Wednesday, 07 June 2006

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Donate to Team Acephalous . . . . . . because I like money. I read Waxbanks' post on Jason Kottke's decision to ask his readers to become "micropatrons." His chutzpah earned him points for bravado and derision for hubris from the MeFi community. So I started thinking about thresholds. Do I provide $0.25 worth of enjoyment monthly? $1.00? $10.00? Kottke's plan to quit his job and "work" on his blog full-time failed in part because he set his threshold at $30. That's brazen times nSTUPID. Thinking about this seriously, I wonder whether this economic model could work. For example, the average graduate student in English has to supplement his or her income in a variety of ethically unsavory ways—tutoring children of wealth so that they score even higher on standardized tests foremost among them. Could that income be replaced by being interesting? Imagine you and my 700 or so other daily visitors each donated $0.25 a month. That'd equal some number someone who can multiply would label a "reasonable supplemental income." Suppose they each donated $0.50. That'd triple that already reasonable supplemental income by two. All for less than it'd cost you to have Coinstar turn that change into money. I'd wager most people only enthusiastically read $5 or $6 worth of blogs per month. This system would create a furious competition among bloggers to generate interesting and original content. The readers would reap the rewards of their generosity and create a feedback loop. As bloggers became more interesting they would earn more money, which would in turn force them to be even more interesting, lest they lose the audience they have. Influence could be measured by donations and popular linkdumps like Instapundit would suffer the fate of all uninteresting portals: Oblivion. My actual investment in this idea comes from my research for that article I'm writing and/or panel I'm a part of. I've been thinking about the cost of individual subscriptions to Project Muse and JSTOR and the OED—in particular, about the inability of independent scholars to access the resources most of us in academia take for granted. If we take seriously the argument that academic blogs signal the breakdown between "formal" and "informal" contributions to our collective knowledge, then we need to find some legal way to afford "informal" contributors the same access to academic archives that we "formal" sorts have. I can think of a number of scholars whose work I think important enough to contribute a third of a cup of coffee a month to allow them such access. The thing is, the same stigma dogging the panhandler hounds the blogger who explicitly asks for contributions. The only way this system could work is if it became standard practice. I'm not sure how that would happen. But in the meantime, did I mention I like money?

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