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July 04, 2009

Free is the new paid

The idea is not news, but it's a charming example of for-profit enterprises seeking donated labor: LinkedIn asks translators if they want to translate LinkedIn pages for free. And gosh, some professional translators don't like the idea.

Actually, it's not clear that LinkedIn was asking the translators to work for nothing. Apparently it was planning to credit their work, thus offering some compensation in the form of marketing or advertising. And at least for some, this could be valuable compensation. It's not just "free advertising" in the sense of getting to post one's name and profession in a public place. Instead, it's a free demonstration of the professional's work: "Like this translation? It was done by Tom, and here's his LinkedIn page".

There seems to be a fair bit of consensus that a powerful motivator for many people who work on open-source software projects for "free" are doing it to get training (in working in a complex, team-based software engineering environment) and to get publicly documented evidence of their skills (the code checked in and permanently associated with your user account). I've speculated that a similar motivation might explain some who write book reviews (for "free", and which help a for-profit company) at Amazon.com: writing practice with grading by others (without paying nasty tuition), and a public record of one's skills (but how many paid jobs are there to which budding book reviewers can apply these days?).

Posted by jmm at July 4, 2009 12:28 PM

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