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Author Topic: Tragedy of the email/discussion forum commons...  (Read 3419 times)
Gavin Andresen
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December 01, 2010, 02:46:25 PM
 #1

I wrote this three years ago, and I'd still like to see something like it implemented.  Now we've got Bitcoin, implementing it might be much easier; I'd love to see a bitcoin bbs/forum that uses these ideas to reward thoughtful, high-quality discussion  (replace "email list" everywhere below with "discussion forum" and I think it all still works):


I was listening to "The Ethics of Liberty" yesterday, and it got me thinking about email lists.

Most email discussion lists seem to suffer from a Tragedy of the Commons-- there's not a whole lot of motivation for people posting their opinions to think twice about spouting off, or going on and on and on, or otherwise polluting the list with stuff that the subscribers to the list might consider junk.

There are a couple of solutions to these kinds of problems. You can try to set up some kind of policing system, with trusted moderators given the power to bless posts, ban people, etc. You need really thick-skinned, generous-hearted, even-tempered moderators for that to work.

A solution that works in the real world that hasn't been tried for the email mailing list problem (as far as I know) is some kind of economic system, where the common resource is given a value and anybody wanting to use the resource must pay rent (which is then used to maintain the resource).

So, here's a thumbnail sketch of how this might work for an email mailing list:

Create an artificial currency. If you have enough of this currency, you're allowed to post messages to the list. Longer posts cost more than shorter posts.

Everybody starts with some amount of this currency. Everybody is allowed to use it themselves, give it away, or sell it (for real money!) to people who want to use it to post messages.

Every message posted includes ways of:
- Tagging the message as "Worthwhile" --> transfers currency from your account to the poster's account.
- Tagging the message as "Waste of my Time" --> transfers currency from poster's account to the common pool of currency.

The amount of currency in the system is tied to the desired message traffic. We all have a limited attention span; basically, the trick will be to create an artificial economy so that the people who contribute positively are encouraged to contribute more, and people who "pollute" are punished.

Currency goes into the system every day (again, based on desired message traffic per day). Some is assigned to new people signing up for the list, and the rest evenly distributed to everybody already on the list.

"Lurkers" on the list could either hoard their currency, offer to sell it, or give it away to people from whom they want to hear more.

How often do you get the chance to work on a potentially world-changing project?
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kiba
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December 01, 2010, 02:57:04 PM
 #2

Interesting idea: but beware of unintended consequence.

I do not want the forum to evaporate cool to only a certain type political viewpoints as much as I dislike certain ideology.

ribuck
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December 01, 2010, 03:15:06 PM
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Yes Gavin, the time has come for this kind of forum, and maybe Bitcoin is the necessary enabler.

I can think of a few existing systems that almost implement this idea.

Answers sites such as Google Baraza or Yahoo Answers issue their own points-based "currencies". You get a certain number of points just for checking in every day, and you can spend those points asking questions. If you answer questions, you can earn more points, and you get even more if other people think you provided useful answers.

To me the big sticking-point of your proposed system is the distribution of "new" forum money. How do you stop spammers and trolls signing up multiple times? If only there was a viable way to force newcomers to do "work" to get their initial allocation of forum money...

Ah, so we just make newcomers pay a few bitcoins to get started! But the burden of that might be enough to stop the idea from taking off.

If the forum has ads, that should provide a small amount of income that could buy some new bitcoins to be distributed each day. What if there was a way to identify people who had made insightful posts in OTHER places, and send the bitcoins to them so that they could participate in this forum? Poach the informative and insightful contributors, in other words.
SmokeTooMuch
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December 01, 2010, 03:16:22 PM
 #4

Quote
Create an artificial currency. If you have enough of this currency, you're allowed to post messages to the list. Longer posts cost more than shorter posts.
I guess longer, well expressed posts are more useful to all of us, so mabye it should be the opposite way.
shoter posts cost more than longer posts.

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grondilu
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December 01, 2010, 03:25:48 PM
 #5

What about a system where people pay to post ?  0.01BTC per word, for instance.  This way people would think twice before posting.

The question is :  what to do with the money.  It could be sent back to previous posters, proportionnaly to their amount of posting.

PS.  There could be a market for "words".  It could be fun.
kiba
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December 01, 2010, 04:24:27 PM
 #6

The problem is trying to separate "I agree. I disagree." kind of votes from "insightful, I would like to hear more about it" good votes.

ribuck
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December 01, 2010, 04:34:55 PM
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The problem is trying to separate "I agree. I disagree." kind of votes from "insightful, I would like to hear more about it" good votes.
I think Gavin is on the right track with his "Worthwhile"/"Waste of time" buttons. If people are finding a discussion worthwhile, it doesn't matter whether that's because the ideas are new to them or comfortably familiar to them.

For sure, some forums will become tight groups of closed-minded people. But hey, for a few bitcoins, someone can create a new sub-forum, and with a well-chosen topic and charter the new sub-forum may turn out more broad-minded than the previous one.

In the end, those forums that people find worthwhile will prosper, and the rest will wither away.
kiba
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December 01, 2010, 04:38:28 PM
 #8

So, is this proposal for real or what?

Is somebody going to modify the SMS, or come up with a new codebase?

No offense, but the license of SMS sucks.

ribuck
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December 01, 2010, 04:52:58 PM
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Is somebody going to modify the SMS, or come up with a new codebase?

Assuming you mean SMF (the software behind this forum) I don't think it's worthwhile modifying it.

Anyway, Gavin's idea should be tried outside this forum until it proves itself. If it turns out to work well, not only would it be worth switching this forum to it, but the demand for that forum system from others would drive the adoption of bitcoin.
kiba
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December 01, 2010, 04:55:48 PM
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Anyway, Gavin's idea should be tried outside this forum until it proves itself. If it turns out to work well, not only would it be worth switching this forum to it, but the demand for that forum system from others would drive the adoption of bitcoin.

Then nobody is going to execute it.

ribuck
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December 01, 2010, 05:07:01 PM
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Then nobody is going to execute it.
Every category of software gets developed sooner or later. Every week there are new bitcoin-based services opening up, so it will happen.
kiba
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December 01, 2010, 05:22:52 PM
 #12

Every category of software gets developed sooner or later. Every week there are new bitcoin-based services opening up, so it will happen.

With all due respect, there are thousand of ideas that are never executed.

ribuck
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December 01, 2010, 06:03:54 PM
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With all due respect, there are thousand of ideas that are never executed.
Well this particular idea strongly interests me. However, I still haven't delivered the animated movie that I've been working on, so I'm not going to commit to anything.
Bimmerhead
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December 01, 2010, 06:08:28 PM
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gavin, at least some of the functionality you're looking for is already available for most major forum packages.

For vBulletin there is the vBCredits mod.  I was trying to achieve some of this functionality, using BTC as the in-forum currency, with this bounty:

http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1798.0

That is currently on hold though as a new vB mod with much of what I requested above is in the works and due for release in the coming weeks.

I imagine SMF has something, though it may not be as developed as for vB.  This could be the basis of what you want: http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=65, but if you search you'll probably find something even closer.


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Stephen Gornick
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December 01, 2010, 06:27:13 PM
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There was a line on one of the Bitcoin irc channels earlier today, I forget which channel and who it was, but said was something to the effect of
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Someone should take the Reddit source code and require Bitcoin for upvotes
Then added was:
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Name it creddit.

RHorning
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December 01, 2010, 07:39:07 PM
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What about a system where people pay to post ?  0.01BTC per word, for instance.  This way people would think twice before posting.

The question is :  what to do with the money.  It could be sent back to previous posters, proportionnaly to their amount of posting.

PS.  There could be a market for "words".  It could be fun.


I thought of a system which would be essentially e-mail postage, where as a variation on this theme you could pay 0.01 BTC per message (linked to a BTC address), and perhaps set up a mailing list that would charge per subscriber that in turn would send the messages back out.  In this case the e-mail recipient would receive the money with the e-mail and ditto with the mailing list (per message).  That does get to the problem of people trying to build up multiple e-mail addresses for the purpose of earning money too, so it isn't a perfect solution.

Still, that would certainly cut out the spam in a hurry, yet still not be too expensive.

There was an earlier discussion about USENET, which fits right in with this concept where if you want to talk about a technology which was overwhelmed by spam and the commons in general.  It worked for many years until finally the signal/noise ratio was unbearable and more often than not the binary lists were filled with viruses.  That resource could have remained valuable had some economic system been in place.

As a general concept, I like this idea and certainly think it needs some extra throught.  I love the diversity of ideas being presented here too!

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December 01, 2010, 07:44:29 PM
 #17

Quote
Create an artificial currency. If you have enough of this currency, you're allowed to post messages to the list. Longer posts cost more than shorter posts.
I guess longer, well expressed posts are more useful to all of us, so mabye it should be the opposite way.
shoter posts cost more than longer posts.
Indeed, I agree penalizing longer posts doesn't make sense. I prefer longer posts to 'asshat!'.

And it's just as easy to ignore a long post than to ignore a short one.

It's not the length of the message that is the problem in any way, at least with text. I mean, even taking into account bandwidth one doesn't care if a message is 5 bytes or 500 bytes. If it includes attachments, yeah it makes sense to penalize huge posts.

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grondilu
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December 01, 2010, 08:40:34 PM
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It's not the length of the message that is the problem in any way, at least with text. I mean, even taking into account bandwidth one doesn't care if a message is 5 bytes or 500 bytes. If it includes attachments, yeah it makes sense to penalize huge posts.


The size of a message is not a matter of bandwidth, but rather a matter of mind lazyness.  If you read a long message just to realize at the end that it was just crap, then you can consider you got screwed.  You would have prefer a shorter message.

Therefore short messages has to be rewarded.  Thus, to me it make sense to pay more for longer messages.
Gavin Andresen
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December 01, 2010, 09:23:56 PM
 #19

It's not the length of the message that is the problem in any way, at least with text. I mean, even taking into account bandwidth one doesn't care if a message is 5 bytes or 500 bytes. If it includes attachments, yeah it makes sense to penalize huge posts.


The size of a message is not a matter of bandwidth, but rather a matter of mind lazyness.  If you read a long message just to realize at the end that it was just crap, then you can consider you got screwed.  You would have prefer a shorter message.

Therefore short messages has to be rewarded.  Thus, to me it make sense to pay more for longer messages.


Excessive, lazy quoting (like this message!) should also be discouraged.

How often do you get the chance to work on a potentially world-changing project?
kiba
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December 01, 2010, 09:30:58 PM
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Excessive, lazy quoting (like this message!) should also be discouraged.

So, are you going to offer a big bounty for this project?

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