For Love or Money

To beg or not to beg? An interesting question, leading to one that’s probably a lot more important…

If you’ve visited my site in the last twelve hours you might have spotted this innocuous little button. It’s gone now, partly because of a friend of mine’s negative reaction to it. She thought it was “vulgar” and amounted to “cyber-panhandling”.

To be honest, I hadn’t put that much thought into it; an option for readers to make a donation was just one more feature I was adding to my site, and really a knee-jerk “me too” to what I’ve seen on other blogs. I hadn’t considered a specific use for donations I received; I just wanted to see if I would receive any.

Instead this little PayPal button sparked a lengthy discussion about the Internet economy — you know, the usual blah blah blah about democratizing the means of publication and monetizing content when everybody expects a free ride, myself included. There a couple of places I regularly visit that ask for handouts, like Pierre Bourque’s excellent Newswatch site; I always say with a certain amount of smugness that I’m going to make a donation, and yet I never do. In the back of my mind is the nagging voice of a cheapskate, whining that I already fork out forty bucks a month just to get on the ‘Net at a reasonable speed… Why should I have to pay to visit web sites too?

So on this, the morning after, I’m left with a bit of a conundrum: Why is it that we pay for computer equipment and software when it’s the content and interaction that makes it valuable to begin with? I’m starting to think we’ve been scammed…


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