The Social Value Game

The value game is a social media business method developed by the folks at The Ingenesist Project in a dynamic application of social technology.

Most applications of game theory are controlled from in-house or deployed against a competitive landscape.  The Value Game is deployed external to the corporation and in a cooperative landscape where rewards are given to those who organize people around a “highly leveraged product” in valuable ways.

There are 5 elements to The Value Game

The first is what we call a highly leveraged product such as a conference, experience, convenience, ZipCars, or reunion – we’ll see that almost any product can be leveraged.

The next element is a secondary product vendor such as a hotel, restaurant, transportation, clothing, or equipment supplier – we’ll also see how almost any product can be deployed in the secondary role.

The third element is a consumer who seeks to minimize financial cost and maximize social value.

The fourth element is a 3rd party entrepreneur who is able to organized people in social networks and leverage primary and secondary assets in unique combinations.

The fifth Element is a true value calculator called the Social Value Index (SVI).   The SVI is the scorekeeper that calculates the actual value of the leveraged product after all of the discounts and social value factors are counted.

The game starts when everyone joins the same social network underwritten by a mobile electronic debit card platform and sets their filters for what information can enter (and to block out spam).  The highly leveraged product in the middle acts like a ball in play whose value is dependent on the interaction of the other elements.  Secondary vendors will deploy incentives into the field.  Third party entrepreneurs will organize people around the incentives and take social profits.  The Social Value Index will keep score.

Example 1: A ZipCar costs about 8 dollars per hour; this business model does not encourage social activity; it encourages fast shopping. Suppose that a person pays for the ZipCar on their debit card.  Local restaurants will be made aware of the purchase and then deploy coupons against the ZipCar to the buyer’s debit card. Next, a 3rd party entrepreneurs may improve the SVI by organizing a ZipCar swap so that the person does not have to leave in the same ZipCar that they arrived in and can spend more time shopping.  Another entrepreneur may organize events for families and friends that increase the passengers in each ZipCar, or by capturing any inventory from the community such as movie tickets or family experiences to deploy against the ZipCar.  After the event, the SVI updates the net cost of the ZipCar from 8 dollars per hour to, say, 1.42 per hour.  This is 80% savings on the ZipCar and 33% savings on a day out with the family over using their own car.

In effect, the leveraged product buys itself in a convertible social currency

Example 2: Suppose that a popular aerobics instructor has 40 students.  The local health food store may authorize her to give away 1000 coupons for 5% discount on store products.  In return, the aerobics instructor gets 5% of total purchased.  The health food store already spends 10% of revenue on advertising. It is in the instructor’s best interest to give the coupons to people who are likely to spend the most at the store.  After all, if 1000 people spend 100 dollars each, she stands to gain 5000 dollars.  The health food store stands to gain loyal customers without advertising. The aerobics instructor may maximize her profits by joining with a health food chef to teach classes in healthy cooking.  Or, she may join with a caterer, wedding planner, or hotel to supply an entire event for which she will receive social and financial value.  She may give them to colleagues who also become authorized to give away coupons – and she negotiates for a percentage of their output as well. She will become knowledgeable about the products at the store and talk about them with her friends.  She may even sell the face value of the coupons for cash since it is likely that a high bidder would also be a large customer for the health food store.  The Social Value Index favors this store, this aerobics instructor, and this social network – higher than competitors.  SVI registers with Search Engines and bargain hunters seek the Aerobics Instructor for deeper information and services.

Millions of applications will arise limited only by the imagination of communities not Wall Street

Today, land, labor, and capital make up the “Tangible” assets allocated by entrepreneurs in the production of all products and service.   Meanwhile, Social Capital, Creative Capital, and Intellectual Capital of people and communities are called “Intangible Assets” on the corporate balance sheet.

As soon as you leave the Corporation, this condition reverses.  What if the new generation of corporations were built on this reversal?

Suppose it is already happening.

The next economic paradigm will be built on Social Media as soon as people start getting together to build things.  Social Capital, Creative Capital and intellectual capital will be allocated by entrepreneurs in the production of all products and services.  Meanwhile land, labor, and capital will be the intangible assets.

This may not be so far out.

LAND: with Social media, Mobile internet, geolocation applications, mobile applications, and speed blogging – most activity is independent of physical land.  Instead, Public “land” or private “land” behave as the intangible component where people assemble and produce things.

LABOR: no longer means that two physical parts are assembled into a machine.  Instead two ideas are assembled into a third idea and redeployed as data, information, knowledge, innovation or wisdom.

CAPITAL: Seriously; what exactly is Capital these days except the thing that banks play with and politicians argue about? Capital is created from debt.  The continuation of Capital Markets as we know them exists more as the absence of a reasonable alternative than an actual proxy for true value or productivity.

Instead; 500 Million people flock to Facebook, Twitter, Google, Linkedin, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc., to collect options and store social value.  Uhm…Why?

The next phase for social media will become user generated productivity.  That is when people get together outside the construct of government and corporations to build something.  If we are lucky, this transition will happen before we are forced to “rebuild” something.


