Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Market Failure: No Disqus For Micropayments!

Comment on: The tip jar by Bijan Sabet

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What's great about disqus is that I'm already logged in! Not having to log in makes it easier for me to leave a comment on your content. Facilitating comments increases the chances that people will comment (share their input).

I'm guessing that eventually somebody will create the equivalent of disqus for micropayments. Hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later! With one click I'll be able to give you a penny, nickle, dime or quarter for your content (I would have given you a dime). Facilitating micropayments will increase the chances that people will give (share their input).

I recently programmed/launched the world's first micropayments forum. For some reason people haven't been signing up in droves! My guess is that most people do not see the connection between spending and abundance. Abundance depends on letting people know that they are on the right track. And this is best done with actions (spending) rather than with words (likes, votes, stars, thumbs up, etc).

One fascinating question is whether PWYW or OPFA will be the future of micropayments. My guess is that PWYW will be dominant in the future. It doesn't make sense to require a minimum amount of money for tips/donations. Anybody who thinks otherwise probably hates poor people. Naw, they probably don't hate poor people. They just aren't interested in their monetary input (sacrifice)!

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See also:

Rescuing Robin Hanson From Unmet Demand
Are Anti-Discrimination Laws Necessary?

The Connection Between Spending And Abundance

Omnilibrium article: Stars vs Spending

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This forum should replace the star rating system with a monetary rating system. If you like a post... rather than giving it more stars... you'd spend more money on it.

I've shared this idea in other forums and so far the response has been... underwhelming. Unfortunately, most people who are nonplussed with the idea don't bother to explain their hesitation.

Here's what I recently posted in the Ron Paul Forums... Micropay, Vote Or Dance For Quality Content. You'd figure that if anybody is going to love the idea... it would be a bunch of capitalists. But if you look at the poll then you'd see that this is not the case. So far only one other member voted for micropayments.

People just don't see the connection between spending and abundance.

I like orchids. I spend money on orchids. Orchids are a lot more abundant than they used to be. Am I responsible for their abundance? Hah. The amount of money that I spend on orchids isn't even a drop in a bucket... or a drop in a pool... maybe it's a drop in a very large lake.

Do I benefit because I can spend money on orchids? Hardly. I benefit because other people can spend money on orchids.

Dahlen wrote this article... Bureaucracy in Public and Private Institutions. Beneath the article it says, "Would you like to read similar articles in the future?" Yes, I would like there to be an abundance of similar articles in the future... so I clicked "+2". Voila!?

If only that's how economics worked!!!!!!

"Would you like there to be an abundance of Laelia speciosa in the future? If so, just click "+2"". *click* Voila! Abundance!!! Laelia speciosas growing and blooming on every tree in the world!! Awesome!

But this really isn't how economics works. Economics requires sacrifice to work. It requires blood, sweat and tears.

If we want an abundance of articles from Dahlen... then we have to compete him away from the alternative uses of his valuable time and energy. And we can't effectively compete by giving him stars or votes or thumbs up or "likes". These worthless trinkets do not accurately communicate our valuation of his time and energy. As a result, we increase the chances of suffering from a scarcity of Dahlen's articles.

In order to effectively compete Dahlen away from the alternative uses of his valuable time and energy... we have to give him something valuable in return. We have to give him our blood, sweat and tears... aka money.

If I spent a penny on Dahlen's articles... would this be a drop in a large lake? No. Would it be a drop in a pool? No. Would it be a drop in a bucket? Maybe. Would it be a drop in a large cup? Maybe. Would it be a drop in a shot glass? Maybe.

Right now this is a pretty small group. Maybe I'd be the only one spending any money on Dahlen's articles. But for all I know one of you is really rich and you really love Dahlen's articles. This will benefit all of us who want an abundance of his articles in the future. But what are the chances that any of you really rich though? Pretty slim!

There's this guy named Sherwin Rosen who came up with Superstar Theory. Basically, larger markets make bigger superstars. Right now omnilibrium is a pretty small market.

Am I the only one interested in turning Dahlen into a small superstar? Probably. Small superstar? Heh.

Maybe this image by Alex Gregory will help?




It's a guy working and thinking about golf, then he's playing golf thinking about sex and then he's having sex thinking about work.

The moral of the story is that we're always comparing the value of our present activity against the value of the alternatives. We're always weighing our options. For Dahlen, one of his options is to write articles on this forum. At any given time he derives x amount of value from this activity. If he's deriving y amount of value from playing golf... then as soon as x > y... he'll stop playing golf and start writing articles on this forum. The important part to understand is that, if we don't communicate our valuation of his articles... then x will be smaller than it should be. And if x is smaller than it should be... then he'll spend less time writing articles... which means that there will be a shortage of his articles.

Let's make up some numbers to work with...

Playing golf = y = $12

At least initially... Dahlen gets around $12 dollars worth of value from playing golf. So if he told you, "hey, I'm off to play golf" you could persuade him not to do so by giving him $12.01.

Writing articles = x = $10

At least initially... Dahlen gets around $10 dollars worth of value from writing articles.

And I say "initially" because all activity is subject to diminishing returns. For every beautiful woman, there's a guy that's bored with having sex with her.

We can imagine Dahlen playing golf and rather than thinking of boobs... he's thinking of the $10 dollars worth of value that he'd derive from writing articles.

y > x = continue playing golf
y < x = start writing article

Personally, I don't derive any value from Dahlen playing golf. So I'm not going to give him any money to play golf. What I do derive value from is reading his articles. So my mission is to help Dahlen make an informed decision. I have to communicate to him the amount of value that I derive from his articles. Let's say that I derive on average... 5 cents from each of his articles. I communicate this to him by giving him 5 cents for each of his articles.

