Free advice in the blogosphere

Darren Rowse, the ProBlogger, posed an interesting question:

‘At what point should someone start paying for the advice or sharing the benefits that they receive from the input from others?’

This question was asked in the context of a discussion prompted by Jason Calacanis’ comments on how advice the guys at Weblogs had received recently helped them boost their AdSense earnings.  He went on to request further assistance in optimising their ads to boost their revenue even further.

Paul, over at Work Boxers, took offence at this and I am not so sure he is wrong:

To me this is just insulting. The guy is making $1400/day (min.), which
he equates to $511,000/year and wants free help to get to $730,000/year
(min.) along with Amazon help. Does this seem strange to anyone else or
am I missing something here? For helping him earn an extra $200k/year I
can get a free dinner. Awesome.

The main issue, as far as I am concerned, isn’t so much that the proprietors of a successful blog are seeking free advice to further boost their earnings, but rather what the best approach is in the circumstances.

Darren suggests that the proprietors of the more successful blogs may have a responsibility to those less successful to assist them to develop their blogs further.  He sets out a series of steps a blogger can take when looking for advice and I agree with his suggestions.  I tend to look for freely available advice first before flirting with paid services mainly because I can’t afford the paid advice.

As for the ethics of more successful bloggers seeking free advice to become more successful, I believe the answer lies in what is known as an "exchange of energy".  There is this notion in many complementary and alternative healing modalities that there must be an exchange of energy for services rendered.  One of the reasons for this is that the people receiving those services will only appreciate the value of those services if they must give something in return.  This usually takes the form of payment. 

In the context of this debate, I believe that the requirement of an exchange of energy is appropriate and that those bloggers who receive free advice which helps them to optimise their blogs or revenue (or whatever) must give something back.  I suppose this could be regarded as a responsibility to give back but rather than being motivated by a need to trade advice for something in return (probably Jason’s motivation for offering a free dinner in exchange for the $200k boost), this exchange should be motivated by a recognition that the recipient has received something of great value and that this benefit should be shared.

As Darren put it, "the strength of blogging is the free exchange of information, transparency and sharing of lessons learned".  I don’t believe that successful bloggers shouldn’t receive free advice.  I believe that they simply bear a responsibility to the blogosphere as a whole to share some of those lessons.  There is no need to grasp for more at the expense of everyone else.  There are plenty clicks to go around.

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