Are you dismayed at getting 100 emails a day you need to wade through, disturbing your concentration? Does your administration bother you constantly with things you just ‘have to be aware of’? Are you tired of the ‘executive reports’, ‘award notices’, ‘compulsory breathing training’, ‘lost car keys’, ‘upcoming events’, and a million other reminders of how everyone else wastes their time? Do you worry that these constant distractions in the long run diminishes your ability, and that of your workers, to concentrate?
If you do, you might want to consider an email service with stamps. What I envisage is that people have to pay, say, 1 dollar for every kilobyte of message they send you, and 5 dollars for every link to some outside website. The only messages you would then get are those that people really want you to see, presumably one a week or so. The stamp is essentially the price of your time.
I envisage a system in which the user can set the height of the price that needs to be paid to reach that user. People who hardly value their time have a low price, people who value it greatly have a high price. There can be minimum prices and discounts for particular groups. This of course goes both ways, so one would see the price list for messaging others before the message to them arrives, and one would need to agree to paying that price before the recipient gets the message.
I think the proceeds of the stamps should in principle go into the personal accounts of the people messaged to (minus the handling fee of course). After all, the stamp buys the time of the receiver who is asked to look at the message. The stamp is then the payment for the attention given. Alternatively, one can send the surplus proceeds towards a good cause, like planting trees.
I would like to see the same service for messages and reminders on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, pings on the mobile, and all the other ways in which social media now distract us. My hope is that some internet organisation develops a whole package of services that embed a system of stamps for all the ways people’s concentration is upset.
I suspect such an internet service would make a very attractive package to many businesses who need their employees to concentrate on their projects and who thus have to protect their workers from all the immediate distractions. The only way to halt the flood of chatter that gets sent round is to charge people for it. This would be particularly useful to reduce the avalanche of stuff that administrations send round to all the workers in the organisation. If administrations and management have to pay for the messages they send round, they would become much more discerning about whether the employees really need to know something or not.
The reaction to such prices would probably be that people start using the phone a lot more and that workers go round to the co-workers in the organisation they want to talk to, rather than ‘flick them a message’. This is perfectly fine and exactly what you want: more conversations and more face-to-face interaction, less spam.
I can see very few downsides to this. The problem of internet scams and outside spam would be solved virtually overnight as those activities would cease to be worthwhile, freeing up a lot of time from the IT services to do more useful things than clean out the viruses that came in via spam.
I do envisage a flood of complaints by the many who love being distracted themselves, and the many more who love distracting others. Yet, since we know that productivity suffers in the longer run from the reductions in the ability of people to concentrate, I see a real business incentive to take the protection of the concentration of workers seriously. I’d certainly sign up for it. It just needs a smart businessperson with real programming skills at his or her disposal to set this up, starting with something like ‘Executive Email Services’.