(Cross-posted from my media blog)
If nothing else, Jason Calacanis did one thing while he was running the revamped Netscape.com: By hiring away some of the top users at Digg, he ignited a debate about whether to compensate the top submitters to a “social media” site. Digg co-founder Kevin Rose said that he would never pay top Diggers because it would ruin the open and social nature of the site, and I tend to agree with him (I wrote about it here and here).
But now, according to Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests, some of the top Diggers have found other ways of getting compensated — including getting paid by companies under the table for submitting their pages to the social-media site. Several top submitters have reportedly been approached by companies to submit pages in return for money, and have done so. Some have been paid per submission, others on a kind of retainer, and some have received bonuses if a submission makes it to the front page.
This kind of thing is even more underhanded than PayPerPost, the company that pays bloggers to write about clients, but doesn’t require them to disclose it. But Tony says that some of the Diggers justify their illicit salaries by saying “If Kevin Rose isnâ€™t going to pay me for my time, maybe someone else will.” Tony says that this reminds him of Third World countries where government officials take bribes in part because they are paid so little to do their jobs.
All of this tends (although I hate to admit it) to support my friend Rob Hyndman’s contention that top Diggers should be compensated because what they do is effectively work, and that Jason Calacanis recognized that and rewarded it (Rob’s thoughts can be found in the comments here, and in his post here). My argument has always been that Diggers get rewarded in other ways that are non-financial — they get bragging rights, for example, and the admiration of their peers, which in some cases is worth more than money.
But Rob’s point is that this shouldn’t preclude them getting paid as well. And obviously, some top Diggers agree, to the point where they are willing to take what amount to bribes to submit things. To some extent, this is probably inevitable — if there is a system, someone will find a way to game it. My friend Muhammad Saleem, who is a top contributor to Digg and also a paid contributor to Netscape, has some perspective on this phenomenon that is also worth reading.
Steve O’Hear, who writes a blog on social media for ZDNet, wrote something asking whether Digg users should be compensated, and then submitted his piece to Digg. It got about 90 Diggs and 40 comments, and made it to the front page — but then it suddenly disappeared.