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You Have No Idea How Hesitant I Am To Bring This Up

In the context of not trying to stir up a shitstorm, I wrote the following about micropayments:

If you think that they’re crap, please acknowledge that they may eventually come about, but only by piggybacking on other protocols that will establish identity in a manner much stronger than is available today. If you’re in favor of them, please acknowledge that a viable one-click micropayment system won’t be developed until a viable one-click macropayment system is developed (because with the costs of building the damn thing, any developer is going to need to see a return on investment before scaling down).

So, one-click micropayments of the McCloudian model may or may not ever exist. How about no-click micropayments? I had a chat with a gentleman by the name of Brad Patterson yesterday, telling me about his new venture, IndieKarma. It may or may not be what we’ve been waiting to see micropayments develop into; Patterson is cheefully honest that he’s not sure what IndieKarma will develop into. But there’s some interesting ideas at play, and since he’s identified webcomics as the ideal sphere for his model, we really ought to discuss it.

Now, as we all know, micropayments are one of those topics pretty much guaranteed to cause a lot of hotly-contested opinions in this community, so I’m going to ask a favor of all here, namely: wait until we’ve presented the entire case before you start declaring it’s either the Second Coming or the Tool Of The Devil, ‘kay? ‘Kay.

A little background first: Patterson’s previous venture, PixelPass, was a more traditional micropayment-type scheme; it obscured content, and revealed it upon payment authorization, with pricepoints in the US$1.00 range. IndieKarma (originally conceived of with blogs as a target market, now looking more at webcomics and other forms of independent content creators) works off of a “fill a purse/drain it slowly” model: you put at least US$1.00 into an account, and it gets doled out automatically to participating sites US$0.01 at a time. Not quite what got envisioned in Reinventing Comics, but possibly pretty close. So how does it work?

There are two types of account with IndieKarma: individual user and content provider (for the purposes of this discussion, a webcomic or blog). The user places money into an IndieKarma account, and every time they visit an IndieKarma-enabled site (identified — hopefully — by a banner across the bottom of the page), a penny gets deducted from the user’s account and credited to the webcomic.

Development continues (the service only launched last week, and Patterson acknowledges that much feature development is underway at the moment), but the plan is that the user can set up a profile to control giving. Patterson seems to have started the service out of a sense of idealism (i.e.: wanting to have a mechanism to reward creators who might not be getting very much remuneration for their considerable efforts), but IndieKarma is definitely a business. The primary account top-up mechanism is PayPal, which takes a cut, and IndieKarma will take what it thinks is a fair amount for arranging the donation. If you’re a creator, of every penny that a reader gives to you, you’ll see 75%.

To prevent this from being an overwhelming discussion of the service, we’ll hold up here. Come back tomorrow and we’ll run the proper interview with Patterson and listen to his pitch. Depending on space, our analysis will run tomorrow or Thursday, and as always, we invite your comments.

So does IndieKarma also obscure content until you set up an account?

It sounds like an interesting idea. That’s the only comment I can make right at the moment.

Brad contacted me last week about this, and it is interesting— The only thing I don’t like is the honor system of signing up, and the penny a page thing might need some tweaking ( i brought this up to him via e-mail ) — like if someone visited my archive and read through 20 comics, it would cost them 20 cents? Nah– he did mention something about a time delay for the visit or something I think (cant remember)

For this to really work for webcomics, you’d need a solid, SOLID list of webcomics willing to sign up, (preferably comics that weren’t complete crap) and have them all listed somewhere on the INdie Karma site in maybe a “comics” section that would encourage outside visitors and subscribers to indieclick to come visit your site through the network.

Only problem… it feels like the honor system. And given a choice between free surfing and signing up for anything, even a penny, statistics have shown the majority of readers would just cruise through free.

Someone on my forums actually said they could see possible security holes in such a system and asked me to relay to Brad if they wanted someone to try to test hack their system.

I heart automatic, silent deductions.

It’s like allowing all the bums on the street to pull money from my pants – but without the ancilliary free gropage of my crotch.

I am highly intrigued, even if I’m still totally skeptical that money will really be made from this.

[…] Here’s the interview that we promised yesterday regarding IndieKarma, the new kid on the micropayments block. With any luck, some of the concerns in yesterday’s comments section may be addressed here by IndieKarma honcho Brad Patterson, and we’ll have analysis on IndieKarma’s service tomorrow. Play nice, kids! Fleen: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Brad. For starters, what’s your title at IndieKarma? Patterson: I’m the founder, and I run the show on day-to-day basis. […]

Thanks for covering this, Gary.

Already hacked. I personally think indieKarma is a pretty cool idea. But if you find the reminders annoying, all you have to do is get Firefox (if you don’t have it already), install the Adblock plugin, and block the indieKarma script.

[…] Uncategorized This page wrote about what might (or might not) be the ultimate triumph of no-hassle micropayments; we promised at that time to keep an eye on the service, and so we’re briefly revisiting IndieKarma today. […]

[…] Or maybe you hadn’t; at the time of writing, the Bitpass home page featured nothing in the News section more recent than last October. With Bitpass going the way of the non-avian dinosaurs, that leaves IndieKarma to process small payments in a (semi-) transparent way. Since IndieKarma has, as of this writing, managed to sign up a total of 1140 people (despite the promise of one free dollar of credit to the first 5000 accounts) since founding last May, don’t expect micropayments to suddenly rise from the ashes like a phoenix. […]

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