Good ideas, but with some practical issues
Clustering (near-)equivalent assets can indeed be done automatically based on the relations how products appear in “lists of mutually alternative orders” of different buyers. Unfortunately, this is only possible after an asset got offered and ordered, so cannot help the seller to assign an adequate value. The other alternative would be to use a system like on NetCycler, which tries to match assets based on their physical properties (product type, size, colors etc.). That is however horrible from a UI point of view, as all this formfilling is very unpleasant work. What would work is using ISBN / EAN codes for this, and also apply it to easily standardized bulkware (like yes, apples). We did not add this for now as we focus on the DIY economy, not on (used) industrial products. So most of the stuff offered on the platform will not have ISBN / EAN …
Ok, but I remember that I often use the “search in past transactions” feature on eBay when trying to estimate a good offer price for a product. That would work in network bartering as well. Noted, thanks!
About value / valueing: of course value is extremely subjective. A seller assigning a price means, thus, that the seller values the item equivalently and would not like to give it away for less. A price is thus a threshold for how much a potential buyer has to value an item at the minimum in order to enter into a transaction with the seller.
(About intentcasting: prices can be assigned to tasks, which are service-assets sought by a buyer. Again in terms of UI, I do not see a way to implement seek ads for products as a meaningful feature. Products need to be standardized to be produced efficiently (also in a DIY / maker economy). That’s how they differ from services. So for services, it makes sense that the buyer can publish a very specific request what has to be done, while for products, it makes no sense and it should instead be left to the buyer to select the best match out of the existing products on offer.)
There is a very interesting affordance in a barter economy that allows to not have any public pricing at all. I think you will like this idea, so I just copy it here (though we won’t implement it because, to reach volunatry adoption for this first-ever network barter platform, we align as closely as possible with concepts that ordinary people already know about economic transactions):
Bid pricing with individual units of account
This is to solve the problem of value skewing / prejudice which is inherent whenever using one unit of exchange for one market. Examples of these problems include: (1) In forex currency exchanges, economies of developing regions get disadvantaged when importing as their currency is weak. And this means everyone gets disadvanatged, even though there are some companies who produce as efficiently as those in developed regions. And (2) when using legal tender as unit of account in a barter economy, the prices from currency-based markets will be used as references. This is bad, since these prices include all kinds of skewing influences, including state subsidies, artificial scarcity, extremely cheap offers enabled by industrial production and artificial price increases for example of labor by heavy taxation and regulation that limits the supply on offer. With such prices as reference, maker production is hardly possible for example, as it cannot compete with industrial production (used goods, for example).
The solution is to let everyone price their own offers in a self-selected unit of account, which has to be one of their own active offers. So people will select to use their main offer (like: an hour of their professional service) as unit of account, and express bid prices for things they want in this, and also how much their other offers are worth in comparison. In effect, all people have a very natural unit of account, just as when using legal tender, or even more natural (like saying “I would work half an hour for this.”).
The more important effect is, however, that pricing is now always adequate for every situation of peoples’ offers and demand priorities. It does not get skewed by external influences, but is similar in effect to what people would agree when negotiating a barter deal manually. Just that it can still be completely automated: user A expressed that she wants a certain amount of (say) A-hours for a certain offer, and how many A-hours she would work for certain wishes, and from this the system can know when a deal is balanced for her. And when it’s balanced for every participant, it is a valid deal.
The best property of this idea is probably that it is applicable for exchange between all kinds of alternative economy networks and communities: They might never agree on using any standard value of account (some might be against using legal tender as that, some against shopping baskets, some against using an alternative currency because of, some against using any unit that they are not familar with etc.). But when allowing everyone to use their own unit of account, there is no issue whatsoever.
This is a feature to replace price tags on items. Items would just be offered on the platform without public price tags!! The reason is that trade should be enabled by the subjective value assigned to items by the buyer, not the common “market price” normally used by the seller to price items. Because this leads to a higher trade volume, enabling trades that are blocked when stuff is offered for “market prices”.
The inspiration came from this: “The first problem with money is the fact that a seller is forced to place a uniform price on a good. This means that some potential buyers will get away with paying significantly less than what the good is worth to them, and others will be turned away because the price is too high. Both the seller and buyer would be better off if the maximum number of possible trades went through. because each party gave a mix of goods and services acceptable to the other. Pamas develops an example involving four parties each interested in acquiring certain goods for other goods. If prices were set, none of the trades would go through, but with barter, he shows that all of them would be possible.” [Donath-1, p.2]
This innovation does away with the idea of a public market price. Interestingly, this entails doing away with the classic economic idea of the “law of supply and demand” that is said to lead to the market price. Instead, demand is also always relative to ones own income, and this is covered by this new idea of “private prices”. See: “Current economic models are based on money both as the medium of exchange and as the measurement of value. Walrasian general equilibrium model is the main paradigm through which the various market phenomena are explained, the so called Law of Supply and Demand. This paradigm is facing increasing difficulties and solutions are being searched” [source, p. 9]