As a result of this information that I've shared with him... while he's playing golf the number in his head is no longer $10... now it's $10.05. This is how much value he'll expect to get from writing an article. My 5 cents has made writing an article a marginally more attractive alternative. Perhaps he'll spend just a little less time playing golf and a little more time writing articles.

The more of you that give Dahlen 5 cents for his articles... the more attractive an alternative writing becomes for Dahlen. If we get x up to $13... then we're doing a better job of competing him away from golf. If we get x up to $20... then this is an even better number for him to think about while he's playing golf. We want to make golf as costly as possible. We want the opportunity cost of golf to be very high.

This is the general idea. What we know for sure is that Dahlen can't possibly make a truly informed decision in the absence of our valuation of his articles. He's not a mind-reader. He can't reach into our brains and pull out our valuation of his articles. And he can't act on information that he does not have. So without our valuations... it's a given that he'll allocate inadequate time to writing. His misallocation will be to the detriment of everybody who positively values his articles.

To zoom out a bit... if this forum facilitated micropayments... then Dahlen wouldn't be the only one who knows our valuation of his articles. Everybody would know our valuation of his articles. Everybody would know everybody's valuation of everybody's articles. In other words, we'd know the demand for articles. Well...not perfectly. But perfectly when compared to our current knowledge of the demand for articles. And knowing the demand for articles would ensure a better supply. This is how and why markets work. We use our money to inform each other... and, as a result, we all make better informed decisions.

What I'm saying isn't economically novel. You should know this if you've read Hayek's Nobel Prize winning essay... The Use of Knowledge in Society. What's novel is applying this essay/economics to forums. Just like it was novel for Jimmy Wales to apply it to encyclopedias.

From Hayek's essay...

"Which of these systems is likely to be more efficient depends mainly on the question under which of them we can expect that fuller use will be made of the existing knowledge."

Wikipedia is more efficient than regular encyclopedias because it makes fuller use of the existing knowledge. This forum can be more efficient than regular forums because it makes fuller use of the existing knowledge...

"We must look at the price system as such a mechanism for communicating information if we want to understand its real function—a function which, of course, it fulfils less perfectly as prices grow more rigid."

also...

"The price system is just one of those formations which man has learned to use (though he is still very far from having learned to make the best use of it) after he had stumbled upon it without understanding it."

This is why Wales hasn't created a forum that facilitates micropayments. It's a lot easier to grasp that information is dispersed than it is to grasp how payment is used to quickly communicate the most important information that we have.

Omnilibrium is like an island. How many of us are here? 30? 40? We can rely solely on words to communicate with each other... or we can also communicate with actions (spending). When has any group failed because of too much communication?

And besides, the available evidence supports the conclusion that stars or "likes" do not increase engagement...
A widespread assumption is that the more content is liked or shared, the more engaging it must be, the more willing people are to devote their attention to it. However, the data doesn’t back that up. We looked at 10,000 socially-shared articles and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content. - Tony Haile, What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong

The Internet's Buried Treasure Problem

PalmTalk thread: Micropay, Vote Or Dance For Quality Content

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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.

Analysis

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.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How Much Should You Manage?

What China is doing takes a lot of political guts as well as an extraordinary capability to calculate, govern and manage. - uzairumair, The Wrong Economic Question
I chuckled out loud when I read this.

Bob: I'm hungry!
Sally: Me too!  Let's go eat someplace.
Bob: What about that Chinese restaurant around the corner?
Sally: Dumpling Dragon Spring Heaven?  That place went bankrupt.
Bob:  Yeah, but the new owners have an extraordinary capability to calculate, govern and manage!  I've heard it's a lot better now.
Sally:  Ok, let's check it out!


  1. Under Mao Zedong's (MZ) management, millions and millions of people starved to death.  
  2. Under Deng Xiaoping's (DX) management, millions and millions of people were lifted out of poverty.


Deng Xiaoping isn't my hero because he was a better manager... he's my hero because he gradually reduced how much the Chinese government managed.  China hasn't improved because of good management... it has improved because the detrimental consequences of bad management have been much more limited.

How much any organization or individual manages should be determined by consumers/taxpayers.

See also: Tax Choice Tax Rate

The Forced-Free-Rider Problem

Reply to: The Reality of War Prosperity by Gina Arnold

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The unseen is really difficult to see! Imagine if we replaced the green “Recommend” button with four coin buttons… penny, nickle, dime and quarter. If I clicked the quarter button then a quarter would be instantly transferred from my digital “wallet” to your digital “wallet”. And the value of your story would increase by a quarter. Then we would be able to search Medium for “Mises” or “Bastiat” and sort the results by value. Whose story would be the most valuable? Can you guess how valuable it would be? $10 dollars? Maybe the author would have received a total of $10 dollars for their story? That $10 dollars should be in their pocket right now… but it isn’t. This is the unseen.

Here on Medium we don’t know what the demand is for stories related to Bastiat or Mises. Is this a problem? Does the demand even matter? Do we really need to see and know the demand for stories in order for the supply of stories to create the maximum possible value?

The management of a socialist community would be in a position like that of a ship captain who had to cross the ocean with the stars shrouded by a fog and without the aid of a compass or other equipment of nautical orientation. -  Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government

Medium is a socialist community. There’s no compass. There aren’t any micropayments. There should be, there could be, but there aren’t.

