Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Am I Jaa or Nix?

A short time ago I overheard that someone was looking to purchase the domain for Am I Hot or Not? Up until then I hadn't considered the site to be anything more than legendary. To be sure, the value of knowing whether one is hot or not was of little concern to the vast majority of us -- with the exception of AOL, who immediately began adding the feature all across their network. But the simple concept of 'yea or nay' became apparent on the Internet, thanks to a bunch of guys who liked looking at hot chicks.

This small step in the evolution of The Information Highway is an important one, as the ability to define a simple value of 'yes' or 'no' underlies the construction of all knowledge -- in our minds, in our debates, in our governance of societies. Connecting this process to simple thumbs up/down controls on the web extends the model beyond ourselves into the social wealth of the masses. But with all the examples of Am I Digg or Reddit? on the intertubes, none have clearly stated exactly how much that 'social wealth' is worth to the masses.

To put it more clearly: Google makes a certain amount of money every time you look at one of their ads. When you click on something, they make even more money. Your views hold a certain value to not only Google, but everyone in the advertising industry, including Rupert Murdoch who purchased MySpace for an obscene amount of billions. They came to that dollar amount by counting the number of times people looked at something on their website. Views have a value to everyone except the viewers themselves, who are typically subjected to more crap at their expense.

This is where a quote from the creator of Jaanix inspires me to believe that someone is on the right track: "Unlike predecessors [Jaanix] is not a democracy, but a marketplace where your attention is the new currency." For what is Democracy but a system of checks and balances controlled by a relative few who ultimately manipulate the system towards their own interests? But Jaanix, by contrast, tells you how much your views are worth, and compensates you accordingly. Or, at least, it could, should it follow the path of the "new currency."

One would do well to remember that we're living in the 21st Century, where knowledge is key and the value of the currency is fluctuating based on information: who values what, how many of us agree, et cetera. What you and I know is the monetary unit of 2008; it's how we earn wealth and who we trade it with. Converting our knowledge into cash is simply another step in turning our views into points. Scrap the dollar! There is no more gold backing our credit! All hail the mighty viewpoint!

Once the model makes sense it is easy to see how all of these points add up: I earn a certain amount every time I contribute, to varying degrees depending on my effort. Should I dig up something original I get a certain amount. Should I simply comment on it I get less, and for the easiest task of voting I get the smallest amount. All of this adds up to an account which offers even greater visibility of higher value to those submitting to the site.

All in all, I see this model providing the foundation for much of what the owners of Digg and Reddit (and even Pwnce) are attempting to accomplish: What are people talking about? What are they interested in learning more about? Websites? Products? You name it. You share it. You create communities of like-minded people to do it. That's the real magic of the Web 2.0. Now, let's hope that Jaanix can see the value, and present it clearly to the rest of the world.

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