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Esther Dyson on the Value of Attention 93

Posted by Zonk
from the best-last-name-ever dept.
Christian Ahlert writes "OpenBusiness talked to Esther Dyson about how business models are adapting to an internet environment that champions openness. Esther's upcoming PC Forum focuses on how users are transforming the internet and placing new demands on businesses. From Open Source to Open Content, new forms of organization, production and distribution are emerging. But how can these ventures produce a revenue and sustain themselves? For how long can we give content away for free?"
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Esther Dyson on the Value of Attention

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  • AttentionMonger (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:47PM (#14770837) Homepage Journal
    What has Esther Dyson ever done, other than be born Freeman Dyson [wikipedia.org]'s daughter and screw up ICANN [google.com]? I guess that resume does make her an expert on the value of attention.
    • Apparently, been so lackluster in the wife department that her husband Miles became a workaholic and founded Skynet.
    • Estie Estie Estie... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @05:06PM (#14771049)
      Two years before ICANN was created word got to me that "If you guys don't straighten out this DNS mess the CIA is gonna send Ester in to fix this".

      Darling Estie never kept any appointment with me and apparantly doesn't read email she responds to. She spammed me for two years before I blacklisted her domain.

      I can't recall being more disappoined in any human I ever wanted to meet. Utterly vacuous. Whatever she says, do the opposite which you probably thought was the right thing to do in the first place.

      Usenet has been providing free answers for a quarter century. What's she up to now? Whatever it is, I promise you she's "invested" in it.

      Anon for a reason. Sorry. I've read Barris' book.

    • Re:AttentionMonger (Score:2, Informative)

      by ThurlMakes7 (937619)
      Um, well ... she once dated to Bill Ziff. Which she then mysteriously dropped [theregister.co.uk] from her resume.

      And I believe she's something [theregister.co.uk] of a space cadet [theregister.co.uk].

      If this Pauline Borsook profile [wired.com] was being written today, Esther wouldn't merit a 100-word sidebar. Old Esthie proves you can be a complete, ditzy bimbo and still get an adulatory press.

  • Free == Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XMilkProject (935232) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:48PM (#14770843) Homepage
    Giving things away for free, in my experience, typically pays you back pretty quickly. And in more ways than just adding points to the great Karma tally in the sky.

    If you make an open source project that gets any sort of attention, you typically find yourself bombarded with job offers and requests for consulting work, which can easily turn into a consulting company, etc, etc.

    Just becuase you give away something for free doesn't mean people want to use it for free, they often will pay a good fee for support, customization, etc.

    • Very true. This can be seen in advertising, where business will 'throw in' something for free just to drive traffic up.

      There is an old parable about a guy who sat his refrigerator on his lawn with a "Take for Free" sign on it. After two weeks, he stuck a "For Sale: $50" sign on it. It was gone the next day.
      • There is an old parable about a guy who sat his refrigerator on his lawn with a "Take for Free" sign on it.

        The parable and the discussion don't really match up very well. In the parable, people don't take the fridge because there might be something wrong with it. After all why else would the guy want to give away his fridge for nothing, unless it was costing more (in terms of taking up space, etc.) to keep it rather than give it away? Once the guy demanded something in return for the fridge, people's

    • ...And people will then give you there attention. Then you can get them to do what you-hold on a moment. I see something shiny. ...Now what was I talking about?
  • by CrunchMaster0 (857982) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:51PM (#14770879)
    More importantly: How did Scotty rig the transporter buffer to save his pattern for so long.
  • Content is king. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigZaphod (12942) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:55PM (#14770915) Homepage
    But not the content that's being given away... That content brings in the users/viewers. The content that makes the money is the meta-content. It's the communities that develop and the loyalties that are created around the free content which bring value to the advertising and site-themed t-shirts and coffee mugs. Take slashdot, for instance.. the real value of slashdot is more in the comments and the community that develops here for each new story than it is in the story itself - at least for those of you reading this comment right now. We could find out the news from tons of places - but the real reason to come here is either habit or for the entertainment found in reading and posting comments. People are valuable and we're seeing a relfection of that happen on the web.
    • if they started a subscription-only business model for slashdot? Even if it was only a dollar a month.
      Within a month all the idiots, trolls, losers, wannabes, time-rich clue-poor teenagers, bored employees, grammer nazis, crapflooders, karma whores, spammers, paranoids, extremists, fanboys and the unclassified braindead would have moved on to the next public forum. The only people left would be a polite community of intelligent and knowledgeable open-minded professionals.

      They would probably all stop reading
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:57PM (#14770947) Journal

    For how long can we give content away for free?

    I hate this question. You might as well ask "For how long can we afford to have sex without charging each other?" or "For how long can we make idle chit chat with random strangers without getting their billing information first?"

    Or how about "How long can the sun shine without protection of its intellectual property?"

    I'm as capitalistic as the next guy, but capitalism is a specific mechanism to resolve a certain specific class of problems in an efficient manner. It is not some universal mandate, and there's no reason to suspect that it imposes any sorts of limits on conduct that isn't covered by the model.

