I’m Flattr’ed!

2011 Flattr widget

I conducted an experiment back when I wrote my HP N36L review: I added affiliate links to both Amazon and Newegg, hopefully to get some revenue without polluting my site with advertisements.

It was successful; I earned enough to pay for a few cups of espresso, at least.

Many authors have PayPal-powered “tip jars” or links to their Amazon wishlist. I’ve now setup the same, but I think it’s unrealistic visitors spend the requisite time or money to use them.

Enter Flattr, a new “social micropayments” platform, a tip jar evolved to work on Web scale. Flattr is a quick and easy way to give back to content creators—including myself. Rather than trying to explain it, watch Flattr’s introductory video. I love the cake analogy.

If you want to get an item from my Amazon wish list, please do! But what if you wanted to contribute less? And why would anyone else want to use Flattr over PayPal?

Well, one, it’s simpler. Users need only click a single button (the Flattr widget) to Flattr me. Also, users don’t need to worry about figuring out how much to give me—Flattr’s “cake cutting” algorithm does it for you. Nothing stops you from donating more, of course.

Second, Flattr’s rates are better. Say you’ve decided to add $10/month to your Flattr account, and you’ve Flattr’ed 10 people, including me. Each of those people will be entitled to $1. With Flattr’s 10% commission, I’d get 90¢; with PayPal’s default fee schedule, I’d get 67.1¢ ($1-($1×2.9%+$0.30)). Big difference. Flattr works well when you’re dealing with small amounts (called micropayments), exactly the niche market they’re trying to fill.

Imagine you’re walking down the street and hear a great musician, to whom you’d like to donate some small change. It’s easy to do in the real world. With conventional payment systems oriented around transactions, this model doesn’t translate. With Flattr, however, the model does—it brings a donation system and ethic present within the real world onto the Web.

PayPal has its own little-known micropayments platform with a better fee schedule, but it requires the receiver to go through a manual approval process to receive a special account. It’s only available in a few countries and has been a “beta” product for years, implying PayPal does not care much about it. Why should they? PayPal, making money on high-value transactions, has little incentive to develop micropayments—not until there’s marketshare and mindshare to steal, something Flattr is building.

Third, with free culture luminaries like Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay fame behind it, Flattr seems less likely to “censor” recipients, holding funds hostage and even confiscating them, something for which PayPal is notorious. While I’m not worried about anyone censoring my overly-politically correct blog, should I be OK with organizations unfairly censoring others? *cough* WikiLeaks *cough*

Flattr is so nascent, it’s unlikely I earn a significant amount of money. And the meager money I do earn I will probably use to Flattr others. But it’s easy to use, low-risk for myself and visitors, and most importantly I believe in its ethos—so why not?

If you like this post or my blog, please flattr it!


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