Are Sites Like Digg, YouTube And MySpace Still Exploitation If People Get What They Want?

from the non-monetary-payments dept

There’s a fascinating discussion going on among some bloggers today, concerning some research about how the top 10 domains online get a larger percentage of traffic today than they did five years ago — supposedly countering Fred Wilson’s claim that “the long tail” of web pages was increasingly important. However, as you dig into the numbers, it becomes clear that Wilson’s point still does stand. Most of that increase in traffic is actually due to MySpace and YouTube, which aren’t “properties” by themselves so much as they are a playground sandbox for millions of others to set up their own individual sites — representing an even longer tail of content that just happens to be place within the walls of specific sites.

Nick Carr, as per usual, cuts through the clutter in pointing this out — but then goes on to make some questionable assertions about how this is a modern form of sharecropping — whereby the “land owner” aggregator sites like MySpace and YouTube are somehow exploiting the “sharecropper” users, who are willing to create content for those sites for nothing. Carr attributes this to the difference between the “attention economy” and the “cash economy” and seems surprised that the two overlap — suggesting that Carr actually hasn’t been paying much attention. There aren’t separate economies at all. They’ve always overlapped and always will. What’s really going on is a recognition that not everything needs to be paid for in monetary terms (which isn’t a new concept). It’s not that the users are somehow being “exploited” by being tricked into giving up value in exchange for attention. They are making the choice and recognizing the benefit. The attention is a benefit to them. It is payment — not exploitation. This is the same mistake that others have made in claiming that Google is somehow exploiting sites by organizing and pointing people to those sites — while making money in the process. Once again, that’s a case where Google is providing some benefit (traffic, or if you must, attention) to those sites. Those who complain about the lack of monetary payment are under the same delusion as Carr, that benefits like attention are somehow separate from the cash-based economy. Just because some of the direct benefits are not in cash, doesn’t mean that one side is any more exploited than the other.

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Comments on “Are Sites Like Digg, YouTube And MySpace Still Exploitation If People Get What They Want?”

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Anonymous Coward says:


You can exploit a migrant worker who has little choice but to work for lower wages. You can exploit a manopoly by lowering prices to crush competitors and then raising them boyond the reasonable once the competition is gone. You can exploit a disaster by price gouging… I just don’t understand how bored bloggers could possibly be “exploited”.
*shrug* Ooookkkkkkaaaaayyyy…. Exploit away.

First Post! (I have been exploited by my desire to have first post and added content freely to this site. Woe is me.)

Richard Ahlquist (profile) says:

You cant the willing

Bottom line;
If youre willing to work for low wages and take a job at generi burger joint youre not exploited.

If youre willing to sign contract that give away the money you make company X youre not exploited.

If youre willing to strip for money youre not exploited.

If you create content in the public eye, and a aggregation or search or social networking site links to you youre not being exploited.

Jimbo says:

Re: Re: You cant the willing

One always has another choice… don’t do it. The lack of action is in itself a choice. Exploitation is self imposed in all circumstances.

A slave may revolt against his master.

A citizen may rise up against his government.

A laborer may seek employment elsewhere.

Maybe we feel like we should never have been put in said situation but it is always within our power to change our station.

I think the term ‘exploitation’ in the article above was certainly quite malapropos.

Pappu says:


ACoward – no other choice than to work at burger joint, strip etc. shows that you know your potential and you are willingly making a choice to work under those conditions.
You cant call it exploitation because you dont have a choice but to work under those conditions. Its because you are lazy to look for better opportunities and work towards achieving them.

Back to the article; creative bloggers who want to get paid for their creativity would actually use platforms such as YouTube to ‘advertize’ their creativity.

I hate people who want free money.

painted zebra says:

Re: Choices

Pappu- you’re assuming that everyone has equal opportunity. If a person’s position represents their willingness to work, then why aren’t more people making millions? Before you condemn somebody for accepting the status quo, consider what it takes to break from their situation.

Those who have read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” will understand my point.

Rational Beaver says:

Re: Re: Choices

The Jungle was propaganda (good story though).

It is clear, however, that inefficiencies in the job market along with people’s varied life experiences, educational acheivements, connections, and mental capacity all combine to allow for the existance of economic exploitation.

But that doesn’t matter when we’re talking about YouTube. Video sharing is completely voluntary and even if it wasn’t somehow, YouTube is not the only game in town. Unlike the job market, the video sharing website market is extremely transparent and open. You can get a “job” with YouTube, Revver, MetaCafe, etc. etc. etc. None of those sites hold you to any sort of exclusivity agreement. Also unlike the (standard) job market, it is often beneficial to your online video career to act like a complete idiot.

