Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Scarcity & Spam

Question: How does a real-estate broker attempt to speed up the pace at which he could close a deal?
Answer: He creates a perceived scarcity in the mind of the buyer. As soon as he has explained the nuts and bolts of the deal, you can be sure the first thing he's going to say is "I've got two other buyers who're looking to lease this place." That the demand is perceived to be greater than supply will automatically make the buyer willing to pay a higher price. Of course, knowing about this little gimmick of real-estate brokers doesn't help much - we are not 100% rational.. we somehow can't seem to account for this gimmick.

Real-estate is an essential, going by the roti-kapda-makan philosophy. Others may have lists longer than that - you could count education, telephone connections, maybe even Internet connections. But why would anyone consider orkut accounts as an essential? Well, let's take a look at this e-mail I received:
from: (name hidden)reply-to (email hidden)
to my friends
date 20-Mar-2007 23:05
subject Message from Orkut
mailed-by orkut.bounces.google.com

HEY ITS DIANNA, FROM THE DIRECTOR OF ORKUT,EVERYBODY SORRY FOR THEINTERRUPTION BUT ORKUT IS CLOSING THE SYSTEM DOWN BECAUSE TOO MANYBOTTERS ARE TAKING UP ALL THE NAMES, WE ONLY HAVE 57 NAMES LEFT, IF YOUWOULD LIKE TO CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNT, DONT SEND THIS MESSAGE, IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR ACCOUNT ,SEND THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST. THIS IS NOT A JOKE, YOU'LL BE SORRY IF YOU DONT SEND IT. THANKS DIRECTOR OF ORKUT, TIM BUISKI. WHOEVER DOESNT SEND THIS MESSAGE, YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DEACTIVATED AND IT WILL COST YOU $ 10.00 A MONTH TO USE IT.
This message was sent to you by xxxx. To see xxxx's profile click:http://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=xxxxx

For a moment, let's forget that this is a hoax. Let's also forget that Tim Buiski has been "the director" of bebo.com, yahoo.com and msn, before taking over as director of orkut ;-)

Now, the underlying principle of this hoax was scarcity. The email speaks of something that is running out, and the reader somehow is able to connect with that. But why wouldn't this sender consider whether or not the item being spoken of is an essential or not. It doesn't really matter if my orkut account expires - it doesn't really affect me. And I can hazard a guess that most of my friends don't treat their orkut account as an essential.

So, question for the day: why do hoaxes thrive? And why do they thrive as much on the Internet?

If you have any pointers, please leave a comment. I shall try to collate them and write down my own thoughts in a future post.

4 comments:

arjun said...

Because, in the spectrum of people who use orkut, a big junk of them are no-internet-sense-fools who keep the hoaxes alive by forwarding the message and console themselves that if they did it, they are no longer in danger. You would be amazed, my friends (supposedly doing PhDs) sent this...it doesnt depend on your education level, but solely on a state of insecure-emotion.

chiranth said...

Hi Arjun,

Does your friend have any greater pointers (theories, publications, articles, URLs) he could share?

I want to figure out why do people feel insecure about orkut accounts. There have been instances where I have received spam about "small celled lung cancer" - I can understand that spam because it can make you go "oh my God" about some kid's life. But why should anyone (educated or uneducated) be insecure about orkut accounts?

Apurv Kulkarni said...

I really don't understand how people who are in the third year of a computer science engineering course forward such junk.

I mean
1. Orkut is owned by Google, which is a huge company stock-value wise. This means that scarcity is out of question.

2. 57 names? Really, memory in computer systems is now recorded in names?

But I agree with you when you say that people who can live without an orkut account will fall for this stupidity.

chiranth said...

@apurv

Hey, thanks for your comment.

By the 'scarcity' factor, I didn't mean users percieving google facing a scarcity of server space. I meant a sense of scarcity in the sense that an orkut users percieving their accounts would no longer work.

Anyways, thank you again for your comment.