Cyber Pollution: Not a Victimless Crime

January 31, 2009
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According to Wikipedia:

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into an environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the physical systems or living organisms.

Wikipedia does not supply a definition for “cyber pollution”, but Ragy Thomas offers one in a recent post: “the waste of time and energy created by the inconsiderate use of commercial and personal electronic communication.” Thomas is no stranger to the subject: he has held advisory and leadership positions at Epsilon Interactive and Goodmail Systems, which makes him familiar with both the creation and prevention of cyber pollution.

I’ve advocated for attention bond mechanisms (ABM) in the past, and I still feel they are the most promising weapon against cyber pollution. In fact, Goodmail is a step in the direction towards implementing an mainstream ABM. But Thomas cites a service that is truly an ABM: Rupeemail. As per the Rupeemail FAQ:

Merchants and advertisers send RupeeMail to recipients like you seeking your attention. RupeeMail can only be sent to recipients who have explicitly agreed to receive RupeeMail by either registering

According to Wikipedia:

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into an environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the physical systems or living organisms.

Wikipedia does not supply a definition for “cyber pollution”, but Ragy Thomas offers one in a recent post: “the waste of time and energy created by the inconsiderate use of commercial and personal electronic communication.” Thomas is no stranger to the subject: he has held advisory and leadership positions at Epsilon Interactive and Goodmail Systems, which makes him familiar with both the creation and prevention of cyber pollution.

I’ve advocated for attention bond mechanisms (ABM) in the past, and I still feel they are the most promising weapon against cyber pollution. In fact, Goodmail is a step in the direction towards implementing an mainstream ABM. But Thomas cites a service that is truly an ABM: Rupeemail. As per the Rupeemail FAQ:

Merchants and advertisers send RupeeMail to recipients like you seeking your attention. RupeeMail can only be sent to recipients who have explicitly agreed to receive RupeeMail by either registering at the RupeeMail website or permitting a specific sender to send email to them.

Merchants and advertisers send RupeeMail either to a list of willing recipients selected from the RupeeMail data base or to their own list of customers that have opted to receive email from them. If the recipient opens the the RupeeMail, then the recipient collects the value of the stamp attached to the RupeeMail. The sender (advertiser) decides the value of the stamp paid to recipient as a gesture of appreciation for recipient to open the RupeeMail and hopefully read their message (advertisement, news letter, survey etc.)

I’m thrilled to see people employing approaches like these in the war against attention terrorism. Spam filtering, despite its successes, is neither sufficient nor necessary. What we really need are communcation mechanisms that reflect true attention scarcity and ensure the negotiaton of attention costs between the sender and the recipeint is mutually satisfying. Otherwise, as with all pollution, we have a tragedy of the commons that buries us all in crap.

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