Cred as currency

We’ve had a few chats here about whether it makes sense to think of cred as a ‘currency’. I’ve generally said that cred isn’t a currency, because currencies are fungible and exchangeable, and cred is not, because cred is intrinsically tied to a specific identity and specific contributions. That’s why I’ve thought we should eventually create Grain as the currency that is derived from cred.

However, I just found an interesting post (Avoid Blunders in Designing Reputation Systems) which distinguishes between ‘monetary currencies’ and ‘reputational currencies’. The author’s framing:

I’m working hard to reclaim the word currency to mean something much more than money. It can be a useful mnemonic to think “Current-See” — indicators of currents. We use currencies to build shared, living maps of flows in social spaces.

Currency: A formal symbol system for shaping, enabling, and measuring flows.

Overall, the article has some interesting ideas and observations about such systems, so I figured I’d link it here for discussion.

Well, if SC publishes cred scores, it defacto creates a “reputational currency”, in the loosely defined sense in the article. Similar to an Ebay score, grades, etc. The question is, should it be turned into an actual token. And if so, what type?

The article is good, and I generally agree with the author’s recommendations. It “feels” right that reputation should not be tradable (i.e. fungible). I also like the idea of a mechanism to acknowledge the difference between trading reputation (bad) and lending reputation (good).

If I vouch for someone, it should NOT be like spending reputation like lowering my balance, however, there could be a consequence, whether positive or negative, to my reputation. If they perform well, then my reputation should actually INCREASE for choosing to vouch well. If they perform poorly, my reputation should diminish.

I think SC already does this in a way, no? But one can also imagine an additional mechanism that explicitly gives cred (or grain) to a contributor who helps someone who then becomes a regular contributor. Or likewise, loses cred if the person disappears or does some other bad behavior. Sort of like, you purchase “shares” in another person when you interact with them, which then go up or down based on how much cred they gain (or lose). This could be similar to your ‘resistance’ idea on another thread?

I’m a little uneasy with the clean distinction the author makes between trading and lending though. The lines can blur…Lending reputation already, in day-to-day life, often involves a “prid pro quo”. Unspoken markers. Basically, trading. And that’s with easily verifiable, IRL identities.

There is also, as the author mentions, the problem of consistent identity. How strong is your identity checking? Allow pseudonymous avatars (like me)? Full KYC to make sure it’s a real person? Github allows pseudonymity. So right now, so does SC. There’s nothing stopping someone from selling their GitHub login (and therefore rights to their cred).

I think pseudonymous identities are inevitable (and have desirable properties too; I would not be writing this if I had to use my real name). Therefore, the identities will be fluid. There could be multiple people using one identity, or organizations even (imagine a dev shop in Bangladesh that carefully manages their cred score to win jobs). Identities can be transferred/sold, and SC wouldn’t have any way of knowing.

I think this is OK. One way to tokenize (if desirable), is a non-fungible token (ERC-721). Here’s a nice review of that landscape,

This would allow them to be traded explicitely (same as crypto kitties), which could have benefits. For instance, giving a way for this to be decentralized via smart contracts. People may not trust cred if it’s managed by fallible humans running a centralized server. Selling tokens could also open up positive possibilities. E.g. it gives a hard working OSS contributor a chance to build cred over the years and “sell out” to a responsible buyer, who will continue to work. Similar to how NYC taxi drivers used to retire by selling their medallion (a reputation token essentially). Tokens could also allow cred to interact with other projects on the Ethereum blockchain in interesting ways.

As for the ERC-20 route, an interesting experiment is happening with that currently on r/ethtrader, where they’ve turned their Reddit karma into ERC-20 tokens. Which apparently Reddit is officially supporting now with a dapp!

Interestingly, they turned off the ‘bridge’ that allowed people to trade their karma on DEX’s, not wanting people to be able to buy reputation. Though a vocal minority of the community wanted to try that experiment and saw it as a worthwhile experiment.

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I very much appreciate the thoughts of Arthur Brock. I was introduced to his work through a Stanford professor and met him last October. As soon as I saw the title of this thread I was going to suggest digging in further on his position on currency.

Ultimately though; this becomes a question of semenatics. In my opinion, Cred is a well defined socially constructed social signal. Whether or not one considers it currency is less about what one thinks of Cred and more about how one thinks about currency.

Also @JoshAFairhead ~ I think this is a good thread for you.


Thanks for flagging my attention @mzargham, I very much appreciate Arts thoughts, as well as your own regarding Cred being a question of semantics around how others perceive currency.

Surrounding the spending of reputation however, Art makes a good point about people vouching for each other. This is somewhat akin to Stake but from a capabilities paradigm we would probably consider this as amplification or attenuation.

In the active quadrant: vouching for someone successfully could amplify your credibility while doing so unsuccessfully would attenuate credibility.

In the passive quadrant: If no one is vouching for entities with “low” scores vouching will likely end up in a plutocratic circle jerk - it’s easy to bet on established players but that leads to top down asymmetric risk of which I’m sure your aware. Should the system penalise actors for not vouching on the small fry’s? or maybe for having a positive asymmetric weighting?

Maybe you can only loose Cred by vouching for people of higher reputation than oneself, while you could earn it by vouching successfully for people with scores lower than oneself?

Food for thought!

It’s not obvious to me that the “rights” to cred follow the GitHub login.

Suppose that you and I establish a correspondence over gmail, and become great friends. Then, one day you decide to sell the login to your gmail account. Did you thereby sell the “rights” to our friendship? :slight_smile:

A more serious example: suppose that a SourceCred contributor gets hacked and loses their GitHub account. They can’t regain access to it, but they reach out to the community, demonstrate that the GitHub account is no longer controlled by them, and ask the community to modify the cred graph so that all their old identities cred routes to their new GitHub handle. I would support such a request.

That said, this is all contextual. As with many things in a decentralized and open-source system, it’s ultimately up to the users of the system, in this case communities running cred. I can easily imagine communities that are fine with cred getting exchanged, and would explicitly support it via tokenization, as you suggested.

I quite like having cred and grain so that there’s a fungible “cred derivative”–I think that can serve a lot of the needs that having exchangeable cred would. Also, the non-fungibility of cred will make for an illiquid marketplace, having some system that creates a fungible token would create liquidity.

Depends on if we ever meet in person :slight_smile: If our correspondence is only via email, I could sell my access to you and your trust in me to someone that passes the noman turing test. Dytopian, but so are humans when they only interact online:( In the system I want, friendship is not fungible, humans are not numbers, and interactions are less liquid/transactional.

suppose that a SourceCred contributor gets hacked and loses their GitHub account. They can’t regain access to it, but they reach out to the community, demonstrate that the GitHub account is no longer controlled by them, and ask the community to modify the cred graph so that all their old identities cred routes to their new GitHub handle. I would support such a request.

As would I. At the same time, dispute resolution and censorship are hard, open problems which introduce centralization and possible corruption. A “trustless” system of smart contracts could be very powerful, in much the same way real blockchains are. Not your keys, not your reputation. It’s possible SC doesn’t need to solve this problem. For instance, if a reputation was stolen, and a community wanted to punish the thief, there could be other ways to transfer cred to the right person. Perhaps through a governance mechanism that adjusts the algorithm, or good ol’ banishment by repo maintainers, which would cut them off from new cred, and dilute the stolen identity.