Thursday, July 22, 2010

How the facebook could earn extra millions without doing much.

My friend sent me this: a Cow Clicker game. This is absolutely brilliant parody because it encompasses everything strange about the "social Facebook games".

Now, back to the subject - how can Facebook earn extra millions ? I think in the same way. They can use their "Like" button instead. Humans want to be heard. They especially dislike when some other humans are heard and they are not heard. They consume the friend feed in bursts (unless facebook is the only activity they do).

So, the solution is to limit the number of feedback/click items per hour - better, per the interval of something inconvenient like 5 hours. Sell the Facebucks and allow to use those Facebucks to pay for the ability to express themselves here and now.

Tada! Instant revenue stream!

Of course it'd be evil beyond belief.

And presumably the "likes" that help to build the semantic network are more valuable than the money buying them would bring.

But this could be a fun experiment.

Not talking of the fact that having the Facebucks would be a no-brainer side biz for micropayments.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The tangible value of time

I've had a thought-provoking experience today: a meeting which got cancelled shortly before. Nothing besides a minor annoyance, but a very valuable trigger to muse on the economic value of time as a function of individual's position in time. Something around the "Time is money" stuff. Lots of terms are in quotes, because this is more of an unsorted dump and less of a coherent essay.

A thought experiment: you ask me to spend 10 minutes now or 10 minutes tomorrow. If I can - I will prefer to spend 10 minutes now. "Now" is "cheaper" for me than "Future" - even though it is in limited supply. "Now" is quickly depreciating - left unused, it becomes a non-redeemable "Past". That's why I try to "sell" the "Now", at a best "price" (usefulness of the activity), so nothing is going wasted into the recycle bin in the corner of Zeus' father cabinet.

So, the most "profitable" strategy for me is to "sell at the edge" - i.e. have little planning at all - the cost of this "just about to be gone" for me is approaching zero. However, since every activity is fitting within the nonzero time interval, this means that the competing activities would meet with the non-determinism - there might be already another thing that I am doing, and the contender, if it is time-critical, will face a "loss".

Seems with the "future", it's really the determinism of my availability that I am "selling" to the "buyers" - in addition to the intrinsic value of "me".
There is a side in this for me too - with the "pipeline of things" the time is allocated, and there is no risk that it goes "unsold" - and if I am able to estimate the "usefulness" of the task for me, then I have a stable "return on investment".

This is similar to a model where someone would pay money "now" to get something in the "future", in an economy with a spiraling inflation. So, "time" is indeed quite similar to money, except the mapping is a bit twisted!

Now, the next question - if the time bears such a strong relationship with money, would it not be interesting to just use the time as a currency ?

So, let's make another thought experiment. Let's assume that the technology allows everyone to print their own currency, and the technology is such, that with every exchange you can see how much of the "units" have been emitted and are in circulation.

"What's the guarantee behind?" - you ask, citing the current money in circulation. With the technology above, the guarantee for the mass of the "personal money" issued by a given individual, is the individual himself. That's when we can exploit the saying "He's worth his weight in gold".

Obviously such a "guarantee" seems scary at first (it looks like some twisted form of slavery), but it is not a problem - to "own" you, someone must be able to continually attract all the "money" you put into emission. Which, unless they produce something you need, is unlikely. Plus, if you are desperate, you can always dilute their "share" by emitting more "money".

This system would some interesting properties.

It would be the economy financially driven by the youth - because the "first emission money" will be the least inflated - therefore of most value. The youth would be able to pay for the education - which would be provided by the elder, who can no longer just "print their money".

With this, it might be that the very core of the society will change (youth being more "naive", if you wish), might just make it for the better. But maybe not.

In any case it would be an interesting experiment.

Now, if that proved to be successful, we can go further, and replace the "personal money" with "personal time".

This interpretation might be even more deterministic - because the lifetime of a person is finite, and is statistically rather well defined.

So you start with your current life expectancy's full of "personal money-time", and get it "vested" in a special way - you have to spend it the moment it is vested or it is lost.

