Some of you may already have noticed the Flattr button on the bottom of each article, which I embedded last week. Flattr is an easy tool for online microdonations, founded by former Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter “brokep” Sunde. This short video explains how it works:

The idea is simple: As a Flattr user you charge your account with a small sum – five or ten bucks, maybe – which you intend to spend during a month. You can then “flattr” sites which have embedded a button, like I did. The monthly sum you have designated is then equally split among all sites you have flattered, with the company retaining a 10% fee. If you have 5 Euros to spend and click on ten different buttons, each site owner will thus receive 45 cents. If you don’t flattr anything for a month, the money you intended to spend will be donated.

Flattr is not the first service of its kind. E.g. there is Kachingle (“Social cents for digital stuff”), which works on a very similar model. But the Swedes seem to be the best player on the field, and their service has already enjoyed a certain success, at least in Germany. Many blogs, such as my former and current employers netzpolitik.org and Spreeblick, have embedded the button as well as leftist newspapers taz and Freitag.

Despite this early success, there is still a lot of doubt as to whether Flattr will eventually end up as a viable source of income for bloggers, online journalists, netlabel musicians and others who publish creative stuff on the ‘Net. Some argue that in the end, a small circle of netizens will end up flattering each other with peanuts. That’s at least a possible scenario.

But something I like about Flattr is their stress on the fact that there are no different user types in the system. If you want to embed a Flattr button on your blog, you first have to charge your own account to be able to flattr other people’s stuff. This comes from an understanding of the social web as it should be: Everybody a creator, everybody a consumer.

Enthusiasts have spoken of a new age of “prosumers” (a portmanteau from “producer” and “consumer”), as those who are engaging in this post-industrial hybrid behaviour have been called. As a matter of fact, they are still an avantgarde, at least in most of the world (South Korea seems to be on the forefront of this development). Take it as Flattr’s utopian moment, I like the way they are embracing the advent of a new read/write culture.

This blog is written without financial interests in mind and published under a very free Creative Commons license. If my articles are useful to you and you want to give back, come flatt(e)r me.

Flattr is still running in beta and you need an invite to join. I still have some, so if you would like one, write me an email to [myfirstname] at [thisdomain] or contact me on Twitter.

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