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People like Mister Skeet probably generated 10s of thousands of Page Views for the SO site, this in reality translates to dollars in the bank, many dollars.

Recently Mahalo announced plans to revenue share with the users providing content http://www.mahalo.com/answers/revshare_guidelines.

Should SO look to adopt a similar model?

EDIT In light of the SE changes I think this question is way more relevant than it was a few weeks ago.

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Note, if anything like this ever happened I would expect you need a minimum reputation before participating in the scheme. –  waffles Mar 11 '10 at 22:45
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Aw, come on, you could have afforded 500 rep for the bounty! :-D –  Adam Davis Apr 16 '10 at 0:03
    
Upvoted for chance at a possible coffee allowance passive-revenue source. –  Adel Mar 19 '13 at 4:28
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8 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted
+50

Should SO look to adopt a similar model?

Put a value or revenue share on contributions/rep/etc, and people will be rep/cash farming and trading accounts. Imagine if a company in Asia started up with the express purpose of generating answers for SO - and worse, generating questions that could feed into their answer service. These companies exist for WoW and similar games, and even small payouts and revenue sharing would be profitable for them, while driving other users away.

So:

NO.

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I think they do an excellent job of giving back to the community already, but then I'm biased (thanks again!).

More seriously, IIRC there are actual studies for this kind of thing showing that when you start to mix explicit motivators like money with intrinsic motivators like altruism, respect, or fun, the explicit motivators tend to take over so that they are all the participants see. The explicit motivators replace rather than add to the intrinsic motivators.

We now have a situation where some people are providing for a free (intrinsically motivated) a service for which they would normally charge a client or employer $100s of dollars. Setting up StackOverflow to pay out real money would replace whatever motivation currently drives many of these people with what effectively amounts to a little beer money. Pretty soon many of these users no longer find sufficient motivation to keep participating and the site suffers.

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+1 Fair and well motivated post. I believe some people would indeed start exhibiting behaviour that could ruin stackoverflow as soon as there's money involved. Maybe some casual contests from time to time (with prizes) could be an alternative ;-) –  ChristopheD Mar 11 '10 at 22:58
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see: eisenberger.psych.udel.edu/files/… its kind of tricky, there are lots of factors. –  waffles Mar 11 '10 at 23:11
    
@waffles - interesting. According to the executive summary, "Reward for exceeding others increased both free choice and self-reported interest." Therefore StackOverflow might not be a bad candidate for a competition-based payout. –  Joel Coehoorn Mar 11 '10 at 23:16
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I tend to agree with Joel C. - keep money out of the community, the danger of poisoning is simply too great. If SO really reaps a notable profit, now or some day, I'd rather like to see some money going into things like what Google do with their Summer of Code, or some high-class, no-bullshit charity project - of course with the SO community having a say in where the money will go to.

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this is an excellent point, and in many ways I want us to operate as a non-profit. Somewhere between Craigslist and Wikipedia on that scale. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 15 '10 at 22:02
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What about some sort of profit sharing at the end of the year? You're not earning income per se and you don't know how much or if you will get anything, but you do receive a nice little gift (or gift certificate) at the end of the year. I know that I've appreciated the T-shirt and stickers. I also just got a gift certificate for helping out the local swim team -- completely unexpected and yet very much appreciated.

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Two words: Stock options. –  mmyers Mar 11 '10 at 23:07
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"I hit 10k on Stack Overflow and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!" has a nice ring to it. –  Ether Mar 11 '10 at 23:59
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"We have lived in this world where little things are done for love and big things for money. Now we have Wikipedia. Suddenly big things can be done for love."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1TZaElTAs

Some money is necessary to achieve this goal, but money is not the goal.

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"money is not the goal." You wash your mouth out! –  Adam Davis Apr 15 '10 at 18:23
    
All of that perl love makes me feel sites.google.com/site/steveyegge2/ancient-languages-perl , since you guys will not be making any money for a while on this adventure I guess this does not really matter ... but I think this question deserves to be asked and answered. –  waffles Apr 15 '10 at 18:51
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Wait until the VCs see that comment. –  Locutus Apr 19 '10 at 21:13
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I earn my living by selling my [old] knowledge. SO already pays me big by helping me replenish exhausted [old] knowledge, which in turn I can sell again.

I don't know if a-few-K-reputation person will agree with that, but IMO the site is a mental exercise - the stream of questions is flexing your jell-o like no daily job would - workout for speed, workout for fun, workout for heavy-lifting - your choice.

Another aspect that pays back big is the collective digestion of sickly complex concepts, that are pumped our way by countless number of employed brainiacs, that, among all the organic joy they get, need to self-justify their paycheck.

Having said that, if we want to spend our hours on SO and get paid, then what we need is an eBay for nerd merchants.

(Legal notice: By writing this herein, I have copy-right-ed this business plan and you're all under ND and non-compete agreements :-) )

(Real legal notice to "legal": I am kidding - please don't ban me from the site)

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I just thought about the concept here. What's clear is that we don't want to give out cash - that seems sleazy.

BUT - perhaps users can, after reaching some rep-level, select tech/office merchandise from a limited selection. Similar to Amazon's wish-list.

If All else fails- SO-swag for 100+ vote questions/answer. We can all appreciate a coffee mug. :-)

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Cha-ching! Sign me up.

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