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2and2's Blog


Calling programmers

The concept being completed, Ideosphere is an active project on Sourceforge now, awaiting programmers. Can you code?


Using old world currency and dealing with problem members


How will New Member Joe who has only, say, US dollars, pay for ideosphere goods? He can use PayPal or credit cards if both recipients take that, but it's simpler and cheaper to visit the Ideo Store where he can buy up to 1000 ideos to fill up his account. (1000 ideos is 1000 US dollars as of May 2010; plenty for books, CDs, videos, etc.) If Joe spent his first batch of ideos, he can refill his account to 1000 an unlimited number of times with further purchases. The Store, in turn, will put most of Joe's brought-in dollars up for sale for ideos. (Who will have ideos to buy those dollars? The members who Joe paid, obviously. It's a simple cycle.)


Ideosphere accounts have no ideo balance limit and the members can also freely sell their accumulated ideos for dollars or other currency. However the Ideo Store sells only as many ideos to raise a member's balance to 1000. For normal book, music and video shopping, having "only" 1000 ideos at a time is a non-issue. The conversion cap serves to limit the amount of outside currency in the ideosphere to only as much as the unobstructed flow of commerce requires. Anyone aspiring to descend on the ideosphere with a million dollars for monkey business would have to make 1000 visits to the Store to convert it - spend it - convert it - spend it... earning a star place on the board of transactions flagged for a closer community look. Remember, until the community approves a flagged transaction, it remains "pending" and is not completed. 


Subsisting on nominal transaction fees, the Ideo Store is a financial institution with a 100% asset reserve. It is a temporary solution, created only to accommodate new members who do not possess ideos yet, having not released products in the community yet. Once successful ideosphere members begin selling significant accumulated ideo amounts and begin accepting old economy currency directly (when the first online payment service adds ideo support) if the Ideo Store becomes unneeded, it can be phased out and any eventual remaining profit on its books divided equally between all ideosphere members, since it's community property. For security purposes, the ideosphere P2P software will allow a member to post an ideo amount for sale only if the member's balance has it. It is a good reason why to buy ideos in the ideosphere, not in the outside world, which lacks this verification ability. All in all, the ideosphere will make the best possible attempt to protect its members from miscreants but there are no guarantees. As in life, the only thing that can really protect you is your own common sense. If some brand new, yet unrated deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. You can try it if you really want to, but you'll be doing it at your own risk.


This brings us to the last subject, how to deal with members who commit fraud or other abuses. To address this, any ideosphere member who was shorted (or who spotted nefarious activity) can start a new "issue thread" on the message board where everyone may add their views or opinions, and join the grand vote. Members have a "vote requested" button which is normally dark. If public input is needed for a new flagged transaction or issue thread, the software makes this button for a number of online members blink, including the member the issue thread was started about. Those who click the button are taken to the discussion and vote. For the grand vote, every negative vote lowers the alleged perpetrator's 1 to 5 star rating by 1/4, while each positive vote raises it by 1/4. If the rating hits zero (that's a big, angry majority! 20 people) the account will be deleted and its ideo balance either restituted to the shorted member/s with the rest going to the Ideo Store or returned to the person's PayPal or bank account given at signup (minus the transfer costs) - as the majority votes. The software will bar reregistration with that PayPal or bank account and record (but not ban yet) the IP. Only in a case of extreme distress which the community cannot overcome alone (e.g. a coordinated attack by thousands or a new type of fraud) the writers of the ideosphere software may be contacted to help by clicking their IDs embedded in the software. They retain the ability to pull thousands of accounts fast and issue program security updates. Let's hope such drastic measures will not be needed.


