Reader’s Remorse

Jonathan Blocksom blogs his sugar-coated skepticism of the proposed Xpertweb microeconomy:

Brain Food
Britt Blaser’s Weblog is my current favorite weblog. His post from Saturday about corporate ethics struck a chord with me. As usual with Britt’s posts, I find that there’s so much I could respond to that I write nothing, because it would take far too much time to post a complete reply and a half hearted one just doesn’t do the original justice. Sorry, Britt, I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that I don’t have to be perfect on the web. Oh, hey, since only you and my Dad are still reading this, I’d like to say that I find the pyramidal nature of Xpertweb a little disturbing. What if my mentor sucks? What if I mentor someone who turns out to be a bozo, and for whatever reason I can’t turn it around? What about people who are fantastic engineers but have terrible management skills? And are you, Britt Blaser, the alpha-mentor who will reap the 1% rewards of all of xpertwebs workers? I’ve been meaning to email you better forms of those questions but just haven’t gotten to it. Some you’ve addressed but I still have concerns. Also check out Britt’s post on Common Sense, and he’s got some good war stories too.

Aha! The well-documented Xpertweb gag-me-with-a-spoon reaction!
(Sorry, Jonathan, there are no secrets in the land of Blog).

I’ve been meaning to be more thorough in treating this most interesting Xpertweb UI issue – the built-in mentor fee wealth/retirement mechanism, based on a multi-level algorithm. But, since no serious script writer would even storyboard the guys in Washington, I’ve been distracted.

Let’s talk about something even more interesting – Money For the Rest of Us. What if we just get together to wire money to each other without asking anybody’s permission?

Review
The Xpertweb peer-to-peer system automates reputation-building.
Here’s a graphic depiction of a typical Xpertweb transaction.
Here’s a list of Xpertweb-related blogs.

Why Xpertweb’s “Pyramidal Structure” Should Disturb You Too

Issue 1

Should the Xpertweb design include a wealth generation system?
It’s an open question. Like all designers, we on the Xpertweb microteam want to give our baby as many genetic advantages as possible. A key feature of any economy is something called a retirement plan. Another word for a retirement fund is money while you sleep. Every one of us works for survival while we dream about money-while-sleeping. And we seem to agree that our pension is A Good Thing, but we’re not so sure about someone else’s $multi-zillion retirement package.
Unfortunately, one man’s meat is another man’s poisson. It’s hard to distinguish between a modest pension, a less modest one, all the way up to Jack’s beanstalk. From an accounting standpoint, there’s no difference: it’s all money while you sleep.
All money-while-sleeping systems are pyramidal, whether it’s a modest union pension or a golden parachute. Money while sleeping takes a little money from a lot of people and gives it to a few, like Jack Welch’s tax on every GE employee and shareholder. You can’t take the same amount from everybody and give it to everyone else to generate money while sleeping.
The Math can be easy: For simplicity, assume everyone in your company makes the same income. If you want to retire on 80% of your (and everyone’s) pay level, You need to receive a payment from 80 remaining employees equal to 1% of the salary level. Obviously, if you’re Jack Welch, you’ll need 1% of a lot of employees salaries.

So the question is, Should Xpertweb devise a little tax on all its participants and arrange to have it sent along to a few of them?

Issue 2
What wealth algorithm is the most even-handed?
The most open standard would be one that no one has control over. Now that’s never happened, since no one has ever proposed to distribute funds according to a formula without a central accounting system, collecting from the many and sending it to the few. (Somehow, of course, the few to which money is sent always turns out to be the people managing the distribution system).
This is the trickiest part of the Xpertweb transaction tracking system. The clue came from the open source phenomenon, where conversations about a problem directly generate solutions to the problem. Since a central accounting system was a non-starter, the solution was to depend on peer-to-peer networking to respond to the algorithm. Xpertweb simply publishes promises and actions and ratings of the actions by all involved parties. If you don’t take actions and/or don’t do the publishing, you’re not part of the system. The six Xpertweb actions are:

    1. Do work
    2. Rate work quality
    3. Pay for work
    4. Mentor others
    5. Rate mentoring quality
    6. Pay for mentoring

Specifically, if money changes hands, it’s because the receiver of the value (as in shareware) rated it high enough that their promise to pay was generated automatically. 5% of each payment is deducted by the payer and reserved for the payer’s 5 mentors. 5% of each payment received is earmarked for the receiver’s 5 mentors. No central entity collects all payments for redistribution. BTW, once reserved for fee payment, it’s not certain that the money will be sent to the mentor – it’s up to the individual whose Xpertweb mentor script has earmarked the funds.
It’s even possible that an open-source multi-level algorithm could be embraced by a transition like the one that carried Europe past its abhorrence of usury to an acceptance of charging interest.

So the question is, By trusting users holding the money to distribute the 1% bits according to a standard algorithm, is the Xpertweb algorithm even-handed enough to get past the yuckiness response?

