against the critics of his move to pay submitters of links, and now the consensus is that he was completely right and the “top 1% of these community members deserve to get compensated for their time.”

Some folks claim it’s desperate to have to pay the 1%. That’s pure *spin* by people who don’t want to pay other people for their hard work. These folks are the life-blood of these systems and paying them isn’t desperate–it’s smart. Also, paying them does not stop other folks from want to get involved from getting involved.

I’ll leave questions of spin to the spin-meister. I’m not convinced that the issue of paying submitters for their work is quite settled yet. As I wrote when Jason jumped up to confront Yochai Benkler about his theories on social networks, I think there are a lot of questions yet unanswered (Marshall Kirkpatrick has a nice overview of the issues at TechCrunch).

Does paying some submitters change the nature of what the rest do, in the sense that it becomes all about making money — and if so, does that reduce the utility of or the value of the links submitted? I think the jury is still out on that one, regardless of the fan letter that Jason links to at the end.


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