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Information Exchange Programs 91

I've been playing with Infomarco, a cool site which lets you play around with infodollars to buy and sell information. Eventually, they will be using real money, but one of the cooler features is the ability to put answers under the GPL. Questions can be from computer-related to sports. However, my question is - Do you folks think this is the future? Is this the way we will do information exchange?
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Information Exchange Programs

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  • First, I want to state openly that I am involved with one of the companies in this space (Giff Constable, CEO of Ithority), although this posting is not intended as a plug.

    These exchanges are not trying to subvert open and free information exchange on the web, but to provide a new alternative for efficiently getting information/advice. Several of the posts here are correct in linking these markets to consulting -- these are essentially markets for micro-services, which is something that has never really existed before. If you are willing to pay a consultant, why not be willing to pay an expert for taking the time to help you? To those that find commercialism crass, this may be an appalling concept, but to many of us these days (for better or for worse), time is money. The thing to remember is that there are as many questions to ask as thoughts to think and there will be no single way of getting answers.

    When you needed help before these new markets, you could ask a friend, find it for free on the web, talk to a customer support line, or hire a consultant, (the latter usually came with a high price tag and a longer-term involvement). The search engines break once you get beyond simple questions because web content, for all that is out there, still ends up being highly generic. Newsgroups often don't work because you cannot qualify who you are dealing with (there are no reputation or social networking mechanisms), and because many things cannot be answered efficiently online - a phone call is better. There are also whole hosts of areas where newsgroup participation is light and more noise than content.

    In Snowcrash, people were paid for useful uploaded information. AI was at a point where information filtering had become efficient (although I don't remember Stephenson addressing the issue of qualification of the news source). But uploaded information is still static content and hence generic. The new "information markets" are trying to solve the problem you face when you need to talk to another human being (let's say you want to run your retirement planning by an expert). What computer is the most efficient natural language processor and custom problem solver? The brain in each of the 6 billion people on this planet.

    Information and knowledge (two separate things) now drive the world. These markets have added a new tool for getting answers/advice/help (or making money off of what you know). Like your toolbox, when you have a problem to be solved, you should pick the tool that fits your efficiency/cost/effort desires. As several have written here, one of the challenges the players in this space face is coming up with workable reputation mechanisms and easy, efficient rules for buyer/seller interaction.

    Giff Constable,

  • Nope - I just like it. And I did warn them. I don't post about stuff that I get paid from. Mostly because I'm not paid by anyone. :)
  • This company sounds like they went one step furhter than the much hyped []. Epinions lets you review things, but people can't later ask questions about the review. will probably move into the reviews realm I would guess once they are fully operational. I am glad to see this kind of competition.
    One question though: Can you answer a question that hasn't yet been asked? That would be a cool idea but it seems as if there site only lets you answer "asked" questions.
    -Just my $.02,
  • If you go to Experts Exchange, be sure to check out They're quite similar except KnowPost covers a lot more topics and it also has alot of traffic these days.
  • Man, the whole GPL thing seems like such a gimmick to attract exactly this kind of attention. Personally, I like KnowPost much better. There's a much better community over there and it doesn't seem so gimmicky. (Check it out at
  • Wow, I was just about to post a similar comment about SnowCrash and the CIC. Actually, I was thinking of start a web venture that does the same thing as the CIC, and seeing that this company really doesnt do the same thing, I still might. The big difference it looks like is that this company is primarily like questionexchange and such. People ask questions,etc.. and get paid if someone buys it. Primarily in the computer sector. The CIC in Snowcrash delt in literally all forms of information, but primarily in 'intel' in the sense of CIA type intelligence.
  • This is a pretty neat idea, but how different is it from the company -- consultant idea? It's FAR farer-reaching (if such a word exists) than you can get in person, and that makes it super-cool, but .

    Personally I think I'd only ask questions on there that I could not find out conventionally. To wit... I still trust people I know far more than people who profess to be experts on some web site somewhere.

    Another problem I found just from going through the site quickly... several of the questions are far too vague to warrant a paid answer. How does the answerer ask a question without charging?
  • WWW.EXP.COM [] has been up as the central web site for information exchange and services for some time already. It has cool features like a public bulletin board for experts to bid for services and the support for private negotation and delivery of services between experts and clients. This is definitely the future of the information economy where you can provide your expertises to clients worldwide.
  • The current solution for verifying the quality of information for any source is to find cooberating sources. If every book in the library says an endoplasmic reticulum is a squishy ended lemur, you'll have to do your own research to prove them wrong. The same thing applies to infomarco and is dealt with in Stephenson's Snow Crash. In his fictional CIC, a search would turn up answers and information from a variety of sources, you would buy the information based on the "track record" of those sources. Obviously a famous surgeon or physicist is going to have a powerful advantage over a grad student in that market. A well funded search could pull together arguments from many people, rate them by how well they've been known to do in the past and weight the results accordingly. Your argument is valid in the short term. The idea has a lot of growing up to do.
  • I agree with you somewhat in theory but disagree with you strongly in practice. In a fair world ideas would propogate based on trust. I come up with an idea, most likely while being payed by my employer and they make use of it to build some product which is differentiated from the products of other similar companies. It runs faster, uses less power, is more reliable or some other metric as a result of the innovation. I trust that my employer will compensate me for innovation, if not I change jobs. My employer trusts that the rest of the market will come up with their own innovations, maybe even similar ones and build their own product. Consumers choose whichever product meets their needs the best and most efficiently. I'm most familiar with intellectual property with regards to integrated circuits.

