Someone asked me the other day if this blog had to be so dense. Meaning, as only English could cast it, that it’s hard reading, especially if you’re dense. I guess this blog has to be dense. People who read blogs are not idiots. Demographically, we’re the most clued-in cohort of the most connected segment of the wealthiest economy in history.
Our choice is to spend even more time watching Celebrity Fear Factor on our Tivos and swilling Pepsi, or we can get together, think hard and invent the future.
Inventing the future is not difficult, but it hurts the brain. We have to conform to the existing Internet protocols, add some standards of our own, but without requiring a wholesale adoption by the people we want to serve. We have to think hard on why things are as they are and how they might be and then design the answer to what keeps the past from becoming our future. After that we need to hack some code. And revise and revise and revise…
Besides, this blog is mental exercise for me, allowing me to trot out the ideas I’ve read and conclusions I’ve reached over a lifetime of saving the ideas that seemed worth saving. So I guess my writing will continue to be dense and I’ll hope you’re patient and persistent enough to help me make sense of this design study.
As Blaise Pascal said of one of his writings, “I made it longer only because I lacked the time to make it shorter.“
Hidden in Plain Sight
Our microeconomy design is coming along.
But we still lack the Rosetta Stone that helps us apply a universal human protocol to our shared record of transactions. If people don’t use the forms we’re designing to capture our Peer-to-Peer transaction data, they won’t be used, and we’ll have designed another Edsel.
The universal theme of Peer-to-Peer transactions in the open marketplace is Identify, Specify, Negotiate, Deliver, Evaluate and Pay.
We like to talk about the marketplace as our model for Internet transactions, but that’s not how it works for most of us. If the globe is to be a global village, we need to solve the sequence demanded when the seller doesn’t know the buyer:
It’s become the standard for mail and Internet orders and we don’t realize it’s a drastic revision of how things have always worked in the agora. In our P2P microeconomy, we’ll apply the traditional sequence even to distance sales. Why would a seller agree to that? Because the buyer has a published reputation the seller can rely on. It’s an extension of the role blogs are beginning to play. John Robb on blogs and reputation:
Now that his blog has introduced him, I’d send John a figurine today and let him pay me later. If the trust problem can be solved, the get first, pay later model could unlock a lot of customer reluctance and get the cash flowing again. Money velocity is the oxygen of a free market.
We’ve described a totally transparent transaction model where everything is visible (initial inquiry, delivery details, promised start & finish, price, terms, in-progress remarks, actual start & finish, buyer’s grade & comment, seller’s grade & comment and anything else the parties to the transaction want to archive). Most of the data is in plain sight, though only the high points are published by the participants in their RSS feeds. Confidential data may be encrypted using the W3C’s forthcoming encryption protocols.
What Good is a
Tim O’Reilly quoting William Gibson:
The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.
If you’re dissatisfied with your microeconomy, it’s because the economy you’ld like to live in doesn’t yet exist for you, though it probably does for someone – an unevenly distributed future.
Alan Kay famously said that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it“. The challenge is to design a user-friendly microeconomy and then distribute it evenly enough that it can touch any life. To build that microeconomy from scratch, what to focus on? Yesterday, I suggested that data is the heart of the problem.
Every economy is data-based. Every database is forms-driven. In our lives, we say or write some things and if they fit a certain requirement, a form is presented to us, filled in, and then our Social Security Number becomes a blip in a database which causes resources to flow in ways dictated by the database rules. Maybe you get a check every two weeks. Maybe you get a phone bill every month.
Most (all?) microeconomies are scarcity-based – they mine a lot of people’s too-scarce cash and distribute it to very few. They’re interesting to us for the same reason the lottery is interesting – not because it makes a difference to so many, but because it makes such a big difference to so few.
Knowing how hard it is to get rich, these opportunistic microeconomies are built to be uneven – their candid goal is to make as much money as possible for a relatively few people, so that’s the purpose of the operational databases they build. Then they build a back office database called an accounting system to collect from the many and distribute to the anointed few.
If our proposed microeconomy is to be even-handed, it must be built from the inside out, starting with an open source accounting system and then building the open source operational database(s) to handle the actual transactions. As a public microeconomy, there can be no central control and no definition of what work is done by this enterprise, since there’s no enterprise in the usual sense. Instead, it’s a free-for-all where we collectively track the quality of transactions and conduct the marketplace as we would in a village, where all promises and all outcomes are visible to everyone.
AT&T’s old slogan, Universal Service, has been realized, but there’s still dissatisfaction with the service we’re getting. What people purchase is not a product or service, but a sense of assurance that it will give them the benefit they seek. Disappointments arise because you pay in advance for everything you get, whether it works as advertised or not. What we need is a transaction protocol so favorable to the customer that it creates an economic ambience of Universal Assurance. Here are the elements of Universal Assurance:
In that microeconomy, you won’t contract for anything unless it’s already been rated highly, which makes it worth the time and effort of trying it out, knowing your own acceptance protects you against unsuitability.
Our microeconomy is designed to be peer-to-peer, so everyone is buying and selling all the time. Our peers’ competence is visible, quantifiable and are tough competition for the “Brand” names. Branding looks pretty weak compared to strong ratings from real customers.
Our next challenge is to teach people how to productize whatever they might offer, whether it’s plumbing, massage, web design or managing your Wall Street Journal subscriptions. Then their skills can be describable, sellable, reputable and worth more next month than they are today.
This design study is meant to be both focused and meditative. If we’re lucky, we won’t fail at both. After the last several meditations on the evolution of leadership personalities from Attilla the Hun to John Malone, it’s time to recap our study criteria and get down to the nitty gritty of Xpertweb data structures and why they have to be so idiosyncratic.
Conclusions to Date
It’s not yet obvious how tyrannical proprietary data has become, but perhaps we’ll soon recognize that all our customer frustrations are based on the seller’s control of customer records and their disinterest and incompetence in satisfying a customer. Doc Searls was called by a Wall Street Journal salesperson after paying in advance for a two-year subscription:
Doc’s frustration is based solely on WSJ’s inability to deploy people with access to and competency with all his account data and the authority to correct data errors on the spot. But why would they ever do that? They know their primary mission is to obligate him to assign some of his cash flow to them. There’s a lower emphasis on doing what we think their mission is: delivering a fine paper to his doorstep.
There’s another proprietary database lurking behind the scenes to enforce the WSJ’s one-sided rules, and it’s the most tyrannical private data in the world – the one that will hammer his credit rating if he goes to Tahiti for the winter and his subscription doesn’t get paid. If Dow Jones hires Doc to speak, they’ll probably pay him as companies usually do, 60-90 days after receiving the invoice. The Wall Street Journal will call that sound cash management. But if Doc pays his clients for their products on the same schedule they pay him, he’s labeled a deadbeat.
It’s solely because they control the data. Doc has no influence over it and a US citizen is an idiot if he doesn’t cower at the magic incantation, “will be reported to a credit agency.” That’s probably why he pays his WSJ subscriptions 2 years in advance (as if that helped him in this case). How much customer money is held by companies, simply because a late payment carries such an inordinate burden? How much stronger might the economy be if the cash spent more time in customer’s accounts under symmetrical data protocols?
The current data model is assymmetrical – all of the data is managed by one party.
Building the Symmetrical Data Store, one datum at a time
Every Xpertweb user maintains a complete record of every transaction they conduct, whether they’re a buyer or seller. The data for every transaction is identical on the buyer’s and the seller’s data store. That’s why every user has a web site even if all they do is buy stuff – their data record is always available and it’s stored in the open on each web site, so any attempt to change data is immediately detected by the other party’s specialized spidering software.
Every Xpertweb user has a mentor, who sets up the new user’s web site, teaches him how to use the forms and provides disk space to mirror all the user’s data. That leaves four copies of each record as a redundant archive. Each user could modify any data on their own web site, but the most damage thay can do is cause a transaction record to labeled as unreliable because it’s not synched with the other 3 copies.
Each user’s web site is managed by their local open source, trusted PHP scripts. When a buyer enters task data on the seller’s site, it’s immediately reviewed by the buyer’s own trusted script and written to the buyer’s Xpertweb site upon the buyer’s confirmation.
Here’s the high-level data structure for an Xpertweb user. Directories are blue, data is red:
Here’s a detailed data structure depiction.
Wasting Newly Abundant Resources
The Xpertweb data storage design takes that advice to heart. One reason data is proprietary is that it’s so complicated to manage efficiently. Millions of dollars are spent to make a corporation’s customer records quickly accessible to only its authorized employees and increasingly, to customers on the web. The data sit on huge dedicated server farms. It involves a lot of customers and just a little bit of data on each one. It rarely describes how happy the customer was with the last transaction, and never lets prospective customers know how happy are the past customers. When it’s accessed, it’s by using a specialized data program that knows how to read and translate all that encoded, compressed data.
So transaction data has to be sketchy but archives millions of encounters. But when you or I have a transactional data store we find useful, it will have lots of data on each of just the few transactions we participate in.
So the resources wasted by Xpertweb are web server hard drives. Most ISP’s give you 10, 20, up to 100 MB of storage for free, which is a lot of space for the 85-100 data items required to describe each of a few thousand transactions in enough detail to be useful to all interested parties.
The data is stored as XML data, which means it takes a lot of words to describe each datum (rather than looking like a compressed Excel table, with 1 header row describing the data, XML tags each datum with its own label):
The project ID is unique because it’s a combination of the seller’s unique
In order to be even more wasteful, Xpertweb puts just one datum in each XML file, so this file might be called customeremail_ADCGEFH.FHECDBAM.1003863968. Like a packet sent over the Internet, the file contains all the information needed to relate this data item to its transaction forever.
Meritocracy – meritorious or
meretricious? So we see an evolution of the personality types running the show, with today’s rulers seeming to be more like James Spader than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Most of us are dancing to someone else’s tune, whether we’re resentful, accepting or in denial. Even those who seem to be masters of their destiny are usually also caught in the trap of reacting to larger forces.
The interesting question is not who runs the show, but what is the purpose of the show? What force is driving the engine of greed, fear, manipulation and capitulation that circumscribes most people’s quietly desperate lives?
The Tyranny of Net Present Value
All capitalism is based on a single strategic algorithm: calculating the Net Present Value (NPV) of a series of anticipated cash flows by discounting each future cash flow (cf) by a desired annual return % (discountRate) over the period of the expected cash flows:
Why would this dry formula be so important to a design study for a new microeconomy?
The NPV calculation lies at the center of all modern resource allocation decisions.
You may resent it, but all your economic possibilities are defined and constrained by this simple calculation buried in the computers of people you will never meet. It is what they are talking about when people say “Follow the money.”
Philosophers surely regret the idea that the greatest civilization in the history of civilization has been reduced to a single simplistic formula, but that is the case. If in the beginning was the Word, then in the end there’s only the Net Present Value formula. With it, managers and financiers and governments and pension plans compare any set of cash flows to any other set. Then they sell the lower one and purchase the higher one. Even though it ignores the sweep and drama of the rise of civilization, it’s a democratic yardstick. It’s also the basis of meritocracy.
That is the process of “capitalizing” every cash flow, whether it’s an inflow (customer payments and collections, bond yields, corporate earnings) or an outflow (employee salaries and benefits, supplier payables, social security payments). Corporate managements have an uneven track record in growing their revenues but they are masters at reducing their expenses and making optimistic forward-looking statements. A company’s stock market valuation is some multiple of forecast earnings. To increase the value of the shareholders’ (i.e., management’s) stock holdings and options, the best strategy is to reduce expenses, which appears to instantly increase earnings. As available capital exploded in the 20th century, every discernible cash flow opportunity in the economy shows up on someone’s radar screen and is targeted for assimilation or annihilation, whether it’s mom & pop retail sales in rural Arkansas (a Wal-Mart opportunity) or a 48 year-old engineer at Chevrolet (a GM expense).
The logic of meritocracy says that an electrical engineer may be a star at 27 but a liability at 48. This is the basis of the pervasive, subconscious grievance against meritocracy, even when it’s not framed in those terms. The conventional wisdom of the age is that everyone needs to re-train themselves on a moment’s notice to become a software programmer or help line staffer or home health care specialist.
The question is, what is the obligation of an economy to consider and support the preferences of the majority of its participants? Naturally, the “moving hand” school of thought is that the market economy is driving all these choices, and complaining about it is unreasonable, as G.B. Shaw pointed out. Even if individuals can adapt as quickly as proposed and remain employable, they are repeatedly separated from their last company’s web of support and their only opportunity for a web of wealth – often, it appears, by intention. Even when they earn stock worth more than a million or so dollars, they may feel as far from their dream as did some Silicon Valley millionaires before the Big Bust:
The deeper problem with meritocracy in the corporate age may be that it is judged in a court of appearances no more reliable than the royal palace where the nobles fawned over the king. What appears as merit in the boardroom may not look that way to the customers, flawed as they are with their self-serving yearnings for software that’s yielding and hardware that’s durable and support that’s uplifting. What if tasks were performed in the harsh light of the global market and were rated by the customer before her tears of gratitude or rage are dry?
It’s possible that some successor to corporate capitalism could allocate people’s time better and reward them more generously, which has happened with every previous shift in economic operating systems. If there were such an improvement, it would have to rise alongside the current system, starting as a minor solution to some pervasive need in the larger system. It might be called the Peer Economy, where you transact directly with your peer and not their company, although you’ve never met nor will, each with absolute confidence in their security and total satisfaction.
The Peer Economy will appear if it has a means to weave webs of support and wealth which cut across corporate borders and are aggregated in the very fabric of the Internet, not locked inside the balance sheets of contending companies with inconstant loyalties to their people and variable reliability in the marketplace. It must depend upon a data structure free of control by any entity, open to all and shared among the participants to any transaction. Until the introduction of XML in 1998, that was technically unfeasible. Today, it is technically trivial.
Xpertweb is a set of mechanics to serve the Peer Economy’s open data requirement.
Wealth creation options
Valuing the Chains that Bind Us
Most of us consumers think of products as the object or service we hold in our hand or in our memory after the product is delivered. This is only the expression of the product, not the real deal. The main event is the Value Chain that has moved the product into our possession.
Take a bag of Fritos. Frito-Lay is just the begining and the catalyst for a process that comprises scores of steps and thousands of people, most of whom don’t work for Frito-Lay.
You probably know that the real rewards in the Fritos product don’t go to the farmers who produce the corn, salt and oil nor to the people in the hair nets who use the machines to produce the critters. That’s because there are so many people ready willing and trainable to do those things.
The money goes to the people who direct the tricky process by which a bag of Fritos* is in your face in so many places, and is recognized by you when you see it.
*Frito-Lay experts: Just an example – of course there are vertically integrated steps
It seems like a lot of commotion just to feed your habit, and we haven’t even mentioned the marketing ziggurat that makes sure the right synapses close when you see the red and yellow bag. Every step along the way the product changes ownership as it increases in price. If the baggie costs you a dollar and the corn and salt and oil cost a nickel, then the Gross Domestic Product increases by about 8 owners x $.45 average price = $3.60 because of the series of sales to get you your $1 bag. There’s probably another couple of bucks in there when you add the pennies paid in marketing and leased real estate and equipment and their financing. Call it $5-6 of GDP to sell the dollar bag.
None of this is news, but it’s usually forgotten in talk about the Internet economy. We all know that productivity is the key to a successful economy, but each of those intermediaries is already as efficient as it can get. The next step is to remove some steps from the chain. But which company and its employees and owners and their congressmen do you think will volunteer to step out of the loop?
That’s why the next step in productivity will be as disruptive to existing value chains as file swapping is to the record labels. The other dirty little secret is that better productivity through disintermediation lowers the GDP. Which administration will get behind that initiative?
Meanwhile, NetFlix has removed several steps from the delivery of movies to the movie watchers, eliminating a lot of jobs and profits. They are the model of how the Internet decimates value chains.
Peer to Peer Value Chains
What’s in it for the Rest of Us? None of those eight transactions report on the satisfaction of the next owner in line. If they did, other distributors or jobbers or farmers would step up to prove their higher quality/lower cost. Some of these might be loose alliances of experts working like the farmer’s Co-op to consolidate several steps.
Xpertweb requires each user to have a web server and to know how to use a series of specialized forms. It’s no easier than setting up a blog, so it’s still beyond the appetite of the average farmer, combine owner or snack jobber. So every Xpertweb user has a mentor who has used an FTP tool to upload the newby’s files and configured his business preferences. In exchange, the Mentor receives a 1% fee from every transaction made by the new user and from transactions of other new users mentored by his users. Fees never total more than 5% of each transaction which is a lot less than any current value chains, but it’s a little bit of automatic income that few individuals are used to.
Mentorship puts each mentor at the beginning of a value chain of people doing whatever they can get high ratings for. Though the share is modest, the range of transactions is far greater than in any single business. Suppose the farmer mentors his combiner, his trucker, his son and his wife. He might start receiving fees on tasks they perform – combining soybeans, trucking pigs, programming Cisco routers and selling afghans over the Net. If he had become the King of Corn his rewards could only come from the corn business – a riskier kind of automatic income.
So your Xpertweb Value Chain builds itself automatically, one user at a time, extending out over the horizon of comprehensibility: A microeconomy of people who always report quality, beginning to compete, one task at a time, with people and enterprises unwilling and incapable of demonstrating satisfaction at the task level. It’s Darwinism at work.
The Trust Profit
John Robb is a prophet who has proven his wisdom, but the BigCos don’t get it, and I wonder if they’re suffering from a structural problem. Today he describes a project he helped create at Gomez where they were able to tie their fees from business clients to their clients’ customers’ satisfaction levels, yielding unprecedented profits.
Here’s John’s formula describing what works:
Focused content –> Trusted decision support —> Performance-based advertising = huge profits
Let’s break it down. Trusted decision support is the heart of this success story. Clients and customers who defer decisions due to, well, indecisiveness, leap into a transaction when they understand the quantified benefit of a prospective purchase. Amazingly, companies are united in their rejection of the simple technique of tracking the measured quality of their transactions. As John reports,
John believes that web logs and knowledge logs will eventually help us compile the record of trust left by a satisfied customer. I’m interested in the mechanics of capturing the customer’s feelings before the tears of gratitude are dry. Since Trust is the key, the obvious question is…
Who Do You Trust?
Everyone has a great bullshit detector, because we were all children. We’ll accept a remarkable range of rumors as facts, but we carefully filter the facts we trust with our money. Presented with a pitch, we reject it out of hand. Presented with a fact, we assume it’s false if a statement by the seller. If it’s a quote by a previous customer, we listen with new openness. If it’s a statistic reporting the satisfaction ratings of past customers, we take notes and act on the evidence, as John reports. Companies’ failures to report their customers’ satisfaction costs them billions every year. Despite that cost, companies will refuse to report satisfaction because of the risk that even a few transactions will be unsatisfactory. Of course they will, but companies can’t release the illusion that all their efforts are perfect.
So we can’t trust the sellers to report the good, the bad and the ugly, then we have to look to the customer’s records for the truth, but we need a means to compile all customer ratings of a seller into a meaningful overall average rating compelling enough to attract a new prospect. The average rating must be supported by enough detail that the prospect can drill down into the individual tasks’ ratings and customer comments to feel the fabric of the seller’s tapestry of quality. This will require a disciplined but distributed data store comprising all buyers and sellers willing to subject themselves to its rigor and to maintain the data according to an agreed-upon standard. This looks daunting to me, but Xpertweb provides all those attributes in a way that makes it as accessible as blogs are becoming.
There’s never been such a data store, but never before was there a world wide web and XML. Their very existence implies a shared satisfaction data standard.
The Mediocrity of Meritocracy
“I think the world is run by ‘C’ students.”
Any line so attractive and quoted by Adam Curry deserves our attention.
I’m nitpicking to observe that it’s probably not true, but the world’s certainly controlled by C students. Modern organizations demand a grasp of scores of dynamic components – finance, legal, regulatory, marketing, etc. To run such an operation is one of the most demanding roles ever attempted, and Adam would probably concur. In most enterprises, what matters is whether you deliver the goods, not whether the Board thinks you walk on water. The notable exceptions we’ve seen this year are not the majority of businesses.
Who are those guys?
Ken Werbach looked at the copyright fight and saw two distinct personality types:
Werbach is really on to something here. What looks like a straightforward difference of opinion may reveal a deep and fundamental distinction in how people see things and act on what they see. To put a label on them, you might say the content people are part of a type called Pushers and the tech people are Pullers. The Pushers see markets and consumers as targets to be captured and held, a grand game of capture the flag. Pullers pull together the details that fascinate them and don’t think too much about the pecking order they’re trapped in. More interestingly, it looks from here like the Pushers have been running things for-frickin’-ever.
If these are indeed distinct personality types, and Pushers have been running things forever, what if the Pullers are beginning to supplant the Pushers in the power structure? How will it affect the way decisions are made, how resources are allocated, what the society considers fair or not?
Organizations are run by the middle managers who look like they are doing their job and so are promotable. But there’s no task-level quality metric in an organization, so the test is whether an employee is liked and admired by management – a highly personal choice. Who gets picked? The same ‘C’ students who’ve been picked since Junior High. The cool kids.