This system would have even more interesting properties. Besides also driven by youth (because they still have more time in front of them), it would also have a very strong inherent motivator for the healthier lifestyle (because then you live longer, which is one of the ways you get richer), and the good for the society as a whole - because the longer the overall society lives, the "richer" it is - which is great for everyone.

This brings a loophole, however - a reproduction can be viewed as a way of "printing money". However, this is maybe not a problem too - as e.g. most of the West have difficulty keeping the birth levels as high as they would want to.

Also, the *way* you spent your past time might also affect the current time's valuation - more educated person would be worth more.

There is one difference between the "personal money" based system and "personal time" based system - the time is something you can spend only once.

But overall, I think it is an interesting system worth modeling. As the technology levels go up - it is not something infeasible to do. It would be a terribly interesting exercise if someone figured out a way to model it.

Not sure how interesting you found this post - but I certainly had a very interesting time pondering. Which means that the today's cancellation was well worth it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dear chinese-language spammers

Please go away. As you can see, it is not working.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A lucky strike

Lily was walking past this door for the past couple of years. "Martial arts", said the simply advertisement. She could never make herself come in, even though she really wanted to - the door was always firmly closed. Today it was different - she was sure she heard sounds from behind the door. She pushed it open and came in.

It was an old loft, left untouched by the owner over the course of years. About 10 people - both guys and girls were doing the push-ups - the training session began not too long ago.

- "Ichi, ni, san, chi, go, roku, sichi, hachi, ku, ju, ju ichi, ju ni .." - the counting of sensei was hypnotizing her. Suddenly it stopped.
- "..." - he looked at her, keeping the pause.
- "I would like to ..." - she started, but did not have the time to finish.

He turned back to the group - "Yasme!" - and, pointing to a guy who seemed just a bit too tall to be doing any martial arts, and to Lily: "Jiyu! We see what you are worth".

Smith looked at the girl. Strange feeling struck him. Something of an electric shock. It was hard to explain - this was as if he saw these eyes somewhere, sometime long time ago, when he was much younger and could be just overwhelmingly happy, without a shadow of any other thought. He shook his head but the sensation persisted. He was used to knocking the hell out of newcomers that manage to slide into the door, and sensei liked his style - after the test fight, noone was bleeding, but very few of the newcomers returned, and those that did, were very good students afterwards. But this fight promised to be different. He felt he could not kick the hell out of her. Not in the presence of this itchy feeling. He decided to try to discount the itching as a hunger. He did fight a couple of times like that, and, even inconvenient, it was doable. If he can fool himself that it is a feeling of hunger, that is.

Lily was ready. She was doing martial arts in the town where she lived before moving - and kept her in shape by self-training. This club looked like what she wanted. As soon as she can prove herself in the fight with this guy. In other circumstances she might have found him sexy. The only detail in his looks that was disturbing, was a scar on his face - just above the eyebrow. But it did not matter - today she came for martial arts, not for the dating.


Smith was always careful at the start of these trial fights - testing the other party. And today was not an exception. He was defense-only, and only after a minute started attacking. She did know at least something - his kicks were blocked. And boy, did she move well. Contrary to his attempts, the itching did not want to get disguised. He had to look into these eyes - and it did not help. It did not help at all. This has got to stop, I can't fight this, he thought - this was going through his head almost the same split millisecond as he got distracted and missed the upward movement of her fist, that made his head abruptly go up and backward. "Damn, this way it is as stupid as it gets" - was the last thought before the whole world turned completely black.

He did get unconscious once, back in the childhood. It was funny - you are halfway in your body, halfway out, and can wander around the room. He thought it was pretty cool back then, but for some reason he saw all those people in panic, running around and pushing, squeezing his body, so he had to return. And he never had this experience since. Until today.

He saw the group gathering around his corpse. Hold on, he was not dead yet, was he ? So, it was the body that the group was gathering around. But they were worried nonetheless.

If it could, Smith probably would have sighed - the girl that knocked him out was not part of the frenzy. She just stood aside. And he took the advantage of it. To look again in these sparkling eyes and get a gulp of that old feeling of the overwhelming, worldly childish happiness. How can a bodyless piece of ether even look at things, let alone feel ? We will never know. But he did see these sparkling eyes and felt the itching stronger than before. It was a nice sensation. Worth being unconscious...