    In reality other companies find it cheaper to steal information rather than innovate it. They do it by contracting services that reverse engineer ASICs by basically disassembling them among other means including espionage. Without some mechanism for protecting intellectual property innovative companies would be completely at the mercy of companies that take the more cost effective method of stealing ideas.

    This is where patents come in. A patent is (or at least should be) a notarized very in depth and accurate documentation of an innovation and how it is innovative. Patents shouldn't preclude competition since its perfectly applicable to patent an improvement over a preceding patent.

    Where the problem comes in, especially with software patents, are loosely worded patents. An example of this is patenting clicking a mouse to reach an advertiser or embedded banner adds.

    Forcing all knowledge to be placed in a common pool for the good of all is no more right or wrong than placing all property in a common pool for the good of mankind. This has been a political system in the past and still is in many places. Unfortunately corruption usually destroys what is otherwise a good idea.

    There's some 200 years of evidence that the protection of intellectual property has helped society but little if any to prove the other side of the coin. Without protection most companies would find little benefit in innovating since its difficult to value what others can freely take.

    Contrast the length of time it took to create a really free operating system to the commercial competitors.
  • Are you being paid to manage the beta test of this thing or what?

    Have you warned them that it's been posted here?

    I think that in future people should be warned when they are going to get the /. effect in full force - just out of common politeness.

    Still, great concept and a great site. I shall imediatly register and sell the contents of my brain to the highest bidder. This won't nett me much though so I will probably continue with my multi-national arms and drug business.
  • No worries man. Keep up the great work that you and the /. guys do.
  • These guys should check out - this has been going for at least a couple of years and has *the traffic*.

    Wading through those empty categories at infomarco with just the whistling wind and the odd tumbleweed gave me the spooks.

    I see rich patent lawyers.

  • This gives a whole new meaning to the expression "Just my 2 cents"...
  • Even if you offer your answer for $0, they still take a cut from the buyer.

    From their terms of service:

    The Basic Fee for the Information Market Service will be $1.00 + 20% of the answer price agreed upon by the Questioner and Answerer.

    So they'd still get a buck off your "free" answer. I agree with some of the previous posts. This looks like nothing more than an attempt to turn a previously free medium into a profit making venture. Will it work? Only time will tell.

  • Hmm there's a very similar site called ExpertCentral [] that has about the same idea (users answer users' questions) with the option to ask for a fee for the advice given.
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 )
    I already copyrighted the idea of bad jokes... you owe me $0.73 for that infraction. Please send a check or money order to:

    Signal 11
    0F 3A SIGSEGV Lane
    Silicon Lane, CPU 01101


  • Pfft. That just shows what you know. In five years time they'll have disk drives the size of washing machines, a new kind of space age cereal that doesn't turn soggy when you put it in milk, and slashdot will still be slow! The MS Campus will be squashed by a asteroid of unknown origin that is shaped like a penguin in mid 2003. Bill Gates' home will short out and electrocute him when his server farm of NT servers running the place all BSOD at once. Linus Torvalds will be president, the first system ever to boot up on the moon will be linux where Slash2000 will broadcast live at 296 bytes/second (stalled). Oh yeah.. and vi will be the word processor of choice.



  • If we gave power back to the people to recognize this, to act together to stop it, the tidal forces of change would rip through this country the likes of which haven't been seen since the Civil War. That is the power of information.

    Are you referring to how the Civil War changed lots of living people into dead people?

    Anyway, almost sounds to me like you're proposing anarchy, or a form thereof. Informational Anarchy. Let everyone get anything they want whenever they want it. Let the people control the media, let the people disseminate the information. Isn't that kind of the principle of the Internet, or at least what it's become? That's what I like about it anyway. I don't have to go to a certain place for info.

    I dunno, but it seems like this is just a way to make money. I mean, if I want to find some info, I go to [] (and now, if I want weather too). If I can't find it there, then I go to Yahoo. If I can't find it there... Well I dunno, I've never gotten as far as Yahoo.

    If they were really interested in spreading information, they'd have a public question-answer forum or something... This is either a brilliant way to get gullible people to reward greedy people, or an interesting but flawed way to try and get around the trick that anyone can post info on the net and present it as fact.

    Oh well, Altavista for me.


