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Can the term "volunteer work" be applied to answering questions on Stack Exchange or Stack Overflow trilogy sites?

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Is this really an English language question? – Kosmonaut Sep 7 '10 at 14:42
Questions about the site itself are suppose to be put into one of the meta sites. Any of these would be appropriate: meta.stackexchange.com, meta.stackoverflow.com or meta.english.stackexchange.com. One of the admins should be able to migrate it there. – Dan Sep 7 '10 at 15:16
@Dan, while you are correct that questions about the site itself belong on the meta.* sites, I don't think this question is about the site, and thus, does not belong on meta. This question is asking about the phrase 'volunteer work', and whether it can be applied to a specific example activity. – pkaeding Sep 7 '10 at 16:26
"volunteer work" in what context? I agree, this question seems off-topic. – Neil Fein Sep 7 '10 at 21:42
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Volunteer work, being charitable, requires abstract intent to do the good without expecting a direct personal gain except for the self satisfaction feeling which could be worth more than money to some people.

I think this applies to the professional participants who have the real capacity to answer questions correctly.

On the other hand, the non-professional participants should be classified as learners not volunteers (although they may sometimes have valuable participations).

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Can you please explain the exception in the first sentence(except for the self satisfaction feeling....)? – Vaibhav Garg Sep 8 '10 at 11:40
@Vaibhav Garg: Yes, sure! I mean that the only gain expected here is the feeling of self satisfaction i.e. like when you help someone for free, it is that feeling you feel then! – Dia Sep 8 '10 at 17:36
Thanks Dia. There is a tangible vs non-tangible gain argument for this but I'll let it pass. – Vaibhav Garg Sep 9 '10 at 3:45

Can the term "volunteer work" be applied to answering questions on Stack Exchange or Stack Overflow trilogy sites?

I suppose so, since it's work, you are not being paid for it and are not obliged to do it, but most people take volunteer work to mean work done for a charitable cause.

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But we are being charitable, we're Making the Internet Better :) – Benjol Sep 7 '10 at 6:12
Does the fact that there is "reputation score" that looks somehow similar to money count? – sharptooth Sep 7 '10 at 6:31
@sharptooth: unfortunately it cannot be exchanged for money. – delete Sep 7 '10 at 6:34

If you read one of Daniel Pink's books for eg. Surprising Science of Motivation, you would discover that an intrinsic motivator of a sense of mastery, autonomy and purpose drive us all to contribute here.

The reputation scores are extrinsic motivators that certify the sense of mastery among peers. I feel that anything driven by something that pleases you in some way is not volunteer work. It is certainly not charity. This is true even if you are a professional.

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Interesting philosophical viewpoint (that volunteering needs to be unpleasant tasks), but not really representative of the colloquial English usage. – MatthewMartin Sep 7 '10 at 13:08
So, if I enjoy carpentry, and I spend my Saturdays building houses with Habitat for Humanity, are you saying that I am not volunteering or that it is not charity work? – pkaeding Sep 7 '10 at 16:28
Well, that is an interesting question in a way because I consider nothing to be charity. Every act that you does does have a return for you, Monetary or otherwise. Once you do something that gives you something, pleasure or money or joy or satisfaction or anything, can it be charity? We probably need another definition for that! – Vaibhav Garg Sep 8 '10 at 5:22

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