Are You a Digital Sharecropper?


#61

How about the scam that is scientific publishing ! It has to be the ultimate digital sharecropping : Large volumes of research locked up, only $19.99 for a read :S


#62

I think sometimes it’s the old Tom Sawyer trick of having the kid pay you to paint the fence.

But it’s not always like that. Sometimes it has more to do with your motive. If your motive is to help people with your content, you might not always want to turn a monetary profit, but rather one of prestige among your peers.

However, if this is your motive, you have to make sure you’re helping the people you intend to help. If the website owner is gonna turn around, take down and sell the content you intended to help the general public, then you might not be helping who you indended to.


#63

We (as users) are donating our time and intellectual property. You (as developers) donate your time, hardware and bandwidth. I don’t feel short-changed in the deal.

All services go both ways – when you shop at a local store, you’re donating your money, and the owner donates his time, shelf space, transport etc.

It all becomes clearer when you don’t think of services as products. A database of CD tracks is only useful if it contains all the CDs, and most importantly all the new ones, so it’s the user-provided service of keeping the database up-to-date that gives it its value, not the database itself. For me SO is most important as the service of other people answering my programming questions, so even if you somehow managed to “steal” the data from the public, without the community it wouldn’t be worth much.


#64

I think as long as a website doesn’t try to claim copyright over user’s freely contributed works, it should be fine with most people. What really pissed off people on Facebook was the claim they could use any photos you uploaded without your permission.

I’d say that was actually pretty close to illegal.


#65

Dammit, as I was reading that I thought Jeff was about to announce some sort of ad-revenue sharing deal with the stack overflow users :frowning:


#66

Jeff,

It’s interesting that your raise this spectre. I presume you figured it was better to take the initiative before the community wakes up?

To all those ‘happy’ commenters out there it’s very simple: Stack Overflow is not an equitable transaction. If it was, then by definition it would be non-profit making.

All the users who claim they are getting more out than they put in… well they are, by definition, the exception.

Please remember that SO is making lots of money, and it’s growing.

How is it growing? It’s positive feedback - the more questions are asked and asnwered, the more google juice, the community grows etc.

Stack Overflow is a massive pot of gold.

And Jeff is not stupid. Not only does Stack Overflow LEVERAGE the community for monetary gain… Jeff is smart enough to know he can LEVERAGE the product and repackage it in many many forms (Super User, Server Fault etc)…this is leverage of leverage… you cannot get more profitable than that!

OK, so Jeff will become a millionaire. He has put hard work in and built some good software.

I beleive Jeff should be rewarded for his efforts in writing the software… but leverage is a perverse thing. Using Stack Overflow (i.e. its community) Jeff can make MUCH more money than one man alone can make by straight hours worked. And I beleive there are limits to the riches we should feel comfortable gained through human leverage.

Don’t forget it’s the community that has donated 100% of the content which makes up stack overflow, free of charge. Jeff is leveraging the community. Simple.

I guess my question is Jeff… what are you going to do with all your millions? I suppose being an intelligent guy you will quickly realise there are only so many plastic guitars you can buy before it gets boring.

So what’s the grand plan?


#68

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#69

http://life-vkontakte.com/ - Самый лучший сайт


#70

@Omar Abid:

Stop spamming me you utter arsehole. You scraped my email address off the full-disclosure mailing list years ago and ever since have been bombarding me with spammy “friend” requests from every stupid latest-fad social networking site you ever join. Let me make it perfectly clear:

YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF YOU NOW SOD OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE!


#71

Jeff, while I was reading your blog, the TV was on, and Jeremy Piven’s character (Dean) in “Serendipity” had the following rant:

Jonathan: Forget about privacy laws. You know what privacy laws do?
Leasing Office Temp: No.
Jonathan: They protect millionaires. You know who those millionaires are?
Leasing Office Temp: Who?
Jonathan: Tell him who they are. Tell him.
Dean: Kids your age. Pimple-faced college drop outs who have made unhealthy sums of money forming internet companies that create no concrete products, provide no viable services, and still manage to generate profits for all of its lazy day-trading son-of-a bitch shareholders. Meanwhile, as a tortured member of the disenfranchised proletariat, you find some altruistic need to protect these digital plantation-owners?
Jonathan: [reacting to Dean’s speech] Wow!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0240890/quotes


#72

I thought I was the only one that felt that way, but you really nailed it. Nothing is free. It may appear so but nothing is. And while I think some sites start with noble attempts, the lure of wealth is too good and they start compromising their core values.


#73

@Cathy: No.

They often realize, “Oh shit! My monthly bandwidth charges are more than I can afford!”