Maybe “Recommendations” adequately function as a compass? How could they when the person “spending” them isn’t sacrificing anything in the process? Value is a function of sacrifice. Sacrifice is how we communicate value. If all it takes is one click to sacrifice a penny to a story… if you don’t click the penny then either you don’t value the story or you’re a free-rider. Right now I’d click a quarter button for your story. But I can’t… because there isn’t one. This is the forced-free-rider problem.

A while ago I wrote a lengthy story about how Medium, and other sites, should facilitate micropayments. Obviously Medium didn’t get the message. So I recently launched RudeBagel. It’s the first micropayments forum. You should join! Then we can see how many Medium writers we’ll have to poach before Medium starts facilitating micropayments. After that happens we’ll watch the dominoes fall one by one until there’s only one place left that doesn’t have a compass… the public sector. But by then everybody will understand the value of a compass.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Efficient Allocation Of Threads

Thread for Techist Forum: Most Valuable Content Up Front
RudeBagel: Internet 1.0 (Altruism) vs Internet 2.0 (Incentive)

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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...

1. sorting
2. support

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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

RudeBagel - First Micropayments Forum

I really love the idea of micropayments.  If you're willing to pay even a little, then it should be stupid easy for you to do so!  A lot of little contributions can really add up.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to persuade any of my favorite websites, ie Medium, to facilitate micropayments.  Just how hard could it be to allow one-click-giving?  I decided to find out.

After shelling out $60 bucks for hosting, I spent a few days modifying the code for phpbb forum software and voila!  I created a very basic, no frills, micropayments forum...




$9.35 = the amount of money in my wallet
$0.57 = the amount of money allocated to the post

The way it works is pretty simple. You paypal me money and I update your wallet.  If you value a post at a nickle, then you click the nickle coin button...

1. A nickle is transferred from your wallet to the poster's wallet
2. The value of the post is increased by a nickle

There's no page refresh.  There's no transaction fees/costs of any kind.  And whatever ends up in your wallet is 100% yours keep.  When you want to cash out, you PM me the amount you'd like and I paypal it to you.

It's as easy to value a post on RudeBagel as it is to like a post on Facebook.

In order to create this very basic ajax valuing system, these are the pages that I modified...

overall_header.html (1 line of code)
navbar_header.html (~2 lines of code)
viewtopic.php (~ 5 lines of code)
overall_footer.html (~ 1/4 page of code)
viewtopic_body.html (~ 1/2 page of code)

... and here's a new page...

ajax_value.php (~ 1 page of code)

To give credit where credit is due... this "ajax like" code was quite helpful.

The code that I myself wrote is a trainwreck. I'm sure it's all types of wrong, and in the wrong places... so there's plenty of room for improvement.

I could have spent many more days, weeks, months and years improving and developing the functionality and features of this micropayments forum... but that would have defeated the very point of facilitating monetary feedback/guidance from the crowd! :D

If there are any features/functionality that you'd like added...then you could post your suggestion in the feedback forum. It's probably a good idea to only have one suggestion per post. That way, if/when people allocate money to your post... then there won't be any ambiguity.

Yes, you can allocate money to your own posts. When you do so though, the money won't go back into your wallet. Basically you're "boosting" your own post. Kinda like on facebook. But with this forum... everybody and anybody can also help boost your post. It's crowd boosting/amplifying. Every post can be crowd sponsored.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Need Beta Testers For Micropayments Forum

Forum post: Need Beta Testers For Micropayments Forum

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I finished creating a very basic, no frills, micropayments forum...




So far this is the most valuable cat photo on the forum. In the upper right hand of the page, below my username, is my balance... $9.35. This is the amount of money that's in my wallet. Right beneath the signature section is where I've placed the post's total value and the coins buttons. The total amount of money that's been allocated to this post is $0.57 cents. Any member can click on any of the fancy coins and some ajax magical goodness will take place.

In order to create this very basic ajax valuing system, these are the pages that I modified...

overall_header.html (1 line of code)
navbar_header.html (~2 lines of code)
viewtopic.php (~ 5 lines of code)
overall_footer.html (~ 1/4 page of code)
viewtopic_body.html (~ 1/2 page of code)

... and here's a new page...

ajax_value.php (~ 1 page of code)

To give credit where credit is due... this "ajax like" code was quite helpful.

The code that I myself wrote is a trainwreck. I'm sure it's all types of wrong, and in the wrong places... so there's plenty of room for improvement.

I could have spent many more days, weeks, months and years improving and developing the functionality and features of this micropayments forum... but that would have defeated the very purpose of facilitating monetary feedback. :D

So right now I'm looking for beta testers! The first 50 will get a dollar in their wallet. Just PM me your username and I'll share the link with you. Then you can share your most valuable cat photos and we'll be able to see who's cat photo is truly the most valuable! And/or we can have some serious discussion about the potential benefits/problems of facilitating micropayments.

If there are any features/functionality that you'd like added...then you could post your suggestion in the feedback forum. It's probably a good idea to only have one suggestion per post. That way, if/when people allocate money to your post... we can be sure which suggestion it is that they value.

Yes, you can allocate money to your own posts. When you do so though, the money won't go back into your wallet. Basically you're "boosting" your own post. Kinda like on facebook. But with this forum... everybody and anybody can also help boost your post. It's crowd boosting/amplifying. Every post can be crowd sponsored.

If you haven't seen it, here's my first topic on the topic... Micropayments For Threads?

Let me know if you have any questions!

