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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the nobody-likes-to-see-how-the-internet-sausage-is-made dept.

Businesses 248

MrAndrews writes "After reading a Slashdot story about adblocking and the lively discussion that followed, I got to wondering how else sites can support themselves, if paywalls and ads are both non-starters. Microtransactions have been floated for years, but never seem to take off, possibly because they come off as arbitrary taxation or cumbersome walled-garden novelties. Still, it seems like the idea of microtransactions is still appealing, it's just the wrapping that's always been flawed. I wanted to know how viable the concept really was, so I've created a little experiment to gather some data, to put some real numbers to it. It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting. No actual money is involved, it's just theoretical. There's a summary page that tells you how much you would have spent, and I'll be releasing anonymized analyses of the data in the coming weeks. If you're game, please check out the experiment page for more information, and give it a go. Even if you only use it once and forget about it, that says something about the concept right there."

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248 comments

No actual money is involved (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154639)

Might skew the results a bit.

Re:No actual money is involved (4, Interesting)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43154741)

True, but that in itself could be part of the experiment, for each individual person. For instance, today I'd already have spent $0.25. At the moment, I can't tell if I'm happy with that result or not, but I bet by the end of a month, I'll know if my "whee!" approach to dropping pennies is a Very Bad Idea.

Re:No actual money is involved (3, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year ago | (#43154919)

It is not a valid experiment exactly because it is artificial and no real money is involved. The results will tell us nothing of value about the question.

Re:No actual money is involved (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#43155039)

It is not a valid experiment exactly because it is artificial and no real money is involved. The results will tell us nothing of value about the question.

Yes, in exactly the same way the Stanford Prison Experiment didn't teach us anything about human behavior because it wasn't a real prison...

Re:No actual money is involved (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43155061)

The Stanford Prison Experiment wasn't about prison - that was just a plot device for the roll play. The web pay is about money directly. So substituting something else does, necessarily, change the results.

Re:No actual money is involved (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#43155181)

The web pay is about money directly. So substituting something else does, necessarily, change the results.

The original poster stated that this test would yield no experimentally useful data because the environment was simulated instead of actual. That argument is bogus: Simulations can and usually do yield useful results. I said nothing about role play, substitution, etc., that's all you. All I have said is this simulation will yield experimentally useful data. It may not yield the kind and quality of data you want, but it is still scientifically useful.

The first step in any scientific endeavor is the collection of data with an eye towards testing a hypothesis. I do not see the problem with the author's test. does it matter if 1%, 10%, or 99% of the people who go to the website would do the same if "real" money was involved? Not necessarily. If a data plot shows the same relationships, but on a different scale, then this large-scale test without money could be very useful in a small-scale test with money. It could be used to validate certain models of human behavior, or rule out others.

Of course, inductive reasoning ability amongst slashdotters has been falling like a rock for some time, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see such a poorly-reasoned reply getting moderated up... -_-

Re:No actual money is involved (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43155461)

It is not experimentally valid. You can't swing that argument, so you are going the other way and indicating that it is "useful" even if not "valid" (which, if that is your argument now, indicates your first response was a non sequitur, and you agree with the original post you disagreed with).

Of course, inductive reasoning ability amongst slashdotters has been falling like a rock for some time, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see such a poorly-reasoned reply getting moderated up

Then you drop into an ad hominem, where you can't fault the logic directly, so you imply it's faulty.

It seems you meant to say "I can't disagree with your statement that it's not valid, but even invalid experiments can yield useful data." Which if you had said directly, rather than an obscure analogy (no, I didn't have to look it up, but I'm quite certain that 99% of the general population wouldn't know what it is, even if 10 out of 10 slashdotters would claim to know eveything, even if only because they Google it first), it may have been more clear. Unfortunately, I know the study you referenced quite well, so I immediately recognized the flawed analogy you were trying to pull off. If I were dumber, then maybe nobody else would have noticed. Perhaps it is you and your inductive reasoning that's substandard.

Re:No actual money is involved (0)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year ago | (#43155241)

Except it is nothing like the Stanford Experiment. The latter involved group dynamics. This experiment has no interaction between 'test subjects'. Of course I also see in your other post that you resort to the tired tactic of attacking the reasoning capacity of those you disagree with. Having seen your posts before I'm actually surprised at that and a bit disappointed. You're usually better than that.