Because, after all, if you tie up an ISP’s switch port, you’re going to get socked for it. That’s a form of denial of service to other users on that switch. This is why numerous ISPs charge beyond market rates for excessive bandwidth overages.

Ad revenue is used to help amortize the cost of bandwidth in an economy that favors fixed-rate billing, instead of a more proper pay-for-what-you-use model. And, because ad revenue is roughly proportional to page views, and because bandwidth expenses are relatively fixed for any given class of service, AND because attendance to a website roughly dies off with time unless new content appears all the time, it follows that it’s in the site owner’s best interests to continue to entice new page views to maintain sufficient income levels from advertising. And with market inflation and a dollar backed by debt instead of by hard currency, it follows even further that the only way to stay in business is to continually grow. So, it’s not even sufficient to achieve a steady state (for very long, that is).

In today’s retarded economy, your business MUST grow to even survive, let alone reap significant rewards.

I encourage you to watch the documentary “The Corporation.” Although many complain of a strong left-leaning bias, actual interviews with real, honest to goodness, brick-and-mortar business owners illustrates that a significant percentage of them DO NOT perform their evils because they want to – it’s because they have to.

So, cut them some slack. It’s really quite clear you’ve never owned or operated a business facing real-world resource constraints.


#74

@Cathy: No.

They often realize, “Oh shit! My monthly bandwidth charges are more than I can afford!”

Because, after all, if you tie up an ISP’s switch port, you’re going to get socked for it. That’s a form of denial of service to other users on that switch. This is why numerous ISPs charge beyond market rates for excessive bandwidth overages.

Ad revenue is used to help amortize the cost of bandwidth in an economy that favors fixed-rate billing, instead of a more proper pay-for-what-you-use model. And, because ad revenue is roughly proportional to page views, and because bandwidth expenses are relatively fixed for any given class of service, AND because attendance to a website roughly dies off with time unless new content appears all the time, it follows that it’s in the site owner’s best interests to continue to entice new page views to maintain sufficient income levels from advertising. And with market inflation and a dollar backed by debt instead of by hard currency, it follows even further that the only way to stay in business is to continually grow. So, it’s not even sufficient to achieve a steady state (for very long, that is).

In today’s retarded economy, your business MUST grow to even survive, let alone reap significant rewards.

I encourage you to watch the documentary “The Corporation.” Although many complain of a strong left-leaning bias, actual interviews with real, honest to goodness, brick-and-mortar business owners illustrates that a significant percentage of them DO NOT perform their evils because they want to – it’s because they have to.

So, cut them some slack. It’s really quite clear you’ve never owned or operated a business facing real-world resource constraints.


#75

@Sam,

Amen to what you said.

I don’t believe Jeff Atwood is talking about community sites and blogs that are trying to get by and pay their hosting bills.

When I was reading this, I was thinking about Tuts+. To be fair, I was directed here after I wrote something about Envato on my blog.

Jeff Atwood says:

“In essence, any website where user generated content is the website, that is also a for-profit business (not a non-profit organization, ala Wikipedia) – is effectively turning their users into digital sharecroppers.”

This totally applies to Envato’s Tuts+ network.

The different Tuts+ websites are their content and that content is user-generated. Envato’s business model is all about exploiting the User-creator… creators of design and code and creators of content (article, tutorial, screencast, etc.).

People who comment on the Tuts+ sites are digital sharecroppers too. Comments are quite often superior in quality and the interest-they-generate to the article they’re attached to.

And the people who contribute articles are digital sharecroppers. They get paid $150 per article (if they also produce a lengthy screencast they may get paid a little more), and that’s a bit ridiculous given the revenues these sites generate with advertising and premium subscriptions.

Tuts+ even organized a contest where people submitted screencasts in the hope of getting “fame and fortune” by getting selected among the top 5. The no 1 winner would get $500 and the 4 runner-ups would get $100. Everyone had to use this One new hosted screencast service. I wonder how much Envato got paid by Screenr just to organize that contest.

It’s smart. Because it’s good business. But. I feel uncomfortable.


#76

@Sam,

Amen to what you said.

I don’t believe Jeff Atwood is talking about community sites and blogs that are trying to get by and pay their hosting bills.

When I was reading this, I was thinking about Tuts+. To be fair, I was directed here after I wrote something about Envato on my blog.

Jeff Atwood says:

“In essence, any website where user generated content is the website, that is also a for-profit business (not a non-profit organization, ala Wikipedia) – is effectively turning their users into digital sharecroppers.”

This totally applies to Envato’s Tuts+ network.

