I don’t think free is the future.

Going to see Yochai Benkler speak at Wikimania today (the Wikipedia conference taking place at Harvard).

I had not heard of Benkler before last month when someone said I was challenging his theories in the highly-regarded “The Wealth of Networks” book.

Summary of the debate: He thinks (from what I’ve read—I haven’t read the book, it’s on order) that free networks are causing free collaboration that creates amazing things like Wikipedia and open-source software. Of course, I recently did an end run around this process by saying “hmm… the top people working on these free projects would be a great place for me to look for paid contributors.”

In other words I’ve basically re-started the for-profit movement by raiding the top 1% of the free movement. I’ve always said that the blogosphere was the best farm league in the world–and the 200 bloggers we pay at Weblogs, Inc. are thrilled to get paid for doing what they once did for free.

You see, the real revolution will be people getting paid to do what they previously did just for the love of it. The future is not people working at a slave job all day so they can work on Wikipedia for an hour a night–that’s the old model!

The real heroes will be the folks who create a model in which people make a living doing what they love and are still able to pay the rent.

That’s what we did with Weblogs, Inc., and that is what we’re gonna do with Netscape.

Update: Oh yeah, Benkler has bet against me… something I would never do. 🙂

More on Yochai Benkler’s talk here:

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