More on stamps

I’ve gotten a lot of pushback on my post about stamps and friction and metrics.

Let me clarify, because I was making a different point (about measuring) so I glossed over the stamps idea:

1. we all agree spam is a pox.
2. spam exists because of the free rider problem. Without friction, without responsibility (it’s anonymous) and with the cost absorbed by the ISP and the recipient, bad actors cause a problem.
3. also a problem: even permission email gets used up when senders take short term gains because it’s free. I probably don’t need all those emails from Amazon every time a book ships.

So, the answer I’ve agitating for is to add friction.

Stamps are great because you have to buy them. And buying them requires you to acknowledge who you are. Anonymity goes away.

Imagine a few big ISPs get together and say:

a. everyone gets an RSS reader that’s easy to use. If you want to have frequent permission-based contact with organizations, put their RSS feed here.

b. there are other organizations you give permission to email you. But you don’t want to hassle with RSS. No problem. Those organizations will pony up a quarter of a cent and that email ends up in your inbox. With a special flag indicating that the (non-anonymous) sender indicated you had signed up for it.

If you didn’t sign up for it, let us know. If more than a tiny number of people call it spam, then that sender is busted. They forfeit a bond and we blacklist them. Just because they paid doesn’t mean they can spam.

c. the old rules of email remain. BUT, if you get an email from someone who is not on your address list OR they’re not paying a quarter of a cent, we assume that this is mail you don’t really want and we put it in your suspect folder. Of course, you’re always welcome to take it out of that folder, add the sender to your favorites list (with one click) and that’s that.

So, what would happen:

a. the ebays and the amazons of the world would be in your rss reader, where they belong
b. the amount of spam in your goodbox would be tiny
c. people with legitimate reasons to reach you who don’t want to pay the quarter of a cent would be in your otherbox, waiting for you to find them.

Who wins:

a. ISPs. They save processing power, they make a few million bucks in stamp sales, they have happier users.

b. users. Less hassle getting through their inbox.

c. marketers with real permission who have an RSS relationship.

d. marketers with real permission who get more than a quarter of a cent of value out of bothering you (and again, if it’s not worth a quarter of a cent to you, it’s hardly worth three seconds of my time.

Who loses:
1. spammers. They default to the spam box.
2. marketers who measure tonnage.