One of the parents of the notion was this TED talk. Specifically the bit at about 9:50 that talks about Community Currencies. If Communities can create their own currencies, should that not also hold true of digital global communities?
The other parent was a bit of an embarrassment to me. A development was ignorantly reported and spread, and I assisted in it's spread: http://goo.gl/J6Mxvm - this got me thinking about how sources need some sort of metric. That those notable sites did some bad reporting highlighted to me a need for us to communicate the value of a piece of information to each other.
I spend a fair amount of time on Google+ because I value the information and perspective exchange that I find there, as well as the value of the relationships I am able to build by spending my time and attention there. However, this value isn't really captured and doesn't translate into meatspace value. The plusses, reshares, and comments are indication of value that I add to the network, but none of those things have yet translated into a form that can put food on my table.
The foundation of the notion is that attention is of value. This can be translated, as if I'm able to garner enough attention advertisers will pay me to put their product in front of your eyeballs.
If attention is of value, then the social signals of plussing and resharing can be used to measure that value - and theoretically a crypto-currency could be created to help translate that value into a meatspace equivalent of the value it represents.
As in the video above, one key factor in a currency is that there be a limited supply. This is not currently the case on social networks. I can plus as many posts as I see. What if that was limited instead? What if the ability to plus was limited by time. What if every day you were granted some limited number of plusses? For the purpose of example, let's say you were granted 5 plusses to dole out every hour. That would introduce discernment into whether or not you plussed something. Was this actually of enough value to you to give it a plus?
I don't think these plusses should translate directly into value. They are indicators of value, but a direct translation into currency might result in me taking my daily allotment straight to the store. Then they would have been free. I wouldn't have done anything to earn the value I was spending. However, if only the plusses received were of value (not the ones granted), then I would be providing the service of indicating to the environment what was of value - and those responsible for creating the value I recognized would be rewarded with bits of crypto-currency they could use for actual exchange. Essentially all participants would have the 'job' of identifying value.
The second parent prompts me to throw in a clause - something along the lines of 'daily value confirmation'. At this point, I see this simply as a re-evaluation of what you indicated was a value the previous day as a requirement to 'unlock' your next day's worth of currency. In the case of the article that was determined to be of less value in the link above - I would be able to remove my previous valuation of it when I realized it's lack of worth.
There is also the issue of the value of reshares and comments. Should the plus of a comment be equivalent to the value of original content? I think not. Perhaps the plus of a comment should be worth some fraction rather than a whole.
With regard to reshares, I'm providing a service to the content creator of spreading the value that I had found. Perhaps plussing a reshare would grant the content creator 75% of the plus, and 25% to the person who put that value in front of your eyes.
All in all
I don't know whether this notion has any actual merit or not - but at least it's out of my head. I hope you find some value in it.