Re:No actual money is involved (3, Interesting)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about a year ago | (#43155165)

I'm still not sure how this is representative of real world usage. Is this site allowing full access where the user chooses after viewing it how much they think it's worth as a way of determining how much to charge for access in real world usage where you'd have to pay before viewing it? For me at the very least, pay before and pay after decisions will heavily skew how much I'm willing to pay.

Re:No actual money is involved (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155237)

No, it's entirely a tip jar approach, so if you read it and like it, you can opt to spend 3 cents to show your gratitude. Tip jars exist, of course, but because of fees etc, their definition of "microtransaction" is usually at least $1, which almost defeats the purpose. So what this is doing is saying: "Did you like what you just read/saw/heard? If so, how much?" And that's it. Down the line, someone else can figure out how to turn that into countless riches, but right now, I'm just interested to see how the impression of the ideal shakes out.

I'm so scientific sometimes.

Or (5, Insightful)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | about a year ago | (#43154651)

Go back to when people had web sites as a hobby and not this SEO, per click revenue blog spam shithole we have today.

Re:Or (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154821)

I tested your mom's ass last nite

Re: Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155111)

I tested my moms last night an I squirted as soon as I inserted.

Re:Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155415)

I guess that qualifies as a micro transaction.

Re:Or (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154869)

... and how do you propose ridiculously useful things like Google and Yelp are paid for?

Let me guess, you're one of those INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE retards that has absolutely no idea how the real world works.

Re:Or (5, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43154983)

Books and libraries are still relevant because reviewed and edited content is valuable. I was looking for info on making model train layouts and there are loads of forums and hobbyist witted that look like they were built in 1998, but nothing with a complete illustrated tutorial using materials available in my country.

Re:Or (1)

stms (1132653) | about a year ago | (#43155227)

I don't know about that I think people want professionally made content on the internet. I certainly do even if the vast majority of it is crap. Flattr was supposed to be a solution to make micro-payments easier to bad it never took off.

Re:Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155433)

Yeah. It's called "Facebook".

Has to be real money (1)

deanklear (2529024) | about a year ago | (#43154691)

You need a system that uses real dollars or the results are meaningless. Let people donate to the ACLU or EFF or any other supporters of a free (as in soeech) Internet with the proceeds.

I'd love to help create a real market without stuffing money in the pockets of marketing departments and other corporations that contribute little or nothing positive to my life. Let me know where to sign up.

Re:Has to be real money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154701)

Nobody is interested in processing your 3 cent donation, so basically it's impossible to do it for real.

Re:Has to be real money (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43154721)

Most of the proposals are based on aggregating the "give this person 3 cents" indicators through some kind of intermediary platform, not processing them all on the spot. For example, with Flattr [flattr.com] you pay Flattr once per month, and then you indicate how you want the money distributed by clicking on various things. The money isn't sent immediately then either, but accumulates in the recipient's acocunt, and is paid out when they reach a threshold. So on both the pay-in and pay-out sides the transactions are fewer and bigger.

The trick is getting enough people to sign up for such a thing for it to be at all viable.

Re:Has to be real money (2)

anubi (640541) | about a year ago | (#43155295)

Its not paying the three cents that concerns me so...

What concerns me is sharing my banking info. I am doing everything in my power to limit the amount of charge numbers floating around I am responsible for. Some joker gets a list of those numbers, and I end up seeing unwarranted charges showing up and I am faced with either having to spend valuable time trying to straighten up the mess or let it ride. Its not the three cents.... its the irritation of supervising yet another financial obligation where others can incur charges against me that can easily take hours, if not days or weeks of my time to recover misallocated funds.

There are many "businessmen" out there who have figured out clever ways of getting one's banking info ( Call Now! We will send you one FREE!!! - Just pay shipping. )

I am far more open to giving them a dollar cash than giving them my charge card numbers.

I am not giving anyone my banking info for three lousy cents!

Re:Has to be real money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155051)

Bitcoin doesn't care.

this isn't really testing the hard part (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43154699)

The hard part is getting people onto some kind of platform that works and where friction and transaction costs don't eat all the money. If, theoretically, one existed, then maybe it'd be interesting when people click 1 cent or 3 cents; but a bigger issue is putting them in a position where they can easily click at all.

The only micropayment-for-writing platform I've seen with significant uptake was Readability's now-discontinued experiment [technologyreview.com] , and it worked (to the extent it did, though it's been canned, so perhaps not that well) because lots of people used Readability for other reasons. So it was more of a revenue-share that Readability was offering to any webmaster who wanted to sign up. I think you need something like that, a platform that people are already on for some other reason.

