According to this idea, a chain of “a friend of a friend” can be linked together to connect any two people in a maximum of 6 steps.
Pretty wild to think about. Less than six steps to reach literally ANYONE you need to reach.
Looking for a buyer for your vintage car? Looking for a recruit for that new job opening? Looking for ‘the perfect girl’? In theory, you just need to start asking around and via less than six hops you’ll be able to find it.
Why you can’t just ask around
Sounds easy enough right? Just start asking and people will connect you eventually to who you’re looking for?
The problem with just ‘asking around’ is: why would someone that doesn’t even know you try that hard to help you? How can you get people to collaborate to take advantage of the six degrees of separation?
I always like to think people are out to help one another, but ultimately what are their incentives here? People care about incentives.
So, what if you apply this theory AND focus on getting the incentives right? Well, that’d be pretty darn powerful.
One interesting application of this was in 2009 with The DARPA Network Challenge (Red Balloon Challenge).
What was DARPA’s Network Challenge (Red Balloon Challenge)?
Explained best from the DARPA website:
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet, DARPA announced the DARPA Network Challenge, a competition that explored the roles that the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.
The Challenge called for competitors to be the first to submit the locations of ten moored, eight-foot, red weather balloons at ten fixed and readily visible locations in the continental United States. On December 5, 2009, in less than seven hours, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Red Balloon Challenge Team found all ten balloons.
Simple right? Find 10 Balloons as quickly as possible. Find them and you win $40,000. The catch is that the balloons are spread all over the US. Also, thee contest was announced only about a month before the start date — so not much time to prepare.
However, even with such limited time to prepare, the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team was able to find all 10 balloons all over America in less than seven hours. Wow.
How did the MIT Team Find all the Balloons so quickly?
Seven hours is not enough time to spread out and search for these balloons themselves. In short, the way they did it was to leverage crowdsourcing with incentives.
They found that by splitting the prize money and distributing it along the entire “chain of participants” leading up to a successful balloon discovery, that they were able to incentivize “the crowd” to help.
$40,000 Prize to find 10 Balloons. So, the team knew they could spend up to $4,000 to find each balloon — which made up their total budget. If they spent any less than that, that’s great and that money could be donated to charity.
Breaking it down, they promised $2,000 to the first person that submitted (correct) coordinates for a balloon, $1,000 was paid to whoever invited that person to join the challenge. It doesn’t stop there, there was an additional $500 to whoever had invited that person, and so on….
By choosing this sort of payment structure, they incentivized ‘the crowd’ to help find the balloons AND to help recruit others to join and help find the balloons. These amounts are not random and were chosen so that they had capped the total payout potential to $4,000 per balloon ($2,000+1,000+500+250+125+62.5….).
VIRALITY, with incentives.
The genius of this structure is very clear.
The recursive nature of the reward had two massively beneficial effects.
First, participants had an incentive to involve others, as these new recruits would not become “competitors” for the reward but rather more of a “cooperating partner.”
Second, everyone was incentivized to participate. Even people not physically located in the United States (where the event was going on) were motivated to participate by passing along information even though they had no way of locating a balloon in person.
Yes, the technique used was a bit similar to the way that Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) helps recruit participants, but it’s effective.
This payout structure allowed the team to quickly garner over 5,000 participants, all incentivized to help locate (correctly) the balloons. Pretty viral growth for a team that only started with four initial participants.
What other “red balloons” can be found in this way?
Taking this idea and using this structure to ‘find other red balloons’ — can you imagine what other types of “red balloons” could be found? Literally, anything.
It’s a really good structure on how to crowdsource and incentivize people to help you find your ‘red balloons’ — in whatever form they take.
Want to find the perfect user to download your app? Want to find a buyer for your rare art piece? Want to help locate the missing child? Want to find the perfect candidate for a job?
All potential use cases and honestly just the tip of the iceberg.
With the right incentives, proper seeding and structure, you can harness this power to find what you’re looking for.
Why Doesn’t this Exist Already?
Whenever there’s a big obvious answer staring at you, it always begs the question “Why doesn’t this exist already?” If it’s such a fool-proof solution, why hasn’t someone created it yet?
Well, in short, people have tried.
Although I’m clearly biased, this is also really hard to do at scale without blockchain (I know, put a blockchain on it right?).
I’m a supporter of blockchain being the perfect solution for this, as it allows:
- Trustless / Decentralized
- Transparent / Immutable
- Global / Borderless
On a blockchain, there’s no centralized authority. It’s global and open to everyone, with the ability for micro-payments with instant settlement.
Worried about getting “your fair share” for your contribution? The rules are written into the code itself, so not an issue.
Worried about incentivizing the right behaviors and disincentivizing the wrong behaviors? Tracking reputation of the actors within the ecosystem is also possible very much possible with blockchain.
2Key Network: Turn any link into a SmartLink
Can you imagine having the ability to track, record and INCENTIVIZE any link sharing on the internet?
This is exactly what we’re building at 2key, the SmartLink.
Want people to see your new blog post? Pay your friends a little reward to share it with their friends that would enjoy your article.
Want to source donations for that charity you love and care about? Turn each of your friends into a fundraiser for that charity, paid on commission for donations they help source (don’t worry, your friends can then donate this referral reward if they’d like!).
Want to tokenize real estate and sell these tokenized shares? Sure, you can sell your tokens (or create your own) and easily use 2key to help encourage distribution and sales of these tokens across the internet.
Want to do a virtual paid coaching gig on Zoom? Pay each person who helps you sell a zoom session a fraction of the session price.
All this and more is possible with 2key, already. And there are many more features, improvements and new products on deck
No longer are you only tied to trying “traditional” methods of increasing your organic reach.
The 2key network has the potential to be a more accurate, quick and efficient version of our current social platforms. Why? These current platforms rely on robots to distribute information to the “right audience.” Use 2key and rely on human intelligence and social knowledge to find the right audience for the right messages at the right time.
We have the opportunity to completely redefine online sharing as we know it, and take online collaboration to a whole new level.
Interested in trying it? Help change the way the world shares links. Reach out. Let’s chat.