  • I'd just like to mention that not everything can be copyrighted.
    Facts can not be copyrightd. .. like : "the 49'ers won the superbowl last night."
    Of course; they didn't, but if they had done it, the fact that they won, could not be copyrighted.
  • Ok.. so the term "fact" is perhaps not very well defined, but I hope you see my point.
    (Point: Not everything can be copyrighted)

    It really bugs me that there are so many stupid people out there, that think they can make money out of everything. People suck.
  • Information is the one thing I'm good at. I sit at work and watch people make money arranging deals, managing other people's stuff and I ask why I can't make a little money by knowing something rather than someone. If this system values me for my ability to find information, then I'm all for it ('cause G-d knows I'm not valued at the moment).
  • He's still got the right intentions. Whatever happened to helping others out of the kindness of ones heart?
    The kindness of one's heart and an empty sack is worth the sack.

    Seriously, I have to eat - would you rather I made money by informing people or by selling them stuff they don't want?

  • it would be even more fun devising an agent that would look for questions on these sites, then search the web/usenet/etc for answers, reword the answers and post them up for some cash, while the agent author is busy playing Quake
    A well-tuned agent is a valuable thing. If you have the ability to produce such a bot then you deserve to benefit from it. Sounds like a plan to me...
  • I've seen plenty of "there's other stuff like this" posts, but does anyone actually make a decent amount of money in this fashion?
  • I've started adding the following to my informative posts on Usenet;
    This is a Careware message. You are allowed to use this information freely for 28 days. If you still wish to use this information after 28 days you must give a donation to SETI@home -
    It's partially humour, partially serious. (SETI@home could do with the funding.)

    My problem with making this a commercial venture is that there's no way I know of for an individual to easily collect micropayments.

    Does anyone know of a way for people to pay you sub-dollar amounts without costing more in overheads?

  • I think that there will always continue to be two broad categories of information services -- information which is sold, and information which is shared freely.

    Commercial institutions (companies) rarely want answers. What they want is the ability to shift blame from themselves to someone else. So they'll prefer to pay for "safe" answers which come with some sort of guarantee of correctness (or at least a perceived guarantee of correctness -- e.g., advice from IBM about RS/6000 hardware is going to be taken as gospel even if it comes from the sales department).

    And yeah, I thought of Snow Crash too.

    But most of the people reading this forum, I think, are going to fit more comfortably in the other category -- those of us who share information freely. I like helping people with Unix/Linux questions -- I do so on Usenet, mailing lists and IRC (depending on mood). I don't want to get paid for this; it would feel too much like prostitution.

    So, no, I don't think that formalized, subscription-based information services are going to take over any time soon. They may rise in popularity as commercial interests become more network-savvy, but I still think that traditional sharing is going to be the major source of most technical information.

    (For the purposes of this article, I'm ignoring formal education and books.)

  • If you get your questions in quickly then all the knowledgable people checking out the site will have them answered in no time! After all, everyone will look at their areas of expertise before their areas of interest. This is provided the server stays up, of course. :)

  • by Sebbo ( 28048 )
    For the life of me, I do not know what to tell this guy to earn my 411 infodollars. Would someone who's feeling a little more eloquent care to have a go?

    Beat ing Children []

    Dear god, I hope he's kidding
  • will infomarco be scanning their archives to verify the submitted evidence?

    I'd restate that: How does the consumer evaluate the quality of the answer he will be paying for? Not every question has a verifiable right or wrong answer. Sometimes you're looking for the best answer -- or at least a better than average answer. The only way most consumers have to verify the quality of an answer is to turn to a trusted source.

    I don't think an information market like this will replace the long-used system of brand names with track records.

  • I haven't studied it carefully, but I hope it is set up so that no actual $$$ has to change hands, but rather people get "points" from other people by answering their questions and it becomes a type of distributed bartering system (tax free!). The use of real $$$ should be an option for those with no "points" to barter with.
  • Whether or not the cost is substantial, the very act of making a receiver of information pay for that information means that the recipient will start to think really hard about whether that information is needed.

    I think the site does have potential because there are a lot of people who don't have the time to scan usenet or find the appropriate place on the internet. These people will pay a little $ for a quick and easy answer. There will be people willing to take their money and provide an answer. For everyone else, the answers elsewhere on the internet and usenet will still be free. The only sticky problem here is how to objectively determine if an answer is good enough to deserve payment or not. If the answer is very suboptimal (one that the asking party had already thought of), do you still have to pay?

  • There is only one way to get me to pay for information.

    First, I need to be able to perform a boolean logic query of the database of past answers. If my query returns nothing, then I need to be allowed to post a question with a guarantee of a response within a timeframe that I select.

    Next, you have to make me pay before I read the information. It may be unethical, but I will not pay after I have read the info. Therefore, to get me to pay, I *need* to know that the content is pertinant and valuable to me. That only comes from me trusting the content provider for quality.

    A service like this is possible, but building trust in the quality of content is the hardest part.
  • If you have read the Cathedral and the Bazaar, the general idea here should be familiar. Eric S. Raymond says that every bug is trivial to somebody. He also thinks that every other kind of question is trivial to somebody, the trick is just finding the right somebody. Eric is on the board of Information Markets Corp., which created "infomarco".

    The site hooks up people who have questions with people who have answers, for money. You set your own price, and you own your own answer. As Hemos points out, you can even GPL it if you want to.

    The Software and Information Industry Association calls this one of the 28 "most exciting" companies for the year 2000.

