Paying Diggers – Once More, into the Breach

14 Sep ’06

Monkey Bites posts on some comments by Kevin Rose at the Future of Web Apps summit on whether top Diggers should be paid, an issue that Jason Calacanis has (in)famously pushed into the harsh glare of the ‘sphere. Rose is still unsurprisingly opposed to paying for something he now gets for free.

“It’s very important to us that there are no outside motivations for posting stories to Digg,” Rose said. “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.”

Rose thinks the Netscape model is poorly thought out because it creates hierarchies that go against the nature of social networks.

I have no better idea of what the second comment means now than when I first heard it the last time this issue popped up. But it seems to me that Digg loves hierarchies – so long as they’re free to Digg and they fuel Diggers to post.

But on the first point, this logic is seeming sillier to me all the time. It has a superficial logic that will appeal to some (money bad, passion good), but I don’t think it stands up. Many diggers are obviously motivated not by interest alone. Fame and notoriety within the Diggverse are clearly important. This doesn’t subvert the quality of the posts – it’s an incentive to quality. Ditto money. It makes no sense to pay top posters for posting garbage, after all. It may be that Digg doesn’t need the top posters – that it will do just fine without them. But if the community needs those who are investing the most effort, and their effort is building the community, why not pay them?

Mathew and I have had a running debate on this of late. His post on the story is here, and I’ve jumped into the fray with some comments there, too. Mathew notes that “it’s not always about dollars”. I think that’s true, but I also don’t think anyone’s saying that it is. The issue, it seems to me, is whether it’s OK to pay top contributors, not whether contributors “always” have to be paid. I think the right question is whether paying top contributors to an aggregator like Digg produces an interesting, vibrant community. And as to the question Mathew asks – is contributing “work” (I think the right question is whether being a top contributor is work) – I think there’s a simple answer to it. Would Kevin Rose be a top contributor for free? ;)

Update: Between the Lines has this interesting quote from Kevin Rose: “It’s not that we don’t want to pay people, but we don’t want to discourage people who are not getting paid from submitting quality content”. OK, but how would that work? People who are already happy to do a bit of Digging for free would lose their interest if people who are willing to do a lot of Digging get paid? If there are pros, the amateurs will lose interest? My Vulcan senses make the obvious point about that reason being simply illogical, but apart from that, I’m inclined to think that if that’s all it takes to discourage Diggers, they don’t really have the interest in Digging good content that Rose says he’s trying to protect by not paying them.

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