Be Cool to your School
Remember high school? I recall a fundamental division among my peer group of adolescent males – the cool guys and the rest. The cool guys got the girls and the rest wondered how they did it. The difference was their confidence that they had all the answers that mattered and their mastery of socialization skills and the pecking order. We, on the other hand, made no pretense at being clued in to everything, because we were interested in how things really work, whether it was computers or rockets or math or literature or western civilization, geeky interests that lowered the cool factor. That would be most of the people writing and reading blogs.
Remember how disengaged the cool kids were? They seemed to avoid the details, maybe because it’s a full time job being cool. It requires a kind of social genius and real attention to a vapid but disciplined repartee. Many of the coolest kids really did nothing more than date, drink and all the rest. Their primary discipline was to remain cool, so everything served that expediency. Even when they were very smart, they couldn’t afford to deal with complexity, since their priority was to emerge from every encounter with their coolness enhanced. That’s why they deal in OR logic, not AND logic.
I believe we adopt these archetypes early and they stick with us forever. Think about your own classmates and how they ended up. The coolest guys, if they don’t get sidetracked by booze, drugs or rock ‘n roll, seem to move up the corporate or political ladders with an easy grace beyond comprehension. Their true organizational genius is to get people to do their bidding, which is no mean feat. They’re usually surrounded by can-do Pullers who love being close to His Coolness. Those are the people who actually get things done.
At some deep, tribal level, we resonate with certain personalities and do what they want, whether or not it’s in our own best interest. Those are the personalities who easily engage bosses, senior partners, directors, bankers, analysts and all the other people whose nod puts a career on a fast track. They also fascinate political party workers and voters. They were at the Hamptons this summer and Pullers weren’t.
Revenge of the Nerds
In Mindwalk, Liv Ullmann plays a nerdy nuclear scientist who fears we’ll destroy the world because leaders don’t think through the implications of their initiatives – that we need to think about systems, not expediency. Sure enough, the web erupted four years later and started requiring people to think about systems and how things work under the surface. The Pullers who were good at that designed the Internet and now it’s caught the attention of the Pushers, who don’t have a clue how it works, but have directed the Pullers who work for them to figure out how to dominate their fair share of the Internet.
It may not be possible for Pushers to co-opt the Internet. If that’s true, it could precipitate yet another shift in the personality types that dominate the economy. Each era favors certain leadership archetypes.Todays leaders are nothing like their warlord predecessors, so is it possible the Internet age could change the type again? How could that happen?
Each phase of history has its natural leaders, though I can’t think of any that weren’t Pushers. Monarchies arose due to the divine right of thugs. Leadership of the medieval church went to those who could be simultaneously pious and manipulative, with no relationship to physical strength. The Industrial Age asked for some technical prowess, but no more than the horse- or swords-manship required of an earlier aristocracy. Today’s middle managers are those with a leaning toward finance and corporate structuring, but no more than is required to inspire the Pullers who get things done.
The principle of Procedural Disadvantage is also the principle of Procedural Advantage. In an Internet world, systems people understand how to get things done and their bosses are hostage to the systems the Pullers put together and only the Pullers can maintain. Since creaturtes started organizing for mutual advantage, there’s never been a feedback
With the growth of Procedural Advantage as a visible force, the dynamic has changed forever. When systems fail, we all see it immediately: the switchboard lights up, the web orders stop and the damage is visible to every analyst, shareholder and customer that’s plugged into the system.
Good news for Geeks, Nerds and Pullers everywhere: the Pushers will never stuff the Procedural Advantage genie back in the bottle.
Can We All Just Get Along?
We’ve been talking about setting up a tipping point by adding a new metric to the single data point that’s interesting to sellers today: what things cost. This is a failure of record-keeping and imagination. Previously, I found myself amazed by the fact that the only datum tracked by sellers is what something costs, or a lot of somethings:
Cluetrain Rule 1: Markets are conversations. Not about price or costs or earnings, but about quality. If the Internet is going to talk about quality, we need to capture data about quality. Xpertweb does this by capturing quality data at the moment of payment, in the form of a number and a comment. Here’s an example of a $100 Xpertweb transaction:
All grades and comments are recorded and permanently visible.
TipWare for the Rest of Us
Why would a seller trust a buyer to give a fair grade when a low grade reduces the buyer’s cost? Probably for the same reason that a waitperson trusts most of her income to strangers’ appreciation of her service. Further, the Xpertweb seller knows the buyer’s grading history before accepting the assignment. That history is a lot more detailed than eBay’s huge rating system, which has had the kinds of problems that may be inevitable with a centrally managed rating system.