Re:this isn't really testing the hard part (3, Interesting)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43154809)

I had a great discussion today about what "next steps" would be for this, pretty much encompassing your point above. The somewhat-decided gist is that there's some single place or service that handles the actual money. So for instance, you create an account there and drop $10 into it, and then just go browsing the web as usual, clicking the 1, 2 or 3-penny buttons built into your browser. At the end of each month (or thereabouts), the central organization pays each of the sites you supported, thereby dodging the "micro" aspect of the microtransaction. Sites themselves wouldn't have to sign up or support it, they'd just have to claim the money using some kind of verification process (that would be a nightmare in and of itself).

Entirely voluntary on all fronts... which means it's basically impossible to implement, because there isn't a good profit margin in it :)

Re:this isn't really testing the hard part (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43154943)

Are you familiar with Flattr [flattr.com] ? It's structurally quite similar to what you're discussing, so might be worth a look. One difference is that you don't pick how much you want to pay each site. Instead, you decide how much you want to spend per month total, and then you just flag sites with "pay this guy". Your monthly payment is divided equally among all flagged sites. So e.g. if you pay $1/month and click the button on 20 sites, they each get $0.05.

Some pros/cons to that model, but one aspect that I think is a good idea in that approach is that it consolidates the "hump" of laying out expenditures to one decision, that of signing up for Flattr to begin with. Clicking on sites during the month doesn't cost you more, but just redistributes the money you already paid, so there may be less mental resistance to doing so. On the other hand, it also means there's no real way to signal that you liked both Things A and B, but A a lot more.

Re:this isn't really testing the hard part (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155147)

Indeed, Flattr is a really great idea. I kinda wish there was a way to, as you say, support A more than B, but the predictability of the billing would make me sleep better at night :)

The data is meaningless without real money (4, Interesting)

johnkoer (163434) | about a year ago | (#43154709)

The data being collected has very little impact on real world results. If there is no cost, then people will simply click the 3 cent link when they remember to do so. Since it has no impact on their finances they won't think twice about it.

Think about gaming sites that give you free unlimited chips to play poker with. People bet the max every hand no matter if they have 2-7 off suit or pair of aces. This completely destroys any comparisons to a real money game.

Re:The data is meaningless without real money (3, Interesting)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43154849)

I agree, but another aspect of it is: if you are playing along with absolutely no regard for what these buttons really represent, how will you feel at the end of a month, looking at what you've potentially spent? It could be "holy crap, I can't afford this," or it could be "that wasn't as bad as I thought." That's extremely interesting to me, all by itself. Then add in the "how much would this pay my favourite sites", and you've got a really interesting conundrum and/or solution.

It's almost like "try before you buy", in a way. But purely for personal curiosity.

Re:The data is meaningless without real money (2)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year ago | (#43154853)

I beg to differ - in the first world, a 3 cent donation has very little to no impact on your finances. Even if you read 100 pages in a morning and they're all so good you remember to donate 3 cents, that's just $3 you've spent reading the morning news - less than the cost of a cup of coffee...

Re:The data is meaningless without real money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155387)

Three times the typical cup of coffee. Or many more times that if you're brewing it yourself. (Only fools pay that much for coffee. Sadly, there are a lot of fools.)

Re:The data is meaningless without real money (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#43155393)

$9 gets me around 40 cups of top grade organic coffee. You pay way too much. I would rather get ads from NewEgg letting me know about their newest deals than pay $3 to mostly crap sites.

Re:The data is meaningless without real money (2)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year ago | (#43155425)

You're missing the point.
If the sites are crap, then you're not donating... If I could disable the ads on a given web page for $0.01-$0.03 and the content on the page was good enough, I'd be happy to do so.

Where this all falls down is that it's not currently economically viable to process such small transactions...

Whitelist? (2)

Jager Dave (1238106) | about a year ago | (#43154735)

Personally speaking, I block most ads, mainly because of bandwidth issues. Slashdot is one of the few that I whitelist, because I don't mind supporting them....

Re:Whitelist? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154905)

I whitelisted your mom's ass last nite

Time Shares? (2)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year ago | (#43154755)

Don't some time share models give you points that you can use at any of their resorts. You pay a big fee once a year, get your points and visit all their properties you want until the points run out. No microtransactions, but tiny fees for each use.