The Ingenesist Project specifies an Innovation Economy built on a platform of social media as the next economic paradigm.  Material based on video series here

SS lottery cardWhether we like it or not, we all live in and among various system; weather systems, social systems, management systems, monetary systems, transportation systems, etc. The easy way to identify a system is to simply remove one of it’s parts – if it fails, well, that WAS as a system.

You can own a perfectly good car, but if one tire is not filled with air, the entire car has NO SOCIAL VALUE. All the other pieces could be perfectly operational, the motor, transmission, brakes, etc. However, you can’t go to a wedding in it, you can’t go play golf in, you can’t even get to the bus stop in it; the car has no social value. Seems a little silly, but compressed air is part of our social system.

Suppose that you have a perfectly good social system and you remove the financial system. Will the social system fall apart? … Well, that’s an interesting question…after all, people will still have education, health, knowledge, ingenuity, empathy, community, productivity, infrastructure, and they will very likely get up in the morning and build things anyway.

Now, look at it the other way around. Suppose that you have a perfectly good financial system and you remove all of the people, does the financial system fall apart? Ridiculously, 100% yes it will fail, who will use money it if there is nobody here? The cows? Duh.

We cannot have a rational discussion about the market capitalist system without also having a rational discussion about the social capitalist system. Yet, Social Capitalism is barely defined. Social capitalism is hidden behind command and control corporate systems and “intangibles” accounting.  Social Capitalism is constrained by invisible lines on a map; marginalized, taxed, oppressed and controlled by skin color, gender roles, marketing, politics, and conflict all in the name of my God and Country.

It is interesting to consider an invisible system designed to suppress a visible system that supports the invisible system (say that 3 times really fast….it sounds like someone letting the air out of the tires). The most obvious opportunity for the future is to stop letting the air out of the tires.

Luckily, social media is changing everything by acting as an alternative place for the exchange and storage of value. The weaker the financial system gets, the stronger social media systems will get; but not the other way around. Think about it like a system.

“Group Buying” was an idea that first surfaced during the “dot com” boom and ultimately failed to build any momentum. The idea is again gaining popularity in the era of social media where scalability can be introduced as aggregation cost diminish on applications such as Facebook and Twitter.

Ditch the gatekeeper, axe the marketers, lose the spam.

My first reaction is to find the most unsavory business transactions today and eliminate all the unnecessary middle men and their costs, gateways, noise pollution, and inefficiencies.

Why can’t there be one cell phone store where I can buy anything for any mobile device? Why do I have to pay to use my credit card and pay to not use my credit card? Why am I still treated like a terrorist precisely when I am doing everything that I can to avoid terrorists?

There are some glimmers on the horizon.

Applications such as SocialBuy, Groupon, and Living Social, use their social media platforms that offer vouchers for steep discounts on a variety of goods, once a minimum threshold of consumers is reached. People have an economic incentive to promote products in their social network (on Facebook and Twitter) in order to reach those thresholds more rapidly and consistently.

Social Buying

Suppose the group buying experience could aggregate packages of products. Strategic products would then be aggregated as “A Network of Products” that together increase net value. Yes, you heard me…a ‘combination of products’ with Twitter followers. A zip car, a movie ticket, Segway rental, and a dinner coupon could be aggregated into an entertainment / shopping package.

This is not so strange.

Apple’s enduring success is very much a model of commercial social aggregation. Nobody can compete with an iPhone without also offering iTunes, iMovie, iPad, and all the social trappings of the iStore. Perhaps Google, with its social commercial network can compete resulting in a duopoly. Group buying can empower the smaller players and bust monopolies in an infinite array of combinations.

Why not air travel?

The door-to-door travel time and social cost to fly between two small cities, say, 500 miles apart using commercial airlines is greater than just driving. There is no other alternative, sans high-speed rail, and the economic result is that the two cities remain small with very little new commerce or diffusion of new ideas that air travel benefits a region. People just don’t travel much between, say, Omaha NE and Cheyenne, WY.

Yet, small city pairs within 500 miles have strong extended family roots, migration patterns, and social network density. It would be relatively easy to offer Group Buying on a 20-25 seat private airplane for less than the cost of driving; and in 1/10 the time!

The travel package could include ground transportation, shopping coupons, and maybe even a A zip car, a movie ticket, Segway rental, and a dinner coupon could be aggregated into an entertainment / shopping package.

Every small city economic development agency in the country should be in this business of building social networks and matching them with product networks between other small city pairs…

Tara Hunt; Future of Money and Technology Summit 2010
Tara Hunt; Future of Money and Technology Summit 2010

In 1999, Cluetrain Manifesto flipped everything we knew about online behavior on it’s head. The integration of information being published on the Internet reached a tipping point indelibly articulated for all time by Doc Searles: Markets are Conversations”

The Whuffie

In 2003, Cory Doctorow published Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom where he introduced the concept of Whuffie as a form of reputation currency that accounts for social value in a fictional future society. In Cory’s thesis, people who produce things that represent social value were awarded Whuffie. People who produce anti-social value were punished Whuffie. The twist was that everyone has equal say as to who is awarded Whuffie and who is punished Whuffie. In retrospect, the concept of Whuffie, stands today an important metaphor marking the beginning of the social media revolution.

