On a mailing list far, far away….

On a mailing list far, far away….

Jimmy Wales of wikia said: But what Mahalo is doing is totally uninteresting to me because it is
proprietary. It doesn’t change the structure of the industry.

[ uncloaking:nemesis ]

Two notes on that:

1. We’re proprietary in that we protect our copyrighted work… sure. However we’re, in fact, considering a CC non-commercial license for the work we *pay* to create. We are open source in that we submit our changes to MediaWiki and other open source projects to the public.

2. Even proprietary content can change the world and do amazing work. Google, EBay, documentary films (i.e. Michael Moore’s), Jared Diamond’s books, Yochi Benkler’s books, the TV show Battlestar Gallactica, Star Trek, etc. are all “proprietary.” And by proprietary we mean copyrighted works that are protected so their authors ability to make a living!

Not everyone makes a living off of copyrighting their work (some folks make it by starting startup companies like Wikia and Mahalo), but many people chose to make money from their words (i.e. Yochi, screenplay writers, etc). It’s OK for them to protect their work and get paid for it–it’s not an “uninteresting” thing to everyone. Certainly the art created by protected artists is not uninteresting.

It’s very backhanded to be honest Jimmy, but you’re the master of the backhanded insult and I’ve got the list of ones you’ve sent my way right here. 🙂 Keep throwing that word “uninteresting” around and try to stick it to Mahalo in some negative hole by saying it is proprietary…. fine with me. I’m PROUD of the fact that we pay our writers. We had 300 paid writers at Weblogs, Inc. making blogs like Engadget, Joystiq, HackADay, etc. and they were able to make great art and pay their bills. I like helping people pay their bills.

You are the one with the proprietary model in fact, and it comes in the most important aspect of all: compensation.

As people work for you for free the value of your stock goes up. wikia did it’s last round at a value of $25-40M–at the least. You and your venture investors will some day make millions on the backs of people working for free. why not “open source” your compensation? Like pay the folks writing for your wikis (if they want to get paid). Wouldn’t that be more open?

In my world-view we are trying to make a compensation system for people who work on the project (other than the management team and venture capitalists that is). We now have ~1,000 folks in our Greenhouse (http://greenhouse.mahalo.com) who are getting paid $10-15 for writing search results. In the first six weeks on person did over 100 and I’m sure will go on to do 100-200 search results per month and make 1,5000 to 3,000 a month in part-time income. We’re not even up to month two and we’ve accepted close to 2,000 search terms from the public…. AND WE PAID THEM FOR THEIR EFFORTS.

Many of our Greenhouse Guides–and anyone can sign up to help at http://greenhouse.mahalo.com–are from the Wikipedia and DMOZ projects. They are folks who HAVE worked for free and who know are LOVING the fact that someone is offering them some level–not huge, but something–of compensation for their work.

In order to protect the ability to pay folks to write search results we need to not give those search results out to anyone.

As I’ve told you the two times we’ve met in person, I have great respect for what you’ve done with wikipidia, especially you gifting a $5B a project to the public. That was perhaps one of the greatest gifts in the history of philanthropy. I mean, think about… other billionaires give away half their billions, you gave away an absolutely certain chance to be a billionaire before you ever saw dime one leaving you as “just a millionaire”…. for that you have my respect. Honestly, I think the world of you for that. You’re a mensch beyond compare (except when you’re thowing me under the bus).

I believe you’re being a little intellectually dishonest to dismiss us as being some different beast than Wikia. We are both venture-backed companies looking to change search. The main difference is:

a) you don’t pay your content providers, but you do give their work away for free


b) we pay our content providers, and we protect their work from being monetized *when* that monetization decreases our ability to pay them in the future. So, if a non-profit wants to syndicate our results we would do it in a heartbeat…. if a for-profit company like Answers.com wants to? Well, they need to split revenue or send us a check so we can keep paying our writers.

I do wish Wikia great success and I don’t dismiss your model as “uninteresting” because it is different than my world view. I would say that your model of people working for your venture-backed company for free is “suspect,” and perhaps even “troubling.”

As a writer by trade I always find it very insulting/odd when companies ask me to work for free while they get rich… who knows, maybe you can pull this model off. I for one, have a problem with the Tom Sawyer “paint the fence” business model. Who knows, maybe your considering a more Mahalo-style payment system in the future.

In short: Working for free on Wikipedia who’s stock has no monetary value and is 100% given to the public? Great. Working for free on Wikia to make venture capitalists and the management team rich? Suspect.

Seth: You’re not a troll as Jimmy has labeled you. In my book you’re a conversation catalyst and I think your presence make us all better.

Note: We hope to participate in the development of Grub in the same way we are contributing to MediaWiki. If Grub works well we will not only use it at Mahalo, we will be the #2 resource to it’s development behind only Wikia itself.

best j
Jason McCabe Calacanis
CEO, http://www.Mahalo.com
Mobile: 310-456-4900
My blog:
AOL IM/Skype: jasoncalacanis

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