The issue is you would need a large set of useful sites and one payment area for all of them, something like cable or Netflix. You pay one company to get content from a bunch of different places.

Re:Time Shares? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154913)

I timeshared your mom's ass last nite

Flattr (1, Informative)

Acapulco (1289274) | about a year ago | (#43154763)

Have you teried/seen Flattr [flattr.com] ?

I'm not affiliated with them or anything, I stumbled across that while reading a blog post and I liked the idea. I have yet to find a page that I would give a Flattr to, but the idea is compelling.

Re:Flattr (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43154915)

I hadn't, but now I have. I love that things like that exist, and I'm a bit sad I don't know about it already. Mindshare is a tricky thing.

It's kinda the same concept, except I think they let you set a budget and it gets divvied up, whereas I'm talking more about pure pennies in use, so if you don't see anything of value in March, you don't actually spend anything. It's cheaper, sure, but I think most people would probably take issue with spending the same $10 every month, even if they didn't get much enjoyment out of it, no?

Mod Points (5, Interesting)

Master Moose (1243274) | about a year ago | (#43154769)

I usually spend my mod points when /. award them to me.

I have no issue with this. If I had to pay for Mods, there is no way I would have ever spent 1.

Re:Mod Points (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154861)

I modded your mom's ass last nite

Your writing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154791)

can do with less commas.

Re:Your writing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154993)

You mean "fewer commas".

you realize you are asking on an ad supported site (3, Interesting)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#43154795)

that has been going strong for more than ten years?

you are confusing slashdot commenters with slashdot users. commenters are, in general, a bunch of angry cranks who get a buzz out of spewing bile and hatred through their keyboard. slashdot users generally read the article (or the first sentence or two) and then do something productive with their life.

paywalls do work for some content, otherwise places like the WSJ, slate, etc etc etc, wouldn't use them.

and ebooks are doing a pretty good business on the kindle, nook, etc. even the Kobo survived the demise of Borders.

and microtransactions work perfectly well (too well) in games - theres probably someone in publishing who has noticed this and has implemented/worked on integrating that into a website.

Re:you realize you are asking on an ad supported s (5, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43154847)

commenters are, in general, a bunch of angry cranks who get a buzz out of spewing bile and hatred through their keyboard.

Shut the hell up.

Re:you realize you are asking on an ad supported s (2)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43154955)

Oh definitely, and I was one of the first onboard for Slashdot subscriptions, back in the day. But still, after those stats from Destructoid, I wondered if this quasi holy war that goes on between publishers and readers might have a more amicable solution. Instead of "stop spamming us!" / "you owe us!", there could be some "you did good" / "thank you!".

OK, really, I'm just interested to see how much money I personally would spend in any given month, and I thought some Slashdotters might as well.

Re:you realize you are asking on an ad supported s (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155083)

go choke on a bucket of cocks and die in a fire

also ebooks are great on an ebook reader, especially when you steal them and root the reader

Slashdotted? (1)

Acapulco (1289274) | about a year ago | (#43154797)

So...you submit something potentially interesting (for whatever reason... to each is own) and then.. don't expect it to be slashdotted? uhm... interesting. I'd like to suscribe to your newsletter MrAndrews.

Re:Slashdotted? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154841)

i slashed your mom's ass last nite

Re:Slashdotted? (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43154969)

I would like to subscribe to my newsletter too, but my site is down :(

No, actually, it seems to be working. Though I bet my hosting bill will be FABULOUS this month!

Won't work because ... (4, Insightful)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about a year ago | (#43154803)

... no one can be bothered to click 2c or 3c every time they stumble on a useful page. It's extra mental processing that distracts from what they're really doing, and the fact a page is useful might not be apparent until much later, long after they have left it. What happens if you make a payment and the advice on the page later turns out to be crap? Then there is the question of who the micropayments are going too: Some struggling blogger or hobbyist (worth supporting), a tenured academic (who is already taken care of financially) or a big company who needs my 2c much less than I do. You will also have issues like hosted content: are the payments going to the author, or the webhost.