    --MarkusQ

    P.S. Please respond with your credit card numbers so I can bill you for spouting off. I've gotta eat, you know.

  • good for most (Score:3, Insightful)

    by goldfita (953969) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @04:59PM (#14770969) Homepage
    Freedom and openness is good for almost everyone except maybe the middlemen (publishers, RIAA, etc.). The web has flourished under the free content paradigm. Could you imagine if you had to pay for everything (email, search, maps, news, and so on)? Who could afford it?

    Many businesses have proven they can make money this way. Others may still have to prove themselves. But it works! There are many ways to generate cash flow - ad revenues, consulting, sale of related items. I think if you offer a service of value to people or valuable content, you can find a way to earn money.
    • by TrueJim (107565)
      This is a good point. A friend of mine says that you know you've done "eBusiness" not just when you've put stuff online, but when you've changed who has the power. For example, before online car shopping, car dealers had all the power: they knew how much any specific new or used car was really worth on the market, but as a consumer you had no easy way to come up with that same information. eBusiness changed that: consumers now have that same power. Currently we can see that eBusiness is finally "happeni
  • How timely: Jason on YouTube [calacanis.com]. How do they pay for bandwidth? Beats me!
  • by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelina ... GERcom minus cat> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @05:03PM (#14771007) Journal
    ED: "One of the key questions, however, is sustainability. If some content creation depends on patronage or philanthropy how can sustainability be achieved? Many of the models we see are such short-term focused and this is what needs to be tackled. In particular philanthropic giving in this area needs to think harder about sustainability."

    [...]

    ED: "Yes, I agree, but this might point to an old fashioned concept: state funding. In particular in areas of such strategic and social importance as education in a country like South Africa. I don't think the Internet is a good medium for education, though it is a good tool. Education is a process; it's not content. Even though involving the internet to produce and disseminate content sharply reduces costs, there is still the need for quality assurance and costs of maintaining such a service. And in many regards state funding might the most appropriate way for achieving that such a service can be maintained at low costs."

    I don't have a problem with state funding per se, but I fail to see how a state funded project could in any way be deemed: FREE. Perhaps free speech, but certainly not free beer.
  • I'm never surprised by how little I learn from reading her thoughts.

    There was nothing there!

    She gets paid for this?

    Who learned anything that wasn't already obvious? Come on, lets hear it!

    BWilde
  • Yeah, yeah. That's great and all .. but what does this have to do with vacuums?
  • Good luck. (Score:3, Funny)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @05:16PM (#14771132) Homepage
    They're gonna be in for a surprise if they try to start charging ME for content. I'm so cheap, I don't even pay attention.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @05:16PM (#14771133) Homepage Journal
    thinks outsourcing is good for America.

    Sometimes, you have loony people.

    Sometimes, you have intelligent people.

    Sometimes, and far worse, you have intelligent people who can't understand consequences of loony ideas but are very good at pushing out enough frak that noone understands they're really loony people.

    Sadly, Dyson's in the third category.
    • intelligent people who can't understand consequences of loony ideas but are very good at pushing out enough frak that noone understands they're really loony people---eg, Americans.
      • intelligent people who can't understand consequences of loony ideas but are very good at pushing out enough frak that noone understands they're really loony people---eg, Americans.

        No, Red State Red Commie Bushies. Most of us never voted for King George and his Red China Comrades.
  • by maillemaker (924053) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @05:37PM (#14771340)
    Clearly most people have no problems copying digital content. Consequently, digital content is quickly becoming worthless - you can't sell it if everyone can get it for free.

    I think in the very near future people are going to give up trying to get people to pay for it, and instead use it as "bait" to get people to visit regular content outlets, where they can be exposed to advertisements for "real" (non-digitial) products.

    Digital content will continue to be the "free coffee" from TFA.

    Steve

  • ...to sell infinitely reproducible information at a profit?

    Would it be worth making every piece of film, art, music, literature, and software available to every human being on Earth if it meant that there could no longer be a profitable industry in any of those fields?

    It would mean no more MPAA, and no more Matrix. No more RIAA, and no more "getting discovered." No more $800 Photoshop, and no more app developer market. No more IP lawyers, and no more living off of your art. What if you could press a b
    • It would mean no more MPAA, and no more Matrix. No more RIAA, and no more "getting discovered." No more $800 Photoshop, and no more app developer market. No more IP lawyers, and no more living off of your art. What if you could press a button and choose one or the other?

      You are blurring the lines a little here. Sure, the MPAA, RIAA and many high dollar entertainment values would dissappear. That does not mean that there would be no more Photoshop and no more app developer market. Software products can
      • You are blurring the lines a little here. Sure, the MPAA, RIAA and many high dollar entertainment values would dissappear. That does not mean that there would be no more Photoshop and no more app developer market. Software products can generate revenue from support and timely updates. Look at Red Hat or IBM. Their revenue stream is primarily support and consulting.