    It does not cost anything to registe r as an expert, [] and people who sign up early will be eligible for all kinds of cash and other good things when the company's marketing efforts start in a few weeks.

  • One of our team attended Ted Nelson's end-of-year party last year, and several people actually posited this use for infomarkets.

    They figure you post the joke for free, and the punchline for money.

  • It'd be easier to get rid of patents entirely than it would be to reform them so that they worked properly.

    Also, I wasn't saying that information should be forced in to a common, public pool - I just said that once information has been released, it's lame to use law and contracts to prevent it from spreading.

  • Information wants to be free for the same reasons software wants to be free. It's free to reproduce, and there is no reason to artificially prevent it from being reproduced.

    People can charge money for the information to begin with, but once I have a copy of a piece of data, I will not conspire to ensure anyone's monopoly on that data... I will happily give copies of any data that I have to anyone I feel like giving the data to.

    If you don't want others to have data... then don't give it to them. Once you have given the data away, you no longer control it.

  • IMHO, this is nothing more than the commercialization of Usenet and various mailing lists. What was once free through altruism will now cost you.

    How many times have you gone to newsgroups and mailing lists to find the answers you need to technical problems? Answers posted for free. I've posted answers free myself, knowing that at sometime in the future I'll have a question that hopefully someone will answer. It's like a global stew of info that everyone can contribute to and take from.

    I don't view this as a step forward but a step backward. I know that you can GPL your answer, but think of the temptation to charge for your answer that many people (who would otherwise post the answers for free on a mailing list or newsgroup) will succumb to.

    Money, money, money....
  • HotDispatch [] has a similar program trading technical support, currently restricted to Linux and Java. I earned $50 of real money for not too much effort in the beta program. It rocks! :-)

  • All his points may not be valid, BUT...

    He's still got the right intentions. Whatever happened to helping others out of the kindness of ones heart?

    If you're in a position to help someone and it doesn't cost you anything but a little bit of intellectual effort, why not do it for free?

    Yeah, it'd be nice to be paid...but frankly I'd rather know that there's one more slightly less ignorant person out there in the world than have a couple of bucks. And hopefully your favor may be returned at some point in the future.
  • Let's see...
    Could I ask, "What exactly would the code for a full blown ecommerce system, written in, say, Java, look like?"

    Or, how about a perfect crypto system?

    Now that would be cool!

    ESR says every question is trivial to someone..... in that case, can anyone out there tell me how to achieve warp speed?

    I don't see how this is any different than newsgroups, except someone wants to make a buck. I like to think the information age will lead us into a new kind of economy. Maybe not a gift economy, but something like it. Of course, I'm an idealistic wacko....
  • "No matter what you call it - censorship, intellectual property, copyright, infodollars... it all points to the same thing - disadvantaging one group to advantage another group."

    In uncoerced trade, both groups gain. The case of a trade involving information is no different.

    To say a man has a "right" to free information, means that he gets to rob another man of hard-earned knowledge. In a free trade, both parties find satisfaction.

    Please keep in mind that the form of payment for information doesn't have to be monetary. Think of opensource software: the payment to the software-writer is often in terms of bragging rights, among other things. So you see it is fruitless to compare opensource software to information plunder.
  • You've got that one drive conflict with a recently installed hard drive on the new server that has to go up NOW or the e-commerce site crashes. You offer $500, set a time limit of 45 minutes. The company reimburses you. Boom.
  • Something about this site doesn't seem to be in the 'spirit' of anything that the originators of the Web and the Internet originally intended. And it makes me a little sad really to see this kind of crass commercialization, the ebay-ification of knowledge appear. Very specialized knowledge is power and as such will be tradeable, but the kinds of things that this page will be used for seems to me to be more directed at answering homework problems for rich college students. I won't be participating in it - for I agree with the other posts that this is just a newsgroup for $$$ scheme. I regularly answer questions about web development, javascript, and such on newsgroups as a way to give back to a forum that helped me learn so much in the beginning. If that service had cost me everytime I got an answer I wouldn't have been able to develop some of the educational sites that i've made to this date.
  • This is mainly a forum to pose questions, the answers entering a database. Apart from the difficulties of evaluating answers ($5000000 for an answer to "How do i cast a long to a string?") there will also be a need of categorizing and evaluating questions (where to put "I'm thinking about joining a pyramid scheme. How can I tell which Ponzi scam is right for me?"). Often the problem begins with posing the right questions.

    Also much of what this site has to offer is already present: the huge, admittedly unorganized, pool of information represented in the WWW can be accessed via searchengines, newsgroups present a forum for posing questions, and sites such as Slashdot where people with common interests can exchange information/opinions.

    At the moment there is more likely an excess of information and a need to organize and evaluate what's present. This will become apparent for infomarkets very soon, when the number of questions becomes larger and the answers have to be handpicked from the garbage.

    Hence I think, what is needed are programs evaluating/categorizing information. In the future probably everybody will have a personalized knowledgebase to match and evaluate newsitems against and maybe there are moderation systems like on Slashdot. (I think David Brin described such a system in "Earth".) So everyone may get his personalized "paper" with his "preferred" news.

