Thursday, April 07, 2011

From Internet surfers to Internet serfs ~ By Phil Elmore

Five dollars isn't very much money. Yet as I whittled away at my Fiverr gigs, I realized I was expending much time and effort for a pittance. If I was willing to do that, what would those who were using Fiverr as their only source of income feel about the tasks offered?

Are we becoming a nation of webcam prostitutes and flash mobs, court jesters and glorified street mimes, who will perform stupid human tricks on command for only five bucks each? Have we been transformed from Internet surfers into Internet serfs? What request is too demeaning, what suggestion beneath us? I found, as I considered the revenue waiting to clear in my Fiverr account, that I was having difficulty answering those questions.

Phil writes about several websites where people can pick up some extra money by doing various "gigs" for very little compensation.

While most people would probably say, "I wouldn't work that hard for such small amount of income (because it is way beneath me)," there are always going to be people that would want to try to get their foot in the door for much better "gigs" down the road! Of course, we're talking about 21st century America, though. People want that instant gratification for their efforts. And in reality, it doesn't quite work that way.

For example, a good friend of mine swept the sidewalk for a small businessman downtown for very little money. He ended up as a store manager for that employer, and eventually opening up his own store which has been very successful. How many people out there would sweep a sidewalk without believing it was "beneath them?" Well, that friend did it, and he was rewarded.

What Phil wrote today absolutely blew me away! It may have taken most of the morning for it to soak in, but I got the point. And I hope you do, too, if you so happened to have come across this post or Phil's column. Can you imagine how impressed a potential employer would be if they saw you putting effort into something with very little reward? Or, will they just take advantage of you because you're willing to work for less? Really? If that's your attitude, I'll just be blunt: Stay broke!

From Internet surfers to Internet serfs
By Phil Elmore

April 07, 2011 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2011

It is said that everyone has a price. In a challenging economy – one suffering under the yoke of President Obama's hostility to capitalism and free enterprise – this has never been more true. The United States is mired in an economic malaise – a crisis of national morale, collective self-image and financial realities that feels like the Carter years. As Democrats agitate for more spending, ordinary men and women scrape and scrimp and save.

As we struggle financially, the wages for which we are willing to toil decrease. For more Americans than ever before, their price is a mere $5. I should know; I'm one of them.

The website is called "Fiverr." It is an online marketplace where those who sign up answer the question, "What would you do for five dollars?" Those who sign up explain what goods or services they are willing to offer for five bucks. Customers choose from among these, provide special instructions if needed, and then pay their "fiver," which is held by the Fiverr website until the job is successfully completed. If the job is canceled or the seller does not deliver on time, customers may have their funds returned to them. The website gets one dollar of every successfully completed five-dollar gig, which is how it stays in business.

The success of the site has spawned a number of similar sites, like Outsourcerr (which bills itself as a "Fiverr alternative"), TenBux (where everything is 5 or 10 dollars; the basic concept is identical to Fiverr's), Telegigz ("Gigs through telecommunication," where the prices offered and paid vary more widely), and Jobs for 10 (an "online micro jobs site" offering 5-, 10- and 20-dollar tasks).

Fiverr has been profiled in several different publications. Jackie Loohauis-Bennett at JSOnline described it as a great way to get some "quick help on a small project." Leena Rao at TechCrunch raved that the site is "kind of brilliant and also entertaining." Lifehacker correctly pointed out that the idea is both simple and clever, while the Wall Street Journal's online blog declared Fiverr the result of mixing "unemployment, frugal consumers and Internet boredom." Curious, I decided I wanted to experience the site from the inside, to see what all the fuss was about.

First, I forked over my own five bucks – and then again – to see what buying a "gig" from a Fiverr seller was like. (Fiverr has its own jargon; the jobs offered and bought are all "gigs.") One Fiverr seller said she would broadcast the message of my choice to her 400,000 Twitter followers. I paid my money, waited for proof of the sent message (which was offered promptly) ... and nothing happened. Not a single new follower or inquiry resulted from the attempt to promote my websites and Twitter account. Disappointed, I went back to the Fiverr gigs listing.


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