Because some people, especially outside the U.S. might not have a Paypal or bank account, it will be possible to register without providing one. However, this will cause a little "no outside account" warning icon to appear next to the member's name for either 6 months or until he/she conducts 500 ideos' worth of transactions without any complaints from others, whichever comes first. This way honest new members can prove themselves and become full members. So can returning banned members who wisened up. If the latter get themselves banned a second time, however, since they provided no outside account in the first place, their ideo balance goes back to whomever they shorted and the Ideo Store and an 8 month IP ban begins. If there is a third ban for a member with the same IP, the IP will stay banned for 3 solid years. A member's Paypal or bank account information on file can be changed after 6 months of membership. Thank you for reading this far; a week from now I'll take this concept to the programmer community. If you have any insights or suggestions (or you are coding some part of the project already) it would be a really good time to let your voice be heard now.


From software to a living ideosphere system

Not only are we a part of nature but so is everything we create. The better our creation, the more traits one finds in it from nature. (Wouldn't you love if your computer healed itself as smartly from various ills as the potted plant near it?). The most important characteristics of a living system is an ability to grow, an ability to react, the ability to learn, and the ability to reproduce. I touched on the ideosphere's growth briefly in an earlier post; growth is the easiest part. Even a desktop PC can grow. Just look at all the programs, expansions and peripherals yours grew.

 

To be truly functional, however, the ideosphere needs to be able to react to things that affect it, like attempts of fraud, or drastic changes in the connected old money economy. First, the system must sense something requiring a reaction is going on. A good mechanism for this is a pattern recognition routine which listens to the familiar daily hum of ideosphere traffic and flags sharply discordant events, like a member's transaction with 10000 times average amount or frequency. Stock exchanges already use such routines to watch the flow of trades. Next, a response has to be decided upon. For this purpose, the software will display all activity it flagged on the message board for the crowd for majority decision.

 

Unlikely as this seems, crowds beat the experts in intelligence. Take the simplest example: guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar. "Experts" get within roughly 20% of the right number, while a crowd of disparate individuals - including biased and illiterate ones - comes within 2%. This is a huge benchmark. So we'll rely on the crowd's collective intelligence, the best intelligence one can find today, to determine what the ideosphere will react. The software's next challenge is the ability to learn. It will learn by using its pattern recognition routine to process the crowd's responses too. Does the crowd always approve flagged transactions with a certain common denominator? If it does, the flagging of those will gradually decrease to a minimum. Does the crowd consistently disapprove flagged transactions with a certain common denominator? If it does, the flagging of those will gradually increase. Here you go, a software that can learn and prioritize.

 

On to the mother of all challenges. How do we enable the ideosphere to reproduce? By allowing variations of the ideosphere system (which some members will inevitably invent) to be tied onto the main ideosphere, serving its full customer base. Like so many offshoots of a mother plant, some of these may offer new features of convenience, while others may introduce a wholly new type of merchandise or service. With the customers always patronizing whichever fulfills their needs the best, there may be soon a whole natural selection going on between these binary life forms - that is, ideosphere variations - who pleases the customers the best.

 

Et voila, the first P2P system with the living properties of a simple multi-cell organism. Fueled by the members' input, the ideosphere can react, learn, reproduce, mutate and compete between its mutations for the most crowd-pleasing variant to spread. This means, even if some of its aspects are not conceived the best initially, the system will be able to fix itself, becoming whatever each member truly wants his ideosphere to be in the multitude of variants likely to evolve. We just succeeded to reconcile democracy with natural selection and - well, whatever else you may expect from the ideosphere (without me even knowing it.) In my next post, about a week from now, I'll wrap up the rest (getting started with ideos in an old money economy, dealing with problem members, etc.) and about a week after that I'll hand the concept over to the programmer community. Please, if you have ideas, insights, suggestions, the microphone is yours; let those be known now before people start writing code. 


The ideosphere software

 

The P2P client program of the ideosphere looks like an online store, with the familiar item categories, pictures, descriptions, search field, message board and the like. Its selection is far greater, however, because it aggregates search results from all the ideo-servers in the world like a giant P2P tracker. It's easy to tell what's good in the pirate world: look which file is on every server. The P2P software will provide the user a similar insight into legal ideosphere content. He/she can check the file collections of hundreds or thousands of ideo-servers: which great new files their admins discovered, enjoyed and host.