    Archieving and categorizing this news will soon accumulate a huge knowledge base, where the main problem is probably to find that item of interest matching a specific question. Matches against knowledgebases and advanced patternsearching are solutions already present.

    So i think the infomarkets forum is at the moment, if not superfluous, used for the wrong kind of questions, questions for which answers are already present and can easily be found.

    The most 'expensive' questions on the other hand are probably to be handled confidentially, i.e. the question might be already a giveaway of a new technology to be investigated/exploited, or an answer might only be accessible by illegal means (corporate secrets). Obviously there is a market for 'private investigators', but that cannot be realized on infomarkets.
  • I'd say this site looks to be _less_ useful than deja, or even Usenet/mailing lists in general. One of the biggest advantages those techniques have is the ability to have conversations. This site looks more like ask-a-single-question, get-an-answer. Fine, if that's what you need. I don't always know what _question_ to ask, and those other forums give me the opportunity to find out. They also do it for free (generally), and by people who are there for love of the topic, rather than a board of self-registered experts. I don't think this is a service I would want to use.
  • I don't think that information should be free. Information should be cheap.

    Everybody I know who is worth their weight in dog doo doo, is willing to give away some amount of their knowledge and expertise for free. However, there are limits. How many times has some newbie asked a really obvious question to you? How many times have you said, "Read the damn FAQ!"? There aren't many of us who will continue to put up with it for that long.

    Having free information makes the experts answer a few questions and move on. If I had $.50 for everytime I've pointed somebody to the FAQ, I think I would enjoy doing it a lot more. ;-)

    On the other hand, how many times have you tried to do something on your computer but not be able to do it because you couldn't figure it out. You then search the web and find nothing because you don't know the right keywords, you ask a few people you know but they don't know either, and you get frustrated. Sometimes I know that the answer is out there and 100s have done what I'm doing before me, but I can't get it. At such a point, it would definitly be worth a couple of bucks to stop wasting my time and pay somebody to help me out.

    I think this site is a novel idea. If you want to answer questions for free go ahead. I'll bet that many people do that. But, I'll bet you stick around and answer a lot more questions if you get a little back from it. Lets face it, if somebody is willing to pay, then you know that they really want the answer and arn't just wasting your time.

    It reminds me of when my grandfather got a computer. He didn't even hesitate to have somebody from the comuputer shop come to his house and show him around on his new toy for a fee. As far as he was concerned, it saved him a ton of time. My grandfather hates using search engines, he wants a real person to ask. There are lots of people out there like my grandfather.

    It seems to me that this type of (can i say auctioning?) of info, is about the best way I can think of to get lots of info out there at a fair price. (And that means cheaply, but mostly not free!!)

  • And Kaa's point is merely that things are better. The fact that a forum such as Slashdot has done so well, is a testament to this.

    Yet, even on Slashdot, you have a capitalist structure. Yes, the majority of posters do genuinely wish to help others... but I bet a lot of us are also spurred by karma. I know that I am more likely to post somewhat intelligent comments because I like the idea of having a high karma. We like our rewards... there is no denying it.

    Though that still does not stop me from changing my sig, which has pissed off a few of the moderators lacking a sense of humor... ah well.
  • Why should we deny ourselves access to this?
    Offer your answers for $0.00, then.

    That's what I sometimes do in various forums, like newsgroups, mailing lists, and Slashdot.

    I may consider to do the same with Infomarco, if their site ever takes off. For the time being they have only a dozen or so questions, most are lame.

  • There's a "message" field that you are supposed to fill with a shameless plug (I am a VC++ 6.0 expert! Give me your hard-earned $2399.99, and I'll tell you how to convert a long to a string!). Put your answer there instead. If the answer is too long, put a URL.

    When they kick you out, register again. Hoopla! A promising business model ruined by rabid Open Knowledge(tm) advocates!

  • Information is a commodity. It is not free to produce. Considerable effort goes into researching, analyzing and synthesizing information into useful knowledge. Entire classes of people make all or part of their living by doing this. For example, doctors, lawyers and teachers. If we could not charge a fee for the production and dissemination of information, these professions would be unviable, yet they are essential and many information-producing professions are regarded quite highly in society.

    There's also the "free" as in "Free Software" meaning, which is that information should not be proprietary. This would also be a mistake. There is lots of information that you have that you probably want to keep proprietary. I won't publish information about my finanical or medical status, my social insurance or credit card numbers and so forth, because, as you say, knowledge is power, and it's not the sort of power I want others to have. When I do disclose this information, I retain proprietary rights to much of it -- anyone who receives such information is under obligation not to use or transfer that information except under the terms that have been agreed to.

    There's the final question about whether information can be patented. This would allow you to make information pubically available and still restrict its use or transfer. This makes patents very powerful and potentially destructive, and it's why the scope of what can be patented should be very carefully examined (IMHO, the patents being granted on software, for example, greatly overreach the scope of what patents should cover). If you could patent a medical or legal opinion or historical interpretation, that would have grave negative consequences for society, but to my knowledge, this doesn't really happen anywhere.

