The exchange is a program or protocol that allows people to post requests for favors, and rewards people for doing favors with a reputation score, called Karma. It's superstruct page is at The Exchange.
How it worksEdit
To use the Exchange you create a user profile, which in addition to the normal things in a profile you add what skills and resources you are willing to help people with. Then you can request favors, small things you need help with. Requests are posted to your user profile and to a searchable community board.
Someone who can do that favor for you notices the post and contacts you via a private message. Once the two of you work out the details, they do the favor for you and then you mark it as done by them. This gives them a Karma point, which is added to their reputation score.
If someone cannot do a favor themselves, but they know someone who can, they forward the favor request to that person. This is known as facilitating. If the person you forward the request to then does the favor, you also receive a Karma point.
These points don't come out of the pool of the requester, but are created when the request is done.
Your Karma score serves to track how generous you've been. Karma points expire after a certain time, so to keep your Karma score up, you have to keep doing good deeds.
You can also add Karma from your karma score to any request you make, as an added incentive for large favors. These Karma points are transferred to the person who does your favor.
This system could be implimented in a number of ways. Perhaps the easiest would be as an application within an existing social networking site, like facebook. Preferably, an application that could run on a mobile device like a phone or blackberry would allow people to use the exchange when away from their computer. The ultimate addition would be the ability to know when you were within range of other exchange users.
The first thing to figure how to mix anonymity with the exchange. Some requests will probably be of questionable legality, and we'd want to make sure to protect the exchange as a whole, as well as not ratting out users.
In addition, we need to figure out ways to prevent fraud. A rule limiting how much Karma you can get from one source in one day is a good start, as well as analytical software that detects abnormal changes in Karma and brings them to the attention of moderators.
opportunities to helpEdit
The rules on how the exchange functions aren't set in stone, It needs input on how it functions to encourage gift economies, and how it can prevent fraud and security issues. If anyone has the skills to create a facebook adaptation of the exchange, it could be tested.