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Forum post: Micropayments for communities?

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Hi everybody!

I participate in many online communities and I recently decided to start one of my own.  It's a phpbb forum.

The reason that I started my own community is because I really love the idea of micropayments.  I shared the idea with a few different communities and there wasn't much interest.  According to a poll that I included in one forum, around 70% of the community was against the idea.

So a few days ago I shelled out $60 bucks for some hosting and modified the phpbb code to facilitate micropayments.  And now I have a very basic, but functional, micropayments forum.  With one click you can give a post a nickle... which, via ajax, goes directly into the poster's "wallet".  It's entirely free, there's absolutely no fees or cost of any kind.  The only time I get any money is if you allocate money to your own posts.  Because, it wouldn't make sense for the money to go back into your wallet!

I have a ton of questions... but my main question is... would any of you be interested in being a beta tester?

Now, I think it's possible that this is coming off as promotional.  But, like I said, I *really* love the idea of micropayments.  The purpose of my micropayments forum is solely to (hopefully) prove to other online communities that micropayments are a really good idea.

Take this community for example.  Regardless of how much time/effort/thought you put into your reply... no matter how much I value your reply... all this website allows me to give you in return is a vote.  The majority of you perceive that this system is perfectly adequate.  Why?  Because there's an abundance of good answers.  Plenty of people are happy to freely contribute... so why mess with something that works?

Right now you're free to allocate 1 hour, or 10 hours, or 100 hours replying to this question.  You can freely allocate as much of your time to me as you want.  But I can't freely allocate my nickle to you?  If time is money then money is time.

Votes on this website are used to determine the value/rank of an answer.  However, in economics, value is a function of sacrifice.  Given that a vote doesn't even cost a penny... there's no sacrifice!  Hence... the "best" answers on this website aren't the most valuable... they are the most popular.  Opinion polls are interesting, and useful, but the fact of the matter is that actions (spending) speaks louder than words (voting).

I might be wrong though! But if you're unfamiliar with the term "contingent valuation" then you haven't studied the topic as much as I have. So maybe I'm not wrong.

If I'm not wrong, then this would eliminate the need for displaying ads on your website.  Every post would be an ad.  Whenever you allocated a penny to somebody's post you would be helping to promote their thoughts.  No "results" would be organic... they'd all be (crowd)sponsored.

The first 50 beta testers will receive one dollar in their wallet.  If you decide to be a beta tester, and you see the potential of facilitating micropayments, then you can share the idea with your own community.  All the phpbb files that I modified will be freely available. It adds up to around 2 pages of code.

If you're interested in being a beta tester... send me a PM either here or over at the phpbb community... Micropayments For Threads?

Debugging Programming

Forum post: Linus's Law... Yay or Nay?

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If you do an advanced search for the word "Linus"...

1. General category
2. Topic titles only

... then you'd learn that there's a scarcity of threads on the topic of Linus's Law.  Which is, from my perspective, a problem.  So here we are!

Linus's Law: given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow

The other day I completely failed to explain the broad relevance of this concept to my friend.  Maybe the fact that we were a "bit" drunk didn't help.  So rather than sharing my opinion on why Linus is so cool... I thought it might be fun to put this concept to the test.

It just so happens that I have a perfect problem for us to tackle together.  As some of you know, I really love the idea of micropayments.  Yesterday I decided to put my money where my mouth is.  I spent $60 dollars for a year's worth of hosting and installed a free forum... phpbb.  The forum's database was easy enough to modify... but I encountered a problem when I tried to modify the code to display the relevant information on the forum page.

How many of you know php?  I don't!  It's my first time working with it.  But I do have a decent amount of other programming under my belt.

If you don't know php... are you interested in trying to learn it?  If so, then here's your chance!  We can learn it together.  Playing around with a fully functional php website/forum is the easiest/best way to learn how to program.  It's the equivalent of learning snowboarding by starting off at a double black diamond slope.  Hah.  Seriously though, you already know how to use forums... so that's half of the battle.  The other half of the battle consists of making small changes to the code and seeing what happens.  Do it enough and you'll figure out what does what.

And to be really clear... I'm definitely not starting a micropayments forum to make money.  Because if I was... then I really wouldn't be here endeavoring to encourage and educate you all about programming a forum that facilitates micropayments!  Unless I'm the worst businessman ever.  Which is entirely possible.

Ok, so here are the steps...

Come up with a domain name.  Unfortunately, most of the good names are already taken!  It's really easy to get bogged down at this step.  What I recommend doing is to make a list of some of your favorite adjectives... furry, fluffy, funny... and then make a list of some of your favorite nouns... fork, fish, Fred.  Then come up with the craziest combination possible.  FunnyFork?  And then be surprised when GoDaddy informs you that it's already taken.  Repeat the process until you find a name that's available.  Don't worry if the domain name isn't awesome.  You can always change it later.  And your primary goal is to play around and have fun/frustration learning.

Choose a host.  I chose BlueHost for both my host and domain registration.  It's not really necessary that you choose the same host.  Although it will help a bit with getting started though.  Initially I tried Forumatic but their free version doesn't seem to offer direct access to the code or database.  And I didn't hear back when I e-mailed them about whether their paid version has access.

BlueHost is kinda obnoxious though because they say that they have plans starting at $3.49/month but when you get to the payment page you learn that it's only available if you sign up for 3 years.




I chose the starter price and deselected all the other options.  They might be useful down the road... but they aren't necessary for playing around with programming.