 

The server software embeds the author's unique ID into the file released on this network. This is to direct payments to the right author. There might be umpteen copies of a file circulating around the world, different works might get the same file name, or the same work might get renamed to various files names, none of this is a problem. Any time a payment is initiated from a file, it will go right to the author whose ID is embedded deep in that file. embedding an author ID into a file is possible only if it doesn't have one yet.

 

Money, commodities, bonds, real estate - everything can crash in value, or be taken by force or fraud as history shows us. The only sure asset in the world is a steady source of income. The "set in stone" unchangeability of author ID ensures that the most important asset you can have - your source of income - remains yours no matter what. What could a would-be thief do? Your work is out on the network in thousands of copies, all directing payments to your account. Is he going to chase after thousands of files? The server software prevents files with tampered IDs from being served anyway.

 

The software also embeds the last file hosting distributor's unique ID into the file at download time. The purpose is the same: to get the distributor's portion of the payment to the correct distributor, even if the payment happens a long time after the download. Upon releasing a product, the "credit ahead" feature credits two sales ahead of the ledger. Other than this credit, the only way to release currency in this system is to release intellectual property - that is, to add goods. This makes the "ideo" the stablest currency in the world.

 

As on some present-day sites, on product listings, next to the author's name the software displays a public "star" rating for a member's work (average of ratings from paying purchasers only, to deter rating abuse). In the ideosphere, the listing will also display the seller's title. This title is calculated mainly from the member's payments-to-wealth ratio. It is "beginner" at 0% (no payments sent ever for any work downloaded), and goes through increasing titles of nobility, the highest rank displayed at a 85% to 100% payments-to-wealth ratio. People who don't care about status quo can ignore their displayed title. However those who wanted to be royalty, now have the option. Unlike the old world, their titles will not constitute a burden or a sign of oppression to others but a financial benefit. In my next post, I'll tell you how we can make this system smart by giving it the ability to learn.


What's in it for you

 

Would you like to get up to a hundred times more money as a creator of intellectual property? If you are a file sharer, would you like to get a cut on every download which led to a payment? In my second post I offered a piracy alternative: a utility-type digital distribution system, and a new economy. In my third post, I outlined this new economic sphere, called "ideosphere". This post will discuss how much income this sphere can make you - running alongside the regular retail channels which remain in place and still available to you.

 

I'll use music for an example to show you the money. First, the author's angle. Let's say you wrote an album's worth of songs. Alternative 1: a major label signed you up to sell it on CDs. After a million CDs sold, once the label recouped its expenses, you the artist will get... $60,250. (Moses Avalon: "Confessions of a Record Producer", page 60.) Alternative 2: you recorded the whole album at home and you sell it on iTunes, instead. In 2009 iTunes reported 6 billion song sales on 10 million songs. This averages to 600 sales per song. If you signed with a major label (to get them to push your music past the average 600 sales) you get 4.5 cents for every iTunes song download, like the Allman Brothers did. So if your best two songs sell to the same million people you get... $90,000.


Alternative 3: if you built up a following for yourself like Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails, you can "give your music away". That is, you can let people download it freely and pay whatever they think is fair. (Or whatever they have to spend.) Radiohead's results: 62% of the downloaders paid nothing, the rest paid an average $2.26 for the album. (Free market economists in extasy: "The market has spoken!") With a million downloads again, this would net you $632,800. Interesting, isn't it? One could make 7 to 10 times more money with this counter-intuitive approach.