...Terribly strong headache. This is the first and the only feeling. Overwhelming, just about bearable. No, it's not. Hopefully the head is still one piece. And all these people around. Who are they ? Where am I ? The head hurts. Can't move. Is it really in one piece ? Move the right hand to check. Yes it is. Thinking long sentences hurts. I was hungry, give me some food. Raise the left hand to ask. Can't. There's no left hand. The left part of the body is gone. Damn. Where it is ? It it was a cut, it'd hurt. But only feel the head. This terribly loud whistling noise. Like an airplane. Who brought me to the airfield ? Stop it, please! What was that hunger feeling ?

Ah, these brown eyes. Sparkles. Sparkles got me on fire. That's why no left side - it has burned off. Need to look what's left. Can't move. But the itching is no more. This is good. Means I can skip the dinner. It's getting dark. Finishing way too late today. Mom's gonna be worried.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The city of dim

Vegas is a striking experience. Right in the airport you are greeded (sp.?) with a lot of slot machines, flashing lights and the feeling of forbidden.

It's a strange feeling - as if you ended up in a backyard of a small apartment in the boringly usual street, just to find a naked champagne-cognac party with violent fireworks.

The hotel where I was staying, Mandalay Bay, like almost everything in Vegas, is gigantic. But, more impressive is what is not seen from the outside. The hotels that stand near each other are interconnected, and this forms a whole separate city underneath them. A casino turns into a shopping mall, which turns into a betting sports bar, which turns into a casino.

Ah, casino. This was the most fascinating of all the experiences - to watch the faces. The faces of those who work there, the faces of those who gamble. You can immediately distinguish the faces of the true tourists - lit with excitement and fueled by a good doze of alcohol, from the other kind of faces.

Usually in their 40-somethings, these faces are so fascinating it hurts. They depict an almost-lost hope, an almost forgotten happiness, they are in a quest. They have almost given up.

This is the expression you might spot in the faces of the countless waitresses, dealers, casino dancers (though calling this kind of entertainment a "display of flesh" might be more appropriate - there was not much dancing in there). You can spot this expression with a fraction of the players too - usually more with those who try their luck with slot machines. These faces have been so air-conditioned down to an average, that they look almost the same, despite being vastly different. A strange form of sameness.

The air-conditioned coolness of the inner hallways is contrasted with the sauna-grade heat on the outside. Dry heat. Here in Brussels, you pay to get that. But of course, not the entire street filled with it, just a small gas chamber, which you can quickly escape. But in Vegas you can't, not unless you dive back into the shelters of the technology. Here you pay to get a cold around you, all the heat is for free.

When I arrived, the faces of the players was first that made me think of a Inferno-under-construction: "they forgot the boiling kettles part!". However, thinking more of it, I realised it is in fact just a next-gen version, and it's already finished and is functioning full steam.

Here's how it works: you arrive, and get the casino tokens proportionally to the amount of sin, and have to start playing. The more you play, the more you get accustomed to the coolness and the gentle light inside, the more you are wary of getting out into the open air where the sun is showering the ground with radiation. But you inevitably lose in the casino, and then are immediately thrown out into the shadowless street. You are still craving to gamble and are sore of your defeat, and heated by the merciless rays of our closest star.

They'd let you work on the dirtiest jobs, and pay with smaller amounts of money, which you could eventually convert into the tokens for the casino and again be admitted to try your luck and enjoy the artificial coolness. But not for long, and soon you are again being beaten up by the merciless ultraviolet. You are thirsty, but there is no water in the streets. If you crawl around, you'll see the fountains, right in the open air. But you can't drink from them. You can only drink in the casino.

So, you get yourself into the next round - go and find the means of getting back into the shelter, to satisfy your needs for water, gambling, and cooler temperature.

Maybe this is how those folks get their eyes of lost hope ? I won't know. The allotted time is coming to its end - the Brussels awaits me back. Maybe there is a next time, and I find out more about these eyes.

The eyes that are sparkling so dim.