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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  1. icon
    JS Beckerist (profile), 20 Dec 2006 @ 10:11am

    @ 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!

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