Bryan Caplan  

Heroes Call Me Friend: Formal Reputation on the Hero Games Discussion Boards

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Last week, Alex Tabarrok (who is co-authoring a principles textbook with Tyler Cowen) asked me for good examples of non-monetary incentives. Perhaps the best response is: "Do what I want, and I'll be your friend." Depending upon who makes the offer, moreover, there may be large secondary effects: It's good to be friends with people who have lots of friends themselves.

On the Hero Games discussion boards, they have a clever way to quantify this notion. Here's roughly how it works:

1. When you register on the discussion boards, you start with a Reputation Power of 0.

2. Anyone who likes a post you write has the option to "Rep" you. This adds approximately 1% of their Reputation score to your Reputation (with no dimunition of theirs). For example, the game's Line Developer has a Rep Power of 4009, so if he Reps you, your Rep jumps up by 40.

This largely a more transparent version of the process that Google uses. The main difference is that on the Hero boards, giving Rep is a conscious decision (with Google, though, you can make a conscious decision not to count a link - see here). You don't get credit just because people are talking about you.

3. The catch: You have to write at least 50 posts in order to get credit for the Rep you've earned.

I just crossed the 50 post threshhold after two years of irregular posting. Suddenly all of my censored Reputation kicked in, so I leaped from 0 to 55. Now I too can bestow Reputation on others, though 1% of 55 isn't much... And yet, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this was a motivation to post!

Well, at least it makes more sense than worrying what the people you knew in high school think about you.

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Matt writes:

Interesting post.

I might say that completeness requires that we put a monetary value even on friendship. It is an error for an economist to define an incentive for which he cannot apply units of value nor identify a natural (possibly unstable) market.

Even the Hero Games discussion has behind it the notion that somehow value units will be transformed into more purchasing power at some time (click through ad revenue?).

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