Some sort of payment scheme is a good idea, but not like this. Often you'll find someone throw themselves into a freeware project and get disillusioned and abandon it when issues like paying the rent take precedence. I think the old 'Donate $5 with Paypal' is a good idea, if you can get rid of the Paypal, Visa, Mastercard or any other intermediary who might block payments. http://www.pcworld.com/article/242470/wikileaks_suspends_publication_because_of_financial_boycott.html [pcworld.com]

Re:Won't work because ... (4, Insightful)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155013)

EXACTLY this, actually. I mean, it'd be great if everyone clicked those buttons 15 times a day, but already today I've closed a tab and gone "doh! that was good! I forgot to click!"... and I set the bloody thing up. So yeah, there is friction in the model that is potentially unescapable and/or fatal.

Also, I don't know that this is necessarily a business model anyone wants to depend on. It really requires you to be creating content that is not only good, but has enough reach that lots of people can see it, and like it enough to support it. It scales absolutely horribly, actually, for smaller acts. But then again, if you suddenly become popular, you could actually capitalize on your popularity, rather than just watching the views come and go.

Nice try (-1, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#43154825)

Nice try. That's not a /. supported model. The /. crowd model is to have you become a gov't subsidised utiluty. /. hates to gave ppl pay per use and it loves gov't solutions. So if your solution involves gov't regulation and a subsidy, so that the perception is that the bill goes to somebody else, then you are foing it right. Searching for a free market solution like yiu are doing... that's not going to go well here

Nickel & Dimed to Death (3, Insightful)

pjrc (134994) | about a year ago | (#43154829)

The trouble with microtransactions is they'll create an incentive for content publishers to "nickel and dime" readers.

Just look at phone and tablet games with "in app purchase" models. A great idea in theory. In practice, it drives the entire game design from "pay to play" to "pay to win".

If the content industry figures out how to make microtransactions work (a pretty big if)... just watch. Content will adapt from trying to attract and genuinely appeal to readers to a "nickel and dime" them to the maximum extent possible!

Re:Nickel & Dimed to Death (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154879)

i nickel & dimed your moms ass last nite

Re:Nickel & Dimed to Death (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155049)

Yeah, that worries me too. On the other hand, if it's all voluntary (meaning you don't need to pay unless you actually like it), the only real danger are sites catering to easily-duped people who don't do math so good. Or at least that's how I imagine it.

Re:Nickel & Dimed to Death (5, Insightful)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about a year ago | (#43155135)

The other problem is that they don't actually nickle and dime you, they $1 and $5 you. They never seem to understand the "micro" part of micro transaction.

Re:Nickel & Dimed to Death (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43155169)

They'll

Re:Nickel & Dimed to Death (2)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#43155297)

I'm guessing we'll see the rise of the "pay x cents to continue reading this article" model.

ads didn't work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154851)

I'm not sure you know what a non-starter is.

Re:ads didn't work? (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155069)

For the readers. Ads obviously work in general, but if you are going to run a site where 50% of the readership blocks ads, ads are pretty much a non-starter.

Re:ads didn't work? (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43155287)

The problem is people hosting sites taking no responsibility for the ads on it. I never objected to regular old ads (and still don't), but started using ad-blocker when ads started popping up over the text I'm reading, singing, dancing around, popping up, over, and uner, popping up after I've navigated away, or running horrid javascript and flash that managed to consume most of my CPU cycles. Then there's the very much NSFW ads that pop up even when the page I'm reading is G rated. I vener had problems with the virus laden drive by ads since I use Linux, but that is a very valid reason to block ads as well.

There's only so many times you can kick someone in the crotch before they take countermeasures.

If sites ask nicely AND vet the ads they present, people might be willing to allow ads on those sites. It's more work, and so the ads might need to pay more, but they'll also be more likely to be actually seen by someone. That might be a tough way to go though since so many advertisers have effectively salted the earth.

Re:ads didn't work? (2)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155375)

I sat in on a meeting last year where a company was trying to convince a potential advertiser (hand-picked, too) to put ads on their site. The cost was probably about 10x the norm, for the audience. The advertiser said: "Why would I pay that much when I can blast the world for less?" To which the site owner said: "But this is a PREMIUM ad. Premium!" Said the advertiser: "How is it premium, aside from costing me a lot of money?" And that was pretty much that.

Still, companies will gladly spend ten times their online budget, putting an ad in a newspaper for a single day, where you have no idea of impressions, no way to measure follow-through, and really so much friction it's a fair bet less than 5% of people who saw it, acted on it... I still can't quite grasp why print advertising hasn't crashed and burned in the last decade. Leprechauns or something.

