Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and aren’t sure who Deepinder Goyal is.
He sent this tweet out the other day:
… and I have questions. Lots of ’em.
- This wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago: a businessman raising a question about a government decision on a public, online forum, and getting a response from the authorities on that forum. You might say newspapers and television channels, but they weren’t public forums – you could read and view, but you couldn’t do much else besides. Does that make the world today a better place – that it is very easy and cheap to raise questions and expect answers? More importantly, is the opportunity cost worth it?
That is, anybody can raise questions and comment online.1 Still worth it?
I say yes, but your mileage may vary.
- This would have been possible ten years ago. Deepinder Goyal could have tweeted out this question, but it is unlikely that the Mumbai Police would have responded. For one thing, they only joined Twitter in December 2015. For another, the pressure on them to respond wouldn’t have been quite as much ten years ago. Twitter (and other social networks) have become village squares. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
- Deepinder Goyal is likelier to get a response than I am because he is way more popular. This isn’t a criticism of the Mumbai Police, to be clear. I’m just stating a thumb rule that I think makes sense: the more followers you have, the likelier it is that you will get a response. What are the incentives for the average Twitter user? What are the optimal strategies? What are the optimal strategies given everybody else’s optimal strategies? With what consequences?
- Likes, retweets and replies are effectively a currency we get to spend on Twitter (and other social networks likewise have their own currency).
- These are certainly a unit of account, because the value of a tweet at least partially lies in how viral it has become. (“Holy shit, this blew up over night! Check out my soundcloud!”)
- They are also a medium of exchange (you retweet my tweet, I’ll retweet yours – although the terms of trade are in some ways a function of the point above)
- They are a store of value too. Try complaining about stuff on Twitter (fridge not working, internet down, flight ticket reimbursement etc. etc.) if you want to understand how this works out in practice.
- How should we spend this currency that we have? How much of it do we have? How should we spend it, and what are we optimizing for? What should we be optimizing for? Why?
- If public authorities can be held to account on online forums, does that make them less accountable in offline forums? Does the substitution effect dominate the income effect? With what consequences?
- You only need to see the responses to this tweet to figure that out, for example.[↩]