Praise-based Economy: How Much Are You a Part of It?

applauseI came across this very interesting BusinessWeek article by Stephen Baker last week, which discusses how willing we are to do free work online, without even trying to receive monetary compensation for our efforts. Instead, he argues, we’re looking for different kinds of payback.

The non-monetary rewards most people who do these kinds of things, which include answering questions on Yahoo! Answers and finding weird buys to post to, consist of things that we valued before we valued money, including praise and admiration.

For businesses and institutions hoping to use this massive emerging voluntary force to drive their own goals, the difficulty lies in determining just what it is that’s motivating people, and developing a rewards system accordingly. The difficulty is that much of the reward seems to be community-based, i.e., you contribute because you want to earn the respect of your peers, and to become an authority of sorts on whatever subject you happen to be interested in.

The article got me thinking about web working, and how much work I “give away”, as opposed to how much I receive compensation for.

Part of my work day, everyday, is uncompensated. It involves building my personal brand through any number of activities, including Tweeting, blogging, commenting, and writing for friends’ websites. The idea being, of course, that all of these things represent a certain kind of investment.

But is that really the reason I do these things, or is it just an excuse that makes it seem more reasonable in a money-based society? If I look closer at the sorts of activities I do everyday without expecting any kind of immediate or directly correlated rewards, I’m less sure of my motivations. If I’m honest, many of the things I do, I do to earn the respect of my peers, first and foremost.

There’s no doubt that it also helps build my personal brand, but the point is that that isn’t the driving factor behind it. There’s even a huge chunk of work that I would probably grow tired of if it were compensated monetarily. The dangled carrot of eventual respect is what keeps me at it, and for some projects, there is no better motivator, in my opinion.

How much of your day would say is taken up with uncompensated web work? What do you see as your motivation for doing these things? What do you think about companies trying to capitalize on this kind of labor?

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