<CPOV> On a payment/reward structure

andrew.famiglietti at lcc.gatech.edu andrew.famiglietti at lcc.gatech.edu
Thu Mar 25 19:35:35 CET 2010

These are all very interesting notions, but I'm not sure I like the idea of trying to return the wage relationship to Wikipedia-like production. A favorite quote from E.P. Thompson comes to mind: 

"The injury that advanced capitalism did, and that the market society did, was to define human relations as being primarily economic. Marx [...] proposed revolutionary economic man. But it is also implicit, particularly in the early Marx, that the injury is defining man as 'economic' at all." 

Implicit in the Free Labor/Playbor economy that Wikipedia (and to a much lesser extent, FOSS) thrives in is a notion of labor as something people do for reasons other than just the wage. Wikipedians understand their labor as being beneficial to a community that they care about. From a certain point of view, we might call that a form of False Consciousness, and that might have some merit, do we really want to insist that all labor must be monetized? Clearly Wikipedia is much too linked to global capitalism to really fit the dream image that some practitioners (and some theorists, like Yochai Benkler) have of it, but is the answer to return Free Labor to the status of Wage Labor? Is that a step forward? 

I'd rather be discussing all these issues in person with you, but I was unable to find the meeting at the Cafe tonight. I'm just not that good at matching real faces to website headshots I guess. I'm excited to talk to everyone tomorrow!

- Andy

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gregory Kohs" <thekohser at gmail.com>
To: cpov at listcultures.org
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 11:05:28 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: <CPOV> On a payment/reward structure

I've had some thought about how a "new Wikipedia" with funding (either
from the traditional donation route, or by implementing contextual
advertising) could pay editors for quality contributions.

First, one would have to say "anonymous editors may be paid, but must
identify and verify identity with the payment-governing body".  You
could still stay pseudonymous on the wiki, but at least the folks with
the money would know where to send compensation.  Probably would be a
good idea to restrict paid editors to those 18 and older.

Second, one would establish a "reputation" system, similar to eBay's
seller ratings, but ramped up another level.  That is, if I have a
reputation of 70 and you have a reputation of 35, then when I "vote"
for another editor's quality of contribution, and you vote for that
editor's quality of contribution, my vote counts twice as much as
yours.  Editors with very low reputations would forfeit their right to
be compensated.  The reputation score could even be a combination of
two or more sub-scores, such as "quality of writing", "engages well
with other editors", "authority of knowledge", etc.

Third, use a variation of the "text durability" measuring system that
(was it?) University of Santa Cruz developed.  If I create 1,200 bytes
of text in an article, of which 1,100 are still in place 100 days
later, I get credit for those 1,100 bytes, plus some kind of
commendation that 91.6% of my work is durable.  (You don't want
someone adding 150,000 bytes, just in hopes that 15,000 gets kept.)

Finally, measure article popularity by simple traffic and time-on-page stats.

You could roll these measures up (editor reputation, quantity of
durable text, popularity of destination page) to produce a relatively
meaningful "how much do we pay this editor this month" plan.  Of
course, the system would be gamed, but gamers could be "punished" by
other editors devaluing their reputation rating.

Of course, you've got to have salaried, level-headed adults governing
the entire system, who are not compensated for their editorial
activity.  That's where the Wikimedia Foundation would fail.  They
have no interest or capacity in learning how to become level-headed
adults with governing responsibility.

Anyway, that's the plan.  It might become messy over time, but
certainly couldn't be worse than the current Wikipedia model of mixing
naive free culturists with vindictive game players and subterranean
marketing folks.  I'd launch it myself, but I have a day job and I
never made it past BASIC, second semester, in computer programming.

Gregory Kohs
Phone: 484-NEW-WIKI

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Andrew Famiglietti 
Brittain Fellow 
School of Literature, Communication, and Culture 
Georgia Institute of Technology

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