    My personal view is that there is a lot of information that ought to be made public because it benefits everyone. The net benefit of releasing information is often greater than the benefit of controlling it, but then again, there is a lot of information that should be controlled as well. It would be nice if information producers worked for free, but since food producers don't, information producers can't either.
  • I disagree with your final statement. I don't think that I should, for example, have to choose between giving my doctor medical information about myself and accepting that that information could well end up as tomorrow's headline and not providing this information at all, thus making public knowledge of any medical condition I may have a potential consequence of seeking treatment. I think it's perfectly reasonable to disclose this information to my doctor on condition that he agrees not to retransmit that information to other parties. There is all kinds of information that really ought to remain confidential and which parties should be prohibited from disclosing as they see fit.

    You might say that there's a qualitative difference between personal and non-personal information, but the distinction isn't really all that clear, and much depends on the individual's views and motivations.

    When it comes to things like software, I'm a strong supporter of openness, and one of the reasons I choose Free Software is because it is based on the notion that this knowledge ought to be shared freely for the benefit of everyone. But I'm also a big supporter of individual privacy rights, which includes the stipulation that people are obligated to not share certain information with others.

    There is some information that I think ethically ought to be shared with the world. There is other information that I think should be protected and disclosed only to select parties with assurances of confidence. There's also a whole grey area in between, and I'm not sure that I want anyone trying to get rid of the grey part and make it a black and white affair.
  • Can someone explain to me how you GPL ideas?

    "You can use my idea as much as you want, and change it, but you have to provide the source code upon request".

    WTF is the source code to an idea?

    Or is this just buzzwording?
  • Personally, I like the concept of a information market. While I think information should be free (speech, not beer), most people tend to think that things tend to be worth what you pay for them. Think if we had to pay for each news story, people would care a lot more about the news and we would have a much stronger impact as to its quality. The same holds true for all types of knowledge. If someone discovered a way to produce nearly free (beer) electricity and decided to free (speech) the process, most people would think it was a good as free beer (namely you might as well poor it down the urinal to save your body the trouble). But if you surround it with legal bindings and charge a nominal fee (just enough to through off the suspecion your giving it away) people will flock to obtain it. Look at the retail market, this is how things work. Remember the line of the archtypial overspending wife "But honey, I got it on Sale". So, selling information will bring home how valuable it really is and line a few piggybanks in the process ;).
  • I'm just curious about one thing... will infomarco be scanning their archives to verify the submitted evidence? I read the faq about bad answers, but i'd rather have any incorrect facts be checked for correctness and removed from the site than simple ratings. I also bet some people might purposely lower ratings for spite or trolling purposes, so likewise there should be away to point poor moderation out. After all, a person could always register another account if his score is low. There also needs to be some way for a person to disply verifiable credentials so that readers wont have to take any facts with a grain of salt. If this is to be a big thing, more precautions need to be taken.
  • I may be missing the point of this website completely but it would appear to be a simpler way to do consulting. You pay me, I'll solve your problem. Or I might do it for free if I like you. Thats basically the consultant motto (save for the free part). It's a very cool concept, and it takes consulting to the level of person to person as opposed to person to company/group, but it is basically the same thing in my opinion.
  • ... one problem I have with that sort of instant answers site is that I don't know the qualifications of the person who is at the other end. /. makes up for that by its self-moderating nature, but it's going to be a while before I turn to omeone I don't know with qualifications that I can't verify to answer a vital question for me...

    That may, of course, change in the medium term (ie reputations can be established) and people generally go for the easiest solution (ie why do work, think or look something up if someone can will do it for you for a few bucks), but for the time being it's the credibility of the other end that would make me think twice....

  • The same sort of problem occurs on eBay (seller trustworthiness) and even more closely on Usenet (lying moron detection). Both have developed mechanisms to cope; eBay has a means of rating suppliers by the comments of previous purchasers, in some of the longer established Usenet virtual communities particular posters are known by their past contributions to be worthwhile sources of information.

    Informarco will obviously need something similar. Whether this consists of consumer moderation by feedback, or by requiring all contributors to check in their PhDs at the door and to post liability bonds from their professional trade guild, remains to be seen. I don't think infomarco themselves know the answer to this - it depends on how their market develops and whether the most profitable market is in low-cost, low-risk, low-trust advice (such as consumer reviews) or in high-end advice from consulting architects and medics.

    I would pay serious money for a system that allowed me to buy the time of professorial-grade knowledge, yet allowed me to buy it in half-hour chunks. I can often justify a single question to an acknowledged guru, but such a guru is only available for hire by the entire day.

  • Hmm - money for information - this seems perfectly capatalist but I would like to see the world work more towards a place where all information is free, and people are paid to generate information. THAT seems to be how all good information is developed in the past. However, this system allows for proprietary information - BAAD. Yuck.
  • This really creates something new and different. No matter what it is that I'm good at, now I can do it from the privacy of my own home without shaving or bothering to get dressed. This looks to me like the ultimate economic hack. I wonder if there will be infomarco parlors that come up as knowledgable folk gather together at high speed connected hubs the way that day traders gather now.
  • To answer the question, no. I don't think this will be the future of how information is exchanged. All other indicators point in the opposite direction. Communication has become more prevalent today specifically because it doesn't cost anything. Whether or not the cost is substantial, the very act of making a receiver of information pay for that information means that the recipient will start to think really hard about whether that information is needed.

