I enjoyed reading a recent article by Matei Ripeanu and friends, "Gifting technologies: A BitTorrent case study." They look at a set of six BitTorrent communities with different properties and policies, and compare and contrast various metrics such as degree of freeloading and relative contribution of most frequent uploaders. Arguably some of the conclusions regarding how best to encourage "gifting" are obvious, but I don't think they all are, and there are interesting insights into the relative importance of different factors.
The authors point to some interesting conclusions, all explained in considerable detail:
- Promote both gifting and trading.
- Support cultural norms for gifting.
- Take prolific gifters into account.
- Make gifting the default.
- Increase the effectiveness of gifting.
- Make gifting safe.
- Make gifting a byproduct of actions carried out by users for their own benefit
- Allow different kinds of gifting with different effort levels.
I found the following quote of interest:
Benkler argues that the overcapacity for this class of goods may in some contexts be more effectively harnessed using social sharing rather than markets, because social exchanges have lower transactional costs and can produce and make use of more detailed, textured information than markets can. Benkler also mentions that markets may crowd–out [disincentivize] intrinsic motives for sharing [such as "philanthropy"].