Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News How to Pay the Author: Flattr Micropayment Service

How to Pay the Author: Flattr Micropayment Service

This item in japanese

Earlier this year the micropayment service flattr (a wordplay of flatrate and flatter) went live. The principle is simple but could change the way in which we reward quality content on the net. Flattr was initiated by one of the founders of The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde, who also presented it at social media conferences like re:publica.

An existing alternative US Service is Kachingle which aired in 2009 and is focused on (re)visiting websites for distributing the earnings. Thoughts about a open alternative can be found at the OpenFlattr Wiki.

How does micropayment work:

  • During the beta phase you have to get an invite code
  • You register an account
  • You upload some money via paypal or moneybookers to the service
  • You define a monthly amount that then will be distributed to all content that you appreciate, i.e. on whose flattr button you click
  • As creator you can add flattr buttons to your content directly or via plugins
  • At the end of the month your monthly amound will be evenly distributed to the people whose content you liked and you receive the money from the people that flattred your content

Flattr currently takes a 10% fee of the money transferred to them. Another share of the money is kept by the money transfer service (like paypal).

As the service was live now for about a month, there ist the first data - they have now about 16000 beta users. The most successful authors have earned about 200 EUR in the first month with 0,14 EUR per click.

Kent Beck wrote some articles about how hard it is to get rewarded for his work in the software development both as programmer as well as author. Perhaps micropayment can contribute as one solution.

The culture of the web is different than the traditional publishing culture where big publishers sell tons of publications to readers paying upfront. On the web, many content authors give away their content for free, they don't require you to pay upfront or to subscribe. They enjoy creating and sharing as they benefit from others doing the same. It is not so much a market of money but instead of attention (and fame). But if I really liked an blog article or a screencast helped me to save several hours of work, how can I reward the author for that? Writing and publishing my own content is one way. Are there others?

Donating via Paypal or other services does not really work, especially for small amounts as it's not worth the hassle and the fees. But micropayment solutions that are easy to setup and use and which are embraced by a bigger community of consumers and producers would make a difference.

Not only creators of written content, podcasts and screencasts could benefit from such a platform. Program authors that want to offer their code for free but would still like to allow users to return the favour can use it as well.

Another interesting idea described in the feedback article (german) to flattr by Tim Pritlove is that the flattr count says much more about the quality of the content than just a Facebook "I Like" link: "People put their money where their mouth is." Liking things does not cost anything, so how much is it worth? But if you flattr someone you actually give them money, so you show that you value their content or work.

Some articles talk about a gift economy (german), where you receive gifts in the form of content and can give something back some time later but not necessarily reciprocally.

Some authors that provide quality content for the software development community, like software engineering radio, chaosradio express (german) or the scrum coach Mark Löffler already added flattr to their sites.

Some program authors have done so as well:

There are plugins for WordPress, and others for CMS systems and audio player software are in progress.

What do you think? Would you flattr InfoQ if it provided such a possibility?

Rate this Article