Monday, September 15, 2008

Overdoing the risk management

I own a notebook. In fact, I own several notebooks. One in particular has an interesting feature (where I use "feature" in the "different from the competition, though we don't know whether anyone actually needs it" sense); inside the front cover is space to write your address, and a dollar value reward available to the person who returns the notebook.

Now the notebook itself is probably worth about $20, but on the face of it a used notebook is worth less than a pristine notebook, with a full notebook having no value. Presumably the value of the reward should be related to the value of the notes contained within it, and therefore can't be ascertained until I've filled the notebook up. But then if I were to lose it before filling in the pages, I would not have entered an interim value; and if I had then whenever I made new notes I would need to update the worth of the book.

And who should be footing the bill, anyway? Are my musings of any financial benefit to me, or if my employers get more worth from them should they be contributing to the reward fund? Could I possibly make the same notes again were I to lose this book? Could I pay someone with a lower salary than mine to have thoughts with a similar monetary value? Would someone else who came across my notebook be able to extract the same worth from the contents than me? If so, should I write in an encrypted fashion? How much more would that cost me? Should the reward factor in the costs of decrypting the contents, possibly reverse-engineering the method if I've forgotten it?

Do ideas depreciate? Clearly patentable ideas do, will my ideas be patentable? Will I be able to benefit from the patents? If someone finds the notebook and returns it, are the ideas still patentable? What about non-patentable thoughts, do they all depreciate at a constant rate? Should the reward value be a function of time?

Clearly the only people who can answer all of these questions upfront, and therefore the people who can use this reward feature with confidence, are the people whose ideas can be modelled with a waterfall development process. Take Terry Pratchett; he might know that the content of one notebook equates to roughly 50% of a novel, and that each novel is worth £200k, and therefore the value to him of the notebook is less than £100k. A thought process which eventually results in a cash value for a notebook. For those of us whose ideas are somewhat more iterative (read: chaotic), this seems like a complete misfeature.


The boy Ken said...

In response to your 'do ideas depreciate?' question I can safely say that mine certainly do. I can have a brilliant idea in the car on the way home, worth squillions, and then tell my beloved the idea, and her reassess the value of said idea, notifying me that it wasn't even worth the time it took to say it.

In other news I believe the only people who can determine the value of the notebook is the person who finds it. They'll be able to tell you if they can blackmail you / reuse the ideas etc. If they can't, no reward is needed, they'll think it's pointless and throw it away. If they can, you won't be able to afford the reward (or do I mean ransom) anyway ;)

Jon H said...

I find I value a crisp, empty notebook most. After it's about a third full, I no longer want to use it.

Make of that what you will.