Tool broken? (2)

Vreejack (68778) | about a year ago | (#43154857)

Aaaand, it doesn't actually seem to work. Turns the current URL into file address, and adds that to your server IP,... For example, trying to use it on SMBC results in: "http://penny.1889.ca/www.smbc-comics.com/#comic", which results in a very good impression of a 404.

Re:Tool broken? (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | about a year ago | (#43155095)

The bookmarlets actually work (i.e. they add $0.01/whatever), but the resulting URL tries redirecting you back to the originating site but forgets that the URL points to penny.1889.ca.

But still, something like that should be tested.

What is received more important than what is paid (1)

islisis (589694) | about a year ago | (#43154893)

There will never be a shortage of sites/services which you'd enjoy spreading contributions over, but information on which ones are affected by contributions the most is unfortunately a lot harder to find. Nobody wants to overpay for a service, but those against sponsorship models would like reward honesty and transparency in an organisation's dealings. Donations must be able to fight deceit, not aide it. Websites should make transaction statistics clearer, along with a breakdown of exactly what those funds will be necessary for. Just a simple red/black indicator would be a effective way to empower the visitor's choice of how and when they should donate.

At the current time, making one signficant contribution to a website in need is more efficient than a spread of blind microtransactions with higher brokerage fees. As witnessed through the rise of Kickstarter, better transparency and response will drive an effective display of will from self-organised masses.

micro != macro (1)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#43154897)

The real problem with "micro"-transactions comes from every goddamned site that tries them, doing their best to aggregate them back into macro (or at least normal) transactions.

From site-specific microcurrencies - usually one dime or penny per unit - That you can only spend in multiples of 50 (aka "$5.00") or 500 (aka "$5.00") respectively, to tip jars that refuse to process under a buck or five, just about every site out there that takes "micro" payments refuses to actually take micro payments. And they lose money as a result.

Yes, guys, I would send you a few cents - maybe up to a buck if I really, really like what you do - To view your content, if I like it and can do so anonymously and friction-free. I won't, however, send you a Lincoln to read about your recent experience with an obnoxious Wallyworld cashier, no matter how funny you consider yourself.

Re:micro != macro (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year ago | (#43155081)

No, no, no. It's the wallyworld cashier who is funny -- I just described it to you.

That'll be $10--pay at the door. It wouldn't have been more than fifty cents, but I shouldn't have to explain the basics of humor to you. You're supposed to bring something to the table yourself, you know.

no mobile support (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43154907)

It doesn't work in the Android browser.

Re:no mobile support (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155117)

Yeah, I admittedly only put minimal effort into building a bare-bones tool. Not entirely sure how to make it work in the Android browser, actually. Interesting predicament, especially since I'm guessing lots of people do a lot of their reading on mobile devices...

Chrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154921)

Use chrome no 'bookmarks' bar available on every page. Let me know when you have better code and I might give it a go.

Law Of Unintended Consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154965)

If clicks generate money then all websites will maximize clicks, just like paying programmers by the line of code tends to generate a LOT of code.

Now personally I wouldn't want to use those websites because they'd be rather annoying.

402 Payment Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155005)

2 bitcoins will be deducted for reading this comment, click here to continue.

Slashdot already did it (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43155017)

Slashdot has microtransactions in terms of a subscription. The problem I had with microtransactions is that it is just too expensive. Like the games I used to play where one could buy stuff to support the developers. The rates started very reasonable, one could have fun for a few bucks a month, but then the prices simply got too high. The support the developers needed was beyond my ability to pay.

Slashdot was the same thing. i thought a subscription might last a while, but it ran out much faster than I thought. I think /. is a worthy site and should be supported, but given the rates that are charged for a subscription, it is clear that the advertisers are willing to pay more to get impressions that I am willing to pay for content.

Which is fine. This is how media has been forever. Advertisers are desperate to find ways to reach impressionable consumers. It works. I am not sure if there is any reason to change it. For instance I receive a number f magazine who subscriptions work out to much less than a dollar an issue. Clearly this is not enough to cover more than agency fees, handling, and postage. Therefore advertisers cover all productions costs and profits. These magazine makes money.

There are models already in the media in which end users provide tiny bits of funding, microtranactions so to speak, to support the media. In reality advertising, though much lower key, still supports up to 50% of the media outlets, and these outlets are often nonprofit, meaning corporate and public support is tax deductible. This is clearly not the model proposed here.

