Jason: Am not — Kevin: Are too

I don’t know about you, but I’m loving the geek smackdown going on between Kevin Rose of Digg — and assorted Diggers — and Jason Calacanis of the new and improved Digg-style Netscape (let’s just call it an homage, shall we?). Jason tossed a hand grenade into the social media-social bookmarking space when he offered to pay the top submitters on Digg and Reddit and Newsvine to come over and do their stuff at Netscape. Some (okay, it was Mike Arrington at TechCrunch) have called it desperation, while some have applauded Jason’s cojones.

Then Digg founder Kevin Rose made some comments about Jason’s offer (and his lack of imagination, etc.) on Diggnation, the Digg weekly podcast. Cue the outraged post from Mr. Calacanis, in which he says Kevin has “cracked,” and that this proves he has won the debate. Kevin responds with a post saying Jason’s move is a “PR stunt” and that he should “Think of what your loyal Netscape users must think – you’re essentially telling them that they aren’t good enough and that you have pay better users.”

To his credit, Mark Glaser of PBS’s MediaShift does a nice job of summing up some of the back-and-forth on this whole issue, and also does some enterprise reporting of his own — he gets in touch with a top Digg poster by the name of BloodJunkie (Derek van Vliet, who happens to be from Toronto, and has submitted a whopping 13,152 stories to Digg), who says that he is considering taking Mr. Calacanis up on his kind offer (another Digger has the opposite view here). In an email to Mark, he says he is “at the point where I am considering pursuing the offer. I really appreciate that someone is recognizing the value we Diggers, Flickrers and Redditers add to the online world.”

PR stunt? Maybe. But Jason’s relentless focus on paying the “talent” — a topic he also held forth on during the Amanda Congdon-Rocketboom soap opera — seems to have exposed some of the cracks in the “user-generated content” model. It will be interesting to see how (or if) those cracks widen, and where they lead.

Rafat makes a good point at PaidContent, and Leo “TWiT” Laporte has one as well — which is that the top 10 posters don’t really make or break a site like Digg. I also think that Steve Rubel is right when he says that Netscape needs to find its own niche, and let its own community grow rather than trying to buy someone else’s. Meanwhile, Kevin “Tailrank” Burton calls on Jason and Kevin to publish an open API — and Jason responds in the comments.

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