15 June 2009

Vote with your money

There are prediction markets that people have set up. But those feel like a gimmick to me.

I want a place where I can say:
If you can provide a product that meets the following specifications, at the following price, I obligate myself to buy that product at that price.
I want to be able to state conditions like:
  • all software in this product conforms to an OSDL-approved license
  • the model of car you build has received at least 3/5 rating by Consumer Reports in such-and-such a category
  • this cell phone comes with a data-only plan
  • the out-of-print book that you publish must be hardback
  • the eBook reader you create must be able to display scaled PDFs that can be zoomed and panned
I want to be able to have a publicly-viewable, prioritized wish list. I want to put things on my wish list that do not yet exist, but that would be very useful to me. I want to be able to say "Me too" to an item on my friend's list and place it on my list at the appropriate priority. And I want to be able to set an annual spending cap, beyond which I am not obligated to purchase anything further.

And I want vendors to be able to query this site for what kind of demand there is for certain kinds of products. And I want vendors to be able to say: "OK, you said you'd buy it, I'm producing it, and if I give it to you in 6 months, you're committed to buy it." The user who posted his/her desired product can specify how much lead time would be acceptable. For instance, I could say: "I don't want you to require any more than 3 months production time for this item."

And it is a binding contract at that point, as long as the item ends up meeting the stated criteria when it is delivered. After the production process starts, a purchaser would be prevented from re-prioritizing or otherwise adjusting his list in such a way that pushes that item below the "obligitory purchase" spending cap line. And if a user defaults on the contract, then the details are publicly visible; likewise for a vendor.

My intent is to have a system that can create REAL demand for useful, not-yet-existing products without having a bunch of focus groups giving stupid requirements to business execs who work up some product that pins its users into a corner in one way or another.

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