Cat Johnson interviewed CEO Ryan Merkley about Creative Commons’ “remix” for Sharable.net. Creative Commons licenses are in widespread use now, so “scale” is no longer a major goal for CC. Merkley says they now seek to create a “vibrant, useful commons powered by collaboration and gratitude”.
He sees that “Gratitude plays a central role in the creation of this vibrant commons”. “[Y[ou just won’t keep it up if there isn’t a little bit of joy there, and a little bit of reward.”
To that end, he is interested in tools “for people to easily contribute, and to see where their contributions are being used and appreciated.” One important idea is to try to create mechanisms so someone who uses an object form the commons can say “the thing you shared was amazing”. They are thinking about a “metasearch” facility that will help find creative commons materials across many sources.
But how can we do the recognition and gratitude part of the game? How can we make it easy and automatic “accumulate” CC-Karma? How can we make it joyful? This is actually a pretty deep and difficult design problem, especially for a decentralized commons.
This inspired me to chink a bit about how to do this. Here are two ideas to think about.
First, we might think about decentralized “karma” trackers, multiple agents that do little but look for acts of sharing, and who uses commons materials. Different agents will have access to and knowledge of different resources, and might well have different ways of rating the value of sharing and the meaning of usage. Some might be simple link analysis, others might incorporate human ratings (e.g., to rate “importance” of a scientific paper). If there is a standard rating system (e.g., CC-Karma Points), then there can be many different agents out there, doing their own things.
For example, one person might consider a shared photo album as “one shared album”, while another person might count each image as a separate “act of sharing”, and a mindless cyborg might count how many pixels were shared. Similarly, a rater might consider linking to an image to be a minimal use, while modifying it or using it in a video game is a “heavier” use, and writing a poem or thesis about it an even heavier use.
The idea would be that there might be a pool of rating agents from which you can find out who shared and how things are used. These agents might have reputations, but also would represent different points of view. Tenure committees would be interested in ratings of academic impact, and advertising agencies would be interested in “influencers”.
In this world, I might want to boast about my high “CC-Karma” according to several ratings agents that represent values I admire, or whose opinion I value. I might check the ratings of a job applicant according to some relevant ratings agents. And I might search for collaborators who have high ratings from agents that track the kind of collaborations I am looking for today.
Furthermore, we could form “joy squads” that monitor rating agents, recognize outstanding people and acts, and joyfully recognize them. (Is this “anti-trolling”?) Ideally, this would include in-person, tangible rewards when possible.
My second idea is to wonder if there is a way to hack cryptocurrency technology to support this kind of “gratitude” economy.
First of all, the general notion of the CC license fits really well with blockchain technology, particularly for tracking Provenance. (e.g., see provenance.org, Chronicled, Ascribeg). These systems obviously should support CC licenses, and that should e pretty straightforward. Cryptographically signed records on a public blockchain are a way to enable distributed organization such as the open ratings agents mentioned above.
Second, the “currency” aspect of cryptocurrency is one way to accumulate and transfer “credit”, potentially in tiny increments (e.g., a tiny credit each time an image is shared). The tricky part is to design a model for “karma points”, and map it onto a digital currency system.
I’ve been thinking about this general problem for quite a while now, and it is actually pretty difficult. For one thing, it seems to me that the joy in sharing is all about giving, not about accumulating gratitude. So simple-minded ideas like “credit your account when someone uses the thing you shared” is probably psychologically wrong. In general, you “win” by have the biggest net “loss”—contributing more than you take out of the commons.
So, I’d want to have something like “the sharing game”, where I “gain points” (digital tokens) for acts of sharing, and award points to others when I use the stuff they shared in different ways. Most of us will probably have large negative balances, from using things other people have created. This is normal, and kind of the whole idea, and maybe tweaks us to contribute something to the commons, to partly pay back everyone.
I don’t know exactly how to structure such a “game”. But if we had such an accounting system, then it should be possible to create a cryptocurrency that maps to and reflects the rules. Note that instead of mindless and deliberately wasteful “mining”, we might tie the generation of “coins” to acts of sharing. (BitSeeds does something akin to this, linking reforestation to generating BitSeed cryptocoins.) Cryptocurrency technology also supports so-called “smart contracts” (actually, executable transactions) that might recognize various group contingencies–e. g., sharing that is credited to a group, or credit for reuse by some critical mass of people.
An advantage of cryptocurrency is that it can be made transparent, global, and tamper proof. Everyone could look up your “balance”, and everyone could “play the game” on an even foot.
This sounds pretty cool, though I don’t know how to do it. Anyone interested in working on this with me?