What is the goal of the Internet?

Let's assume for a moment that the Internet is a very large, elaborate, multi-player game. What are its winning conditions?

0. Make money fast. That proves to be difficult, but it's been pitched so many times that it should go up front first. If you can't make money quickly, then at least make the promise that you are growing something that will eventually make money even if it's not making money now.

1. Increase the n. Find something of desire, and add to it. Games built into social network services (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) behave this way, all in somewhat different details but all measured by simple increases in how many things you collect. Lots of systems have naive but effective ways of prompting you to continue simply by helping you count how much you have played so far.

2. Reduce the hop count. This is a network game players point of view, most easily visible to those with experience playing in the UUCP and Internet routing networks, but also to a certain degree on high-degree social networks. Find something far away of desire, and work systematically to bring it closer. For an added bonus, make the online equivalent of a back stage pass that quickly gets you access to a sense of intimacy that you would otherwise have to earn.

3. Decrease the n. Like Sisyphus, we work to reduce the size of our inbox daily. The seasonal holiday of Discardia is a good time to do a purge of whatever we no longer treasure, to make room for the things that are awesome. Good writing includes good editing, which means omitting needless words. At a social extreme are the deletionist Wikipedians, who believe that a better encyclopedia doesn't include marginal and unimportant articles.

4. Reduce mean time to response. A well developed network gets a prompt, smart, generous response to queries. That's hard to keep up 24×7, but when you are on you can be exceptional in your ability to gain trust. "The courtesy of a prompt response is appreciated."

5. Increase bandwidth. It's always better to have more bits streaming in, even if you aren't using them all at once. The same goes for screen size and screen resolution – you can never have enough.

6. Reduce latency and lag. From first-person shooters to international video chat, lag and latency are your enemy. Work as hard as possible to trim milliseconds from your enviroment so that you can enjoy it in real time.

7. Increase the size of the lunch table. If you are having lunch with friends, you want the size of the table to fill the venue without overflowing. The restaurant will love you if you keep it full, and you'll have that many more people to appreciate and think of.

8. Collect badges and prizes. Amassing credentials is a part of any good game, whether it be Foursquare mayorships at the local cafe or college degrees or professional certificates. Play the game until you prove that you have won it.

9. Be the first to experience something. Whether it's making the first comment on a post, writing the first review of a new product, or going to a restaurant on opening night, the person who has the quick draw on the hot new item wins. There's a benefit for novelty and being part of the in crowd that knows what's new.

10. Outlast your rivals. Slow, plodding diligence is enough to win some races, where you simply wait for your counterparts to give up on the game that you're playing. Your ability to keep at a task year upon year means that eventually your gray hair will be a mark of your genius, just because there's no one else around to challenge your version of the story.

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