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John2two
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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2001 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is the continuation of the thread that began here (after sprouting an independent life separate from the "money issue" thread where it really began).

My InformationWeek magazine this week includes this article about the quest to establish a workable micropayment system for the world of physical transactions. It centers on the fast food & vending machine trade and Visa's and telecom vendors' experiments to capture this segment with systems built around smartcards, fingerprint readers, and wireless devices.

John
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lylebclarke
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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2001 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking of mobile phones, and micropayments in the physical world. Check out this phone. It is an example of a phone based on Microsoft's new Stinger platform. Here is one more.

Looking at the photos, I'd say it is a pretty safe bet that these phones will be sporting resolutions good enough to display and read a comic scrip. Of course scrolling will be needed, or other alternatives such as one image per page.

The micropayment point here is that people are used to paying to use their phones. I'm pretty sure that if the resolution is OK and the micropayment price is right, and the transaction transparent enough, people are not even going to think twice before reading comic strips daily via phones like this.

If the strips are available that is.

Cheers
Lyle
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lylebclarke
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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2001 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This crowd's name came into my field of consciousness a couple of times in a row recently. So I whirled over to their website to have a look:
http://www.microCreditCard.com/
Like everyone else, they call themselves "the Internet's leading provider of micropayment technology etc. etc."

However, from what I can see, they are not doing anything earth-shattering enough to earn that title, or for what the on-line comics world needs.

The only difference between a MicroCreditCard and a normal merchant account is that the reader must open an account with them. MicroCreditCard then hopes that the reader will order through their ordering system several times, so that they can consolidating all the payments, and thus allow small (micro) payments without getting a 'too-small' kick in the teeth from VISA and friends.

In basic principle, the idea sounds OK, but to really work, there needs to be heaps of content out there available using the system, and they're not going the right way about getting such content. At the cheapest level they cost USD$99 to set up, and then $20 per month after that. Quite a commitment considering the experimental (not to mention small) nature of micropayments.

--- Slightly related deep thought---
Running an on-line comic at a profit has as much to do with managing relationships and brand as it has to do with either writing or art.
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Max Leibman
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PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2001 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lylebclarke:
Running an on-line comic at a profit has as much to do with managing relationships and brand as it has to do with either writing or art.


Really, that's not in the least different from running a real-world comic -- except, perhaps, in that a large number of real world comics have seperate people managing the brand and relationships.

It would be interesting to see a business spring up to specifically manage the business-end of other, non-proprietary comics. An online-comics professional services/advertising/brand-consulting firm, as it were, that makes money by helping comics creators gain a sizable audience, name recognition, and profitability, then claims a share of the take.

Obviously, there isn't enough money or attention (let alone infrastructure) on online comics at the moment to warrant such an entity, but an enterprising comics enthusiast with little creative skill and some forsight might be able to make him/herself a decent living someday, while helping online artist focus more on the creative end...

~Max Leibman
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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2001 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MicroCredit Card actually contacted me after one of their guys read "I Can't Stop Thinking! #5" offering me a chance to get in on the ground floor.

I was considering trying them out, but decided to pass when I learned they were about to switch to the $99.00 set-up fee. (*sigh*). At least Amazon and PayPal, for all their drawbacks, understand enough not pull that stunt (well, at least, so far...)

Let's all keep a lookout. First decent system comes along, I want to know about it asap, as I'm sure we all do. Meanwhile, Amazon and PayPal are definitely NOT micros... but at least they're closer!

--SCOTT
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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2001 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha! And now another one has contacted me, just today.

"AllCharge.com"... We'll see...

--SCOTT
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lylebclarke
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2001 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott,

I think it's great that companies are contacting you while their home page still says, "It Worked! The Apache Web Server is Installed on this Web Site! ".

How about convincing one of these companies that wants to be the next big micro thing to start a conversation with their potential users while the product is still in development.

Where creators, and key members of their product development team could exchange ideas.


DeveloperBob: "There will be a start fee of $99"
JoeComic: "Hell no, that will never work, let us ease us into it baby!"

The conversation could perhaps be in the form of a development discussion board at their currently empty site.

Lyle
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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2001 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MicroCreditCard was profiled in a short neutral article in the Washington Post last month.

One sentence leaped out at me:

"Among the most prominent companies trying to establish micro-payment systems are PayDirect, backed by Yahoo Inc.; MoneyZap, a joint effort by Western Union Holdings Inc. and First Data Corp.; and eBay Inc.s processing arm, BillPoint."

O--kaaay...

Any volunteers to look into the status of these ventures and get back to us?

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Sean[cc]
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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2001 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also just want to throw in something that I found a few days ago: ComicCoins. Now, clearly, it hasn't started up yet, but I think that because it's focused solely on comics, that it could be promising for the commmunity. Seeing other micropayment upstarts being mentioned here is comforting, because I was beginning to think it would be a strictly paypal and amazon world.

