Today I signed up for Scoutle. Scoutle is a new take at social networking for bloggers. But, the cool aspect of it is that as a blogger I don’t have to do much while still attracting new visitors to my blog. Scoutle presents me with a ‘scout’ who visits other sites for me, and reports back potentially interesting sites. It’s like have my personal web-crawler. Other people’s scouts can meet my scout all over the web and report to their respective owners about my own nice weblog. This ‘meeting and greeting’ does happen without any activity from my side, hopefully attracting new visitors and perhaps even some subscribers. Did I hear anyone say ”rich while sleeping?”
It all works in a very straightforward manner. I signed up, designed my ‘scout’, downloaded a WordPress plugin and after filling in the right code (indicating my scout) to that plugin, I was ready to go. The plugin shows a `stage’ on the right sidebar of this blog (look to your right, it is active right now). These stages are the places were Scouts meet. As you can see on your right, scouts constantly meet each other. Sometimes you’ll see my own scout, most of the times other people’s scouts. But don’t worry, my scout also appears on other people’s blogs.
But it is their scoring mechanism that I found really interesting and will be the foundation of their success. My scouts gain points for every visit my blog registers. Additionally, points can be gained by connecting my scout to other people’s scout. Both bloggers have to agree with the connection, but clearly it is in both their interest, for points are to be gained. However, as is indicated on their site, the algorithm calculating the rating for my scout compare the number of connections I have with other sites with approximately the same number of page-views. If the number of connections falls short to the number of pageviews, my rating will drop significantly.
Why is this interesting to write about on my science-oriented blog? Because it reminds me of the zero-sum games described by famous sociologist and economist Thomas Schelling, in his seminal book ‘Micro-motives and macro-behavior‘. He illustrates his argument with a game of musical chairs: no matter how well each participant plays the game, the aggregate outcome of the game will be identical: only one participant will have the final seat when music stops for the last time. The same goes for a poker-game: no matter how each participant plays the game, the eventual outcome of the game is that one of the players goes home with all of the fiches or money involved.
And so it is for the users of Scoutle. Since the rating is a relative measure, the mean rating per scout will remain the same. It will only decrease or increase when the number of page-views increases, which it will probably do if Scoutle becomes a success. However, the number of connections that will be made will probably be much more important for the distribution of the rating over the scouts, which results in a fascinating paradox: if I have a blog with a low number of visitors and a high number of connections, my rating will be very high. This results in more visitors, thereby decreasing my rating if I don’t get more connections. So, the outcome should be a winning situation for especially Scoutle: most participants will desire a high rating, but since this is relative to the rating of other blogs, every participant will have to actively search for connections. This is of course only beneficial for Scoutle, for it will attract high number of visitors to its own site.
But then again, their success will only attract more visitors to my blogs. So you see, we’re all depending upon each other.