Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Internet's Buried Treasure Problem

PalmTalk thread: Micropay, Vote Or Dance For Quality Content


The problem with forums is that they're full of buried treasure. Unless a thread is stickied, no matter how much useful information it contains... it will eventually be pushed off the first page. And then it will be pushed off the second page... and then the third page and so on.

A google search can easily help people find buried treasure... but, it can just as easily help people find buried trash! And the internet has a lot more trash than treasure.

What's needed is some group rating effort to highlight the quality content. Here are some possibilities...

1. Unlimited micropayments

Each member would have the option of using paypal to put money into their digital wallet. Under each post would be four coin buttons... penny, nickle, dime and quarter. If you value this post at a nickle, then you'd click the nickle button. A nickle would be transferred from your wallet to my wallet and the value of the post would increase by a nickle. I could spend the nickle on other posts... or save up my nickles and cash out and buy an orchid.

If I spent my money on my own posts... their value would go up accordingly... but my money would be transferred to the forum owner's wallet.

2. Limited micropayments

Everything else is the same as the previous system... but there's no paypal. Everybody initially gets a dollar in their wallet. If you spend all your pennies... and want to spend more pennies... then you'll have to earn money by creating posts/threads that other members spend their pennies on. The supply of money in the forum only increases when a new member joins.

3. Likes/Votes

Rather than using money to rate posts/threads... members could "like" posts/threads. There are quite a few websites that use "likes" (or votes) to rate posts/threads... for example Reddit, Quora and StackExchange.

4. Dancing

Bees dance more vigorously to communicate when they discover an especially good food source. We can dance if you want to.


In order to help people find the most valued or liked post/threads... it would have to be possible to sort posts/threads by their value, likes... or dance vigor.

The problem with dancing as a rating system is that... uhhhh. We'd have to watch a lot of dance videos?

The problem with voting as a rating system is that you don't equally value everything that you like. For example, the most voted for post in the Reddit orchids group has 84 votes. This effectively communicates the post's popularity, but tells us absolutely nothing about the post's value. In order for us to have a better idea of the post's value... Reddit would have to facilitate micropayments.

It might help if you can see the disparity between like/value. Let's say that Netflix allowed all 60 million of its members to allocate their monthly fee. Assuming a monthly fee of $10 dollars... then here's what one of my monthly allocations might look like...

Even though I like all of these movies/shows, clearly I don't value them all equally. The higher the blue bar (payment), the more I value it, the more pressing my perception of scarcity/shortage. The reason that I value The Man From Earth the most is because I perceive a severe scarcity/shortage of educational and entertaining movies. And the more money allocated to The Man From Earth... the faster we'd have an abundance of educational and entertaining movies.

Just like the more money allocated to the drought tolerant epiphytic orchid Laelia speciosa... the faster we'd have an abundance of Laelia speciosa. And the more money allocated to glowing plants... the faster we'd have an abundance of glowing plants. Can you imagine a midnight stroll down a street that has trees covered in glowing orchids?

The more money we pay, the shorter the path from scarcity to abundance. This is why limited micropayments are better than likes and unlimited micropayments are better than limited micropayments. We don't want to limit the incentive for creators to allocate more of their limited time/energy/effort/expertise to the creation of educational/entertaining posts/threads. Not biting the hand that feeds you? Good. Paying the hand that serves you quality content? Better.

Micropayments aren't difficult to facilitate. I recently proved this by programming/launching a very basic, no frills, micropayments forum... RudeBagel. Please sign up and give it a try! You'll find $5 dollars already in your wallet so you can see how it works. I haven't set up sorting by value yet because there's not enough content. So you can give me a hand by posting anything you want.

And to be very clear, the point of RudeBagel is simply to demonstrate that it's very possible for forums, and other websites, to facilitate micropayments. The code that I've written is publicly available and I'll do the same with any future code that I write. If anybody happens to be proficient at php then let me know. Given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow! (Linus's Law... equally true for debugging orchids...)

The goal is for every website to facilitate micropayments. On the homepage of every website would be 5 tabs...

24 hours, week, month, year, all time

The default tab would be 24 hours. When you visited the homepage you'd see the 20 or 40 most valuable threads/stories/articles/videos/photos that had been created in the past 24 hours. If you clicked on the "all time" tab you'd see the website's most valuable content ever. On the right hand side of the page would be keywords/tags/checkboxes for popular categories. You could use them to filter out results that didn't interest you.

Right now the Orchids on Trees flickr group has 2,400 photos in it. The photos are sorted by date added... but you should also be able to sort by value and filter by date/keywords. And in order for the values to be correct... you should be able to easily spend a penny, nickle, dime or quarter on your favorite photos. Not only will this help other people find the treasure... but it will also incentivize photographers to supply more of those same type of photos.

The clear internet trend has been to make it easier and easier to share content. Each second a new mountain of content is created on the internet. When there's so much content... we're going to need a lot of prospectors! In order to accurately communicate to others the quality of a content discovery... we can either spend more money... or we can vote... or we can dance more vigorously.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

No comments:

Post a Comment