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rspindel, those are fair questions. I do think the issue is an important one. We want to see the answerers get paid fairly for the time they put in answering questions, and it is worthwhile to talk about this issue and ask whether the prices are high enough. I am not sure of the final answer to this problem, perhaps there is none, but I do think that one way forward is for the answerers to remember that they can encourage askers to raise the prize offered, if the answerers feel the prize is too low.

The money for a question can be split among all of the answerers, and we encourage the askers to do so where appropriate.

Last time I checked the stats, about a quarter of all the questions ended with the money being split among multiple answerers. I think the splits are often the most fair way of rewarding all the people who contribute to a solution.

If the people who are ready to answer a question feel the price is too low, we encourage them to say so. They can either email the asker, or state their complaint in the thread beneath the question. The askers have an easy way of increasing the prize money, and they should be encouraged to do so if their question is more ambitious than the prize they offer.

Last time I checked the stats, about 8% or 9% of the questions had their prize money boosted above the original offer. Sometimes an asker wants to tip an answerer for a job well done, or sometimes the various people responding have suggested to the asker that the prize money needs to be increased, and the asker heeds those requests.

In terms of what is exploitive, I think each person is going to come to their own conclusions about that. Personally, I think the support forums at WordPress.org are exploitive, because the people asking questions never get paid for the time they put in. The internet is full of free forums where the expertise of the answerers is ripped off, without pay, so that the owner of the site can make some money through advertising. By contrast, on this site, 89% of the money goes to the people who actually answer the questions (almost 5% goes to PayPal, and the remaining 7% goes to Darren and I).

StackOverflow exploits the people who answer questions - they are never paid. Wordpress.org exploits the people who answer questions - they are never paid. Experts Exchange exploits the people who answer questions - only a few of them get trivial benefits, and the rest are never paid.

This site is different - money gets paid to the people who answer questions.

I have some other thoughts about this site which I wrote last year, in the post "History, incubation and inspirations". If you have the time, you may wish to give that a look, to see some of the reasoning that lead to this site.

Again, thanks for raising this issue. It is worth talking about.


Hmm, one final thought. I do not think this is fair to plugin developers:

Then, a plugin dev who did nothing but release a plugin that required support but didn't provide it himself, gets rewarded as well.

A lot of developers put a lot of time into plugins that get released for free, and which thousands, or tens of thousands, of people use. Most of the time, the developers never get any money for all of the hard work that they put into their plugins. Lots of people enjoy the benefits of that plugin, and yet few of them ever think to make a donation back to the developer. This is unfair. That is why we give 25% of our profits to the plugin developers when a question is about their plugin. We believe that a site like WP Questions can function, in part, as a fund raiser for open source software development. And we believe it is time to funnel more money back to the developers who work so hard to provide the community with the plugins which we all rely on.

Lawrence Krubner | 05/18/10 at 3:22pm

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