The Social Bookmarking Gig, One Year In

Today is my 366th day as a Netscape Navigator Scout. One year later, they’re still paying people for social bookmarking on the interweb.

When Jason Calacanis put out the call for top social media contributors to come and contribute to Netscape for $1,000/month, many people (including myself) scoffed at the idea. They said he was trying to buy a community for Netscape, anyone who took him up was a sell-out/traitor, etc.

At the time, I was a top contributor on Digg. When I realized it would be pretty cool to get paid for doing something that I would be doing anyway, some of my contacts on Digg were skeptical. They said it would end up feeling like a job, that the capitalism would corrupt my hobby and I would lose interest, that I would quit within 3 months.

Well, perhaps needless to say, none of that happened. My enthusiasm for social news has not waned in the least. It has been an invaluable experience for a number of reasons, perhaps most important of which is it gave me a part-time job that allowed me to quit my day job and focus on my own startup, which recently launched its first product.

The Scout program is still going strong at Netscape. I was one of the first 10 to be hired, back when it was repeatedly said that the program was “experimental” and could be pulled at any moment. Now we’re up to 37 Scouts, including celeb Scout Wil Wheaton. And Scouts are not only submitting stories and commenting now, but also killing spam, closing duplicate stories and redirecting middle-man submissions. Basically, we’re trying to keep the place neat and tidy.

By far, the highlight of working for Netscape has been watching the steady increase in both the usage of and excitement for the site. When I started, we were faced with a community who had had the social news format forced on them and many were disillusioned by it. They wanted their old Netscape portal back. The front page was filled with stories with 10 votes or less. Interestingly, many of those disillusioned users began using the social news format to express their displeasure, getting drawn into it without realizing it.

With 10 million monthly readers including Stephen Colbert, 300,000 registered users, 500,000 stories submitted, 1,000,000 comments made, Netscape has come a long way. It is now common to see multiple stories on the front page with 100+ votes.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.