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Dear Kevin Rose: Get a grip

Link: my blog: Calacanis.

Ya see users like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit and Flickr because they are contributing to true, free, democratic social platforms devoid of monetary motivations.

Hmm. What’s this I see on Digg.com? Why, it’s advertising! No monetary motivation there then. And on Flickr? Why, it’s paid-for services! No monetary motivation there, then.

What Kevin means, of course, is that there’s no monetary motivation for the people who actually contribute to the site and make it valuable. For the middle-man – Kevin – there’s a fair amount of monetary motivation. (And whatever happened to disintermediation, anyway?)

If Kevin really means it, he’ll turn Digg into a not-for-profit company that uses advertising solely for paying for its bandwidth, the salaries of the essential staff, and investment in infrastructure and the like.

But he won’t do this, of course, because he wants to sell the company at some point and make a sack load of money from it. That, folks, is the hypocracy of the Web 2.0 generation. Information wants to be free – as long as it’s YOU that’s giving THEM the information, and THEY can make money off it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://skyecade.net Robert

    Hi Ian,

    I enjoyed reading your take on this. I think Kevin is referring to the platform and not the site itself though.

    I look at Digg (the business) as providing a service (the platform). The platform is what is devoid of monetary motivations, not the business.

    Just my 2 cents.


  • http://profile.typekey.com/adders/ Adam

    Bob, that seems a mighty generous interpretation. I’d be more inclined to see Kevin’s statements as a very careful smokescreen so as not to annoy his core users. After all, if he’s honest, he risks driving users away (thereby driving down the vlaue of his site) or making Calacanis’s offer look attractive.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RichardQuerin/ Richard Querin

    I think we’re seriously underestimating the intelligence of Digg users. I figure they already know that eventually Kevin will sell it. And I think they assume they’ll get nothing monetary in return. I don’t think they were expecting to. And what is so wrong with someone profiting from having a great idea anyway? If all of the “users” in the user-generated content space – and I count myself as one I guess – do not like the fact that they won’t get anything, they should be looking for and promoting sites and ventures that either guarantee their compensation or guarantee protection against having their contributions used without compensation.

    As for Kevin’s statements, I think he’s talking about how the Digg/Flickr/Delicious contributors are doing this without monetary motivation and that it is a good thing. I think he’s right. But whether that was well-written is another matter.

    All the users generating content should not complain about these companies making profits (they’re giving us services for free -remember?). If users don’t like the way they’re going to make those profits they should move on and find better, more open systems to work within – or maybe develop them.

  • http://jack-of-all-tradez.blogspot.com/2006/07/digg-in-without-monetary-motivation.html Renaissance Man

    Digg’ in without monetary motivation

    If you are worried that Flickr/Delicious/YouTube are going to make profits on the back of your work without compensating you, check their policies. If you’re not satisfied they won’t (and you’re likely correct), then move on.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Just to make it clear, I have no real objection to Kevin selling Digg, or, for that matter, having ads on the site. I think that’s an entirely proper thing for a business to do.

    What, however, I do have a major problem with is the rhetoric. A “true, free, democratic platform devoid of monetary motivations”? No. Digg is a business, based on the efforts of a community of people prepared to spend their time Digging stories, from which Kevin will make a (lot of) profit.

    Richard, there’s nothing wrong with Kevin profiting from the idea (although it wasn’t his idea in the first place, iirc). And I understand exactly what he’s talking about. But not paying your best contributors – without whom your site would be an empty shell – doesn’t make your site “free, democratic” yadda yadda yadda. Either Kevin knows that – in which case he’s just playing the techno-utopian part to keep “the kids” on side – or he’s a fool.

  • Karl

    I find your take on this amazingly like my take – we focussed on the very same quote:


    Nothing wrong with making a profit. But yep that rhetoric is either hypocracy, idiocity, or marketing.

  • http://www.mymoneyblog.com Jonathan

    Exactly. In the end, this little tiff is still about the money.

  • Jon

    Way to miss the point. Hes obviously talking about the people who contribute (freely) to Digg and Flickr. Not the people who own it or control it.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/stewart Stewart Butterfield

    [I’m a co-founder of Flickr and still manage it inside of Yahoo!]

    “That, folks, is the hypocracy of the Web 2.0 generation. Information wants to be free – as long as it’s YOU that’s giving THEM the information, and THEY can make money off it.”

    Ian, surely this statement is as dumb as the one you’re criticizing? That can’t be your considered opinion as to the dynamic between, say, Flickr and the people who use it.

    Cf., this Onion article: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/50637

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Jon, no, I’m not missing the point. What I’m pointing out is that there’s a fundamental hypocrisy going on here. On the one hand, it’s fine to make money out of the site if you’re contributing to it by creating the code. On the other hand, if you’re contributing to it through the labour of tagging, submitting stories, and so on, you’re expected to do it for love.

    Stewart, my response was getting very long, so I’ve hived it off into a new post – should be up shortly.

  • Rich Jeffery

    Last time I checked, hosting a site that highly-used requires quite a shed of money for bandwidth costs.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • gav

    and pop will eat itself…

  • Matt

    So what, Kevin took an idea and made it successful, if he makes a profit as a result of it then good for him. Posting on a site such as Digg for most people is a hobby and a sense of community and contribution. If Netscape grabs a few diggers through a payout, no problem it’s their choice to pay people. If people want a non for profit site then good they can create one, hopefully they’ll be successful. On the same token if someone wants to be paid then they can get a journalism degree.

    My $.02

  • http://digg.com/users/mdweaver7485/dugg Mike

    You dont get it do you? I dont go to digg because I make money off of it. I go there because it has good news and ideas. I don’t contribute because I get paid to I share because I have an idea or story that might be interesting to someone else. You fail to understand that the social web creates a gift economy, where I share whats cool to me because I like the things that others share. If the founders make money off of ads good for them, they have bills to pay.

    I guess what I’m saying is digg is about the comunity, without the community digg isn’t digg, and the community isn’t about money, its about sharing ideas because you make the community better. Therefore digg the concept isn’t about money.

    Ads and such arent part of the digg community, they might be on the site, but someone has to pay the hosting bills and im glad it isnt me.

  • nobody

    Because Digg has ads on the site, and most likely make tons o’ $$$, does not undermine this statement: “A true, free, democratic platform devoid of monetary motivations”

    When content is edited for the better of his advertisers, then the above statement will become null and void.

    But as for now, it really is what he has stated it is…but I guess that won’t stop “bloggers” and the rest from crying wolf due to pure speculation.

    As for the title of this little rant of yours ‘Kevin Rose: Get a grip’, it really should be labled ‘My glaring hypocrasy, and why I don’t have a leg to stand on’

  • Jimmy


  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Nobody: So it’s fine for Kevin to have monetary motivations, but not the users? That’s the classic lie that Capitalists use to keep the workers down, you know? Or haven’t you studied any economics? If Kevin doesn’t have any monetary motivations, then he will of course turn Digg over to a not-for profit trust. I look forward to that day – but I’m not holding my breath.

    To repeat something I’ve said elsewhere: I’m not criticising Kevin for making a profit. I’m criticising him using the rhetoric of politics – “free, open, democratic” – in something that’s just about business. If he believes it, and I suspect he does, then he’s being naive and should get a grip. If he doesn’t believe it, then that’s hypocrisy.