    By contrast, the entire point of the "information age" and the internet is that communication increases and more information is shared. And we already have mechanisms to do this. And they are working very well. So what's the point of this web site, except to try to make money. Certainly not to increase this flow of information.

    The case for the web site can only be that it would encourage people to offer information, since they would be paid for it. And this would be great if there were a shortage of people offering information. But there's not. And when this site starts charging people real money, I don't think it will survive much longer.

  • The problem with systems such as this is that there's no exclusivity of the information they provide. People can generally find the same sort of answers to these simplistic questions on Usenet and other forums. If they use remarq or DejaNews, they can often even get the answer RIGHT NOW, since chances are someone somewhere has already asked it. I admit it would be somewhat fun and interesting to spend time answering people's queries for money .. it would be even more fun devising an agent that would look for questions on these sites, then search the web/usenet/etc for answers, reword the answers and post them up for some cash, while the agent author is busy playing Quake. However, I don't see that happening any time soon. I can see a system like this working to some degree, but only if the information bought and sold is much more comprehensive. Just imagine a site where college kids can buy a thesis, term paper, etc from the lowest bidder. Unethical, yes, but more likely to be a money maker for anyone involved than questions such as "How do I set up X software on Y OS.".
  • the appropriate URL is: I think Orlando
  • Did anyone else notice (and find as amusing as I did) that the questions (all two of them) in the Linux section all had answers in the little description field, while the questions in most other sections (all the ones I tried, anyway) were mostly wild claims about how wonderful an answer you could have for money? Maybe Linux users have become conditioned to helping each other out for free. Or maybe we're just that wonderful... :P
  • I think some information already is distributed this way although it may not specifically be done under the GPL. You post a question to a newsgroup and among the flames calling you a clueless newbie you sometimes get an answer. For as long as the thread is archived that question answer pair is accessable to the general public. I think this is pretty fair though I'd like to see some way for permanance to be added to this mechanism.

    Its very unlikely that this will become a major movement in the future. Everybody has a unique set of skills which require varying degrees of effort to aquire and maintain. People in general are compensated in some (non linear) proportion to their skills, the value of those skills and their desire to be compensated. A brick layer who gets tired after laying bricks poorly for an hour is going to be less valuable than a skilled brick layer who can easily work 8 hours a day. Not many people would argue that the two brick layers should get payed an average rate based on their combined output.

    Some peoples skills are such that they are good at producing new information. That's what they do for a living, they need to be compensated for it. The degree of compensation will be proportional to how valuable that information is to somebody. The people who use that information are consumers, the information is the good or service. The information might be a means to overcome certain technology constraints in a CMOS process which in turn enables a CPU to consume less power or it might be a means to greatly reduce the redundancy in a stream of data while not introducing significant artifacts which in turn allows more data to be transferred per dollar spent on servers.

    It's up to the person who comes up with the information on how to disperse it. Maybe they do feel altruistic and donate it to the general public or maybe they develop the information under contract with a company. As soon as you force all 'information to be free' you devalue the worth of being an innovator as a profession. Innovators then become second class citizens compared to the people who make use of the innovation.

    I can't think of any innovator who has made the entire body of their knowledge available for free in a timely fashion. I may be wrong but I don't see evidence of it. Linus made the Linux kernel freely available (though he made use of innovations prior to this to do it, he didn't invent protected memory etc) but used other information to earn a degree and now uses yet other very confidential information to earn money at TransMeta.

    I'll agree that IP has gotten out of hand but making all intellectual property into intellectual communism isn't the way to go. I don't know what the solution is or will be (not in my job description or my skills) but without compensation there will be as many innovators as there would be doctors if they were forced to work for fifteen dollars an hour since the medical profession is for the community's well being.

    If you don't agree that people have the right to do with information as they please then by all means out innovate them, GPL it and beat them to the punch.
  • I can't say whether an information system like this is going to be the wave of the future. Truth is, I can't even say what computing is going to be like just one year down the road, and I don't think anybody else can either.

    Yadda yadda the industry moves so fast yadda yadda technology is wonderful but aside from the fact that technology does move fast, sometimes it goes in weird directions and just throws everybody for a loop. For example, it could be that instead of worry about these information systems online, somebody is going to build us a working quantum computer, and that will be "the future" or robotic roaches the size of dust particles, (all those nano-tech articles) or maybe brain implants so we can all plug 10baseT into our ears and forgo the computer altogether as far as connectivity is concerned.

