It is ever easier to contact someone remotely. There are several channels available to reach the person you are willing to communicate with. Yesterday we had phone and email; we nowadays have Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Whatsapp, etc. You name it.
Contacting someone through a remote channel is the easy part. The challenge is getting this person’s attention.
Let’s study the problem. If you get an email from a friend or colleague, you will probably read it. Well, you will not always read it, but you will get a feeling of how important that message is before even opening it. The sender and the subject will give you enough information to do so. However, if the sender is someone you don’t know, chances are the email will be deleted, sent to SPAM, or at best get a late answer. When you don’t know the sender, you can’t tell how important the message is before reading it.
So how do you send an email to someone you don’t know? You might ask a third party to send it for you. As in the real world, you can improve the odds of being heard when you are introduced by someone known by both parties. So, if Alice wants to write to Bob and Bob doesn’t know Alice, she will ask Charlie -known both by Alice and Bob- to introduce her.
What if Alice didn’t know a third party to introduce her? Or what if she wanted to communicate ASAP with Bob? Even if she knew the message will interest Bob, she will find it difficult to contact him. Maybe she will resort to meeting him face to face. In this case, telecommunication might fail to make contact.
Could there be a way to solve this problem? Is it possible for Alice to reach Bob remotely without asking for help from a third party? Sure, she can always send him an email directly. The problem is, that won’t always get Bob’s attention. Even when the message might be really interesting to Bob, chances are he won’t open it because it comes from someone he doesn’t know.
But Alice is sure the message will interest Bob! If he could read it, Alice thinks, he will reply. She could bet on it!
Well, let her bet. How much is Alice willing to bet that Bob finds the message relevant enough to answer it?
The solution I am proposing comes from adding a payment to the message. So let’s return to Bob’s side for a moment. Let’s say he gets lots of emails from people he doesn’t know, but there is this message from someone that bets he will be interested. Her name, Alice, doesn’t ring a bell… but unlike others, she has bet a sum of money he will find the message interesting. If Bob knew Alice has indeed bet on it, that message will automatically improve its odds of being read.
Merging a message and a payment into a single, atomic unit might solve the problem. In fact, that’s what Facebook and Linkedin do when you try and contact someone who’s outside your contacts.