The funding capture problem
Here is a cynical truth:
No matter what they say, organizations eventually wind up working for the people who give them money.
This is a natural result of the fact that very few people ever deliberately try to put themselves out of a job. Organizations are driven to perpetuate themselves, which requires that money keep coming in, which requires that the funding sources be kept happy, and before you know it the organization's interests have become aligned with those of the people who give it money.
This sounds unexceptional, but flip it around to the corollary:
Unless you're paying them, you can't expect people to act in your interest.
(Paying them is of course not a guarantee that they will act in your interest, but it is generally a necessary prerequisite.)
There's a lot of organizations on the Internet that you would like to act in your interest, or that represent themselves as acting in your interest. There are remarkably few of them that you are actually funding.
('Follow the money' is in fact the general principle of figuring out who's interests an organization is really serving.)
This corollary is the rock on which many anti-spam ideas have floundered. In general, any anti-spam system that is not funded by the people receiving email is ultimately not going to act in their interests; it will be captured by the people who do pay it, and it will stop acting effectively against them. When this happens it is not a one time accident that can be fixed; it is an inevitable result of the funding method.
Comments on this page:Written on 26 January 2008.