I use SE and SO a lot. I am so thankful for all the folks who volunteer their time to help me and answer my questions. While I want to, I rarely have time to give back by answering other folks' questions. I feel terribly guilty about this.

I got to thinking, I wouldn't mind paying a membership fee/dues for SE/SO if some of that fee/due went back to the folks who answer questions. Honestly, I wouldn't mind paying $50 USD a month.

I don't know how difficult/complex it would be to set up but I figure the logic would calculate payout based on how many answers you provide that are selected as answers and how many up-votes you get.

Or, if SE/SO tied with some money transfer service so we could quickly "thank" answers by sending them money (how much ever we pick).

I was looking back at all my questions, the answers, and how much time they saved me and I see almost $500 USD value in the collective answers. If there was a way to do it I would gladly pay folks who answered my questions $5 USD for each answer.

marked as duplicate by gnat, rene, Glorfindel, PolyGeo, Ward Nov 24 '17 at 20:24

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  • 2
    Maybe you wouldn't mind paying a membership fee, but I'm sure others would (including me). If you're thankful to people who answer your questions, you can always give them a bounty. It's not money, but reputation is the way to thank people on Stack Exchange. – Donald Duck Nov 24 '17 at 18:32

Right now we have experts who volunteer their time answering questions who would normally charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their professional services. They do this for a variety of reasons - reasons Stack Exchange has engineered in place (prestige, learning, accolades, collecting, etc - human motivation factors are interesting).

The moment we attach a monetary value to questions many, if not most, will have to make a hard decision regarding how they spend their time, and some will leave even though they've been spending hours a week on it for free.

Further, once we tie money to voting, accepted answers, reputation, or any other metric, there will be people around the world working to game the system specifically to extract that money to their account, and no matter how well engineered and "fair" we can make it, there will always be a way to do this that hurts the site as a whole once money is involved.

While the idea is interesting, it's a non starter.

  • "While the idea is interesting ..." Well, if I'd be Joel, I'd consider providing premium services as: 1. Providing a better search engine 2. Providing cherry picked compilations of FAQs (paid for the authors maybe). – user0042 Nov 24 '17 at 20:24

I've heard an adage, variously applied to academia, social clubs, and local politics, that applies here: the reason the politics in $domain are so vicious is that the stakes are so small.

People volunteer their efforts now and are quite happy to do so. If there were significant money involved, a smaller group of "professional answerers" would arise, people who could make a decent living doing this. In between you have income that, while certainly nice to have, doesn't change anything for those people.

Except it does. When you introduce rewards, particularly money, into a volunteer-driven ecosystem, it nudges people to think less in terms of volunteering and more in terms of cost-benefit analysis. And they start to feel entitled -- hey, I answered your question; where's my money? (Never mind that three other people posted the same answer, maybe explaining it better, or never mind that your answer doesn't work or is even spammy.) I don't want SE communities to become ones where the motivations change in this way. The benefits are too small to be worth the negative feelings it would engender in what used to be a group of volunteers working together for rewards no more significant than reputation numbers and badges. (And you see how people can even get cranky about those, and they're not real the way money is!)

I understand the good intent behind your request. Stack Overflow was founded on the idea of people helping people, that those who take also give. You're saying you can't give in answers and you want to give in some other way rather than feeling like you're taking advantage of others' work. That's an admirable goal, but I think we should instead realize that that original SO ideal doesn't always work, that there will always be people who contribute more and people who contribute less, and over the last 9 years we've learned that that's ok.

I've sometimes thought about ways to set up an "SE donations box" that would be used -- by SE -- to do nice things for the communities from time to time, but I've never come up with a workable combination of transparency, perceived fairness, and managability. If you're looking for ways to give back with dollars, maybe you can come up with something along those lines -- community-level, not individual-user-level.

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