Install the phpbb forum.  This was a bit of an Easter Egg hunt for me...





Click on the "One-Click Installs" icon, scroll down to the "Forums" section and click on the phpBB icon.  You'll be asked where you want to install the forum in your website... I created a folder named "Forum".  The forum is automatically installed pretty quickly.  Within a few seconds your forum is up and running!  How easy and cool is that!

Find the forum database.  This was another Easter Egg hunt for me....





The icon "phpMyAdmin" is on the same page as the "One-Click Installs" icon.  Sign into phpMyAdmin with the same username/password that you used for BlueHost.  You'll want to bookmark the phpMyAdmin page.

Add a field to the posts table.  There are a few other changes you'll eventually need to make to the database but you just need to make one change in order to try and find the bug.





When I logged in, the column on the left was already populated with tables from the database.  I can't remember if this was the case when I logged in for the first time.  If it isn't, then click on the Database tab at the top left of the page.  There should only be one database to choose from.  When you click on it you'll see a list of tables.  Scroll down and click on the table that says "gpa_posts".




When you click on the posts table you'll see all the rows inside of it.  There's only going to be one row... which means that your forum only has one post!  Each row stores the information from one post.  All of these words that I'm typing now will be stored in a row in this forum's posts table.

I replied to the "welcome" post so there are two rows in my table.




Click the "Structure" tab at the top/left of the page...




Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the "Go" button.  A window with a form will kinda pop up...





In Google's browser, Chrome, the window behaves kinda awkwardly.  You have to resize it a bit to get to the first text box.

Name: post_value
Type: decimal
Length/Values: 13,2

I didn't actually name my field "post_value".  For security reasons I gave it a different name.  I doubt it makes much of a difference though.  Everything's hackable if you try hard enough.

Scroll to the right and hit the save button.  And there you go!  You've modified a database!  You've added a field to the posts table.  This field will store the total amount of money that's been allocated to each post.  Of course it won't store the real money... it will just keep track of the amount of money.

Add $0.05 cents to the "post_value" field.  Click on the Browse tab, scroll all the way to the right and enter .05 into the row's "post_value" field.  Essentially we're saying that the admin (you) allocated a nickle to the first post.... which was created (but not really) by you.

Find the PHP code/files.  This was another Easter Egg hunt.  Go back to your host's home page...





Click on the "File Manager" icon.   Your website should already be selected.  Hit the command button (it's blank in Chrome).  Once you're at the directory page, add it to your bookmarks.  You'll probably want to create a folder for all the necessary pages.

Find the viewtopic.php file.  public_html > forum > viewtopic.php   Clicking on the folders opens/closes them and clicking on the text will display the contents.  This php page is the page that has the bug.  And it's a monster of a page.  You can view the code by right clicking on the file icon and choosing "view".  What this page does is it gets the information from the database.  There's another page that helps to display this information on the page.

Find the viewtopic_body.html file.  This was another Easter Egg hunt!   public_html > forum > styles > prosilver > template > viewtopic_body.html  This is the page that displays the information that the viewtopic.php retrieves from the database.

Save copies of these files.  Before you start messing with the code you should always make sure you save a copy of the original file.  This way, when you tenaciously, methodically, randomly or feverishly tear the code apart looking for the bug, when you finally find it you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Start debugging!

As you can see, it's relatively easy to modify the database.  With a few clicks we added a column to a table.  The problem is that for some reason I can't get the $0.05 cents to display on the webpage!  The world will be a lot better place when displaying information in a database is as easy as modifying the database.

To start debugging... right click on each file and click "edit".  A dialogue box will pop up... just hit "ok" or whatever.

In the html file, hit ctl+f to search for "sig{postrow.POST_ID}".   This will take you to the part of the code that's responsible for displaying our signatures.  How cool is that!  This is right around the area where we might want to add the coin buttons and display the members' valuations of each post.

After the "<!-- ENDIF -->" code... copy and paste the following snippet...

<div class="signature">{SillyGoose}</div>

"SillyGoose" is a variable.  A variable is used to store information.  Just like in math...

x = 2

When I first started learning programming I kept choosing names for variables that were already reserved for other purposes.  This led to problems.  So I picked up the bad habitat of coming up with variable names that I was certain wouldn't already be taken.  In good programming practice you want to use variables that will make it easy for other programmers to figure out what information the variable is supposed to store.

Save the html file and go to the php file.  When you see a forward slash "/"... it means that the computer is going to ignore what follows.  For example...

// now I have the urge to wash my hands :(

This is the programmer telling us, rather than the computer, something.  What do you think he means?  I think it means that he feels kinda dirty because some of the coding is... questionable.  Can I complain though?  Not really.  It's not like my code would have been any better.  Plus, the guy was nice enough to donate his time to helping to create a program that all of us are using right now!  Thanks guy!  Whoever you are.

Search the php file for "$now->getOffset());"  Immediately after this code... hit enter a few times and copy and paste this...

///////////////////////////////*************************************///////////////////////////////
///////////////////////////////*************************************///////////////////////////////


$template->assign_var('SillyGoose', $sql);


///////////////////////////////*************************************///////////////////////////////
///////////////////////////////*************************************///////////////////////////////

The forward slashes and asterisks are just for helping you find this code again.  You can also ctl+f for "silly" or "goose".  What this code does is it will help us figure out what in the world is going on.   I'll break it down...

$template = the dollar sign indicates that we're dealing with a variable.  "Template" refers to the viewtopic_body.html page.

