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What motivates people to answer questions?

I have participated here for about 3 and 1/2 months. Over that time I have wonder why so many offer high quality professional tutoring on a voluntary basis and do so much of it without any compensation.

Recently I was contacted by Tutors.com inviting me to apply. I am not sure how they got my name but I decided to look into it. To qualify as a tutor there you have to pass at least two exams in your subject area. Passing requires a score of 88% or higher. After that ypu have to provide a writing sample explaining how you would approach tutoring. Then you fill out some forms and do some mock tutoring sessions before you are hired.

It strikes me that except for the fact that students have 600+ tutors here compared to one to one tutoring at Tutors.com the two sites provide roughly the same service except that employees at Tutors.com are compensated. I have a good job and a side consulting business but I also have a wife and two sons in college and have difficulty making ends meet. I assume many others here are in similar situations.

So my question is "Why do we provide so much service free of charge?"

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    $\begingroup$ Due to abuse of comments and the close similarity of this question to another, this thread has been closed. $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 16 '12 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ This is not a duplicate. I did not use any abusive language. I apologize if others did. I am disappointed because I thought there could be some interesting discussion here about the site. What other question do you think it could be merged with? $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Aug 16 '12 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ Michael, I agree you did not use abusive language, but I think you misunderstand why the comments were deleted. For guidance on how comments are intended to be used, please read meta.stackexchange.com/questions/118582/…. This has to be read somewhat metaphorically, because it is framed from the point of view of SO, which focuses on programming questions. Reading entirely through this guidance is helpful for how it exposes the reasoning and the underlying principles, all of which apply here. $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 16 '12 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber Okay but I still don't understand the real reason for closing the question. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Aug 16 '12 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber, I did not mean to suggest that this question needed to be closed. I only wanted to point out that there was also similar food for thought elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Aug 17 '12 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ @gung I closed this question because (1) I warned that it had the potential to be argumentative yet subsequently (2) it collected unacceptable comment threads (which have been deleted, in case you're wondering). If some aspect of this question is not already covered in the duplicate, then feel free to open a new thread: but please keep it focused and appropriate for this site. $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 17 '12 at 12:46

In principle, this site is based on a barter of knowledge, similar to the rest of the "real" internet -- it works way better than than material one because duplicating information practically costs nothing.

There are of course leeches and people that contribute more due to various reasons (academic spirit, hobby, gaining reputation, making world better, you name it), but this basically averages out.

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    $\begingroup$ Why do you refer to some site members as leeches? What do you mean by the "real" internet? Are you suggesting that sites like statistics.com or Tutors.com are not real? There are now universities set up to teach online and many traditional academic institutions are offering courses on line for a fee. What do you find objectionable about charging for services? $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Aug 16 '12 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael: For me, I find nothing objectionable about charging for services. If people prefer compensation, there are a number of offline (universities, consultants) and online (Tutors.com, online courses) options to choose. However, some prefer also to have a venue to exchange knowledge without monetary compensation. For them, StackExchange appears to be a good model, as is MIT's Open Course Ware, albeit for online courses. I like (occasionally) participating on CV without thoughts of money. To me, it's a fun and educating distraction from daily responsibilities. $\endgroup$ – jthetzel Aug 16 '12 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ @jthetzel +1 I like that as an answer. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Aug 16 '12 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChernick I was referring to people asking send me teh solution! questions; by real internet I meant its roots, i.e. service-profit-only network for easy communication and publishing. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 17 '12 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq Maybe the internet has evolved with electronic course sites like statistics.com and univerisities putting course for credit online. I think that those are good trends not bad. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Aug 17 '12 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChernick I'm not saying commercial way it is bad; only that SE follows the traditional way, and it... works. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 17 '12 at 18:28

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