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Emerging Sources of Labor on the Internet: The Case of America Online Volunteers


In 1995 AOL announced that it would be converting its pricing plan from an hourly rate that ranged from $3 to $6 an hour to a flat monthly rate of $15.95. The increase in member subscription was expected to be significant, and a wave of concern swept through the large remote-staff volunteer population, whose duties included monitoring electronic bulletin boards, hosting chat-rooms, enforcing the Terms of Service agreement (TOS), guiding AOL users through the online community, and even creating content using the AOL's own program, RAINMAN (Remote Automated Information Manager), the text scripting language and the publishing tool that allows remote staffers to update and change content on AOL. Chief among remote-staff volunteer's concerns was the initiative to convert many of the volunteer accounts from overhead accounts, which had access to tools and privileges that made remote-staff volunteers' duties on par with in-house employees, to unbilled or discounted accounts. In a meeting meant to address the emerging concerns of remote-staff volunteers held over electronic chat, Bob Marean, a representative for AOL, confronted over 450 remote-staff volunteers.

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International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
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