->assign_var = we're putting some information into the variable

SillyGoose = our variable on the html page

$sql = structured query language.  This is how we talk to the database.  Whatever is in this variable will be placed into SillyGoose.

In more or less plain language... this code means something like...  what in the world are we requesting from the database?  Let's find out by sending the request to the html page!

Save the php page and refresh your forum page that displays the first post.  This is what you should see...





Voila!  You've modified the forum!  Perhaps it's not the most spectacular modification but it's something!  If there's no voila then it's probably because you have to purge the cache.  At the bottom of the page, click on the "Administration Control Panel" link.  And then ctl+f "cache" and click "run now".  Say ok, and then refresh the "Voila" page.  You should see it then.

Copy the code...

SELECT u.*, z.friend, z.foe, p.* FROM (gpa_users u CROSS JOIN gpa_posts p) LEFT JOIN gpa_zebra z ON (z.user_id = 2 AND z.zebra_id = p.poster_id) WHERE p.post_id IN (1, 2) AND u.user_id = p.poster_id

...and go back to your database.   Click the SQL tab, paste the code into the text box and hit "Go".  What you should see displayed is a row that contains columns/information from various different tables.  If you scroll to the right you'll see that the column that you created "post_value" is included!  Ah ha!!  The preexisting php code already retrieves the information that we need!!  Unfortunately, something happens in the subsequent code that results in our $0.05 cents being lost.  :(

This is basically how the debugging process works.  It's real detective work in which you try and eliminate the usual suspects.  You have to narrow the search as much as possible so that you can find the bug.  Using the SillyGoose code snippets will allow you to figure out what the different variables contain at different times and places.

According to Linus's Law... the more people who see this code... the greater the chances that the bug will be found.  What do you think?   Are two heads better than one?

What's your prediction?  Is there any member of this forum who can find the bug?  Have I inspired any of you to run out and learn php?  Have I inspired any of you to brush up on your php?  Should programming be a required class like spelling and geography?  Do any of you prefer this topic over my usual topics?

************************************************

Found the bug!  Kinda.  When I started over I did something differently because it worked.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tax Choice Tax Rate

Reply to thread: Tax Choice - Pragmatarianism - Calling Xerographica

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helmuth_hubener, your "final word" is missing one very important word... "congress". This thread, on the other hand, has (prior to this post) 19 instances of the word "congress". How do you explain this disparity?

In case I wasn't very clear the first gazillion times that I've explained this...


  1. Tax choice is where people can choose which government organizations (GOs) they give their taxes to
  2. Congress is in charge of determining the tax rate
  3. Congress is a government organization (GO)
  4. Therefore, in a tax choice system, taxpayers will be able to choose how much of their hard earned tax dollars they give to congress.

You (the taxpayer): Ah man, these public options really suck! I'm the complete opposite of a kid in a candy store!! I'm a depressed taxpayer in a public market!!! I'm a despondent adult in a crap store!!!!!!
Congress: Will you give us more of your hard-earned tax dollars if we raise or lower the tax rate?
You: Lower!!!!!!! For sure! Drop the tax rate to 1% and I'll give you all of my tax dollars!
Congress: How many other people are in the same boat as you?
You: To be completely honest... I really don't know. If I'm the only person in this boat, and you lower the tax rate to 1%, then more people will boycott you and your revenue will plummet.
Congress: We really don't want our revenue to plummet, we want our revenue to skyrocket!
You: Then decrease the tax rate marginally. If your revenue increases then you'll know that you're going in the right direction. Keep marginally, and gradually, decreasing the tax rate until your revenue starts to decrease.
Congress: That sounds like a really good plan!
You: I know! I'm a genius!


If taxpayers largely perceive a relative scarcity (shortage) of public goods... then they will perceive the necessity of a higher tax rate. So congress would increase its revenue by increasing the tax rate. If, on the other hand, taxpayers largely perceive a surplus of public goods... then they will perceive the necessity of a lower tax rate. So congress would increase its revenue by decreasing the tax rate.





In this video, the kid doesn't give his money to the pastry vendor. Why didn't he? Because evidently the kid perceived that there were more valuable things to spend his money on. From his unique perspective, with his unique set of preferences, in his unique situation/circumstances/environment...

relative scarcity of other goods (X) > relative scarcity of pastries (Y)

X > Y

If taxpayers, in a pragmatarian system, perceive that the...

relative scarcity of private goods (X) > relative scarcity of public goods (Y)

X > Y

... then they'll allocate their hard-earned tax dollars accordingly. They'll give more tax dollars to congress if, and only if, congress lowers the tax rate.

This is how and why markets work. Consumers use their cash to guide producers in the most valuable directions. Consumers are the compass. Right now this compass is not in the public sector...

The management of a socialist community would be in a position like that of a ship captain who had to cross the ocean with the stars shrouded by a fog and without the aid of a compass or other equipment of nautical orientation. - Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government
The only alternative to a market price is a controlled or fixed price which always transmits misleading information about relative scarcity. Inappropriate behavior results from a controlled price because false information has been transmitted by an artificial, non-market price. - Mark J. Perry, Why Socialism Failed

You might be right that pragmatarianism is a crappy idea. But your critique to end all critiques doesn't even address the mindnumbingly simple process that will determine the tax rate in a pragmatarian system.

Speaking of bad ideas... here's the worst idea ever.

Personally, I think that consumers will be more honest in the public sector. More honesty means a more accurate compass. And a more accurate compass means more value will be created in the public sector. When the public sector creates more and more value... the tax rate will increase accordingly. Until we end up at a 100% tax rate.

