RudeBagel: Internet 1.0 (Altruism) vs Internet 2.0 (Incentive)
My first post!
According to the stats... this forum has 259,037 threads. That's a lot of content!
My feedback, as you might have guessed from the title, is for the most valuable content to be up front.
On the homepage there would be 5 tabs...
24 hours, week, month, year, all time
The default tab would be 24 hours. Anybody who visits the homepage will see the top 20 most valuable threads that have been created in the past 24 hours. If they click the "week" tab then they'll see the top 20 most valuable threads that have been created in the past week. If they click on the "all time" tab they'll see the 20 most valuable threads of all time.
How cool will that be? Any visitor will easily be able to find and enjoy the most valuable content that this forum has to offer!
On the right hand side of the page would be various checkboxes for popular categories. If the visitor is interested in seeing the most valuable threads within certain categories.... then they could uncheck boxes to filter out the threads in categories that don't interest them.
The gnitty gritty is how to determine value...
1. Dictatorship - Trotter goes around assigning value to threads
2. Democracy - we all can give posts a "thumbs up" or "like" or "vote"
3. Market - micropayments... we spend our pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters on posts that we value
The problem with the first system is the problem with all dictatorships... invariably there are significant disparities between the dictator's valuation and the crowd's valuation. If Trotter is allergic to peanuts then his valuation of peanuts is $0 dollars... which is clearly a lot less than the crowd's valuation of peanuts. If he's a vegetarian then his valuation of steak is $0 dollars... which is clearly a lot less than the crowd's valuation. If he hates Apple then his valuation of Apple is $0 dollars... which is clearly a lot less than the crowd's valuation of Apple. So the homepage would be missing many results that many visitors would value a lot more than the displayed results. Basically, the 259,037 threads would be incorrectly sorted.
The problem with the second system is that, just because I like peanut butter doesn't mean that I'm always going to fill my shopping cart with peanut butter. There are many items at the grocery store that we'd vote for... but we don't put them all in our shopping carts every time we go shopping. "Liking" isn't prioritizing. You don't equally value all the things that you "like".
Imagine if Netflix allowed members to allocate their monthly subscription fees to their favorite content. Assuming a monthly fee of $10 dollars... then here's what one of my monthly allocations might look like...
These are all movies/shows that I like... but clearly I don't value them all equally. I value The Man From Earth most of all because I perceive a significant shortage/scarcity of movies that are both educational and entertaining. How many other people are in the same boat as me? I don't know. Nobody knows. "Likes" don't accurately communicate value. So again, the 259,037 threads would be incorrectly sorted.
Which leaves us with the market. Markets are all about shopping (weighing/prioritizing/spending/sacrificing). Does the idea of shopping for threads appeal to anyone? Would you really like the opportunity to decide how many pennies this post of mine is worth to you?
Indeed, the mental transaction costs, aka cognitive costs, take a toll, even, or especially, for a 100 bit ($.003) transaction. This is why replacing ads with micropayments is a non-starter: far fewer people tip. It's not because they are miserly, it's because the act of tipping takes not only an extra physical step, but also exacts a mental toll. In contrast, ads are hassle free for the user. Micropayment systems have to address these mental transaction costs if they are going to have any longevity. - Emin Gün Sirer, Micropayments and Cognitive Costs
On reddit... is there a mental toll when you upvote something? Nope. What about on youtube when you give something a thumbs up? Nope. What about on facebook when you like a post? Nope. There's no mental toll because there's no cost. But without cost there's no valuation. This is because valuation is a function of sacrifice.
Reddit, youtube and facebook aren't very good markets. Their users aren't shopping. Their users aren't spending their hard earned money. Their users aren't considering the alternative uses of their money. Their users aren't prioritizing. Their users aren't deciding whether some content is worth it. Their users aren't deciding whether x > y. Their users aren't trying to get the most bang for their buck. Their users aren't deciding whether they truly need another jar of peanut butter. Do their users experience a mental toll? No. Do their users see the most valuable content on the homepage? No.
