Alan Richmond's Zeef.com site about python
Until five minutes ago, i had no idea what Zeef.com is nor what Mister Alan Richmond does. Now i'm much wiser: Mister Alan Richmond is apparently an python trainer with an interesting background and a love for fractals, and he took the time and effort to assemble a very nice Zeef.com page about python links:
It is possible to suggest more (python) links to be included in his page, by pressing on the "+" icon below each list. If i ever muster the energy to continue working on my ThePythonGameBook project, i will submit a link to it to Mister Richmond's python page!
All in all: well done, Mister Richmond, congratulations, and thanks for all those links in one place!
Please note that there are additional, competing zeef.com sites about Python, like those of Sergio Vieira and more may be appear in the future.
From a first look i get the impression that Zeef.com is yet another site attracting near unpaid labor by offering an elegant web layout to sell affiliate links. As far as i understand, everyone can submit to create his own link collection site at zeef.com, there is some human curator accepting or refusing the site and you are encouraged to make "competing" sites with link lists to existing topics as well as to create new link list to new topics. Each topic has to contain a least one list and each list has to contain some "high-ranking" links to external web-sites.
The layout looks nice on large screen (flexible columns), the site makes it easy to suggest additional links to an zeef.com site owner, share or embed a linklist or give feedback. Also i like the fact that zeef.com seems to aim to be multi-linugal (three languages so far). There exist a "tip" link where you can fill in your paypal information and zeef.com will contact the linklist assembler, what seem to be a bit over-complicated to me. There also exist the possibility to become not only a (lowly) "curator" but a "publisher" and recive 50% of affiliate links income. It is also allowed to create a Zeef.com page about a company (without paing extra) and it is possible to publish not only links but also feed-urls, giving any zeef.com site some functionality of an feedreader/news aggregator.
What i like less is the fact that there is no clear Creative-Commons or license information to be found, and i feel that underpaid/unpaid zeef site curators like Mister Richmond have no possibility to include such license information (or other links/buttons, like paypal, flattr, bitcoin buttons etc.) inside a link list. There exist a possibility to include text blocks, but the zeef.com faq says:
We recommend to focus on links, and keep text blocks to a minimum
It is however possible to embed a zeef.com linklist into any website, so clever bloggers could use the zeef.com affilate linklist system as a plugin into their own money-generating sites, like an amazon partner link.
The whole business model of zeef.com seems to me: exploiting the commons (internet sites created by others) and the free work of volunteers assembling the link lists (attracting page views, generating value and intelligence) but offering questionable return: Whatever content is generated on zeef.com seems to remain "intellectual property" (please note the quotes and the included link to Stallman!) of zeef.com and is not (like Wikipedia) shared under a free license. The focus of zeef.com is to let users compete in creating affilate link lists (each link will be automatically made into an affiliate link).
Legal problems may arise for zeep users in Germany or other European countries with legislation protecting traditional media houses, like the german Leistungsschutzrecht.
compete or collaborate?
The "internet commons" (see books of Jeremy Rifkin and 'making money' section below in this blog post), the sum of all human-made webistes, of information sharing, encourages a mindset of volunteer collaboration, of working for free towards a greater goal: making the interent commons more valuable. For example the uncountable unpaid man-hours spent by wikipedia writers, free software programmers on github.com projects etc. This is what makes the internet great and there are two kind of players (according to Jeremy Rifkin): Those who understand this movement and give back to the community, like companies licensing code or content under free licenses. Those And the other ones: guarding, controlling and restricting what users are allowed to do or may not do with code/content. Think of film/music industry, facebook, software comanies etc., all thos dreaming of a "walled gardens", "Software patents", "Digital Restriction Management" etc. The key ideology here is competition instead of colloboration. It's working against each other.
Zeef.com takes an interesting position in the here:
On the one hand, Zeef.com freely allows the use of it's service (free website hosting / embedding) and depends on unpaid work / collaboration: Anyone hoping to create an attractive zeef.com site will need to accept links suggested by users and will need to constantly check on other similar websites (inside or outside zeef.com) for links-not-to-be-missed. The very idea of an (affiliate) link list depends on the "internet commons", aka websites open to the public and not restricted behind a paywall.
On the other hand Zeef.com has no clear visible position on content licensing. It is also highly questionable if a (affiliate) link list by itself is a licensable content (it clearly has some value) or if it is public domain-like. The idea of encouraging (instead of not forbidding) competing zeef.com sites to the same topic in combination with zeef.com publishers competing for affiliate income is ... interesting. It can be viewed as a "right to fork" like common sense in the free software world and as an possible "escape the tyranny of the majority" (wikipedia: one site for one topic only). But i see it as an enviroment that will not foster collaboration, at least not for topics where affilate links to purchaseable items are involved. Why should i help someone to make his zeef.com site better (by suggesting links) so that he can profit more? Why should i suggest links to all / some of cometing zeef.com sites?
- License: unclear vs. creative commons cc-by-sa
- Curators: one vs. anyone with an wikipedia account
- content (text): nearly none vs. much
- possible income (donations) goes to: curator vs. Wikimedia foundation
- affiliate links possible: yes vs. no
It is clear for me that i would rather invest time and effort to improve an wikipedia article rather than a zeef.com site about any given topic, because ownership and "giving back" to the internet commoms are more secure by wikipedia.
However it may turn out that zeef.com fills a special niche (like Quora.com) were people do not mind investing time simply because it's fun and that the spirit of collaborating will prevail over the spirit of unfriendly competition.
What Zeef.com is offering is to quickly create a good-looking, human curated site of thematic link-lists. The zeef.com sites look better than this blog, and i can imagine that zeef.com becomes an useful tool for barcamps, ad-hoc meetings or political organisations to quickly assemble and share some intelligence and links.
While the 50% deal for affiliate links seems to be not so attractive to me (a 50% cut for webspace and design template? Who pays the additional bank fee?), maintaining a vibrant zeef.com site may be worthwile for people enjoying to contantly rank purchasable items (teenagers? fashion bloggers?) and democratisize this way of making money. All in all, there are worse business models out there, like doing the same work while believing to be an independent journalist working for the free press. Maybe making quickly a pretty, mini-wiki for free turns out to be just the thing the world was waiting for. There is a gap between hosting (and paying) for your own wiki and using free services like wikia.com that are full of terrible blinking advertisements.