The Whuffie Factor

In her book The Whuffie Factor (2009), Tara Hunt identifies the facts of a reputation backed exchange among real people, communities, companies, and social interactions – with all their associated human complexities. By the gift of wisdom or intuition, Tara’s choice of the modifier “Factor” is an important distinction. In mathematics, a “Factor” is a multiplier against some other quantity.

Social Capital

In Tara’s book, Whuffie is roughly synonymous with ‘new’ social capital – a hugely complex financial instrument that is currently emerging before the eyes of all practitioners of social media. In 2010, everyone still struggles to articulate social capital with a 1999 vocabulary of new conversations living in old financial markets. There simply is no word for the phenomenon of social media daily manifesting in so many new and valuable ways – it’s just too new.

Yes, Tara has critics, but most I believe are short sighted. The term “Whuffie” is as good a word as any, so deal with it. The term “Factor” is what Tara is really talking about, so lets move on.

Love ’em or Hate ’em, Whuffie is a Derivative.

From Wikipedia: a derivative is any agreement or contract that is not based on a real, or true, exchange ie: There is nothing tangible like money, or a product, that is being exchanged. For example, a person goes to the grocery store, exchanges a currency (money) for a commodity (say, an apple). The exchange is complete when both parties have something tangible.

If the purchaser had called the store and asked for the apple to be held for one hour while the purchaser drives to the store, and the seller agrees, then a derivative has been created. The agreement (derivative) is derived from a proposed exchange (trade money for apple in one hour, not now).

Infinite Possibilities

In short, the current value of the relationship is backed by the past and future value of the many other relationship(s) formed. The twist is that social media has vastly equalized people’s impact on the true value of relationships – this remains consistent with Doctorow’s thesis. Tara takes us a step further where the underlying asset can be generalized as simply “value” where the Whuffie Factor is a derivative against this value. This is consistent with Searles’ thesis.

Social Currency

In my opinion, The Whuffie Factor will become one of the seminal books of its time period. Indeed there are many excellent books in the genre of collecting, building, engaging, storing and exchanging trust, reputation, or influence in Social Media. What sets Tara’s book apart is that, like Doc and Cory, she had the guts to call it something real.

Elevate the conversation or get out of the way

Tara Hunt effectively nails this profound abstraction to the floor so that the rest of us can now walk through to define and articulate the Holy Grail of our generation; a true Social Currency. Bravo Tara, Bravo

To Accelerate Serendipity, that’s the Whuffie Factor.

Photo Source/Credit; Jesse Lara

We can measure the time in minutes, we can measure distance in miles, and we can measure mass in grams – so how do we measure Innovation?  Am I missing something or is this possibly the most stunning omission in the history of civilization?  Who is keeping score? Where’s the referee? This is serious business, folks – the fact, factors, and factories of innovation should be in laser sharp focus to everyone right now, here is why:

The total US liability is estimated at 53 trillion dollars. Every US citizen must become more productive by $175,000 each to cover the invisible mortgage.   Government and corporations are not going to fix this problem – they will leave it to the kids to figure out how to make, mix, and measure innovation.

Natural Resources of Bandwidth

It is official; the United States has run out of bandwidth and we need to create more. The only way to accomplish this is an extraordinary expansion in the breadth, depth, and scale of innovation. This is a situation that cannot be rationalized by any conventional school of thought – starting with our definition for innovation.

The accepted definition for innovation is “something novel and useful”. I hope that I am not insulting any B-school professors or innovation guru’s but “something novel and useful” is already bankrupt as a definition for the only thing that can pull us out of this flaming tailspin of debt economics.

So let’s try something that the kids can do well (because they get to pick up the tab):

Innovation = Bandwidth Created / Bandwidth Expended

So there it is: a simple, clean, and effective:  If the number is greater than 1 we have a creation of wealth. If the number is equal to 1 we have a transfer of wealth, if the number is less than 1 we have the creation of more debt.

It should not matter how one defines bandwidth as long as the top number and the bottom number are measured the same way. If the kids can increase the top number, or lower the bottom number for anything anywhere by using their social, creative, or intellectual ability, alone or in groups, then they can become successful innovators.

Business case

There is a clear and rational business case for bandwidth – people will pay for it at a price relative to their own available bandwidth. Let’s give the kids a game they can win.  Let’s give them a score that they can keep. Let’s show them how entrepreneurs work, think, and play.

For the same amount of bandwidth expended, they can create more bandwidth for 10 rich people or more bandwidth for 1000 poor people. Let the kids decide. If they give some people more bandwidth at the expense of the bandwidth of others, they lose.  If they find synergies that act as a bandwidth multiplier, they win. Let the kids figure it out.

All we need to do is help develop standards to measure bandwidth.

It’s the least that our old people can do and a much simpler problem for our feeble minds to solve.  The Ingenesist Project specifies 3 web applications which if deployed to social media will allow social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital to become tangible outside the construct of the traditional corporation – we believe that this may do the trick.  There may be others working on the problem too, we don’t care – at the end of the day, we all work for bandwidth.