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19 July 2006



1. my dad is greek. :-)
2. just because people get paid to work in a community does not mean they are less credible or that they are corrupt.
3. we are hiring 12 folks and we are going to--of course--watch their work. if they suck or game the system we will fire them (duh?!).

It's funny to me how every time someone tries to pay the little guy the rich Silicon Valley elite get so upset. Why shouldn't top bookmarkers get a little scratch for working their tails off? bloggers get paid now... they have not been corrupted.

in six months this will seem like a no-brainer.

Sam Rose


I don't think Jim is "the rich silicon valley elite".

Personally, I think that your overall concept is great in that you want to pay people who are being crowdsourced. However, I think that you are going to find that the approach to the way you pay people is goign to differ depending on the nature of the crowdsourcing tool/technology in question.

Even digg is fundamentally different than del.icio.us. Different in the reason why people use it. Different in the way they use it on individual and collective levels. Different in the output of individuals and of the collective.

That beign said:


I agree with you that paying people to social bookmark will change the nature of the way people do it.

I agree with you about this motivation: "Your reason to bookmark was to get noticed. It was fun, you were part of a community, you got some fame - but all of that was borne from your quality of bookmarking."

I may be in a minority, and part of my reason for bookmarking was what you state above, but another big part (at least with my use of del.icio.us) has been my ability to create a personal "taxonomy" of all of this information that is easy for me to understand, coupled my ability to find other people through my own taxonomy, by either seeing who else bookmarked the same thing, or seeing who else uses the same tags. I guess this is what people are calling a "folksonomy" an emergent meaning-making system that is built from the bottom-up instead of the top-down. This speeds up my ability to research knowledge and information, and it speeds up my ability to connect with other people who might be interested in the same things. Of course, these are only a few dimensions of what I can do with it, but they are the ones that keep me coming back.

I think they should pay everybody who pariticipates if they are going to pay at all, not just the "top" people. That is, as long as they have a system to diminish people gaming them.

Of course, paying everyone probably means changing the business model that you are using to come up with the money to pay people in the first place. But, as Jim points out, paying the top people changes the system, and as Howard points out, potentially may drive away those who don't want to book mark for money (like me).

Jim Benson

Jason and Sam:

Jason -- oops, post change to Greek (blush - that's what I get for overextending the analogy...)

But Sam's right, I'm not part of the Silicon Valley elite But my concern, again, was of the results you'd get and not paying people per se.

If you have a run on the site, it is unlikely you'd wish to provide the amount of oversight necessary to thwart gamers.

I'd recommend you have coffee with Michael Robertson and have him talk about his real desire to pay people for participation and the myriad of ways they found to game him on MP3.com.

Sam - people avoiding the site certainly the end result - people will think (know) that the profit motive is diluting the relevance of the site and will avoid it.

I will certainly say, Jason, coming up with a new social bookmarking site in a sea of Social bookmarking sites is difficult. What I would suggest is starting to do things with bookmarking others are not. For example, I use del.icio.us often now in business. My clients are always confused at first and then elated as they understand the power of asynchronous - always available - minimal effort information.

I know there are more creative things to do in that space.

Sam Rose

Yes, for instance, using a tag like "bull in china shop" ,or "technologies of cooperation" allows us to coordinate our efforts asynchronously, yet it also lets us see everyone else who is employing sense-making using those tags.

A couple of years ago, a person who's name I can't recall tried an experiment to pay users for content. it was sponsored by Adobe, and it was called redpaper.com.

This came out back in 2002-ish, when Micropaymants were all the rage. The idea was that you would submit a news story, and set your price, then people would pay you to read the story. I actually made 4.35!!

I guess a couple of people made a lot more, because their stories got picked up by slashdot, and other highly read sites.

But, eventually many people lost interest, from what I could tell. Mostly because the same or better content was available for free.

Shirkey and Szabo said that these micropayment systems failed because of what he called "mental transaction costs": http://shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html


Jason is saying that he sees that only a small amount of users make the largest contributions to social bookmarking sites, and that he thinks that small amount of users should get paid.

So, I am a huge user of del.icio.us, for the reasons I state above.

yet, if I aspire to be one of Jason's "top users" who gets paid for social bookmarking, I am going to have to find out what his criteria is, and I am going to have to start shifting my bookmarking away from the way I have developed now, to a way that meets the criteria for being seen as one of the "top users", and having a chance at getting a cool $1000 per month. This will cost me a "mental transaction" for every bookmark I submit. Do I want to make this bookmark useful for me as I have in the past, or do I want to use it in my campaign to get into the top 12 or whatever?

The only way that I can have my cake and eat it too is if by shifting my behavior to whatever Jason's criteria is for "top producers" somehow works better than the way that I am doing it now.

But wait a minute! I use del.icio.us so much precisely because it is a tool that allows me to create and share knowledge and information taxonomies in a way that makes sense and is useful to me. I use it as an outboard brain of what I think is useful, and how I think it relates to what I think it relates to.

So, Jason, I am convinced that if you pay me to social bookmark, you will not be paying me to do something that I am already doing for free. Instead, you will be enticing me with the prospect of money to modify what I am doing now into something that catches your eye, and in a form *you* find useful.

Paying people to blog might have worked this way, because, well it's blogging. People can retain their blogging style, unless you command them to do otherwise.

But, from what I understand of what you are trying to do with social bookmarking, this is a different animal (at least when it comes to del.icio.us). You'll be asking people to change how and why they use these tools in order to possibly get your reward. The people who will pay the mental transaction of doing things to meet your criteria of who the "best" people are, will be the people who desire the money reward.
So, people who use these services will either just keep using them the same way they always do (like me). Or, they wail start modifying the way they use them to catch your eye somehow and possibly get paid.

Jim Benson

Excellent points, Sam.

An act cannot be fully separated from its motivations. This is why there is a distinction between manslaughter and murder. The result (dead people) is the same, but the intentions behind it may be very different.

So when someone is tagging for one set of purposes and you change those purposes (even if it is with the best of intentions) you, again, change the mix.

In Jason's original post on his blog, I commented about this and someone replied, "Jim, you can't game social bookmarking sites."

That's all the poster said, but the fact is that he's wrong. Anything with a rule set is gamed. Even if that rule set is as simple as "I'll give the top twelve bookmarkers $1000".

Jason said he'd "watch them (duh)." But watch what and how?

What if I NetscapeDigged every link on Techmeme every morning? They'd all be relevant. I am doing nothing wrong. But I'm systematically applying a set of actions designed to get the $1k and not necessarily to provide quality bookmarks or bookmarks I care about. I just know where there's a wellspring of popular thought I can tap.

Nancy White

Here's my question. What will be the patterns of interconnections (or not) between the paid taggers? Tagging is this interesting thing that is both solo and social. So I suspect there is another interesting layer (paid or not) for people who are bookmarking for a service.

(Jim, thanks for tagging this to me in my de.licio.us bookmarks! )

Jim Benson

Thanks Nancy, and welcome home!

Nancy's thank you is yet another layer. We tag for ourselves to organize (solo). We tag for our friends (del.icio.us "for" tags - like mine to Nancy). We tag for the benefit of groups we are part of doing research (group). We also tag to organize the net (wisdom of crowds / society).

So, the Netscape application would need to serve these layers of need well. Then it would focus on remuneration. In other words, if you are only going to pay 12 people anyway, unless you want your community to only be 12 people - you'd better be meeting the community's needs ahead of time.

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