Bandits and philanthropists

The web is minting both, in quantity.

Bandits want something for nothing. They take. They take free content where they can find it. They fight for anonymity, for less community involvement. They want more than their fair share, and they walk past the busker, because they can hear him playing real good, for free.

The spammer is a bandit, stealing your attention because he can get away with it, and leaving nothing in return.

Philanthropists see a platform for giving. They support the tip jar. They argue for community standards and yes, for taxes that are more fair to the community. They support artists online, and when they can, they buy the book.

The artist who creates a video that touches you, or an infographic that informs you–she's giving more than she gets, leaving the community better than it was before she got there.

Both types have been around forever, of course. But the web magnifies the edges. It's easier than ever to be a free rider, to make your world smaller and to take. And easier than ever to be a big time contributor, even if you don't have any money. You can contribute your links or your attention or your energy…

The fascinating thing for me is how much more successful and happy the philanthropists are. It turns out that when you make the world smaller, you get to keep more of what you've got, but you end up earning a lot less (respect, connections, revenue) at the same time.