There's no doubt that these websites are successful... but they aren't the future. All it will take is one forum where enough members are willing to shop for threads. The honest to goodness demand for threads will determine the supply of threads. There will be a larger and larger supply of content that's worth paying for. Visitors will easily find the most valuable content on the homepage and the internet will pivot accordingly. One small leap for this forum... one giant leap for the internet.
Programmatically it's not difficult to facilitate micropayments. A week ago I shelled out $60 bucks for hosting and spent a few days modifying the phpbb software and database so that members could click penny, nickle, dime or quarter buttons under each post. I launched the website a few days ago... here's a screenshot...
Yesterday I discovered $49,382,720.75 dollars in my wallet. Heh. Evidently some hacker tried to prove... something. What comes to mind is the story of the three little pigs. I'm the little pig that built the straw house. The wolf blew it down and proved that houses are a bad idea. Well... no. The wolf proved that I'm clueless about database security. I'm sure that all of you know more about database security than I do. My brain is mostly filled with economics. Which is why two heads are better than one!
The database security issue will never be perfectly resolved. But I think it can be resolved well enough to deter Joe Hacker. And by the time there's serious money involved... then serious money can be spent on serious security expertise.
From the economic perspective it makes sense for people to be able to spend money on their own posts. It also makes sense from the economic perspective that the money they spend on their own posts does not go back into their wallets. Instead, it would go into Trotter's wallet.
A logical conclusion that people jump to is that this would result in the homepage being filled with advertisements. Yes... and no. Once we can spend money on posts then the idea of "advertising" as we know it goes out the window. When everybody can receive money for their posts/content... then everybody will essentially be trying to sell their content.
Let's say that I start a thread... "How can I avoid being hacked?" What am I doing? I'm offering a discussion for sale. If you want to know the answer too... then you'll buy my discussion by allocating a quarter to my thread. The quarter will go into my wallet and the thread will be 25 cents more valuable. The more people that buy my thread...
1. the richer I become
2. the more valuable the topic becomes
3. the more exposure the topic receives
4. the more likely it is that it will be answered
5. the richer the best answerer becomes
And then, when a visitor goes to the homepage and clicks the "all time" tab, they'll see "How can I avoid being hacked?" at the top of the list. The visitor will say, "Woah! I've always wanted to know the answer to this question!" So they'll click on the thread, sort the replies by value, and learn the most valuable answer. They'll appreciate the answer so much that they'll immediately sign up and allocate money to the thread and to the best answer.
Can some big hosting company spend enough money on its thread for it to show up on the homepage in the 24 hour tab? Sure. But can it afford to do so every day? Is it going to spend $10 dollars a day? $100 dollars a day? Would it be the only one? Maybe there are going to be 5 hosting companies spending $100 dollars a day to get their threads in the 24 hours tab?
If you're a hosting company, why not save up to get your thread in the week tab? Or the month tab? Or the year tab?
Better yet, instead of spending money to boost your thread... why not spend your money creating a thread that's so educational and entertaining that members will gladly boost it for you? In other words, why not spend your money to create the thread equivalent of a charmercial?
So yeah, the homepage will end up full of advertisements... but no, it really won't be a problem.
From what I read in this thread... "The future of Tech-Forums"... this forum is in need of a pivot. And I can't think of a more daring, exciting, dangerous and revolutionary pivot than allowing members to shop for threads. We'll all benefit from a group effort to put the most valuable content up front.
Clearly people are more than happy to freely share content. The 259,037 threads on this website are proof of this. But right now there are other websites... like Quora and StackExchange... that are winning at Internet 1.0 (altruism). But whatever altruism can build... incentive (Internet 2.0) can build even bigger and better...
But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
If Bob, a member of this forum, takes the time and makes the effort to find and share content that we value... then it should be stupid easy to reward him for doing so. This will incentivize him, and others, to allocate more/time effort to supplying our demand for valuable content. The result will be a virtuous cycle of value creation. Threads on the homepage will quickly increase in value.
In summary, facilitating micropayments will ensure better...
We've all got pennies. Let's put them to good use. 259,037 threads is way too many threads for any single person to valuate. But it's not too many threads for the crowd to evaluate. Given enough eyeballs, all Easter Eggs are exposed. We'll do the work of searching for and valuating Easter Eggs so visitors won't have to. Buried treasure is cool for movies... but not for forums.