Is my prediction wrong? I wouldn't be surprised! So please come up with a better prediction. Predict, using the stupid simple process that I outlined in this post, what the tax rate will end up being. Will it go up? If so, how high and why? Will it go down? If so, how low and why?

Micropayments Everywhere!

Nation States forum post: Micropayments Here, There, Everywhere?

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Should this forum facilitate micropayments?

1. No
2. Yes

According to the poll in this thread, 60% of you believe that anti-discrimination laws are necessary.  Evidently many of you are concerned that women, blacks, gays and Hindus do not have enough options.  But is your concern sincere or superficial signaling?
In addition to CV surveys eliciting apparently inconsistent responses, some researchers question whether survey subjects are attempting to state their true demand for public goods.  The worry is not that survey takers will strategically disguise their preferences (since little can be gained by giving false answers to questions about non-binding projects), but rather that they may be doing something else all together.  For example, Diamond and Hausman (1994) suggest that respondents may be expressing an attitude that gives them a warm glow, even if they wouldn't be willing to support their response to a hypothetical question with actual money; or they may be describing what they think good citizens are supposed to say, rather than calculating how much benefit they would derive, all things considered, from allocating a specific amount to a particular good. - Jonny Anomaly, Public Goods and Government Action
How come no one voluntarily buys X?  Because people don't actually like X - at least not enough to pay for it.  Why does everyone praise X?  Because praising X sounds good.  Why do people unanimously vote for lavish spending on X?  Because voting is just a special kind of talking. - Bryan Caplan, The Public Goods Model vs. Social Desirability Bias: A Case of Observational Equivalence
It is necessary to distinguish between two types of belief, the notional and the action-impelling.  The distinction corresponds to that between cheap talk and credible commitment (“putting your money where your mouth is”). - Richard Posner, Frontiers of Legal Theory 
It's disconcerting that the very same people who rail against the externalized costs of pollution of all kinds think absolutely nothing of forcibly externalizing the cost of their own preferred consumption. - Yevdokiya Zagumenova, She Wants X, but Wants Someone Else to Pay for X
They will not indeed submit to more labours and privations than other people, for the relief of distressed fellow creatures: but they make amends by whining over them more.  It is not difficult to trace this sort of affectation to its cause. It originates in the common practice of bestowing upon feelings that praise which actions alone can deserve. - J.S. Mill
It’s very easy to support programs that other people will have to pay for. But voters, like everyone else, should bear the costs of their own decisions. Letting people vote for expensive programs that “somebody else” will finance is a good recipe for getting people to vote irresponsibly. - Steve Landsburg, Blast from the Past
Neither is value in words and doctrines. It is reflected in human conduct. It is not what a man or groups of men say about value that counts, but how they act. The oratory of moralists and the pompousness of party programs are significant as such. But they influence the course of human events only as far as they really determine the actions of men. - Ludwig von Mises, A First Analysis of the Category of Action
The only other people who are helped are the do-gooders responsible for this type of legislation and for these effects. They have the high-minded satisfaction of promoting a noble cause. The good intention is emblazoned forth for all to see. The harm is far less visible, much more indirect, much harder to connect with the good-hearted action. Besides, the harm is mostly to someone else. - Milton Friedman, Migrant Workers

The easiest way to test the honesty of a belief is to give people the opportunity to put their money where their mouths is.  What this in mind...

Should this forum facilitate micropayments?  If you say yes, then you'd like to have the chance to spend your own money in order to help give women, blacks, gays and Hindu more options.  If you say no, then your concern for these people is not genuine.

Logistics

You'd use paypal to deposit money into your forum “wallet” (FW).  If you valued Gabe's thread at a penny, then you'd click the penny button and a penny would be transferred from your FW into Gabe's FW.  Once Gabe had enough pennies in his FW he could request a withdrawal. Max Barry would take his cut and paypal the rest to Gabe.

Feasibility

Just how feasible is to turn this forum into a market?  It's entirely feasible.

All the necessary programming is very straightforward.  Absolutely nothing fancy would be required.  Well... maybe a bit of Ajax for when you click the penny or nickle or dime or quarter buttons.  But nothing a reasonably seasoned programmer couldn't handle.

Just because it's feasible though doesn't mean that it will be cheap.  It would take quite a few hours to modify the database and write all the code.  But it's not like all the features would have to be rolled out at once.  In order to have a basically functional system you'd need to...

Add the FW column and total spending column to the members table
Add the total allocation column to the threads table
Create a table to keep track of how much each member has allocated to each thread
Add the coin buttons to the thread
Write the code to update the tables accordingly
Write the code to hide/disable the coin buttons if a member's broke
Write the code to display FW balance
Write the code to display the individual and total allocation for each thread

And that's it?  I'm sure that I'm forgetting a few steps.

With this very basically functional system... Max Barry, or trusted admins, would have to manually update your FW when you paypal'd them money.  This would only be a lot of work if a lot of people paid money.  If nobody paypals any money then clearly Barry wouldn't want to allocate any more time/money to developing a system that there's zero demand for.  So the greater the demand, the greater the justification/rationale/incentive/funding for making further improvements.

Layout

I suffer from a shortage of design skills, but perhaps sharing a bad design is better than not sharing any design...



With this layout, the coin buttons and allocation info would be immediately above the OP.  But perhaps it makes more sense for them to be immediately after the OP?  To the right of the coins you can see how much you've allocated to this thread and how much the crowd has allocated to it.  In the upper right of the page, just below your username, you'd be able to see your FW balance.

