Social Postage


Lack of burden and responsibility is making social media a trashier place than it ever was. This article speculates why it is so and how it can be fixed.

Main article

To “cc” someone means to “carbon copy” someone. There were times when, if I was writing you a letter, and I wanted for a common friend of ours also to know, I’d have to keep a carbon paper under it while I write, so the carbon copy (hence the name) can be sent to him. There was a cost attached to each additional person I made copies for. Cost can be money (paper, carbon paper, postage), effort (the additional work). There was also a responsibility attached to it. Emails trashed this concept, by making the cost of 1 copy same the cost of 100 copies (or a million copies). End result is a work environment that is made unproductive due to emails and the occasional private conversations that get copied to an organization full of users (and many of them respond to that, that’s story for another day)

Social media is also going through the same phenomenon. Whether it is a discussion forum or a blog or Q&A forum or microblogging or Facebook – they are going through a phase where contributing content has no cost or responsibility attached to it. End result – too much contributions and, I speculate, too little consumption and at any rate, too little quality.

Sometime ago I posted status on social media that Facebook ought to be ask subscribers to pay a fee. Not all of them, only those that wanted to contribute (defined as anything other than reading and liking). Some people did not seem to like the idea – because it defies a golden rule of behavioral economics – mixing social norms with market norms. So I think, if the burden cannot be money, how can we resolve this? The answer may lie within two words – social postage. Social postage merely means every contribution has to have postage attached to it and postage will not be paid for in money – but by credits, earned by responsible actions. Who is to judge “responsible actions” you ask? People who consume the information have to themselves judge that. So you won’t be limited be how much you can contribute, but only be how much credits you have earned and how judiciously you like to use it.

As far as I see, there is no flipside to this – except content will become scarcer – but I am betting world will be a better place with less content and more thought.

What do you think?

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  1. Social Postage | KVPPVRAO pingbacked Posted September 21, 2013, 1:31 am

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  1. Quote

    Interesting idea RK. You may want to think some more about how someone earns credits? What constitute those responsible actions?

  2. Quote
    Raja Renganathan said May 22, 2012, 8:24 am:

    RK – social media is networking with people – whether u like it or not… if we start putting postage credit or fee then we will hv discussion in our own archipelagos.. bcos it is free posting there ideas are getting shared any barrier will prevent them to contribute. On the other side – some one can create a business model and sell it to tweeters/fb’s of the world..

  3. Quote

    Thanks Sukumar for your comments. In Amazon, when you review a product, not only do you help someone make a purchasing choice, but they also rate you for how useful your review was. This is a great example of how credits can be earned. If I want to contribute my thoughts (my posts, my reviews, my DF POVs, my opinions), I have first got to earn it. The only way to earn is by contributing (think of yourself as a new migrant in US and you are working on your credit score 😉 ). I will take Facebook as an example (but Facebook is not my target for this idea, it is far too noisy for that, and in any case the market for FB is different). Contributing a post, adding a comment to someone’s post, sharing a link are all “write” actions – for which you need to earn credit. Consuming information or for “liking it” you don’t need credits.

    If we find a solution for this, may be we will finally find a solution for corporate spamming as well. In corporations, we have this age-old problem of one random employee sending emails to entire organization because his water fountain is not working. And a thousand people “reply all” and say “please exclude me from this email thread”.

  4. Quote

    Thanks Raja for your comments. If you have an idea or a comment, would you put it on Sastwingees or I would put it on Sastwingees or some similar place – where it is easier to access more people that act sensibly. (and FB these days) are flooded with people that are “unqualified”, therefore I find it very hard to believe the implementation of postage would alone impede people from sharing their ideas.

    I also think if Sastwingees asked me to pay a tariff to publish this blog post – and my other choice was to put it on for free, I am much more likely to use Sastwingees.

    If I did not make it clear before, social postage is not $$. It is a credit system based on the values of responsible actions.

  5. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 24, 2012, 7:59 pm:

    Got it RK. Very interesting. You may want to look at Karma points implemented by slashdot etc. While it did control quality to a great extent, it couldn’t reach the virality that a FB or Twitter has produced. It is due to the free & easy to contribute nature of FB/Twitter that we now have 100s of millions people using it. FB may even reach a billion people pretty soon. The flip side is the problem you point out. While social postage may be one way, there can be other ways like custom socnets around interests which may not reach scale. Both approaches have advantages & disadvantages. I would vote for free/easy based on my experience.

  6. Quote

    I agree Sukumar. Each has its merits and demerits. Hopefully technology can help us sift through data, especially unstructured, to get us what we really want. As example, if Twitter could somehow different noise from genuine content, we wouldn’t be having this debate 😉

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