Liberty is Prosperity

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A free market solution to Katrina

I recently watched Spike Lee’s documentary on Hurricane Katrina. While the political slant was not to my liking, the depiction of the scale of the suffering and the role of big government in making the situation worse was effective and heart breaking. It raised several questions:

What is a better solution to the problem of a massive natural disaster that occurs within a community that is already an economic and political disaster area?

How do we harness the power of the crowd that is affected to help themselves immediately- without waiting for the government to come along with physical assets?

My idea is this- to create credit and let the free market work.

Could the president proclaim a new “currency” for those affected by the disaster? Let the U.S. government give its guarantee to any reasonable handwritten note presented for payment at the Federal Reserve that contained the following information:

For the buyer/disaster victim: Name, address within the declared emergency area, thumbprint, photo, SSN
For the seller/service provider: Name, address, company information if applicable, thumbprint, photo, SSN
General: What purchased, where, when, dollar amount

This scheme would immediately empower all of the victims to seek their own solution. Even if they were in an area without normal communications capabilities they would soon find out about the grant of credit because sellers of essential services would converge on the area within hours to “exploit” the situation of willing buyers with ample credit.

People in nearby communities would have a financial incentive to immediately start renting rooms in their homes to displaced persons.

The buyers and sellers would be the ones to decide how much of this credit to use. There would be no guarantee of any grant of aid- the idea is simply to get purchasing power to the affected people immediately and then sort it all out later. Fraud will occur but the threat of being caught is very high due to the photo and thumbprint identification of both buyer and seller in each transaction. Notes for obviously ridiculous transactions could be refused for payment at the Fed.

In an area where everyone now has all the “money” they need to take care of themselves, lawlessness can rightfully be treated as zealously as necessary in order to maintain order.

Make me a user-god and I will bless you

This was an email sent to feedback@digg.com

I want to experience being the center of my information universe, being served people and things that I love or love to hate.

Google, schmoogle- the site that gets this right owns the internet- by owning the loyalty of its users!

In the real world, I am not God. In my information universe, serve me as though I am a god. Expect nothing from me as your god-user. I will then bless you with information about me that you will find profitable as you continue to serve me.

I discovered Digg a few months ago, and at first really liked it and spent a lot of time on it. Now though I realize that much of what’s on it is of no interest to me and any story I submit or digg doesn’t have much chance of being promoted because I am outside the typical digg user profile.

How about offering additional “views” of digg stories?

1. Digg Love- this would be a front page consisting of the most popular stories dugg by people most like me, based on our digging activity
2. Digg Hate- this would be a front page with the most popular stories dugg by people most unlike me

To get a good Digg Hate profile on a user it seems that there has to be a trinary response available to each story- so I can tell you what I hate just as easily as what I like. The current bury option is too weak and the word has too much alternative meaning and the bury options further confuse its use. Let’s have a second button right next to “digg it”- perhaps “shigg it” or a similar made up word that works well as the counterpoint to “digg”. So the three options on each story would be digg, shigg, or null. The dig and shigg should appear on the exterior links that I’m starting to see on a lot of stories as well.

People who know that digg is forming a profile on them as they digg and shigg are more likely to digg and shigg as their user experience should get better and better as they start being formed into communities of like interest automatically by digg. These communities will become immensely profitable to digg in the future since every marketer desires targeting to specific audiences.

To further segregate your users you could also have a pop up behind each digg or shigg button- the Whyy? screen. This screen would offer some popular tags or let you add a tag as to why- another way to get more information from users. Offer a choice on applying the tag to the story or to the author.

Digg could be so much more that it is now- I don’t want to comb the internet selecting blogs to add to RSS feeds etc. I want a primary information and entertainment home (and I do use Digg as my home page already) that knows me (or at least the identity I have chosen to reveal to Digg) and will serve up stuff that I love when I’m in one mood and stuff that I hate when I’m in another mood- or even let me change it up- provide a Love-Hate slider control that serves up stories either on the continuum between love and hate or another one that lets me decide on a percentage of Love stories and percentage of hate stories.

And let me know who my friends should be. Rank all the users on the site, most like me to least like me. Use the tags to calculate likely areas of agreement and disagreement. If I want to evangelize in an area, let me see a person who has similar interests in 90% of things but digresses from me in the 10% issue that I want to evangelize.

Let me filter comments based on who the commenter is. One of the real weaknesses of Digg compared to many other sites is how insipid the comments are. Let me digg and shigg the comments and tag them also- with a lot of weight given to the choice of, in this case, comment or author. So if I’ve applied the “idiot” tag to a particular commenter more than a few times, I don’t have to see that idiot’s comment again for a very long time- like when the idiot finally grows up.

I’m willing to give you my most personal information- what I like, what I hate, why I like it, and why I hate it. In return you get access to me for marketing purposes- but only when I’m using digg. Do not require any personal information to register- no email address and do not save my IP address as I surf. Make the use of Digg totally anonymous and I won’t ever be scared to use it and share with it. You’ll know where to find me- I’ll be on My Digg. If necessary, use some sort of weighting of the diggs and shiggs by user history in order to discourage sock puppetry.

But, while I’m on digg, which should be a huge proportion of my computing time if you’ve done it right, you have my attention. I don’t have any problem with Google style boxes down one side of the screen. And I’ll click on a whole lot of them if they are contextual to the most important thing in my world- me.

Smarter marketers will learn how to use stories to get out their messages in a way that me and people like me will actually digg. I wouldn’t even have a problem with having one story per page that has been promoted by payment- as long as it is clearly labeled as such like the top bar items in a Google search and it is an actual story, not just an advertisement. Speaking of Google- be Google without me even having to search- serve up what you’ve calculated I’m interested in so I don’t have to go searching for it.

Go ahead and integrate Google or some search so that you can capture that information about me as well.

It’s okay to test me- throw in an occasional identified as such story that is out of my profile so I will be encouraged to digg or shigg it as necessary to further define me. I really want you to know me (but not my personal information) very very well so you can do a great job of serving me.

I’m sending this to y’all because you have as good a chance as anybody of becoming my ultimate web site and I think most people want the same thing.