The pioneer in the burgeoning panhandling industry is generally believed to be Karyn, who bills herself as a "nice girl in [her] upper twenties" who is buried under a mound of credit card debt incurred while buying expensive luxury items on Ebay. Now, why anybody would see fit to reward her behavior with their hard-earned money is beyond me. Assuming her pitch is true, is she really going to learn fiscal responsibility if she is taught that begging for handouts is the solution to one's financial problems? Indeed, the description she offers of how her debt grew to its present size: "Who knows! My debt just got larger and larger, and here I am today with a huge monthly payment" indicates a complete refusal to take responsibility for the circumstances she finds herself in and betrays her later assertion that "I'm done with my frivolous ways." Karyn's visitors may successfully bail her out, this time, but they are clearly not teaching her the requisite lessons about fiscal discipline or personal responsibility. They are doing nothing more than supplying an addict with enough money for her next hit. In fact, she is even trying to raise money by, you guessed it, selling items on Ebay.
While Karyn's recent success is a both a product of her ingenuity and a testament to how the Internet community celebrates novelty in all its forms, she has spawned a host of copycat sites that are neither ingenious nor novel. The scent of "free money" has attracted the unscrupulous bottom-dwellers of the Internet faster than even the latest pyramid scheme. These parasites tarnish the concept of the web tip jar, which has helped to support a number of popular Internet communities, and seek only to enrich themselves without producing anything of value.
The web tip jar originally evolved in response to the decline of the Internet advertising industry. Large community websites, that were previously able to support themselves with advertising sales, were forced to look to other sources of revenue in order to cover their hosting and maintainance costs. For inspiration, they looked to street performers who would entertain their audience and then request voluntary donations in order to support themselves. Seeking to emulate this model, community-driven sites like SomethingAwful, Fark, and Kuro5hin asked members to contribute towards covering the costs of maintaining the sites. As a testament to these sites' commitment to their membership base, all have since started giving paid members special perks in an attempt to provide even greater value in exchange for visitors' support. In fact, the founder of Kuro5hin has even indicated that he will make the site a registered non-profit organization to acknowledge the role of visitors' contributions in keeping the site alive.
Personal websites have also been able to benefit from the "street performers' protocol." OddTodd, who responded to being laid off by creating an hilarious cartoon that was enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people, asked for donations from those who enjoyed his work and recieved enough money to cover his expenses and financially benefit from his creativity. But, instead of being inspired to produce their best work for the Internet community to enjoy, the virtual panhandlers saw the success of sites like OddTodd as only a willingness of netizens to part with their money on the web, which they could exploit.
Do not allow yourself to reward greed in the absence of productivity. Support sites that offer something in return for your contribution and help keep your favorite community sites alive.
This article was originally published on LennyGrover.com but has modified from its original version; its length has been altered to better fit Kuro5hin and it has been edited for content. I am the original author.