Saturday, 15 March 2008

Introducing... WaterKula

So, two things occurred to me this morning.

Firstly, a name change. No brainer really. Funnily enough, the idea to set this up occurred to me just before i went into a SXSWi panel in which Hugh Macleod discussed 'kula', and its relevance to social objects.

In this context kula is derived from 'kula ring', described on wikipedia as 'a ceremonial exchange system conducted in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea.' Just to cherry-pick and condense:

The Kula ring spans 18 island communities of the Massim archipelago, including the Trobriand Islands and involves thousands of individuals. Participants travel at times hundreds of miles by canoe in order to exchange Kula valuables which consist of shell-disc necklaces (veigun or soulava) that are traded to the north (circling the ring in clockwise direction) and shell armbands (mwali) that are traded in the southern direction (circling anti-clockwise).

All Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for purposes of enhancing one's social status and prestige. The system is based on trust as obligations are not legally enforceable. However, strong social obligations and the cultural value system, in which liberality is exalted as highest virtue while meanness is condemned as shameful, create powerful pressures to "play by the rules".

Hugh sees kula as being powerfully representative of an alternative value system at work in the world - and 'marketplace' - of web 2.0, grounded in the exchange of ideas as a form of social currency.

So what does this have to do with WaterKula? Well, this brings me to the second thing that occurred to me.

Rather than simple mash up Twitter, DIGG and the basic human need to rehydrate, I'm thinking this would work a whole lot better if any WaterKula followers are the ones posting the links that are sent out with each outgoing tweet.

I really like the idea that people could post a link to @waterkula as a DM, and that this would subsequently be posted - crediting them - to all followers. It might be good to mash in DIGG until there are enough daily submissions not to need it any more.

I guess each outgoing tweet would use something like this format:

waterkula moment: Get on board The Pineapple Express - - by @danlight

I've got some sort of model in mind for tracking the popularity of tweeted links, creating a similar hierarchy as that existing within an authentic kula ring:

the better (i.e. more popular) the links you post (your 'kula') = the better your reputation = the more click-throughs you will generate = the more of your links will be featured in future

This will need to work in such a way that it doesn't lead to self-perpetuated popularity. I guess that would mean measuring the per-link clickthrough rate, rather than tracking any kind of overall total. That said, the more you're featured, the greater your capacpity to become popular. It will need some sort of balancing factor to ensure that new followers can still break through. Could turn out to be quite a tasty little algorithm.

Lots of food (and drink) for thought.


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