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Suppose a company wants to encourage employees to publish articles, blogposts, participate in community discussions.

Let us not consider the pure-rhetorical ways of encouragement ("Guys, you'll be so respected!").

What could be a sensible strategy to encourage publications by money?

Many things come to mind, such as "pay for word count", "pay for audience size", "pay for view count", "pay for number of reactions or citations of the publication" etc, but most of them fall apart as unfair in trivial corner cases.

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closed as off topic by GrandmasterB, Walter, Mark Trapp Sep 16 '11 at 7:08

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All compensation plans "fall apart as unfair in trivial corner cases". If that's your criteria, you're doomed from the outset. Perhaps you could be more specific on the corner cases that bother you. Or perhaps you could drop that consideration, since "unfairness" can be found in any compensation system. –  S.Lott Sep 14 '11 at 11:06
I think monetary is the wrong way to go. Why not broaden the question to find more incentive types that would appeal to developers. –  Loki Astari Sep 14 '11 at 14:15
There is already another incentive - peer respect and self-respect. But I still think that monetary would help persuade those that would like to write something but hesitate because of being busy with other work-related things, or being lazy (like me). –  jkff Sep 14 '11 at 20:55
"unfairness" can be found in any compensation system: ??? –  Giorgio Oct 20 '14 at 18:39

5 Answers 5

Don't pay for the publications, but if publishing a paper leads to a conference invitation, give them the time off, pay the flight/conference/hotel costs. There are always people who like to share their ideas. Just don't stand in their way.

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Why would this be different to any other part of their job?

That means two things:

1) You don't get paid extra for it, it's part of what you do in the same way fixing bugs, talking to customers and everything else is

2) As it's part of your job you get time, support and resources to do it properly. If I expect you to produce a 500 word piece every month, I (as the employer) should give you the time to write it, to check your facts and put it together to a professional standard, and I should make sure that it's clearly prioritised in with the other things I expect from you.

If it doesn't fit into your regular working day then it should either be seen as overtime (and paid exactly the same as any other bit of overtime) or dropped as something which isn't realistic.

But broadly anything you do for the company should be treated as what it is - part of your job - and be handled in that way.

After all, if I asked you to present the companies product to a client and that wasn't part of your normal role, I wouldn't expect you to ask for more or different remuneration and I wouldn't expect you to do it in your own time.

Why would this be different?

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I think you should pay by quality x pageviews x comments (it has been proven time and again that readers who comment are vastly more loyal and spend a great deal more money on your products).

Edit: Of course you can also use other engagement metrics that may be more application to your company rather than comments.

Quality is determined by internal employee anonymous 5 star voting. For example, 1 star posts .8 of regular pay as determined by pageviews and comments, 2 star, .9, 4 star 1.2, 5 star 1.5.

However on a second thought, according to gamification principles using $$ to motivate is a fool's game. Rather than attach monetary value to specific metrics give every post a score based on aggregate metrics with real time rankings, pay everyone the same, but give the standouts an achievement.

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I'm not sure if quality, or any other subjective measures, are best for calculating pay. If people don't read or care, they will either vote high, vote low, or vote randomly. Either way, it skews pay. Pay (and other benefits), ideally, should be based on objective, measurable criteria. This also prevents people from complaining that X got paid more by random chance for doing the exact same work. –  Thomas Owens Sep 14 '11 at 10:42
@Thomas Owens the issue is that if you measure pageviews you are incentivizing people to optimize for that metric, and that can lead to undesirable results or posts that might reflect not so great on the company. I fully expect employee voting to result in mostly 4/5 on posts. But the existence of a metric in the opposite direction is necessary to fully communicate what your company values and hopes to achieve in these posts. –  Mark Sep 14 '11 at 11:14
True. There aren't many good metrics for writing. Word counting would lead to a poor signal-noise ratio. Paying by votes or comments leads to skewing of the data by coworkers/friends/family/author. I think your edit is more on the right track - recognizition of good authors over money. –  Thomas Owens Sep 14 '11 at 11:36

I see two good options:

Don't compensate. Compensation increases extrinsic motivation. This has a high potential to decrease intrinsic motivation, which is the individual's enjoyment and interest in the task. If you start associating monetary rewards, the individual will begin to see the task as work and lose motivation to perform it and perform it well.

Make it part of their job description to write X articles every Y units of time, but make sure it's reasonable considering their other workloads, and be flexible. Perhaps you won't publish all of them, and perhaps you can allow multiple authors to collaborate. If it's part of their regular duties, I believe that they will be more likely try to schedule some time to do some writing. Even if it's not published, but it's reviewed by colleagues, you'll probably see an overall improvement in the written communication skills of your employees.

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I'm seeing a contradiction in your answer - you're saying it's a bad idea to make writing look like work, and at the same time you're suggesting to make it part of one's obligatory job duties. –  jkff Sep 14 '11 at 10:51
+1 For your succint explanation of extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. –  maple_shaft Sep 14 '11 at 11:02
@jkff No. I'm saying you either make it an official duty that goes along with their position, and hence their normal compensation benefit package (reducing the effect on extrinsic motivation) as opposed to a bonus package or don't make it an official duty and don't provide any compensation for it at all, but allow the employee to do it for the reasons they want - fame, recognizion, knowledge sharing, or writing experience. –  Thomas Owens Sep 14 '11 at 11:27

Honestly, a lot of developers will be happy just to be given work-time to do that in -- as long as their contributions are publicly accessible (ie. not some private intranet blogging tool).

The rest will do a half-assed job, even if you sit at their backs and hold a gun to their heads. Why bother trying to convince those?

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I agree that money cannot be the only motivation factor, but I can say for myself that if I knew that I'll be paid for something that I wanted to write anyway, this will certainly skew my indecisiveness between "buckle up and write it" and "do something else because writing is hard". Pay introduces a deterministic factor into your expectations of what you'll get from your publication (in addition to non-deterministic, like fame and self-respect). –  jkff Sep 14 '11 at 10:49
+1 Free time to write those things would be already a lot in some companies. –  Arkh Sep 14 '11 at 12:05

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