Giving back to the online community

by Martin Reed on 2 June 2007 in Articles

If you are making money online or otherwise benefiting from the opportunities the Internet offers, I feel it is only fair you contribute something in return.

This doesn’t have to be money; there are many ways you can contribute to the Internet’s future development.

I am a strong believer in the concept that if you receive, you should give back in return. Think of the times you posted for help in a forum, and received a reply that solved your problem. Made you feel good, didn’t it? Not only was your problem fixed, but you were helped by someone that volunteered to help without any financial incentive.

The cycle of giving and receiving can be endless – it just needs enough people to get it started. If you are benefiting from the Internet, it is only right that you give something back.

Offer advice on forums

Offer advice on forumsJust like the example I used above, giving something back to the online community can be as simple as offering advice on forums. I am sure that most of us already visit forums related to our areas of expertise and interest. Instead of skipping by those ‘help’ posts that you have read time and time again, take a few moments to help that person out.

Sure, the solution may be embarrassingly easy and obvious to you, but it isn’t to the person asking for help!

Who knows, it may even make you feel good knowing that you have helped someone out!

Respond to email requests for advice

Advice by emailDo you have a popular website or online community? I bet that every now and then you get emails from other site owners asking for your help or advice on something. I know for a fact that many of the well known bloggers such as Darren Rowse receive many emails asking for specific help and advice.

Why not reply to these emails? Share some of your expertise with them; who knows, they may just become the next Internet millionaire – this could be the start of a very profitable relationship!

Monetary donations

Donate to charity onlineIf you are just too busy to forum surf and respond to those emails asking for help, how about committing yourself to regular charity donations? I am sure we can all think of a charity we support in mind, if not in cash! Consider setting up a monthly or annual payment to your favourite charity.

You’ll feel good, and you can advertise the donations on your site to create goodwill.

What do I give back?

I think that Community Spark is a good contributor to my ethos of ‘giving back’ to the online community. It takes time for me to maintain, and I make no money directly from it.

Free webhostingAdditionally, with some of the profits earnt from Just Chat, I administer a free web hosting site. I don’t advertise it, I don’t gloat about it; it just sits there and allows the lucky few who stumble across it to apply and hopefully get some free hosting.

This is not a profitable venture, it is just my way of giving back to the online community. It also makes me feel really good watching people code and develop their very first websites thanks to my site.

Now it’s your turn

Are you making money online? Are you benefiting from the Internet? What do you give back to the online community? Let me know and share your opinions on my ‘receive and give’ concept by leaving a comment below.

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Carl Pei June 2, 2007 at 11:46 pm

Interesting read, but do you have to actively think and try giving something back to the “community”? The reason why you have successful websites is, when not involved in questionable business, because you’re providing something of value to the end-user, is that not enough giving?

Martin Reed June 3, 2007 at 12:48 am

It depends on what exactly you are providing. Bill Gates started providing software and made billions. Wasn’t it right that he gave something back through his foundation, rather than stating he had no need to give anything back as Windows was his item of value to the the community?!?

I think if you are benefiting from a community, you should give something back to the very same community. Saying that the product you are selling them is your offering doesn’t quite cut it!

I feel that in this day and age there seems to be a blind rush to make money online in whatever way possible. The Internet would be a much better place if people considered giving back some of what they received.

This doesn’t have to be money! Advice, help and tips all count – it’s not difficult.

Thanks for your comment, Carl. I look forward to reading more of your contributions.

Carl Pei June 3, 2007 at 10:38 pm

I see what you mean, but I still don’t think one is morally obliged to give something back to the community.

People don’t give back to the community for free. For instance when Bill Gates donates money, he at least to some degree does it for a more positive image.

But being the nice guy that I am, I’m always looking for ways to give back to my communities. ;) For instance on Meizu Me I’ve had quite a few contests, sometimes sponsored by me with prizes as expensive as MP3 players. However, I of course benefit from this. I “buy” a more positive atmosphere, loyalty, a larger fan base and whatnot.

Martin Reed June 4, 2007 at 12:15 am

Well, I guess there is no moral obligation to give back – it’s just something I personally believe in.

Giving can create a positive image but it also makes you feel darn good – perhaps I should start a crusade to spread the message of ‘giving back’!

Chicago 2016 June 4, 2007 at 4:48 am

There’s always the opportunity for branded swag. I’m thinking of buying a bunch of 128 MB flash drives and loading up some of my favorite Wordpress plug-ins.

Good promotion?

Martin Reed June 4, 2007 at 8:28 am

Hey Daniel – That sounds like a really interesting idea, depending upon what you specific aims are. People often forget that real, tangible products can be great promotional tools.

In the online world, such promotions really do stand out – people are offered free WordPress themes/plugins at many places online. I don’t know of anywhere that offers them on a flash drive!

Smiley June 4, 2007 at 8:36 am

Well, Martin, you’ve certainly given back enough to me.

I knew nothing about phpBB just a few weeks ago. I practiced on the Good Chat boards based on your Community Spark advice and you told me about the overall_header.tpl file on Just Chat.

I messed up quite a few times, but that goes with learning, huh?

I’ve just created brand new message boards tonight (just about to go to bed! Heh!) &

Using all your advice and they’ve turned out perfect to me.

I have a few mods I wanted, although I haven’t gone over-board, I have new menus at the top, got my advertising, even changed the agreement notice etc.

So, thank you for your excellent contributions & keep up the great work !!!

I hope to one day be in a position where I, too, can give back to the online community.

Martin Reed June 4, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Hey Smiley – I am glad this blog is helping you achieve success with your online communities. Good luck, and keep at it!

Andy June 6, 2007 at 7:31 am

Hi Martin, good post. I’ve really got a kick out of advising people in forums and “Q&A” sites over the past few years too.

I’ve also just recently asked an influential blogger for help, and based on his reply it seems he’s happy to assist!

Martin Reed June 6, 2007 at 11:07 am

Hi Andy, thanks for your comment. It’s a good feeling to know you have helped someone out, eh?

As for asking bloggers for assistance, I think they are amongst the people most likely to respond and offer help and advice online.

Good luck with your site; I look forward to reading more of your comments in the future.

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