Angry Mob?

Some people have expressed their pessimism on the Crowdjustice Facebook page about our efforts to create a new option for resolving money disputes. One person even suggested that this effort could trigger angry mob mentality. Much of the pessimism, I believe, flows from not fully understanding how Ujuj (pronounced "you judge") is being designed to work.

The idea for Ujuj evolved as a solution to a real problem that I encountered on several occasions. Fellow students were owed money by roommates, friends, or family, but the amount owed didn't warrant the time and expense to seek justice through the small claims court system.

I ran a survey and found that most people wouldn't go to small claims court unless their claim was more than $500. This left a gaping hole for all claims less than $500. I call these micro claims, which became the focus of effort in designing this alternative solution, called Ujuj.

A few assumptions are necessary to believe that this solution could work.

First, it is common for people under age 30 to air dirty laundry on social media for others to see and comment on. Typically, people who reveal their anger with someone are seeking validation and justification for their point of view. Along with sharing happy moments, social media allows us to share unpleasant episodes of our life with hundreds of others, where support, empathy, and advice are easily shared and curated.

Second, people naturally want their opinion to be counted. American Idol is a great example of collecting opinions on a matter that has little social consequence. They vote to be included and to see if their opinion becomes the winning opinion. Most people enjoy, even for a few seconds, the feeling of winning.

Third, courtroom shows like Judge Judy are still quite popular, with a daily viewing audience of nearly 10 million. Further, shows like The Jerry Springer Show that exploit personal controversy or confrontation are also quite popular. These types of shows have a strong allure, providing glimpses into the personal, emotional episodes of others. We can't help but to gawk. We all have a dark side, a perverse imp, no matter how much we try to deny it. The psychology professor Clark McCauley, in discussing tragedy claims that although we try to avoid actual sadness, we are attracted to aesthetic renderings of grief because they pull us away from our “preoccupations with ourselves” and open us to the suffering of others. Essentially, we get to experience negative emotions without the consequences.

With these assumptions, we are in the midst of designing a web site that allows micro claims video arguments to be posted for voting to ultimately settle a dispute by majority opinion. While all votes are counted on a sliding scale from 100% in favor of the claimant to 0% to 100% in favor of the respondent, the final outcome is based on an algorithm that creates a statistical normal distribution of votes, and cuts off the tails of the bell curve. The result is then multiplied against the amount claimed to create an award amount.

For example, if Kara claims $100 is owed by Caleb, then both will post their video arguments for voting. After all votes are cast along the sliding scale, if the final average is 25% in favor of Caleb, then Kara will owe Caleb $25. Notice that this sliding scale allows for the possibility that the defendant can win a monetary award.

An interesting facet of the sliding scale and the voting algorithm is that it would be very rare for the claimant to be awarded 100% of his or her claim. This settlement for something less than 100% of the claim becomes an incentive for the defendant to settle on Ujuj. A further incentive for the defendant is that he or she could, based on the strength of argument, actually come away with money in hand.

I hope this post has provided a bit of clarity for those who may carry pessimism toward this solution and to those who are simply curious about the mechanics of Ujuj.

Please comment or post questions below. Your comments and questions will help us design the best solution possible.

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