cory doctorow (of boingboing.net) and tom coates (of plasticbag.org) are debating the merits of a paid (in effort or money) email system on matt jones' weblog. you may recall i previously expressed my favor for such a system. i take it all back now. here's why:
Whether we're talkign about money or effort or difficulty is irrelevant." tom says "but who is 'effort-rich'? cory says
Of *course* the rich have more than 24h in a day! i side with cory here. rich people are 'effort-rich' because they can pay other people to use their effort. this is a basis of our entire labor system.
the lack of scarcity of avatars is a consistent problem for community spaces and
I've been thinking of building in this scarcity. this is the broader issue. scarcity should never be created. because scarcity creates difficulty and difficulty should never be created. all work should increase ease (in a general sense, work should be self-destructive). i say this because this is the only path toward what seems to me to be an obvious ideal of work being optional.
so the criterion for choosing whether or not to do something, such as implement a paid email system should be whether or not it is possible to create more ease and less difficulty another way. the current system involves a lot of ease for email senders (sign up for an account, type email, click "send") and a good amount of difficulty for recievers (filter out spam). the proposed paid email system would create more difficulty for senders (who must pay in either money or effort to get an email account and/or send an email) while creating less difficulty for recievers (who would have less, or no, spam to sift through).
it sounds as if the paid system is better (especially if you consider that there are more recievers of email than senders), and given current conditions, it probably would be. the problem is that once a paid system is established, the people profiting from the system will have a strong interest in maintaining it long after better technology has been developed that could remove difficulty for recievers (spam) without increasing difficulty for senders (expense).
when tom says
the lack of scarcity of avatars is a consistent problem for community spaces, he is wrong. the inability to associate avatars with real people is the problem, and tom is wrongly assuming that scarcity is the only way to create this association. (if it's hard to get an avatar, people won't likely get more than one.) this is a simple solution, but that's exactly the problem. our system of identifying trouble-makers (the analogy to spammers) in physical space is far from simple (and also far from perfect). we use a complex system of clues such as dress, posture, location (dark alley vs. library), association ("hey, do you know that guy?"), as well as what they say ("hey kid, want some candy?"). i'm no expert on spam filters, but there are experts on spam filters, and they are working on making them better and better. as spam filters become more complex, they will better use and integrate the full spectrum of available information about the source of an email. these efforts should be supported as one part of fighting spam.
another part is to increase the negative repurcussions of spamming. if you want to spend money on improving email validity, donate to someone who will hunt down and prosecute spammers. if you want to spend effort, spend it calling representatives and encouraging support of high legal penalties for spam. there are many other things you could do that do not involve making legitimate email more difficult. money is a quick fix at the cost of not just the money, but also the ease of use that makes the internet good.