Sometimes I think the shift to Society 2.0 is driven by the wrong incentives. When I hold presentations for companies, the fact that they often pick up on is that people do things for “free”. Sometimes you can see it in their eyes – “oh! if the users to all the work we don’t have to pay! bring it on, web 2.0!”. You know what I mean; the whole (tiresome) UGC-discussion.
I think this is a complete misconception of the situation, as this would imply that there are hoards of users just waiting in line to help companies cut their costs. This is, obviously, not the case (but if it was that would indeed be a revolution in itself). People are people primarily, not users. This is not going to change in a foreseeable future.
The confusion occurs because there is no monetary transaction. That doesn’t mean it’s free. You still have to offer something in return, but in another currency that is equally accepted on the internet. There are many different types that can be considered. Here’s a few that I’ve thought of:
Content: Barter deals with articles or services. Common in old media as well.
Enhanced user experience: Upcoming.org – add the events that you are interested in, and get recommendations in return.
Trust: Adding information or customisation to make the service more adjusted to you, and thus more trustworthy. Netvibes is a good example. Head over to Trustmojo for more qualified thoughts on the matter of trust.
Identity: Adding content to strengthen the persons online identity in that arena. See any working community for this.
Values: Wikipedia – the dream of a free encyclopedia for everyone, world wide.
Money: Still works of course, Revver for instance.
Although I don’t have a formula on how one relates to another in terms of amount, there probably could be one. It would be very blunt, but still. If nothing else it would be a good way to show all these companies that are offering absolutely nothing, money or otherwise, to their users. They are in for a surprise if they think their corporate wikis are going to be filled with spectacular and free content.