Today's Fortune Magazine features an article by editor David Kirkpatrick on what he calls "the contribution economy:"
"Who would have thought that your customers would work as volunteers on behalf of your company?" asks Scott Cook, founder and chairman of software firm Intuit. The trend, which Intuit calls "user contribution systems," helps the company constantly improve the quality of its products, he says.
I suspect that the value that can now be produced through collaboration is vastly greater than in the conventional top-down process. Wikipedia, for instance, is bigger and more up-to-date than the Encyclopedia Britannica. "Wikipedia clearly makes the world better off," says Cook, an enthusiast of this new tendency towards volunteerism. "But economists measure dollars. People generally assume that GDP and quality of life go up together. Maybe a chunk of the economy is going underground."