    Obviously some of those are a bit more plausible than others, but none of them are *impossible* (well, maybe the ethernet idea) Truth be known, it's likely that "the future" is none of those but rather something much more deliciously weird that will leave geeks the world over twitching in technological ecstasy. (If you don't know what technological ecstasy is, expose yourself to a 486 as your only computer for 4 years and then upgrade to a 400Mhz jobbie)

    Just my $1E-2.
  • Information should be free. Because information is knowledge. Because knowledge is power. When all people have access to all information then all people will be equal. I'm rather tired of the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer" mandate of capitalism. Do you think this is a viable long-term solution? Our world is dying from pollution, from overpopulation, and consumption. If we gave power back to the people to recognize this, to act together to stop it, the tidal forces of change would rip through this country the likes of which haven't been seen since the Civil War. That is the power of information.

    By claiming intellectual "property" and putting the barriers around information, we seriously undermine the effectiveness of this country in the global economy. Countries that freely share information will evolve their technology at a rate which will far outpace our own efforts - witness our own movement. We freed the code... as a result within a matter of years we've gone from novel idea to the forefront of the information revolution.

    No matter what you call it - censorship, intellectual property, copyright, infodollars... it all points to the same thing - disadvantaging one group to advantage another group. Haven't we evolved beyond the need to form hierarchys of power? Information should be free. It's the ultimate personal freedom, it's a country's most valuable commodity, and the wind in the sails of progress. Why should we deny ourselves access to this?

  • In order from something like this to succeed, they would have to have a fresh supply of information which is needed (demanded) by the public at all times. Why, you ask?

    Assigning a monetary unit to information is institutionalizing a fiat system to information-- just as how many cultures (like the American culture) have assigned fiat money to phsyical goods.

    A fiat system is a currency the people commonly believe has value. They are not certificates for hard currency (such as the old gold-backed standard in american currency). In order for this monetary system to succeed, it has to be honored and there has to be something to buy.

    In American culture and in physical terms this is food, clothing, water, shelter, etc. (and arguable a lot of other things, that wouldn't be considered needs by other cultures!). But what is a need on an information trading site? What specific information can be said to be needed all the time?

    Certainly they may have some good ideas for sale on their site; but do they have anything that is essential, like, "the food of thoughts?" I can go up to the super-market and by bread to sustain myself, but what would they offer that has the same property of being a commodity?


  • When all people have access to all information then all people will be equal.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but no. People are different. There are and will always be short people (who won't be good basketball players), dumb people (who won't be good programmers), ugly people (who will be discriminated against in the mating game), people with no ear for music (who won't be able to play the piano well), etc. etc.

    I'm rather tired of the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer" mandate of capitalism.

    I'm also rather tired of the "cut everybody down to the lowest common denominator" mandate of the socialism/communism.

    Our world is dying from pollution, from overpopulation, and consumption.

    I haven't noticed our world dying. The pollution got significantly better in the last 10-15 years, overpopulation is becoming less and less of a problem as the developing countries grow economically, and why consumption is killing the world I don't understand. These are all slogans from the mid-70s -- wake up, they've been proven wrong.

    If we gave power back to the people to recognize this, to act together to stop it, the tidal forces of change would rip through this country the likes of which haven't been seen since the Civil War.

    YACFS (Yet Another Content-Free Sentence)

    Information should be free. It's the ultimate personal freedom, it's a country's most valuable commodity, and the wind in the sails of progress.

    I doubt very much that information is the "ultimate personal freedom". If anything, I would say that the ultimate freedom is the freedom to make choices and act on them. Granted, information is very important to making choices, but just knowing something is not enough.

    And please notice that information as you describe it cannot be a commodity, since it cannot be bought or sold...

    You and some other people in this discussion miss one point: it's not enough to find that person which knows the answer to your question. You also have to convince this person to spend his time and effort to provide this answer to you, and this is far from trivial. Linus is the ultimate authority on the Linux kernel: do you think he'll answer all the kernel questions that people come up with?

  • Wow. I just recently read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and this seems remerkably similar to the CIC in that book.

    Will we end up with people who make a living finding information, uploading it, and seeing if it sells?

  • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
    Suppose I can post a joke and get paid if someone finds it funny?

    Suppose people will demand I pay them if I batter them with a really good awful pun?

  • I believe that people have the right to do with information as they please. If I have data, I can do whatever I want with it. If I give it to you, now you have it and can do whatever you want with it. There's no reason for the government to form and enforce monopolies on the usage of certain information. The forming of such monopolies does not help society, while it does hurt society - so there's no reason to do it.

  • The infomarco home page claims they have technology which connects people who have questions with people who have answers, in radically new ways.

    Maybe they do, but I sure didn't see it. Of course, the site is just getting started, but so far, the site seems to be geared toward queries that can be asked in a single question ("How do I cast (sic) a long to a string", "Let me know if you find any bugs on this site").

    The same sort of questions that can be answered by a careful search on [], or your favorite search engine, probably with no more work that it would take to turn up the answer on infomarco.

    Something like this might work if infomarco would be willing to work as a "reference librarian" type service (or even a "research assistant" type service for those with more complex problems and deeper pockets). As it is, it seems like all they want is to be


  • These guys should check out

    I thought that that was the site for people who wanted an "expert sex change"?


To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus