The other night I caught the film ‘Second Skin’, showing at the World Cinema Showcase. Second Skin an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – think World of Warcraft or Second Life) documentary about virtual worlds and the real lives they effect. It’s a decent watch.
On the film they interviewed a “virtual world economist”, Edward Castronova, about the markets that have evolved in these online games. I went to check this guy’s website and stumbled across a product that intrigued me.
Seriosity have developed a product called Attent™, which involves assigning a monetary value to emails to signal their importance. The problem that this product is trying to solve is that so many emails are sent around each day that it is difficult to efficiently determine which emails are truly important, while senders tend to send more emails than is optimal (such information overload apparently costs US corporations hundreds of billions of dollars per year).
When senders ‘pay’ to send their email, their behaviour naturally changes so that potentially less, better quality emails are sent. Emails are visibly tagged with a currency value that signals the importance of the message, which improves efficiency at the readers’ end.
Whether such pay-to-send technology takes off remains to be seen (there is an obvious issue of critical mass) but I thought it was a tidy way of incentivising potentially welfare-enhancing behaviour.