It bothers me to watch the hordes at the farmer's market, swooping in to each booth, grabbing a sample and walking away. The thin slices of handmade rye bread, or the perfect strawberries or the little glasses of juice–all of them disappear into the hands of people who have no intention of buying.
Sure, someone stops and buys now and then, which is why the farmers keep offering the samples. To them, it's merely a cost of doing business, a relatively inexpensive way to keep prospective customers coming. I'm not sure I could do it–the people afraid to look me in the eye, all that slinking around, and most of all, the profits walking out the door, over and over again. Enough thin slices makes a loaf.
This is vexing, even to someone who merely makes ideas. Watching people sneak endless tastes with no intention of making a purchase–sometimes I gasp at the audacity.
The distinction in the digital world is profound. In the digital world, the more free samples you give away, the better you do. The miserly mindset that afflicts the merchant watching inventory walk out the door at the market is counterproductive in the digital world. That's because more free samples cost you nothing.
The scarce resources in the connection revolution are connection, attention and trust, not molecules, atoms or strawberries.