Approaches

The approach to micropayments that I've proposed is the "Pay-What-You-Want" (PWYW) approach.  Another approach is the "One-Price-Fits-All" (OPFA) approach... ie Blendle.  Given that one price really does not fit all, I'm pretty sure that the PWYW approach is superior.  But I could be wrong!

Builderism

Perhaps it might be objected that facilitating "one click giving" on this forum will not really give disadvantaged people better options...




Gabe's not going to be able to give up his day job if he only receives a penny for his thoughts/threads.  If this is your objection, then what you're arguing is that disadvantaged people won't create sufficiently valuable threads and/or members won't spend enough money on them...




I'm guessing that anybody who supports anti-discrimination laws also supports minimum wage laws.  If you have no problem forcing employers to pay more than their valuation of labor, then you should have no problem forcing yourself to pay more than your valuation of threads.




The more money you pay for threads, the more women, blacks, gays and Hindus would be able to give up their day jobs...

Income from posting at Nation States > Income from flipping burgers at McDonald's

Even if only white guys are able to give up their day jobs, this would still be beneficial to disadvantaged people.  Why?  Because there would be less white guys to compete with for other types of jobs.

There are other reasons to support turning this forum into a market...

Prioritize

There's no shortage of information on the topic of information overload...

The Age of Notifications - Steven Levy
10 Steps To Conquering Information Overload - Laura Shin
The paradox of choice - Barry Schwartz
Why sharing will eventually kill you - Aris Theophilakis

Websites are making it easier and easier to share information.  With more and more information it's more and more difficult to find information that's truly valuable.  The solution is simple.  Websites need to make it easier and easier to valuate information.  Hence, micropayments.  The crowd can use their coin clicks to help guide you to important information.  And you can use your coin clicks to help guide the crowd to information that's important to you.  Of course, the less accurate the valuations, the less accurate this value guidance system becomes.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Cultivate

An apple seed won’t germinate and thrive without adequate love (fertile soil, water, sun, etc). So if you love apples, then it would behoove you to contribute to the seedling’s cultivation. Otherwise, the seedling might not grow and bear fruit...which would result in a shortage of something that you love...apples.




If Nation States facilitated cultivating creativity with cash, then this would create a wide variety of viable and fertile niches for a wide variety of good thoughts/ideas to grow to fruition.

Laboratories

It's been said that states are the laboratories of democracy.  Given that there are only around 50 states here in the US... it shouldn't be a surprise that democracy hasn't really improved that much.  But if Nation States makes valuing threads as easy as Facebook has made it to like posts... then Nation States would become a better market.  Who wants to participate in better markets?  Everybody.  So it's a given that other websites would follow suit... Wired, The Economist, Democracy Journal, Medium, Jacobin, The New Rambler,  Crooked Timber, Huffington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street JournalNetflix, Spotify, Youtube, Facebook and countless other websites would all endeavor to become better markets.  When websites become the laboratories of markets, and there are a gazillion websites, then market failure will be quickly weeded out.  Markets will improve at an exponential rate.

Precedent

"I have to say, I feel it's my fault. I failed to create an adequate simulation of the real world." - Max Barry, brb buying ByteCoin

I'm not exactly sure whether or not that was an elaborate April Fool's joke.  But clearly Barry's somewhat interested in the general topic.

And yes, I do realize that this is his website and he can do what he wants with it.  Anybody who mentions this owes me $5 dollars.

Review

Micropayments can...

1. ...create more options for others
2. ...prioritize information
3. ...empower us to cultivate valuable ideas/thoughts
4. ...transform websites into markets

Discussion

Ok citizens of Nation States, let's have some excellent discussion!

Should this forum facilitate micropayments?

Do you hate this idea so much that you'd leave if it was implemented?

What are some of the potential unintended consequences?

Would you want to see the total amount of money that another member has spent?



Which is more important to know?

A. Total number of posts that a member has made
B. Total number of dollars that a member has allocated

Would you want to be able to see another member's allocations sorted from highest to lowest?

Would you want to be able to allocate money to both threads and posts... or just threads?

If you value a thread at $0.50 cents, but you don't allocate any money to it, are you a free-rider?

Do you perceive that the free-rider problem would be significant?

If so, what are some ways to incentivize/encourage/reward voluntary contributions/allocations?  Perks?    Privileges?  Prestige?  Parades?  Wall of fame?

Do you think that micropayments are the future?

What is the proper scope of micropayments? (ie, not appropriate for forums but appropriate for Youtube because...videos > threads)

If Facebook facilitated micropayments, what's the total amount of money that would have been allocated to this post by Robert Reich?

How much would you allocate to this thread?  Be careful, you might just get the chance to put your money where your mouth is.  If it helps, I'm Mexican. But I am male and straight though.

More

Supporting The People And Content You Love
Beyond the Deadweight Loss of “All You Can Eat” Subscriptions
The $1,000 CPM

I’ve often been critical of economists fetish of putting a price on everything and believing that the price mechanism is a miraculous device capable of solving any problem. They vastly overstate the case. However, I think Lanier is right in this instance. He suggests that a broad middle class capable of supporting a vibrant capitalist economy can only be nurtured if all the people who actually create the value of the Internet get paid for the information they currently supply for free. Digital networking technology is more than sophisticated enough to track value creation across all the world’s users, so as to provide the information required for a system of micropayments — people who create value, no matter where and when it was ultimately used, would get paid for it. - Mark Buchanan, Our economies are messed up. And the cause is the Internet.