So I've been crunching on this for months. Actually since Terrence first told me about what Tom was trying to do, and even more so since I saw Tom demo Memestreams at PhreakNIC in October of 02. We've had numerous discussions about the potential for reputation systems in general, and Memestreams specifically. But I could never figure out a model that a) made money unequivocably and b) didn't smack of dot.com funk. But now I think I've found one that fits.
I just recently started working at a healthcare company that is growing very rapidly and is becoming very successful. Yay! for me to not be unemployed anymore. But one of the tasks I have in front of me is looking at knowledge management (KM) systems and processes. Part of this is due to the rapid growth of the company, who's core product is 'knowledge' about how to treat a person who has serious chronic illness. The other part is related to some organizational development changes within the company.
I'm a big fan of KM. I've preached it for about a decade. It's definitely helped my career out. I've even tried applying it in one of my companies, to much intangible success. It's a Good Thing(tm) to use as our workforce populace becomes more and more comfortable with technology's pervasivness, and the importance of sharing information and expertise electronically.
One of the biggest challenges with implementing KM into an organization is getting people to utilize it. If you've never had any KM process or tools, then you probably think that you can live without them. Why change? Change is hard and painful and I'm doing my job just fine thank you cuz my performance eval from last quarter says so. Besides, we don't need no stinking message boards to talk to each other.
Typically, businesses will try and 'incentivize' (dot.com word) employees to utilize the systems in place. In some cases, they can get as Nazi as requiring you to put certain reports or follow a certain process. But this is hit or miss at best because as we all know, some managers will dismiss the KM process as 'fluff' and circumvent it. They won't require their reports to utilize it, and may even punish those that do. Another key challenge here is how do you incentivize it? You could say that the employee who contributes the most to the KM systems gets a bigger bonus than those who don't. But you could just keep ringing up posts of nonsense and still win that battle. And that got me thinking....
What's sorely needed in KM is reputation. And this could be the catalyst that incents utilization. If you had a reputation system in place, then it would be very easy to determine who was contributing the most USEFUL knowledge into the system, and bonuses and other incentives could be based on reputation capital. This could very easily motivate people to deposit info into the KM systems, and really motivate them to partake of that knowledge, because it would be required to increase one's reputation.
Of course the normal social network issues would apply, such as all your friends banding together to increase eachother's reputation capital regardless of quality. But I think there is adequate work in that area to minimize 'fixing' the system.
So the bottomline here is that Memestreams could easily plug into a lot of toolsets used in the KM universe (mailing lists, BBS's, content management, change management, etc) as a reputation engine to help drive up utilization. You get the benefit of working with a B2B market, in a very legitimate and hot sector, and you're solving a very real problem with adoption of that sector. Bling Bling!
A business model for Memestreams