The different Tuts+ websites are their content and that content is user-generated. Envato’s business model is all about exploiting the User-creator… creators of design and code and creators of content (article, tutorial, screencast, etc.).

People who comment on the Tuts+ sites are digital sharecroppers too. Comments are quite often superior in quality and the interest-they-generate to the article they’re attached to.

And the people who contribute articles are digital sharecroppers. They get paid $150 per article (if they also produce a lengthy screencast they may get paid a little more), and that’s a bit ridiculous given the revenues these sites generate with advertising and premium subscriptions.

Tuts+ even organized a contest where people submitted screencasts in the hope of getting “fame and fortune” by getting selected among the top 5. The no 1 winner would get $500 and the 4 runner-ups would get $100. Everyone had to use this One new hosted screencast service. I wonder how much Envato got paid by Screenr just to organize that contest.

It’s smart. Because it’s good business. But. I feel uncomfortable.


#77

Ha! I thought Joel was going to explode on a recent podcast when you bushwhacked him with talk of open sourcing the SO code just as he’s ramping up efforts to sell its use commercially. And now you’re acknowledging that you’re harvesting the efforts of others in an effort that Jason Calacanis estimated could result in a billion dollars in profits to Spolsky et al.

This should be fun…


#78

Its pretty difficult to maintain control of your own brand, for example the Google results for your own name. Most of the sites for user-generated content will quickly develop a higher PageRank than an individual blog is likely to achieve, and if your real name ever appears on that site it will quickly move up to the top of the results. You either refrain from participating, or you exclusively use pseudonyms and forfeit most of the benefits of your participation.


#79

Dude… what? Sometimes i have to wonder if you’re retarded. Was this supposed to be informative or inspirational or something? Because either you literally and paradoxically just found the internet today, or you’re utterly shrewd and cynical in its attempt to harness the one thing that actually does fuel community sites: rambling posts that can only be parsed by those who don’t care what they’re replying to so long as it looks grammatically sound enough to continue the conversational game of marco polo that is the blogosphere. Thank fuck you don’t have trackbacks set to nest in the comments.

Secondly, Web 2.0 is to the media what Second Life was to… the media. “Here’s how it works. Entrepreneurs like Gould build meeting places that provide visitors with tools to express themselves, mingle with friends and strangers, and establish their personal ‘brands.’ The result, when it works, is an outpouring of creativity.”

WRONG, NO, HOLY NO, INCORRECT

It allows sadsack 40-year old “advertising creative directors” (a totally not made up position, by the way) to continue being sycophants and attention whores.

PSSSST! Keep quiet about how Web 2.0 is in full-on perpetual loop mode now! If anything breaks us out of it, we might have to come up with a markup language that makes sense! If i had to play a 3D game with curved surfaces like Quake Live in a browser that utilized the moon magic of actual 2D coordinates to accurately render rectangles and squares, it might be a slippery slope into a reality where people could easily make their own sites instead of using crap like FaceBook to show off their complete lack of taste!

Also, the audio captcha was “Whether you believe it or not, your wife has another husband”. The internet is awesome.


#80

Actually, that’s the one comparison that makes sense with this whole sharecropping deal. There very much is an inequality between the tennant and landowner roles, as is evident to anyone who’s see the sheer number of bullshit ToS and “copyright infringement” takedowns on YouTube, which somehow result in the cancellation of entire accounts instead of just the videos allegedly guilty of violation/infringement. And by “anyone who’s seen”, i mean “anyone who hasn’t been living in a fucking cave since YouTube hit big”.

The worst that can happen isn’t that you lose some content. It’s that you lose a place to put that content. This would be a very real problem if it weren’t for other places to put that content, which itself forks into two other areas.

The first is the matter of competition. This is only valid if they’re not entirely based on the concept of delivering ads, like GameTrailers is, as opposed to actually delivering the content that makes those ads even remotely possible. In the case of YouTube, it’s a regular occurance where the very people who are routinely screwed are the ones who are not only adding value to the service punishing them, but also adding value to the mediums whose notoriously stupid/abusive/suicidal/criminal cartels are putting pressure to the service to do so.

The second is the sad state of bandwidth in most of the Western world, which has been an elephant in the room for about a decade now, so nice job keeping up. You make it sound like “oooh, you might have to host your videos yourself, big deal” when, in fact, it is. This goes back to the point of having somewhere to put things, which means infrastructure, which has been hampered by more douchebags at national telecoms. And you don’t realize this because you’re a moron.

P.S. Nice nick, queer.

P.S.S. Fucking install Akismet already, Jeff.


#81

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