I don't feel like "free labor" - but I can see why some people might think that describes me.
In case you missed it, there was an article in Business Week on December 28 titled Will Work for Praise: The Web's Free-Labor Economy.
When I saw this title, I immediately thought of ActiveRain and the hundreds (thousands?) of other businesses that have grown exponentially through "free labor". As the article points out, thousands (millions?) of us invest many hours online, sharing our expertise and experience and/or creating entertainment to build a for-profit business for someone else, without receiving any direct compensation.
The subtitle of the article indicates I was on track with my first impression: "This online business model has Americans happily toiling for attention on for-profit sites that don't pay them money."
Does that describe the body of bloggers on ActiveRain, or what?
In all fairness, ActiveRain DOES actually offer something more than praise - those much-maligned POINTS. A few thousand points and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee, depending on where you buy it. They won't pay any bills, but they do feed our egos. Cough, cough... there's that "praise" concept at work.
But I would suggest that there is a symbiotic relationship between the host and the free labor, at least here on ActiveRain - it's called FREE EXPOSURE for the "uncompensated" laborers.
While the income-producing business certainly benefits from "free labor", many of us have attracted income-producing leads for our business - consumers' direct contacts and referrals from other professionals, probably profiting more than ActiveRain some months. We have honed skills that we didn't even know we needed (free training). We have tech knowledge that puzzles colleagues in our offices (more free training). We have made friends with like-minded people all across America (subscribers, associates, and others whose posts we read and who read ours). We impress our family and friends.
Hey, there's value in that!
I'm happy and don't feel used... do you?
P.S. I've barely touched on the Business Week article, so you might want to check it out. It's an easy read.
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