Alternative 4: ideosphere. In the previous example, the creator of the album got the money, and the people who hosted his files got nothing. If you can push your own song up to a million sales, and can serve a million file downloads alone, this works. However most intellectual property creators are not promotion and P2P wizards. So what if we said: from every payment, the creator of the intellectual property gets 65%, and the source it was downloaded from gets 35%? At first, it sounds like giving away money, but 65% from sales generated by thousands of industrious distributors (Avon, anyone?) is a lot more income than 100% from sales generated by a single overworked author. A 35% cut will cause one's work to appear in corners of the world one never even knew existed. The total number of Net users in 2009 was estimated to be 1.7 billion. If only 1 out of 100 tries your music (how many tried Michael Jackson's, 1 in 3?), using Radiohead's payment figures 65% of the total income is a cool $7 million. So, no matter how insane this seems at first, the numbers say: 1.) you may get 7 to 10 times more income by letting people download & pay your work at will if it's good, and 2.) you may multiply the latter tenfold again by letting people distribute your work at will in a system like the ideosphere. At the file sharer's end, 35% of the average $2.26 is 80 cents for a single download. In your area of specialty, can you discover and spread the word on the best new work(s), the next "hits" tens of thousands may download from your server? Beats hosting the latest 0-day warez "hits" for free.

 

For those authors who cannot take the leap of faith, in the ideosphere download options could be set to either "pay as you deem fair" or a fixed price prepayment, just like on some auction sites. An interesting benefit of the ideosphere is that offering an outlet where a work can be downloaded freely (if the author choses so) appears to increase the same product's sales in the "mainstream" retail venues (iTunes & such.) So instead of being a competitor of major labels or software houses, the ideosphere can in fact boost their sales. (This is exactly why some of them deal with pirate outfits now, to achieve a similar sales  boost.) What this means is, once a work did well in the ideosphere, the author can also take it to a major label or iTunes or a software house to collect *their* $60,250 or $90,000 too; the two economic spheres can coexist well because they boost each other. In my next post I'll post some details about the ideosphere software.


Web 3.0 ? - Ideosphere, the new economy


Current Observations: Classic currency as we know it has three major problems. 1. It has no intrinsic value; as a piece of printed paper or computer entry, it's only a claim on goods, not actual goods. 2. It's homogenous: all US $1 bills are claims on the same available goods, so the more $1 bills are issued the less goods each one is worth. (A.k.a. inflation.) 3. It fuels crime: by retaining its full value in a thief's or other misappropriator's hands, classic currency led to the development of theft-based social structures and mindset which plagues mankind to this day.


Proposed Solution: Intellectual property currency has none of the above faults. 1. It is goods, like software or music, or other intellectual property. 2. It's diverse: it can be software, a movie, an invention, a book, a recipe, music, art, a SKDB file to manufacture a tangible item, etc., even forms and services we haven't even thought of yet. Thanks to this diversity, it *can* be issued by billions simultaneously without a runaway inflation, because its different forms fill different wants, they don't clash and devalue each other. Even gold can't offer this diversity. (It couldn't create billions of new jobs even if it offered, due to its natural scarcity). 3. This new economic system can be constructed in a way that a download of a file anywhere in it transmits the same royalty to its creator as his own sale. "You are distributing my movie on your site? So that's where I got all those extra payments from! Keep doing it."


First Details: With potentially billions of intellectual property currency creators all creating and spending currency (possibly denominated in "ideo"-s), this new economy (the "ideosphere") is the potential mother of all economic stimuluses. It requires no taxpayer billions, only some P2P merchant site coding. Its intellectual property currency has a credit ahead feature built in: as soon as someone releases a product in the ideosphere, s/he is credited always two sales ahead of the actual sales tally so there is immediately a limited amount available to spend; it is as if s/he printed some currency directly. (Hence the name, intellectual property currency.) The ideosphere can interact with the old economy by accepting old economy money (dollars, euros, yens, etc.) for its products as well. For the members' old economy transactions (groceries, etc.) the conversion of ideos to old economy currency can be handled by ideosphere sites, to the extent of their old currency holdings.


A nice thing about the ideosphere is that it can grow like a plant. It is an intellectual product itself, so new solutions to grow and improve it can be simply released within it as just another form of optional intellectual product to be gotten or not according to every members choice. Like a plant in a forest, it can start small, from just two working cells, which may be even old economy businesses, adding ideosphere product and currency support as a sideline for slow times. No old economy institution or currency needs to be abolished, displaced or otherwise hindered. In fact, when old economies sag at their bottom business cycle (as now) the ideosphere could help to add some stability to the picture with its true wealth base. The system can run fine as a decentralized chain of small distribution sites, similar to how pirate sites function today. The difference is that in the ideosphere every download may or will trigger a payment to the creator and distributor of the item depending on its settings. 