On a sidenote, it's good to see you posting here, Scott. I met you at SPXPO 2000, I was just a kid in a gray shirt and khakis, whom you probably didn't pay much attention to, though

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[ This Message was edited by: Sean[cc] on 2001-05-26 12:08 ]
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Sean[cc]
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PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2001 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the double post, but I was looking around this morning and found a few links you may want to look at:

http://www.w3.org/ECommerce/Micropayments/
http://www.thestandard.com/article/0,1902,19250,00.html
http://www.cisp.org/imp/april_99/04_99crocker.htm

Happy Reading!

Sean

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Twitchy
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2001 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With all these payment options, and it seems everyone is bending over backwards to take our money these days. There is still one thing I'm curious about: What percentage of readers have absolutly NO WAY to pay. Even PayPal now allows you to use a regular savings or checking account, but there must be a significant amount of the population on line who are around the age that they don't have these accounts available to them. It would be interesting to see just what that number was. And I think it would be wrong to exclude them.
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JasonB
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2001 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mobile phones might be an answer... but probably not in the near future.

For example, you go to a website and want to pay 20 cents to read a comic (or play a game, or whatever). You enter your mobile phone number... a second or so later your mobile rings, an app pops up and asks you to okay the transaction. If you do nothing, it goes away after a minute or so. [added later -- what I forgot to mention before] The transaction would appear against your phone bill, or taken off your prepay card. The mobile phone operator can pay the micropayment provider (MicroBank...?) a larger monthly sum (so no individual transaction charges there), and the micropayment provider would work like a bank -- you can retrieve your money whenever you like and get hit with a typical banking transaction fee when you do -- otherwise, you leave the money there and earn interest on it like any other bank account.

I think that's rather painless compared to some other approaches -- and it 'feels' safer than entering your credit card details on someone's website.

Admittedly there are a number of huge issues that would need to be resolved for this to actually work (the fact that few mobiles are capable of running an app like this is a biggy). Mobile networks would undoubtedly have to implement the software at their end as well. The costs of 'calling' the mobile would need to be offset in some way (possibly not a problem if you have an 'always-on', internet-ready mobile phone and can enable an application to accept messages of this type.
These are but a few...


[ This Message was edited by: JasonB on 2001-06-17 09:56 ]
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2001 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott, if you're reading this, I don't mean to bother you, but a while back I recall sending you an email with tons of data on reimbursement methods other than micropayment (Street Performer Protocol et al.) in response to ICST #5.

You may have read it, you may have not-But I was wondering why you didn't cover those...I know you're a strong proponent of micropayments and all, but there ARE other methods in practice and it kinda worries me that you didn't point them out. |(

But I'm sorry for wasting your time...I'll hush up now...

-David Caswell.
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tnaran
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2001 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had this idea of combinign subscriptions and micropayments. Tell me how whacked out this is.



Via your ISP bill, you subscribe for a bulk subscription to a world of content. As you visit each page, the hit is added to a tally. At the end of the month, your subscription fee is divided amongst all the web-sites you visited. Fractional cent charges are accumulated from across all subscribers who visited the site.



Now there's a couple issues to work out like what if you only visit three sites during the whole month? Should they all get a 1/3rd share of your $6? I think it could probably be worked out as a micropayment system based on the number of times you hit a site (If you visit a site more than 10 times, they get a smaller micropayment per hit than a site you visited once). But as I said, these fine details need to be worked out.



Now not all websites are created equal. Some websites would be cheap, while others expensive. Is it fair to pay a weblog the same micropayment as a detailed legal library archive? I don't think so, so you'd have Level of Service subscription (the infamous Gold, Silver and Bronze services like AdultCheck) with a different micropayment schedule.



Example micropayment schedule:
































  First 10 hits Next 40 hits All hits over 50+
Bronze 0.01 0.005 0.0025
Silver 0.02 0.01 0.005
Gold 0.05 0.025 0.0125

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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2001 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In answer to David Cashwell, I did receive your letter, I'm afraid I'm just very very slow at following up on things, and I'm a very slow writer (my Inbox stands at roughly 800 messages, many of them important or even urgent). I'm sorry about that, I know it can be frustrating.

Another thing, though, is that I never wanted to be relied on too much to cover all the bases myself. There are thousands of us with thousands perspectives. If you see something missing from the debate, introduce it yourself -- not just to me, but to everyone.

If I'd waited around for the spokesmen of the generation before me to voice my concerns, I'd be waiting to this day.
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wware
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Micropayments would always have made sense for some things, but are
only now being considered because internet technology might finally
make them practical. It occurs to me, however, that something
equivalent to micropayments might be possible with pre-internet
technology, and might still be useful now. Suppose I'm willing to pay
a nickel for something, but it would be stupid to mail a check for a
nickel because the stamp and the check processing amount to much more
than a nickel. Instead, I allow a fair random number generator to
choose a number from 1 to 200, and if the number turns out to be 42, I
agree to mail a check for ten dollars.

If buyers are left to perform this process for themselves, many might
cheat and just say, "Sorry, I didn't get 42". If the website supplying
the comic also supplies the random numbers, anybody who has to pay
will say, "This damn thing is rigged! I bet everybody got 42!" and
will stalk off in a huff and never come back. Maybe there is some
interactive procedure that both parties could agree was fair.

