Online volunteer work

Volunteers running our favorite groups on Facebook, Reddit, Nextdoor, and Discord are all between being part of an important online community and the confusing gatherings that call their names. Can make a difference.

A new study that tried to put dollar numbers in this job wanted to explore two questions: why do those internet community leaders need to work for free? And does it make sense for all of us to basically donate tweets, Yelp reviews, and Facebook posts to rich internet companies?

The first question convinced me that the best way to support leaders in the online community is not as simple as I first thought: Internet companies should pay them directly. But it is worth discussing somehow fair rewards.

You can benefit from expressing your thoughts online, connecting with others, and sharing feedback, but still consider whether this is a fair deal.Our post that is It’s a product for internet companies, and you probably won’t build a car for Ford as an unpaid volunteer.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the research I mentioned.

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have used a new method to track some of the activities of the self-appointed moderators who lead Subreddit. The Reddit Forum was organized around topics such as breastfeeding, financial planning, and carp ponds. Scholars estimate that the group’s supervisors do at least $ 3.4 million worth of unpaid work each year. Researchers said it was about 3 percent of one estimate of Reddit’s revenue from advertising in 2019.

(You can still read the research paper in its early form here When here..Northwest wrap up Main survey results. )

If it was split among thousands of subreddits, it wouldn’t be a lot of money. However, researchers emphasized that their estimates are very conservative. As people make more money on every website they spend their time hosting an online community, there are still many free and often overlooked labors that are essential to an online experience.

“We want people to understand that the discussion about Reddit isn’t just about coming up, because these moderators are working to actively form a community. “Hanlin Lee, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University who led the study, said. “This is a lot of effort to subsidize Reddit.”

Li and others I talked to also said that there is no easy answer to all of this volunteer activity that is revitalizing the Internet. If people who oversee your favorite gardening groups on Reddit or Facebook get paid from those companies or herbicide makers, the group may feel like a for-profit company rather than a voluntary community.

Paying for volunteers can also undermine trust in the online community. This is a strongly endorsed view among veteran online group leaders, including Kate Bilowitz, one of the founders of a Facebook group called VaccineTalk that I wrote last year.

However, Bilowitz, Li, and other experts emphasized that there may be other ways to reward online group leaders. For example, Bilowitz recently found that Vaccine Talk admins are tricky between legitimate conversations on sensitive topics such as vaccination and Facebook guidelines considering false health information. I told me that I wanted to have a direct communication channel with Meta personnel in order to hash the call for judgment.

“Honestly, considering how stressful it is to deal with ever-changing guidelines, it’s almost as valuable as money,” Bilovitz said.

One goal of this study, Li and another collaborator, Stevie Chancellor, is to give people who run online groups what Internet companies like Reddit want to hear more about their needs and group leaders. He said it was to give the bargaining power to demand a lot of technical work and policy dedication. ..

Reddit said it tailored the product to the needs of Subreddit leaders. However, Reddit group moderators said last year that some of the company’s software was inadequate and group leaders considered paying for customized technology to track problematic online posts. rice field.

Finding ways to reward volunteer online community managers will improve our online community and benefit internet companies as well.

Li and her collaborators also used their research as a starting point to rethink all the ways we work more and more without the salaries of tech companies.

Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and Rotten Tomatoes would be their own shell without our posts and reviews. This is the fuel for businesses to make money through advertising. Our posts and other digital flow sums are feeds for training valuable computer systems, such as GPT-3 technology, which “learns” to write like humans by capturing billions of words online. But there is also.

We’re used to more and more ways to work online for free, but maybe we shouldn’t.

“If we were volunteering at a food bank and the food bank was cashing out our volunteer time, I don’t think people would come back,” Lee said.

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