META: traffic-limited list idea

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 12:42:49 -0700 (PDT)

At the exi-bay meeting last night, it occurred to me that Robin
Hansen's idea for fixed-time debates could be adapted to a mailing
list like this to control list traffic and optimize quality of
postings. It might require the involvement of some cypherpunks
to write parts of the software (depending on how strictly we want
to enforce the rules), so I would appreciate it if someone here
who is also involved with that community could forward this.

Robin's original idea was this: at the start of a multi-person
debate, issue each participant a fixed number of tokens. A device
that beeps a certain number of times per minute (but not at fixed
intervals so it's unpredictable) is placed on the table. Whoever
is talking when a beep is heard discards one of his tokens. No
tokens, no talk. But here's the catch: the tokens are fungible,
so that if you find someone interesting, or making your point
bettter than you would, you can toss him some of your tokens. If
you want to talk more, you can beg tokens from others. The total
time of the debate is fixed, but who talks most depends on who
the participants want to hear from most.

To adapt this to a mailing list, the moderator of the list maintains
a Chaumian digicash mint (here's where we need cypherpunks), in which
the digicoins are /posting rights/, and are similarly exchangeable.
If you're rich and don't have anything to say, email your coins to
someone you find interesting. If you're poor and want to post, beg
for coins from others. Or another possibility is to archive every
message sent, paid for or not, but only distribute the paid ones;
then anyone with more time who wanted to could browse the unpaid
archive and send mail to some poster saying "I liked this, and I'll
pay for you to post it to the main list." That way we eliminate
begging by email, which might make some uncomfortable. Posting to
the unpaid list is something like lobbying for a grant.

The details that need to be worked out are the specific method used
for distributing and cashing in the coins. We might not even need
something as complex as digicash: just issue coins as serial numbers,
and tell people to put the number in brackets on line 1 of the post
to spend it. The moderator might maintain a 'bot that issues the
coins randomly to list members at a given rate, and he can control
the rate to "inflate" the list if there's a good discussion going on,
or slow its growth during quiet periods to avoid accumulation.

The minimal setup is this: two distribution lists (paid and unpaid),
a robot at the list address that splits the messages and cashes the
the coins, a robot that issues the coins, two Web archives. Perhaps
better is to have a robot actually keep track of all the coins and
who owns them, so that users won't lose them--that would require
them to go to a web page form to give a coin to another list member.
Perhaps some user software to simplify the process would be nice.

One problem I forsee: since the above assumes 1 coin=1 post, there
will be incentive to make long rambling single posts on multiple
topics, so we may have to either set a fixed limit, or pay per page,
or some other standard (but then quoting or attributing others costs
you, so would discourage that).

Any ideas how to fix those incentives, or other ideas?

Lee Daniel Crocker <>  <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC