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The Longest Now

Entrepreneurial free content creation
Friday March 02nd 2007, 2:00 am
Filed under: popular demand

Background: Kiva has been on my mind a lot lately.  Zvi has been helping them with their tech infrastructure of late, so it naturally comes up each time we talk.

I spoke Tuesday about OLPC‘s content plans to the Media Lab OLPCclass, and gave a passionate argument for free content yesterday to a tough but tremendously well-meaning audience.  There were questions about business models for creators.  The most poignant comment of the night: ‘it is a shame that as a civilization we’ve figured out how to monetize collecting gold in World of Warcraft, but not how to support this incremental work which is absolutely essential…’

Reflecting on this, and on efforts to raise funds to sponsor local content creation through microgrants, I had an idea: why have a central authority raise and hand out funds to seed content creation, when we can distribute both efforts? What about an interface such as Kiva’s to allow people to select open-content learning material ideas they want to support for a given amount of money?  They wouldn’t be expecting to get the money back; but instead an intellectual return on investment — a few more chapters of an ongoing work, or a few chapters of translation, which even if not completed could be picked up by other people and turned into something great.

A clever person in a wealthy region might spend 40 hours writing a brilliant educational work or list of 100 projects; but with less effort could perhaps donate to a dozen good proposed projects by creators closer to the target audience, or working natively in other languages — often creators in poor areas who would gladly spend 40 hours writing in exchange for what the original person might earn in 2.   As with Kiva’s microloans, these content microgrants would pass through a local microfinance institution, and the prospective authors’ projects would be vetted by field partners to ensure their sincerity.

I think one could make this a reality with minimal changes to the current
Kiva interface, which is quite lovely.  OLPC has always been focused on grassroots creation of content in native languages, with donations of existing material as a seed or important secondary element.  Because of our short timelines, distributing sponsorship as well as creation has a definite appeal.  I wonder how this meshes with Sasha‘s ideas of distributed financing of open source software efforts…

Entrepreneurial free content creation …

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