Issue 3
Are all multi-level algorithms uniformly yucky?
(Sorry to use a technical term like ‘yucky’, but precision’s important here.)
Yuckiness is presumably in the eye of the beholder. The multi-level algorithm is a compelling meme, and it has distributed a lot of money to people who got in line luckily or skillfully. Of course, the managers of multi-level systems have designed the accounting systems for themselves, so they manage to change the rules the same way they reduce the commission struct
ure for unexpectedly effective salespeople.
The multi-level algorithm is so compelling that it causes otherwise reasonable people to do things they normally wouldn’t to people they normally wouldn’t hassle. It appears that the bug isn’t in the algorithm, but in people’s response to it.
An Xpertweb transaction generates no money until the payer rates it as worth buying. This value-first-money-later dynamic is the inverse of the Amway model, which says, basically: “Stock up on way too much of this shit which you otherwise wouldn’t, and try to sell it (and our multi-level meme) to people you otherwise treat nicely.

So the question is, Does proven satisfaction re-calibrate the multi-level algorithm enough to make it un-yucky?

Issue 4
Every time someone gets involved in these schemes, I get hounded and they get disappointed. And there’s that white shoe, gold chain thing going on.

I can never put my finger on it, but these deals are complicated, impenetrable and have way too many moving parts to be trusted. I knew someone who lost $1500 in one of these deals once, but I never went to another meeting. Yuck.

So the question is, Will the Xpertweb algorithm be transparent enough to allow us to trust its workings?

My purpose is not to answer the questions, but to point out the issues. But here are the answers Jonathan Blocksom deserves:

What if my mentor sucks?

  1. Rate the mentor’s mentoring as sucky
    This will show up on your and his record and will automatically discount or eliminate your mentor fee and will also suppress the fees payable by anyone whom you trained using the Xpertweb persona which has the sucky mentor in your lineage.
  2. Find another mentor
    You may have as many mentors as you want. You may have mentors for different specialties, like graphic design vs. HTML coding. Or for different locations, if you like hands-on mentoring around the corner.
    Only in practice will we discover how much energy partial-purpose mentors will invest in part-time trainees.

We Answer Some Questions and We Blocksom

Jonathan Blocksom’s questions:

What if I mentor someone who turns out to be a bozo, and for whatever reason I can’t turn it around?

  1. Join the chorus of crappy ratings so this bozo’s bozo-ness is part of his global reputation.
  2. Better though, at the first sign of trouble, suggest that everyone’s a genius at something and a bozo at almost everything else.
  3. Don’t mentor someone you don’t value (your mentor will probably warn you on this. Every mentor’s grade is based on their trainee’s average satisfaction ratings).

What about people who are fantastic engineers but have terrible management skills?

  1. Narrow your trainee’s work product to engineering products. Most engineers should be selling their terrific structural beam analyses, not management consulting.
  2. Use the Xpertweb forms to manage business dynamics: automatic reputations replace marketing; automated task tracking replaces project management skills, automatic invoices replace invoicing.
  3. Mentor Tip
    Everyone wants to be paid by the hour, but it’s hard to grade an hour.
    Mentor your trainees to productize their time so they offer things like:

    <myproduct1a>Structural Beam Analysis for a 2 lane, 3-400 foot bridge</myproduct1a>
    <myproduct2c>Five-page static small business web site</myproduct2c>


    That way they provide a tangible foundation upon which to build a reputation.

And are you, Britt Blaser, the alpha-mentor who will reap the 1% rewards of all of xpertwebs workers?

The mere presence of an alpha-mentor would poison the waterhole.

Everyone who uses Xpertweb tools to mentor someone [Level 1] (who then mentors others [L2], etc.[L3], etc.[L4], etc.[L5 – last level]) is positioned to receive a 1% fee from work done by Xpertweb people at those 5 levels, subject to their mentoring ratings. Like everyone else who thinks Xpertweb is barely good enough to be worth criticizing, I hope to get the best mentor grades I can in order to have a nice reputation retain loyalty and get money whiole I sleep, but after the sixth level, no fees are available to anyone, because the universal structure is 5 levels of 1% fees, and the sender controls the sending.

Way before a single mentor fee is generated, the entire open source structure will be better understood than this description. If the system isn’t transparent,only the white shoe boys will play….;-)

The Xpertweb Forms

The initial set of Xpertweb PHP-driven forms are based on an open XML data structure, with no rules about how the data is collected or displayed. If you want to use Radio Userland to generate valid XML RSS feeds that advertise your URL, skills, product names, mentors, where to send your money, etc., then you can do it that way.

You can use pure XML for output, to aggregate and present data if you like, rather than the PHP-enabled initial forms. This presumes our favorite browsers ever handle xml properly…

Our microteam looks forward to the post-design stage when it attracts the attention of open source experts start designing tools good enough to make ours look primitive. Presumably, they will use their own Xpertweb tools to sell their own Xpertweb tools.

6:12:57 PM    

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