Share it forward

My last post talked about paying for stuff (What have you ponied up for web 2.0?). Now I’m thinking about non-monetary contributions. You know, the good stuff. Sharing. Creating. Usable exhaust.

Is web 2.0 a gift economy?

Floating around on the web (in most cases free for non-commercial use according to Creative Commons licenses) I’m sharing: bookmarks, book reviews, blog posts, photographs. I’m responding to questions on twitter, fulfilling cubeville procrastination and de-stress needs via scrabulous on facebook, participating in discussion threads, leaving comments on other people’s blogs and photographs.

Notice what I haven’t called these things: content. If web 2.0 is a gift economy, the gifts simply aren’t content. See Joshua Green and Henry Jenkins The Moral Economy of Web 2.0 for more about “a rift between the ‘gift economy’ of fan culture and the commodity logic of ‘user-generated content.'”

The power of because

Despite the endless hype, web 2.0 isn’t all about money. Money might be driving the VC investments, it might (more likely, might not) be the primary motivation of startup founders, but it sure isn’t what’s driving most of the people participating. It’s about passion.

It happens without feedback, but you can get “paid” in attention when you write something and share it or take a photograph and post it to flickr. Some folks get enough attention that they choose serve up ads along with their thoughts, and they make some money that way. Others go for for the because effect over with. As in, your make money because of your blog, not with it. Because of is, ultimately, more powerful.

What are we doing?

You know the stuff you did when you were little, when you knew you could draw, before you ever worried about what do for a living (for a paycheck?) and learned that very few get paid to make art, to be creative, to tell stories? The web is now the big box of crayons, the shiny new typewriter, the paint set you always wanted. It’s lego pieces and missing instruction sheets and the gears you sketched, bored, in study hall.

It’s all these things, and it combines the ability to find other folks like you or not like you, but interested in what you are interested in. Sure, money makes things easier (when doesn’t it?) but cost doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier to participation anymore. Fear is that barrier. Forgetting how to share is that barrier.

See what I can make, do, think… Here’s what I’m asking, puzzling over. Here’s a story. Another chapter. A new version. It’s all out there, here, uploaded, connected. What are you doing?

What have you ponied up for web 2.0?

Recently the swissmiss blog had a non-visual post that grabbed my attention: What Sites Do You Pay For? Her answer:

2 x Flickr ($25 year)
Typepad ($14.95 month)
Skype Pro ($3 month)
Quicken ($2.99 month)
Blinksale ($12 month)
Backpackit ($7 month)
.mac ($99.95 year)
creative hotlist ($30 for 6months ?)

That got me to thinking about the web stuff I pay for (hosting from dreamhost, several flickr accounts, several domain names I renew every year, DSL from Verizon, and a lifetime membership to LibraryThing I got pretty much the second I heard there was such a thing), why I pay for it, and what I’m not paying for now, but I’d be willing to pay for.

Why I pay for the stuff I do

I noticed she pays for a lot more sites than I do. I really pay for connectivity and running my own stuff. I’m probably paying more for hosting than I really need, but a combination of inertia (easier to renew existing arrangements than make new ones) and anxiety over not being able to do whatever I want (have multiple domain names, customize WordPress to my heart’s content) keep me from switching.

Generally speaking, I don’t pay for sites now — so I guess web 2.0 isn’t directly getting much of my money. (No, I don’t click on ads.) The worthy exception here is flickr. I love flickr and can’t imagine not having it. I’ve given gift memberships; I can see why people would need more than one pro account. For me, it hits the sweet spot in David Armano’s usefulness, utility, and ubiquity diagram.

What I’m not paying for

The two sites that I’m not paying for that I think also hit that sweet spot are twitter and del.icio.us. To put in in terms of Darmano’s 3 U’s, they serve (at least one!) purpose, they foster meaningful (to me) interaction, and they are effective across multiple touchpoints. Would I pay for them? Absolutely.

But I don’t see facebook getting my money, or LinkedIn. Yeah, I use them, but I don’t love them. When I think of the web, I don’t consider them vital. If they started charging for what they offer, I imagine people (meaning: my scrabulous friends and professional contacts) would leave for freely available alternatives. I’d rather use claimID as my resume replacement — or even the search box on Google, for that matter.

What about you?

What are you paying for on the web? Do you think about the usefulness, utility, or ubiquity of a service before you pony up? If you’ve switched from paying for hosting to relying entirely on platform accounts (wordpress.com, flickr, etc.) I’d love to hear about that, too.