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Facebook: Pay to make your friends feel better

Amid furor surrounding the new redesign, Facebook tests a feature with which you can give friends kudos--monetary credits--for the quality of their updates. But you have to buy them.

I know there are some bloggers who would like to charge people for leaving comments on their posts.

Not I. Here at Technically Incorrect, you are totally free to besmirch or befuddle without charge.

However, Facebook is now testing a rather interesting way for members to show appreciation for the quality of their friends' updates--giving them credits. And, as I read the smaller print of the scheme, it seems to be something of a dripping revenue stream.

Essentially, the idea is that when you decide that an item on your feed deserves a comment--"How lovely! That's YOUR dimpled bottom skinny-dipping?"--you can leave a certain number of credits to register just how lovely you thought this particular item was.

As far as I can make out, in order to give your love, you have to give your money.

It costs $1 to buy 100 credits. In a world in which we are all striving to show some love to each of our 5,000 friends (you don't have 5,000? what kind of inadequate are you?), it seems quite enchanting that Facebook would like to make a little money out of our need to please.

CC Chicago Eye/Flickr

According to VentureBeat, whose company network is one of the guinea pigs (along with 15 college networks on Facebook) for this fascinating tryst between Eros and Mammon, Facebook is emphasizing that this is not a competition. This is pure love-giving of the most basic and heartfelt kind.

The number of credits available only apparently appears at the moment when you decide to give some. It's never on your profile page. And you won't ever see how many credits other people gave to a particular item ("What do you mean 'zero credits for my wedding pictures?' That photographer cost us 4 grand!!!").

Now the cynic inside me--who's only been there for a couple of weeks and claims that he's merely a disappointed optimist--suggests that advertising has to be lurking behind this scheme.

Facebook is trying to collect information of such purity that advertisers can take it as emotionally factual. The lack of public scrutiny of the credit numbers means that no one can be influenced by anyone else's opinions.

It also means that Facebook can gauge the items that seem to move people the most and then begin to create selling constructs behind those items.

Facebook says that at some point, it may reveal the list of updates that people are crediting, without, presumably, revealing exactly how many credits these items mustered.

So having adopted some of the emotional characteristics of Twitter with its redesign, Facebook is now asking you to, well, digg.

Digg into your pocket, that is.