Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Persistance of Commerce

Last week I stumbled across a sort of weird, sort of fun site called blogshares.com.

The site works like a stock exchange for blogs. You buy shares of blogs with virtual cash. Blogs are valued by how many incoming links from other sites they’ve garnered and the “value” of the sites that actually links to them.

They also have something called “chips”, which are a sort of social currency. Other Bloggers will pay you chips for linking to their blog, thus driving up their share price. (Of course, in the real world this would be illegal.)

Market exchanges are interesting because they’re pretty good at trending data. The Intelligence community even runs informal market exchanges to trend threats. Really all it is weighted voting...I’m 55% believe this is true so my yes vote with be qualified to reflect that by the amount of money I’ll lay down.

Mostly stupid harmless fun. And then I started tripping out on something. The blogging community works as a gift economy. Stuff/ideas are offered for free and people can comment and improve on it as they see fit. Sort of how open source software distribution works...

So here is this marketplace where an abstract value is attached to it, based not on its own merits, but on the consensus perception of its merits.

It gets weird (and kind of sad) when you get to the section were people are cruising for links. One quote: “...I’ll give you 10 chips to link to my site, because I’m new to this, and I really need the links.” Why do you need the links? To what end? I mean, if he’s doing to play the game, I understand. And I’m never less then thrilled when someone links to my site. I guess my thrill comes from the validation of my writing. But in a lot of cases, I think rather than rely on quality or truth or whatever, bloggers just want the links.

Chasing links puts you in the weird position of creating content to get more links so more people will look at your content. So you write in foxhole, blasting off reels of content, posting up any and every thought. I know I’m guilty of it.

It’s just funny how when we humans get in groups something always shorts out and we enter giant feedback loops and drive ourselves crazy looking for patterns and meaning. Australian Shepherds with attempt corral anything you put in front of them. When given a bunch of loose tennis balls, the Shepherd puppies are compelled to get the balls together in tight formation. That’s us, too. I think we’re driven to commoditize stuff for that reason. But what do I know? I’m an idiot.

Three books I’d invite you to consider if this topic interests you:
A Short History of Financial Euphoria/John Kenneth Galbraith.
Galbraith wrote a funny, very short book about how markets go apeshit for stupid commodities (like tulip bulbs).

Why people believe weird things/Michael Shermer.
Shermer looks at alien abductions, Satanic panics and other weird crap and gives a pretty good explanation on how group dynamics buttress personal delusions and create value perception. It’s a really good book.

Freakonomics/Dubner & Levitt
Economics in the science of analyzing human motivation. Levitt is an economist who applies his science to sociological problems and it is very, very interesting.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Crackpot Press said...

I tried Blog Shares. While it did increase traffic to my site, I couldn't figure out the rules.

However I did manage to make over $500,000 by doing absolutely nothing.

Kind of like what I do now, except for the $500,000 part.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

My two cents, since you asked (!):
The more links you have, the better your ego feels. Even if those links have been "bought," we can easily trick ourselves into believeing that someone actually gives a shit what we're writing.

Self publishing, which is all blogging is, really, is all about ego strokes. No?

I feel smarter and more imprtnat since starting my blog.

9:20 AM  

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