What will prevent pirates from grabbing and distributing ideosphere intellectual property in the old economy? Self interest, mostly. A pirate site typically costs more money than it brings in because of its very nature. Using the very same file hosting skills and hardware to run a legit distribution site in the ideosphere instead brings a cut on every single download. Instead of being its ransackers, the pirates may very well turn out to be some of the ideosphere's most successful entrepreneurs. In my next post, I'll show you the money.


Laws, morals and flowers


Let's examine two other factors in the software piracy arena today. Law is a 4500 year old command line shell to human society. Its core is a set of two commands saying, a person killing another is wrong, but thousands killing thousands isn't if renamed a war. A person robbing another is wrong, but thousands robbing thousands isn't if renamed taxation. This core being written by an author responsible for thousands of murders on his own, our beloved Void ab initio legal code (to use its own expression) commands obedience worldwide by the fact that the less sense people find in something the more they fear and respect it.


The core logic fail however offers a significant benefit in that laws and their enforcement can be applied with equal success to *any* problem by simply outlawing it. You don't have to restrict yourself to fighting only murder with laws. Outlaw anything that bugs you - the cycle of seasons, river floods, inner city poverty, common cold, software piracy - and voilá, it's now illegal! "Bud dis didn'd sdop by cold ad all!" - I hear a nasal whine from the back. I never claimed laws will *stop* any problem. They didn't even dent murder in 4500 years, there's more of it today than ever. I only stated, you can apply laws to any problem with equal success. This I firmly uphold.


The next factor in software piracy is people's moral values. These are often based on a revered ancient scripture or saga whose number and size of miracles seems to correspond proportionally to the ancient availability of hard narcotics. As a result, even the extreme moral values of right of wrong often differ arbitrarily between geographic regions. Robert Anton Wilson remarked, "Morality today, allows Moslems to stone women to death, as it once fueled the Christian witch-hunts. "Morality" has excused every war, and glorified some of them. "Morality" inspires gay-bashing and the bombing of women's clinics. Why, without "morality" we might all suddenly go stark staring sane." On the positive side, morality makes people feel better by giving an illusion of control and of having chosen well; think of the happy bliss the Skoptsy undoubtedly felt, lopping their executive members off. All in all, morality, like BDSM is a fine, heartwarming pursuit as long as people who don't want to get hurt, don't get hurt. A rational system it ain't.


Well, if one doesn't buy a legit Program X because the laws order so, and if one doesn't buy it either because some preach it's the moral thing to do (mostly the ones who would get the money.. hmm) what criteria remains to go by? Self interest, which says we either find a way for everyone to benefit from sharing the fruits of his work or soon there will be no fruits to share (which was the main test result of Soviet Communism). The hard part may be how to impart this insight to the younger generation which sees nothing else on TV but a "plunder everything you can today, never mind the tomorrow" mentality from the older generation as soon as they turn on C-SPAN.


Let's get scientific and begin looking at the causes of piracy. It exists because the current intellectual content distribution system, and the financial system are flawed. People's intellectual wants and their financial resources to satisfy them don't match. If you can't solve this imbalance, you'll never solve piracy by any other method. Poverty is a manmade misery, it doesn't exist in nature. My suggestion? First, make intellectual property affordable overall with a utility-like distribution system. When water became a public utility, its price fell so low due to everyone sharing the costs, it became senseless to steal it anymore. Next, make people better-off overall by defining intellectual content as a global currency, in a whole new economic sector called the ideosphere. Anyone can create intellectual content on Earth in some function or other. That's billions of new jobs with income! As long as anyone's intellectual creation has demand, it has a value, and its creator/s have a business. Imagine letting billions of flowers bloom... makes Mao with his "hundreds" sound like a beginner.


