Hopefully a pubwan participant or two can be persuaded to implement an informational experiment, which might go farther than a thought experiment.

A recent fad has been compilation of 'ratings.' These include guesstimates by committee of level of democracy in countries, level of esteem granted professions, best and worst cities for uncool single people between 37 and 73, and 100 best companies to work for.

The present proposed informational experiment would involve rankings among those businesses that happen to transact sales online. Such businesses (as transact business in English, anyway) have secure virtual pages, typically containing at least one instance of either "add to cart" or "add to basket." Some undoubtedly contain both, others neither. Nevertheless, it would seem a safe enough guess that the majority contain exactly one of the two.

From here on in, I'll use etailer as a generic term for such businesses.

The web site for the proposed information experiment would include the following features:

  1. It would state a set of norms (a norm set) consistent with the philosophy of the site. (In other words, such a web site need not adhere to a neutrality principle.)
  2. It would solicit ratings (00-99?) of individual etailers from individual visitors, concerning their perceived level of service to principles expressed by the hosts of the site. Given the information asymmetry in which today's consumers grope, these in most cases are expressions of perception, but perception is precisely the subject matter of the proposed site, specifically perception of (which is to say, speculation about) individual internal business cultures.
  3. It would solicit votes from visitors on the question on the question of whether the norms of the web site are better served (in general) by etailers of the "add to cart" school or those of the "add to basket" school. It would seem unlikely that the apparent bifurcation of the virtual marketplace has anything to do with business culture, but a web site built around the assumption of such a social fiction might entertain some. It would give the surfing public something to form fac tions over, and some people are attracted to such things.
  4. It would report summarizations of visitor input tabulated by typology (cart vs. basket).
  5. If feasible, it might get ambitious and develop ways to serve as a platform for research on best practices as defined in the stated normset. Any results, if trusted, could also be included in summary reports.

One might expect certain parallels between people's contributions to the web site, and their online shopping methodology. Imagine people who tend to share the normative outlook of the web site and also (without loss of generality) tend to think (also wlog) companies of compatible with their own (and presumably the website's) supposed tribe (earth friendly, counterculture friendly, public-sector hostile, etc.... remember, it is the site(s) not the method (singular)) tend to be of the (wlog) "add to cart" totem. Would they not at least experiment with the habitual use the webbit (web search maths 'expression') <example>"add to cart"</example>, as in <example></example>, or perhaps even the "stronger:" <example>+"add to cart" -"add to basket"</example>.

Losslessness of generality is claimed because implementation of the method, by someone whose normative preferences might conflict with those of the site, would (it seems) be equally feasible and simple. Simply choose the opposite camp (in the above example an etailer of the "add to basket" totem).

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