About Gifts

Alex Danco, 2020-08-23

MK: Just love the topic of free being better than free


  • Lots of really good content is given away for free (via various means – Twitter, email lists, etc.). And the content is not some throwaway stuff – it’s the real deal, written by experts in their trade. And the best part is their consistency.

  • [MK: Guilty as charged – I ran my blog from 2001 till 2017 on a very regular basis and got a bunch of consulting clients and a current job as a result]

Why Does it Work?

  • It’s the culture of abundance or “gift culture”.

  • Evolutionally, status is about scarcity and want.

  • Command structures always breed freeloaders feeding off more successful branches —> inefficiencies. Social status built on access to coercive power.

  • Exchange economy is about trade and about the things to trade.

  • Gift culture is not about what you control but what you give away. Ex: philanthropy, open-source, hackers.

  • Gifting something doesn’t mean the effort is zero: far from it – it’s synthesis of other things [MK: which can even be protected by most copyright laws]. It’s a non-transactional economy.

  • Positional scarcity – earning social status by giving away the most valuable things.

  • Self-positioning and focus are about creating consistent value to the audience. And that’s what keeps people opening emails and visiting the website.

This little thing called “reputation”

  • [MK: literally a couple of hours I was going through my notes I took at the International Directors’ Course at INSEAD, which touched on the topic of reputation, which is hard to build, easier than ever to lose and which requires more care than a jealous Tamagotchi. Go figure!]

  • Giving away cool stuff is a very productive way of building reputation.

  • Prestige is a good way to attract attention and cooperation from others.

  • Gift economy has spillover effect on one’s prestige in the command or exchange economy.

  • However, the value of what’s being given away is in the eyes of a recipient, so one has to be very adaptive to understand the value of it.

  • Indeed, it’s the “social fog of war”. Gifts are valuable, even more valuable if there’s no way to assess them, but they’re not new; if they’re new – very few people will recognize the value. Copying something from others is considered bad form [MK: I hope my notes are not]

  • No one knows for sure if paid newsletters work better than free newsletters. [MK: for me personally free has worked better so far, but your mileage may vary.]