March 12, 2001-- Newsletter #121

By Joe Burns

Goodies to Go (tm)
March 12, 2001--Newsletter #121

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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Have you finished your taxes yet? I get mine done right way. However, as big a computer fan as I am, I don't submit by electronic means. The reason is, over one in five returns filed electronically are bounced back because of problems. H&R Block's Kiplinger TaxCut and Intuit's Quicken TurboTax report a 20% rejection rate. Now here's the reason I mail my returnno one at the IRS can say why the returns are being returned. There's a problem that no one quite knows what it is or how to fix it. I'll use the stamp again this time around.

Did you hear

The encryption code surrounding DVD discs has been cracked again. MIT student Keith Winstein and MIT alumni Marc Horowitz published their seven-line code- cracking program online. The two state they will continue to crack future DVD codes and post for the world to see. The Motion Picture Industry isn't all that happy about that statement, as you might have guessed.

The U.S. House of Representatives, by a 223-206 vote, repealed federal regulations to prevent repetitive-motion injuries in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations were not yet in effect. They had been passed under former President Clinton's administration and would have become law in October of this year.

The Porn industry, once thought to be the only true profit making entity on the Web, is reporting problems. Major sites are starting to lose funds because of a proliferation of numerous smaller free sites. No matter how low a cost the big sites offer, free is always better. The only porn sites that are still quite viable are those considered soft. These would include sites that are simple Playboy-like pictorials. It's the harder sites that are really running into trouble.

Now onto today's topic

I logged into one of my favorite sites the other day and was met with a rather interesting new element. I was asked to give a dollar.

Have you seen this yet? I was stunned. This site that I visit numerous times during the week was asking me for a dollar.

I am being panhandled over the Web.

It's something that is so new that I ran into it before I had heard about it. That's new to me. The process is called The Honor System and it comes from, of all people,

No kidding you can read all about it here:

The site that was asking for the dollar explained that the buck would go to keeping the site free (apart from the dollar donation I assume) and in return for the contribution I would receive a couple of downloads for free. The site said that they would use the dollar to feed a programmer until his next trip to the vending machine. Hey, at least they were honest. It's akin to the guy on the street with the sign that reads, Give me a buck, I need a beer.

I don't know whether to think this is brilliant or goofy. set up the honor system in order to either sell digital content or to collect voluntary payments as low as one dollar. If you've ever bought anything over, and have set up a login and password, you can donate money to your favorite site, providing the site has a PayBox (correct spelling) there for you to offer payment.

I gave you an FAQ link above. There you can set up both your PayBox, that's the element you actually place on your page and a PayPage (also correct spelling).

You plop the PayBox onto your page, someone clicks to give you a dollar, and that takes him or her to the PayPage where they then select their credit card account. A few seconds later, your customized thank-you page pops up and a buck has been donated.

It's better than a burgundy military suit, a big base drum, and a little red kettle.

OK, yes. I can see the true good in this concept. Let's say I run a non-profit company. It use to be that I would have to set up an elaborate system equal to a for-profit site in order to accept credit card donations over the Web. No more. Now I can use the card system set up by Amazon to accept donations and not be out of any money to set the system up. Oh, sure, there's a fee, but it's nothing compared to paying for the programming, getting the bank account, and then paying the fee on top of that for the transaction. This is a great idea. The problem is, that's not how it's going to be used.

It's going to be used just as I saw it being used.

Gimme a buck.

I actually thought seriously about not writing on this topic because I know that this newsletter will be the starter for a slew of people to go to and read all about the system. The service is there for anyone to use so it's only a matter of time before these PayBoxes start to pop up all over the place. Every site that offers any type of information will have at the bottom of every page:

Gimme a buck.

Surfing the Web might start to feel like a walk around lower Manhattan.

Gimme a buck.

At least the site that first panhandled me was offering something in return. If I gave a dollar, I would receive some content. No, I didn't donate a buck to find out, but the site has been fairly truthful in the past so I have no reason to doubt them regarding their request for a buck.

How many sites do you think will actually do that, huh? Or, how many sites will actually proclaim to provide content and then not send anything, or better yet, sign up you up for a newsletter. That would be a real trophy, huh? Gimme a buck and I'll sign you up for my newsletter. Geethanks.

Oh, well. It's out there now. I certainly see the good side of it. I can see a guy who builds software using the Honor System to collect money for his work or a woman who creates graphics for download asking for some money for her time. I can see the non-profit site using the system to accept donations. However, I get the feeling those types of sites will be in the minority.

I believe the overwhelming bulk of the users will be people who once had that Bannermania spark in their eyes (A penny a click? I'll be rich!) saying:

Gimme a buck.


That's that. You read it. NowGimme a buck.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And remember: Have you ever heard of a face being called a mug? It came from the 18th-century practice of carving grotesque human faces on sides of drinking glasses. Needless to say, if you're told you have a nice mug, it isn't a compliment.

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