Except for the fact that it would be ridiculously over-complex,
Diffie-Hellman key exchange would work, but it's useful only as an
existence proof that such protocols are possible at all. In real life
you'd want something that the average reader wouldn't consider
burdensome. The two parties might alternate throwing bits into an
accumulating hash function. The hash (calculated on the supplier's
server) could be mathematically simple enough that the reader can
reproduce the calculation and verify to himself that the supplier
didn't cheat, and still secure enough that neither party could choose
bits to force a favorable outcome. An example of a simple hash of this
sort is the set-up procedure for the RC4 cipher. Sorry for this
lengthy digression into implementation minutiae, it was just too
fascinating to try to figure out how to do it.

This is my first time posting on this thing. It would be kinda cool if
I could preview my post before submitting (ala Slashdot).


[ This Message was edited by: wware on 2001-06-17 02:04 ]
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JackSlack
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to throw in an additional consideration, there's an entrenched system in place for many art-forms that are going to naturally be opposed to micropayments, the ones Scott McCloud has observed get 90% of the money out of the current system.

My question is, how would the current crop of artists trying to avoid the current system with micropayments beat the old system and make this whole thing work?

Cheers,
Sean.


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JasonB
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 10:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In answer to Sean Riley:

What it needs is for enough people to band together to work out a reasonable solution -- ie. like the kind of thing that happens in the Open Source Software and Linux communities -- and then try to convince one of the major international banks to support it.

A bit of a pipe dream probably...
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey there - I just discovered this forum by following the link from ICST#6. I've been involved for a few years now in theorizing and debating possible peer-to-peer or decentralized payment systems. The main point is that for a micropayment system to succeed, that is for if to be *adopted*, it can't be owned or controlled by any one entity. Eg. if microsoft gets to define the standard, I'll be very frightened. We need an open standard, and so far I don't even see any candidates out there. The biggest catch seems to be that any micropayment system needs to be basically an aggregation system, in which each spender's nickels and dimes are allowed to accumulate as debits until a threshold (eg. $10) is reached at which a more standard 'macro-payment' can be made without an unduly large transaction fee. But we can't expect surfers/downloaders to have accounts on many different payment systems, so we need to 'federate' these (hypothetical) systems in such a way that it feels like a single system to the users. The real chicken-an-egg problem is that vendors don't want to adopt a standard if they think it will help their competitors, they'd rather have all of a small pie than a slice of a big one. Of course, it is the established financial institutions that should have created a standard years ago, but it's clear that they're not interested. (Online cash is sure to undermine their very lucrative oligopoly, but that's a rant for another time...)


Anyway, it looks to me like we, the users, are going to have to create this system ourselves. My proposal is philosophically inspired by the west-coast native institution of the potlatch, the gift-festival which formed the basis of an economy based on material abundance and reputation/status. I'm convinced that the kind of payment system Scott describes will be adopted more readily on a voluntary basis, and that the key is to establish direct connections between artist and audience. The mechanics of the current payment model under consideration is however quite independent of the motives of the payer (ie. whether payment is "voluntary" or not is moot.) The idea is to create a currency based on digitally signed promissory notes, small XML documents which signify payer and payee, date and amount, which are then "published" in such a way that they can be aggregated by third parties. By creating a simple and standard format, it would be trivial for coders or webmasters to build support for such a system into their apps/sites. It also aims to ensure that the third-party aggregators would have to compete with one another to offer the most attractive service, without being able to monopolize or lock-in the market.


This is a necessarily simplistic description of what we have in mind. I'm in the process of taking another run at a draft 'potlatch protocol' document. For more info see http://www.potlatch.net.


And thanks again Scott for your very clear and persuasive vision.


Jim Carrico
jim - at - potlatch - dot - net

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John2two
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, David Caswell!

There's a forum-full of people here who are interested in hearing about any alternatives you've got to offer. If you're waiting for an invitation, here it is! Tell us about this Street Performer Protocol and any other good ideas you're aware of.

Inquiring minds want to know,
John
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rstevens
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope this doesn't come off as jerky or self promotional, but here goes:

Does anyone with some commerce/business ideas want a comics site to test some of their theories on? I'm currently running my comic without a real focus on profit. (aside from some t-shirts and a subtle tipjar) I'd love to help push things along by possibly providing a testing ground for some of these ideas.

I currently do Diesel Sweeties 5 days a week and garner about 1/5 of what one of the behemoth strips like PVP does. It ain't earth-shattering, but I'm amazed at it.

Any takers?

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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been Slashdotted.

Look for the Thread entitled "Scott McCloud on Comics and the Internet, part 2" for a, well, completely mangled version of what I said.

*Sigh*
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rstevens
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

they seem to like you over there but have a hard time grasping the issue in non-free-music terms.

crazy linux punk kids.

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JasonB
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott: Slashdot tend to be rather negative in their opinions about anything.

I try not to read too many of the comments about subjects I'm interested in, because usually I just end up extremely annoyed.
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