Piracy talk with no BS (for a change)

Living on both sides of the software piracy divide, not partial to either camp, I considered writing an insider blog about piracy to share and discuss some insights for 3 years. What held me back is the experience that whenever I touched on some of piracy's taboo aspects on a forum, I got both the pirates and the programmers shouting at me alike. Yet, there seem to be so much bull about piracy online (like, 99.9% of everything published in the mainstream media) that I felt an anonymous blog like this might be the only way to get an intelligent dialog started. Or maybe even this isn't. We'll see, 


Fact 1, there is lots of pirated intellectual property right now around me. Fact 2, there is also lots of legit one which I bought because I liked the pirate version. The handful of apps I bought unseen without trying a bootleg first all turned out to be total losses. Fact 3, while being a typical customer of piracy I also produce digital goods that I know that are and will be pirated much in the same way. That's already 3 real life glimpses you won't find addressed too intelligently by law books or the mainstream media. And we're just getting started.

 

1. Strange bedfellows


Of the several dozens of people I know well enough, only two buy intellectual products without trying a pirate copy. They also happen to be the only two $ millionaires I know; maybe there's a direct link maybe there isn't. The rest, including me, acquired intellectual property in much the same way; first by finding a pirate copy, using/enjoying it for a while, than purchasing the legal version if it was deemed worthwhile.


There are two kinds of intellectual property businesses: those which are wise to this and those which slowly drift out of business not knowing why. Ever wondered why it is so easy to find pirate copies of MegaProgram X (which then goes on to dominate the market) while it's sometime nearly dang impossible to find its cheaper, sometimes better alternative? Were the pirates not smart enough to crack the protection of the cheaper alternative? Or (if I heard right) - just not helped by its less street-wise publishers?


This is where by now both the pirates and the software guys usually shout at me on an open forum. How I dare imply that MegaCorp X might have any dealings with pirates what-so-ever! It only monitors the top warez sites to download cracks of its software. Wouldn't this require download privileges, usually obtainable only through some quid pro quo? No, they wait for the yearly free pass day. Which they learn of through telepathy exclusively. No pirate connections at all, Sir, you must wear a tinfoil hat. The only reason MegaApp X appeared on the top pirate sites 24 hours within its public launch with a hack claimed to have taken thousands of man hours is because those danged pirates can hack time travel too.


This is probably as good an answer as anything we'll hear from Washington in the future. (George Washington, that is.) On some major pirate venues I frequented before, the thousands of the uploads use the exact same compression format, uploaded by the same handful of repeating names over the decades; looks like a pro business to me with rock solid QC. Could a pirate and his T3 line be a routine MegaCorp X expense, right alongside their BSA membership fee? That would be like paying terrorists and then charging the public multiply for fighting the same terrorists. No one could sustain such a scam for long, right? At least, it is to hope.


Whichever way you slice it, 98% of the people I know (a good cross-section of middle class USA) bought their digital goods only after taking a liking to its pirate version. Let me play the devil's advocate here (maybe I get on the devil fighters' payroll :-) and presume, some major software companies are thusly pirate-connected. Not all of them, just... some. Product has to be moved, and this gets the sales. Cool. The tangle is, some legit software, once bought, sabotages other unauthorized apps it finds during its installation. Once this happens, the consistent outcome I witness is, the offending legit copy gets shelved, the pirate version reinstalled and afterwards only pirate versions of the updates pursued. In plain English, this short term copy protection "gotcha!" victory creates the user a well remembered disincentive to buy any legit updates. The question of the week is, can anyone imagine how doing this could ever benefit the software companies? (Or anyone?) In my next post, I'll offer a possible solution.


1-8 of 8 Blogs   

Previous Posts
Calling programmers, posted May 5th, 2010
Using old world currency and dealing with problem members, posted April 29th, 2010
From software to a living ideosphere system, posted April 21st, 2010
The ideosphere software, posted April 15th, 2010
What's in it for you, posted March 30th, 2010
Web 3.0 ? - Ideosphere, the new economy, posted March 23rd, 2010
Laws, morals and flowers, posted March 12th, 2010
Piracy talk with no BS (for a change), posted March 11th, 2010

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