Monday, February 8, 2016

The Tabarrok Solution To Notification Overload

Reply to story by James Kwak: It Can Wait. Really.


This can’t wait! Or can it?

Imagine if you received 1000 responses to your response to Steven Levy’s story. It stands to reason that no two responses are going to be equally urgent/relevant. There’s going to be a continuum that ranges from pure garbage to pure treasure.

But think about the opportunity cost of reading 1000 responses in order to find the pure treasure! Yikes!

Fortunately for you, there’s this thing called Linus’s Law: given enough eyeballs, all Easter Eggs are exposed. In other words… let the crowd lend you a million hands! Many hands make light work…

Chwe’s concept is readily apparent in the dynamics of social media. When a media organization posts a link to an online article on Facebook, for example, and people begin “liking” it, others will begin to assign some level of importance to the story and some will be compelled to share it and discuss it. The idea of “common knowledge” may also lend itself to thinking about advertising strategies on social media. — Richard Feloni, Mark Zuckerberg hopes this book will help shape his vision for Facebook

Here on Medium people could look through the 1000 responses to your response and “recommend” the “Easter Eggs” ( the best responses). As a result, the Easter Eggs would rise to the top of the results.

This is essentially how Google search results work. By linking to Feloni’s article I told Google… “here’s an Easter Egg!”. The more people who tell Google the same thing… the higher Feloni’s article shows up in the search results.

What Facebook, Google and Medium haven’t grasped yet is the value of quantifying a like, link or recommendation…

Heath’s conservatism makes him unwilling to suggest radical ideas. But big problems often need radical solutions. Voting, for example, reduces the cost of ignorance and irrationality. Raise the cost and people become more informed and rational. When pollsters ask Democrats and Republicans factual questions such as did inflation fall during Reagan’s presidency or were weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, they answer in a highly partisan manner. But partisan bias greatly diminishes when voters are told that they will be paid if they answer correctly. Betting is a more reliable guarantor of objectivity than voting. Or, as I once wrote, “A bet is a tax on bullshit.” — Alex Tabarrok, Is Capitalism Making Us Stupid?

Just because I linked to both Feloni’s article (Y) and Tabarrok’s article (X) really doesn’t mean that I value them both equally. I value Tabarrok’s article a lot more (X > Y).

Does it make a difference that X > Y? For sure! Which is why we need to make it stupid easy for people to put their money where their votes/likes/links/recommendations are.

So the solution isn’t to turn off your notifications… the solution is to allow the crowd to use their money to increase the volume of the most valuable notices.

By turning off your notifications you’re essentially throwing the baby out with the bath water. But with crowd valuation… you could simply set your filter to be greater than your valuation of your current activity.

For example… let’s say that you’re about to go to sleep. How much do you value sleeping? Maybe $40? So you’d simply set your filter to > $40. If your phone woke you up with a notification… then it would be because the crowd pushed this response of mine over $40! Heh. And you would certainly agree that it was totally worth it for you to wake up in the middle of the night to read my response. You would say, “The crowd was right! This really couldn’t wait!”

Here I am right now sharing a lot of information with you. Medium made it stupid easy for me to do so. But Medium is hardly the exception in this regard. There’s a clear trend. When the future’s going to have more and more information flowing every which direction… then we’re going to greatly benefit by facilitating proper weighting of it all. And proper weighting is a function of opportunity cost. The amount of money that the crowd is willing to spend/sacrifice to push/lift/amplify information will help us correctly prioritize which information we consume.

Hopefully Medium will agree, sooner rather than later, that one click giving is a really good idea.

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