Mafarsa says:

Re: Re: Choices

Opportunity and education run hand in hand. Without an education, there will be no opportunity. That is where the breakdown is. If more people continued their education, then the likeliness of their being successful increases dramatically. And let’s face it, if you have ever been in a strip club, all of the girls will tell you that they’re only doing it to get money for college. But as Chris rock says “What college do you know that takes tuition in $1.00 bills?”

Balla says:

yea boiiii

damn man myspace iz the reall shit …. i git all my bitches nd hoes from that site how do yall think i be all up in all these chicks pants alll the time cuz i look at they pics on myspace nd have a raffle on which hoe is ready to go yea boiii yhall dont even no i be on that kryptonite and i be likin
all yhall are just tech nerds nd i be smackin all yo wives asses fo real

intelligence says:




Lucas McDonnell (user link) says:

Collaboration/idea sharing and traffic.

I talked about idea sharing as a way to increase traffic to your web site a little while ago on my site, which relates to this point.

I don’t really see how anyone is being exploited through the creation of a dialogue — it often creates a situation where there is mutual benefit.

Also, I always get a little worried when people start talking about geographic metaphors and the web. With real land, it’s a zero sum game: if you don’t own the land, someone else (whether that’s government or a private party) will. The web is simply not the same. It’s not a zero sum game: we can all create as many sites as we want, without driving up the cost for others to create more properties.

JS Beckerist (profile) says:

@ painted zebra

I’ve read the Jungle. I’ve also read numerous other novels about the tribulations of “less fortunate” people. With that said, I myself came from a huge catholic family. (My grandmother has more than 100 direct descendants between children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren…etc…) The opportunities afforded to me in life have not been numerous, but I know I’ve made an awesome life for myself because I took advantage of the few opportunities I could. I do not consider myself lazy, nor necessarily ambitious, but I do keep my eyes open.
With all this said, I have to disagree with you 100%. I hear my relatives and friends bitch and whine about the shitty life they have, then roll over with their bag of Doritos and Mountain Dew for breakfast and flip through the channels until they find Jerry Springer INSTEAD of maybe working on their resume, or looking for a new job, or taking a 3 credit class at the local community college (which can be FREE if, again, you keep your eyes open).

I can’t say for certain whether or not this applies to anywhere outside my own little world, though common sense seems to indicate that it SHOULD. Anyone who has to leech off the government (ie: welfare), and more importantly those who don’t even care to do that, but have a terrible quality of life ARE NOT given “no opportunities,” in fact, by simply LIVING you are given an unlimited source of possibilities. Dismissing it as “difficult to break from” or “status quo” is simply an excuse, and I’m sick of hearing people bitch. Do something about it!

Da Pope says:

yeahhh boiiiii

Yo Bitchs i am Da Pope! myspace is sweeeeeeeeeeeet!!! ur all just jealous cuz u send friend requests to everyone adn they shut u down quit crying like a baby and get a life. U DAM SEXUAL PREDITORSSS… how old are like 50?? lol get a life plzzzzz! yhall dun even knooo my boiii arin adn tj be balla’s da are Balllllinnnnn!!

ps: Yhall betta watch out Da Pope be usin his Rope on yo bitch!

Mark says:

“Da Pope” your school may not teach you this but I feel it’s quite important to share:

1. ‘I’, referring to yourself, is spelt with a capital letter. ‘I’ and not ‘i’. If there was a problem with your Caps Lock or Shift keys I could excuse you but your use of capitals in the rest of your message indicates mere laziness. Laziness is a blight on society, It’s your responsibility to stamp out laziness now.

2. `cuz’ `adn’ `yhall’ `boiii’ and `ballllinnnn’ have no meaning and a word with no meaning is called a ‘not a word’. When using English one should refrain from using ‘not a word’s as it is often difficult to explain what they are owing to their inexplicability.

3. ‘Da’ is the Russian word for ‘yes’ and, in English, it is also a ‘not a word’. The correct form for what I believe you were trying to say is ‘the’

4. Punctuation is what separates us from guinea pigs. Commas, full stops, and all the other grammatical inventions are why we humans rule the planet. When you fail to use correct punctuation you advance the onset of the destruction of Earth. Your teachers may hide this fact from you but it’s true. If you want to live in a future world with flying houses and teleportation bread then please give a thought to the humble semi-colon every now and then.

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