Flooded with ads from birth to death (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155041)

I block ALL adverts on the net, i timeshift my TV so i can fast forward through the tv adverts, i rip my DVDs so i'm not forced to watch the trailers, i don't look at billboards or adverts on the side of buses or on bus stops or on walls or on people's clothes...
I pay to live in a house, i pay to access the net, i pay for tv, i pay for lights in the street, i pay for everyone else's healthcare, i pay the wages of my country's corrupt politicians, i pay 20% extra on nearly all products, i pay more tax on petrol than any other country.

My eyeballs are not for sale, if a site i frequent turns to microtransations i simply won't go there any more.

Where is the 0-cent option (1)

PerfectSmurf (882935) | about a year ago | (#43155071)

Your whole test is flawed from the start because there is no 0-cent option. You assume that every web page has some value to everyone who visits it. The reality is that most pages on the web have zero value to most people who visit them. That is particularly true of pages visited from a search engine or a link from another web page.

Re:Where is the 0-cent option (2)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155131)

Actually, maybe I just didn't explain it properly. There is a zero-cent option, which is to just not click anything at all. This isn't something mandated or integrated into the sites, it's client side, so it's 100% voluntary, and only worthy content stands a chance of getting rewarded. "Worthy" being a very subjective concept in this case.

Re:Where is the 0-cent option (3, Insightful)

Sardak (773761) | about a year ago | (#43155373)

Are you recording the lack of a click in some way, then?

Which of these is more meaningful?
60% chose 1 cent
30% chose 2 cents
10% chose 3 cents

Or:
90% chose 0 cents
6% chose 1 cent
3% chose 2 cents
1% chose 3 cents

Re:Where is the 0-cent option (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155411)

I'm approaching it more like: slashdot.org got $3.44. 60% of those were 1 cent, 30% were 2 cents, 10% were 3 cents. The people who didn't pay didn't find anything worth seeing, or they forgot they had the bookmarklets, or they hated it, or... lots of things. I suppose it could be interesting to track explicit 0-cent transactions, but that just feels a bit negative for what I'm trying to do, rather than constructive. Though I definitely take your point.

Needs to be more convenient and secure (1)

dog77 (1005249) | about a year ago | (#43155139)

Or a subscription to the site or group of sites might work. However for any of this to take off, I think it has to be more convenient and secure to do transactions. This includes the security and anonymity of the transactions and ease of transaction including login/password/key management. PayPal like solutions help some with this, but transactions are still risky, inconvenient, and login/password management is still another account that you must create and remember. I look forward to the day where we have a comprehensive and convenient security solution that involves a secure device and secure network infrastructure , that manages your IDs/keys, transaction verification, secure connections, heavily audited, open solution, can be lost or stolen with out worry, and even if someone had a gun to your head asking you to transfer money, you could limit the ability to do the transaction with a number of security safe guards. I should be able to visit the most malicious site, get my computer compromised, and still not be at risk of losing my money or password. Until then, I am going to be very selective of who I give money to.

Do a better job of embedding the ads! (1)

evanh (627108) | about a year ago | (#43155163)

If the ads weren't so keen to get you clicking outside of the webpage being viewed maybe they'd be more palatable.

Less measurable distracting diversions and more subconscious directions would do wonders for the sales ... even if it is only ever a correlation. TV has thrived on this method.

Let the consumer feel they are in control, not the other way around.

Probably won't work. (4, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | about a year ago | (#43155251)

The reasoning here is sound, and the theory has been borne out over the past dozen years [openp2p.com] since this was written:

A transaction can't be worth so much as to require a decision but worth so little that that decision is automatic. There is a certain amount of anxiety involved in any decision to buy, no matter how small, and it derives not from the interface used or the time required, but from the very act of deciding. Micropayments, like all payments, require a comparison: "Is this much of X worth that much of Y?" There is a minimum mental transaction cost created by this fact that cannot be optimized away, because the only transaction a user will be willing to approve with no thought will be one that costs them nothing, which is no transaction at all... micropayments create a double-standard. One cannot tell users that they need to place a monetary value on something while also suggesting that the fee charged is functionally zero. This creates confusion - if the message to the user is that paying a penny for something makes it effectively free, then why isn't it actually free?... users will be persistently puzzled over the conflicting messages of "This is worth so much you have to decide whether to buy it or not" and "This is worth so little that it has virtually no cost to you."

Clay Shirky, 12/19/2000

Read the whole piece -- it has tons of good info. (And it's an entertaining read.)

Re:Probably won't work. (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155331)

Damn, I think I even read that, way back when. I built a lot of my brainspace around his notions of the double standard, valuable and value-less content. I shall drop 3 cents on that now! :)

Still, I take your point. At the same time, I had this really distressing moment a few weeks ago with some junior developers who were working on this-and-that, and I said to them with my wise, old experienced voice: "Oh you kids, that'll never work. We tried that back in '99 and it fell flat." And then they showed me that no, really, it does work these days... they just needed reality to catch up with our dreams.

So yeah. I guess that may have stirred up some of my old "let's fix the world!" idealism again. Probably a bad idea. It can only end in tears.

Missing option. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#43155401)

It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting.

In this case, there should also be a 0-cent link so people can positively register that they didn't value the page at all. That someone would voluntarily take the time to provide negative feedback means more than simply ignoring the ad.

Re:Missing option. (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | about a year ago | (#43155483)

My thinking on the subject has evolved since my comment a bit further up, but I'm still not sure that's something we necessarily want to track. I mean, I definitely see your point, but in the end it would be like "5,000 people hate digg.com." I guess it shows that 5,000 people were there, COULD have paid but didn't, but it's a bit like throwing a piece of chewed-up gum into a street performer's hat. It says "you suck", but it's not entirely productive.

On the other hand, if we were tracking individual pages instead of domains, that's something... but then this system becomes a focus testing tool, which is a bit sideways of where I wanted to be. It might be more useful to the site owners, but then you'd have obvious pandering all the time.

Hmm.

I don't see the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43155413)

Except that using microtransactions would just mean you would have lots of little paywalls.

Nostalgia is a bitch (1)

chimerafun (1364591) | about a year ago | (#43155421)

Everything in life is a value exchange whether you see it or not. Would you start a moving company that moved people regardless of whether they paid or not? Of course you wouldn't. Information and functionality isn't free it takes time to compile and create, it takes money to deliver it to you.

I see alot of "The web was so much better comments" here and on the post that instigated this.

Do any of you actually remember the web in the mid-90s? I'm guessing most of you are younguns living in an idealism hidden in the haze of a hormonal youth.

Do you remember that it took less time to go to the library and find information there than search using the primitive internet indexes that were around at the time?

Do you remember the horrid experiences when you finally found the website you were looking for and half the information was missing and the other half was linked in at a page that was actually a picture of a construction worker digging, because it was under construction?

Do you remember server crashes? Our favorite sites being down for weeks rather than minutes? How about email that had latency in the range of hours or days?

Make no mistake, money makes things better. It allows people to invest in infrastructure and invest in people who are specialists in fields like user experience, data structure, and design. Money is why we can, for no more than the cost of your internet connection, interact with someone accross the world in hundreds of ways, instantly.

I will never block ads, and just because you can doesn't make it right. If I disagree with or dislike the method of advertising delivery I will simply not visit the site. Just because I don't like a site's implied contract doesn't make it right for me to steal from them. I don't like airport security, nor do I like the way we are treated once on an airplane any more, yet it doesn't make me feel like I have the right to barge onto a plane and fly for free.

Those of you blocking ads and complaining, grow up, realize that people need to be able to eat and that every business person is not a millionaire. Most business people are just like you, struggling to survive and trying to find a way to give their customers the things they want at the lowest price possilble, and when a site is ad supported that price is free, the least you can do is leave the ads in place.

I find it funny (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#43155467)

People want free data, but hosting isn't free, so companies can offer "free" by extracting user usage-patterns and/or hosting ads.

End users don't want ads, but you can't get your stuff for free. So offer micro-transactions! Oh, wait... Those can be tracked and have to be tracked, money can't just come from no-where.

Someone responds, but something like bitcoin can allow anonymous transactions. Well, they don't need to track "you", just your habits. You're still no better off than where you were with ads, other than now you need to pay money and have the inconvenience of registering with each site to pay them, even if with an anonymous bitcoin key.

Wait, it gets better. They can just start tracking your keys, and now you give them the same info AND you pay them money. But you can create many more keys for free you say? But all transactions are public, so they can data-mine and link all of the fake-keys to the real person.

In the end, web-sites need to make money. Either you need to pay them indirectly with ads or something similar, or pay them directly with real money. No matter how you pay them, they can track and associate the money with "you", even if "you" is just another anonymous habit-based data-point.

Either way they will track you, but one way will actually cost you money.

This is my take on the situation.
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