Seth Godin writes how 8 billion dollars worth of gift cards seeps through the cracks each year. Astounding number. He rightly points out the reason we buy so many gift cards: it is not socially acceptable to give cash as presents. But when we shift that cash into a gift card, we lose the risk of giving an unwanted gift while giving something more socially appropriate.
Such a small, yet large, difference.
In Chapter 4 of The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler discusses a similar distinction between “extrinsic” motivations and “intrinsic” motivations. Extrinsic motivations come from the marketplace, and involve money. They are appropriate in some situations and not others. Intrinsic motivations come from within, such as pleasure or personal satisfaction. They are also appropriate in some situations and not others.
This distinction is important in social design because so many of the activities people participate in online are motivated from a desire of social standing, not economic standing.
Take the case of a New York Times article recommendation. If I send a link of a NYTimes article to you as a friend, my only motivation is social…intrinsic…and it’s probably a small one at that. I saw this article and I thought you might like it. My reward might be a small up-tick in your opinion of me.
But if I’m getting paid money to give you that recommendation, then my motivation is in part economic, and that changes everything. You are now suspicious of the gesture…and my reward might actually be a penalty…your opinion of me will most likely deteriorate.
When friends deal with friends, money often makes no sense.
Continue Reading: Facebook’s Brilliant but Evil design