        But how many digital products are so complicated they require support? Not many. Updates can be copied just like the original content.

        Pho
    • Would it be worth making every piece of film, art, music, literature, and software available to every human being on Earth if it meant that there could no longer be a profitable industry in any of those fields? It would mean no more MPAA, and no more Matrix. No more RIAA, and no more "getting discovered." No more $800 Photoshop, and no more app developer market. No more IP lawyers, and no more living off of your art.

      It would not mean the end of the app developer market or the end of living off your art.

    • ...to sell infinitely reproducible information at a profit?

      Would it be worth making every piece of film, art, music, literature, and software available to every human being on Earth if it meant that there could no longer be a profitable industry in any of those fields?

      It would mean no more MPAA, and no more Matrix. No more RIAA, and no more "getting discovered." No more $800 Photoshop, and no more app developer market. No more IP lawyers, and no more living off of your art. What if you could press a b
  • Hello Everybody (Score:2, Informative)

    by caffeination (947825)
    Maddox [xmission.com] has managed it for more than five years now because "giving away content" wasn't his source of income. Now he's set to make a boatload of cash from various ventures including a book and a comic.
    See also every commercial webcomic. Some go for a pure related-merchandise-for-sale approach, such as ctrl alt del [ctrlaltdel-online.com], others push a little harder, like questionablecontent [questionablecontent.net] selling clothes that appear in comics.
    And if your site doesn't fit into an easy category for making money, but does have traffic, I have th
  • I dont think the popularity of the open business model should be attributed to philanthropy. It is mostly being used by small companies to build a customer base ( which would be difficult otherwise due to presence of 'big' players ). So, in a way these are 'disruptive' technologies.
  • Forever. So long as there are people there is art. Payment doesn't matter.
  • Actually, I do... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @07:52PM (#14772515) Homepage Journal

    From the article:

    You don't go there because the beer tastes different than from in the bar next door, but because of the people who are there...

    Actually, I do choose the bar based on the quality of the brew. I'm not about to drink some American Mega-Swill just so I can have a chat with the local drunks.

    But, given the writing, it is clear the author thinks us just a bunch of drunken idiots anyway. Anyone who thinks everything worthwhile can be - or has to be - bought has nothing worth anything.

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @08:01PM (#14772600)
    Here's a clue:

    Guess what? It's NOT sustainable. The economy is a top-heavy joke which does not respect Mamma Nature, and as a result, has no choice but to fail spectacularly. --And while it is the engine of greed and control which is speeding this destruction along, some of the unraveling is partly due to the fact that communities have come together to share stuff openly for, oooh, F*R*E*E.

    Sure, when the economy crashes, we won't be able to buy things with dollars. (Or rather, with plastic credit/debit cards.) We won't be able to pay rent or buy gas for our cars or go to the grocery store. Horrors! We'll all be broke and the whole world will look like it's crashing down, and it will be.

    But. . . When the dust settles, if you want to eat or have somewhere to live, you'll only manage it if you have strong ties to your community. People will have to learn how to take care of each other without the 'aid' of being plugged into the economy. The economy is doomed regardless of how many copies of GIMP are given away. There are larger forces at work than open sourcers and video pirates. But while those larger forces will crumble and fall without their artificial money structure, the communities which learned how to share will survive and thrive.

    Interesting, no?


    -FL

    • Marx thought of all that way back in the age of the steam engine.
    • The idea that economies will collapse is just naive. Market economies are responsive, not restrictive.

      The idea that people sharing content is going to lead to noone being able to pay their rent is stupid.

      The only way the economy will "crumble" into a cloud of dust is for everyone to burn all their money all at once and decide that everything is going to be given away.

      Yeah, that'll happen.

      • The idea that economies will collapse is just naive. Market economies are responsive, not restrictive.

        Responsive? They sure are! --And the collapse of the 20's was one helluva response. It can 'respond' again with similar verve.

        The only way the economy will "crumble" into a cloud of dust is for everyone to burn all their money all at once and decide that everything is going to be given away.

        Or. . , all of Europe and Asia might switch their reserve currencies; dumping their dollars in favor of the Euro.
    • you mention some interesting things, but you're not quite there yet.

      consider the fact that the lower classes were always useful in the past, either to harvest crops or do building work or fight in the military. because of this, they always received a certain minimum of respect and protection from the upper class. now we have a system where the working class is getting increasingly less important, due to outsourcing and globalisation. crops are harvested using large machines, workers at building projects ar

  • As long as software for communicating, collaborating, organizing data, and organizing ourselves gets better, we're going to see more and more things go "free."

    Think this way: Wikipedia couldn't exist, before you had the wiki basis software. Theoretically, you could do it by emailing documents back and forth, over and over again. But practically? Not going to happen.

    So it's the wiki software that makes Wikipedia plausible.

    The thing is, we're continuing to make more and more software the likes of Wiki. We're

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