The original idea was simply that if everyone could see everyone's lending activity it would yield improved loan default rates across the board thus leading to lower lending rates.
The thinking was somewhat more optimistic than an unattended prison and reflected a personal belief that, as the saying goes, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Meaning, it's harder to publicly default on people that you know than it is to default on a multi-national corporation.
The other touchstone was "It's a wonderful life" -- specifically the scenes in the movie around banking. In fact we originally wanted to name the company "Bedford Falls".
The norm typically has been that you work most of the time and do HN/Facebook/Newspaper/Games a little bit here and there as well.