The Value of Nothing

If you kick in $400 to the cause, we will love you so much that Kristen @IMKristenBell and Rob @RobThomas will follow you on Twitter for an entire year.

via The Veronica Mars Movie Project by Rob Thomas — Kickstarter.

Before I get bombarded by hating haters and their hating ways, I'm pretty fond of the idea of a high profile movie being funded by Kickstarter or similar. I especially like the idea of a Veronica Mars movie because those characters still had so much growing to do.

I did not donate. They were well over their $2M goal by the time I managed to see the page at lunchtime. But I read through the perks that donors receive, saw this particular one and was amazed.

100 people pledged specifically to be followed by someone on Twitter for an entire year.

On the one hand this seems worthless. What's the value of someone following you on Twitter? It's easy to filter people out of timelines with lists and such, so there's never any guarantee people will see your tweets. Following someone does not mean you are friends.

But this also means that 100 people will be able to direct message Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell for a year. One must assume that abuse would lead to blocking, but the benefit is that people of some relative importance will be potentially more contactable for 100 strangers.

For each $400 donation that was sold for this perk, an assistant has to find a user and click a button. I'm not suggesting that these are not their personal accounts. I'm saying that following 100 people at once is a tedious set of actions and there are people hired to take over those actions.

Once that is complete, the cost to the talent is virtually nothing. The access gained by donors is almost as lacking in intimacy as just at-replying to people.

Yet this option was so much more highly valued than its nearest cousin, also valued at $400:

A cast member of your choice (Kristen excluded) will record up to a 20 second personalized video greeting for you. You can decide what the message will say within the bounds of good taste. Remember, these could be floating around YouTube for eternity. Our cast members have to be comfortable with what they’re saying on camera. You’ll be sent this as an mpeg.

At the time of writing (the first day of 30 that the project will be up for donations), the Twitter option was all sold out and the video greeting only had 29 takers. Both had a limit of 100 available.

The Twitter transaction has a seemingly low value in terms of effort and substance. The reality, though, is that it has extremely high value.

Can anyone point me to literature or discussions about this apparent paradox?