Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Oct 2018

Why I Use Earn.com for Contact Form

In a recent conversation, it was asked why there’s such “friction” to contacting me/Avancee. For a little more than a year, I’ve been using a domain redirect to point towards Earn’s Bitcoin-powered contact platform. Not so much as a replacement for email, but as a replacement for the kind of communications which come via platforms like LinkedIn and others. For the most part, its been successful in what it filters. However, I do end up with some turned off from contacting/connecting because of it as that “front page.” So, per a recommendation of that conversation, here’s why I use Earn, and why this or similar might be a decent avenue for you also.

Header: Being My Own LinkedIn Experiment

As with many people, LinkedIn is a common place to “connect” with others who cross lanes with your professional dealings. And similar to others, I’ve had a LinkedIn profile for a long time — using as a resume-augmented space, a connection space, and a job search space. However, I’ve also grown weary of how LinkedIn and others monetize my use of their service and I receive little to nothing from that*. I’ve always thought of there being a better way to federate who I am to others, and have owned my own domain name and various web spaces under it for a few decades. Leveraging what I know about federation is a constant pull, especially in this age of GDPR, ad-based networks, dark profiles, and more.

Some time back, a company called 21.co showed up on a few social streams. Riding the blockchain-is-everything hype, these folks put together an interesting proposition: your inclusion on LinkedIn and other mail lists should compensate you, and the rising value of Bitcoin is the right way to leverage this. After investigating it, and consulting with some folks who are more knowledgeable about blockchain and alternate currencies than I, I put myself forward towards their platform.

*LinkedIn and other firms use premium and enterprise service levels to give access to profiles/personas (and sometimes to direct individuals). While using these services are free, to quote the saying, “if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product” often holds true. That’s not to say Earn is different in that manner; only that you have a chance to reap from whomever contacts you, or wants to add you to their contact list.

*My knowlege of these practices comes from work with a previous employer to which learning methods of how these platforms work was part of the primary role held.

Body: Implementing Bitcoin-powered Forms

The implementation on my end was simple. I signed up at 21.co (which later rebranded to Earn) and used domain forwarding to point a subdomain (contact.antoinerjwright.com) to that page. Once a person would come to that page, they’d have the option of:

  • Using the contact form to contact me
  • Requesting me to take a survey
  • Adding me to a mailing list

But, to do any of these, they would have to pay me. And only if I responded (to the message or survey) would they actually pay. The money is held in escrow for up to seven (7) days, then released if nothing is done.

So that means, if you were contacting me, you’d get the URL (contact.antoinerjwright.com) either via scanning my ring, from my business card, or because you went to one of the websites I manage; and then upon filling out the form, you’d have a button that says “Contact Antoine for $1. Now, that dollar could go to me, or be put over to one of six charities who have patterned with that platform. I’m no where near an internet celebrity, and so I made the choice that contacting me would cost $1 (changed it to $5 at one point, but that really didn’t do anything, so I changed it back).

That dollar would go into escrow and I would be notified both via email and through the Earn app that someone wants to contact me and has paid a dollar (or more). If it was a connection I wanted to make, I’d respond through the Earn interface, accepting the dollar and turning the communication into the normal email affair. If not, I’d reject, sending a friendly message, and the dollar would be returned.

Now, here’s where the Bitcoin bit comes into play. When I accept the dollar, it would go into my Earn profile but be converted into Bitcoin. Given that this isn’t the early days of Bitcoin, that’s ten-thousandths of a Bitcoin. But, it was something. The value of my Bitcoin “bank” would rise and fall depending on whatever was happening with Bitcoin. And at anytime, I could “cash out” to a Coinbase (and previous a few other) wallets. I’ve decided to keep things in Earn (for now) as I’m using this as an opportunity to learn how Bitcoin works, and whether the “value of connecting to me” really meets what I saw as an unfair proposition from sites like LinkedIn.

Let me emphasize, I don’t harbor any ill will towards LinkedIn (Facebook, Google, or any others). I think there business models of enabling people to connect across physical and social boundaries makes sense. I just would like to see a bit of what they earn from my connections; and in some cases let that more immediately go into my pocket.

For me, this is an experiment towards Bitcoin, how much friction people will tolerate towards connecting with others, and what it means to put a monetary value towards non-personal connections. We’ve more or less grown the internet on the backs of advertising supported models, and so something along the lines of permissioned-access and federated information works against what we’ve become used to. There is more friction in what I’m doing simply because its not what we are used to be doing.

In order to get a better view into this experiment, I’ve been slowly removing my contact interactions from LinkedIn. There’s one guy I know who has left LinkedIn completely, but I’m not yet ready to do that. I’ve gone as far as to put into my bio there that my URL (which points to my Earn profile) is the only way I’d accept a contact. Further still, I’ve stopped accepting contact requests from recruiters, and lean heavily on connecting with persons there I’ve met personally or established a baseline relationship with (and I’d rather they not be in my phone book in some cases). Earn has enabled this kind of experience where I’m thinking a good bit more about the value of connecting to others, and not being as open as an email form, but also not being inaccessible either (I consult and freelance, can’t afford to be that inaccessible).

Having explained myself, I don’t imagine that it makes the decision to contact me easier or harder. But, it does give some boundaries to the friction which has been noticed. I plan on using Earn (even after its acquisition by Coinbase) until Bitcoin fails, Earn goes away, or I’m satisfied with the lessons. So far, I’ve been exposed to a number of blockchain ICOs and other alternate currencies that spin my mind in all kinds of ways. It is impressive, and disheartening. We’ve allowed contacting one another to swing towards a friction-less level, but done so at the cost of parts of ourselves. Earn seems a means to swing that level back; and if it means some friction until others get it, then that’s ok. I’m used to doing things before others.

If you’ve read this and would like to experiment/move to Earn, you can sign up here (this is referral link).

If you’ve read this and would like to engage me for consulting to (re)engineer complexity, such as what I describe here, for you or your organization, you can do so here.