SourceCred

"Cred Historians" and Curators

The key challenge for SourceCred is keeping the cred graph accurate and up-to-date. So far, we’ve depended on a mixture of automatic processes (edges between posts and replies) and well-intentioned user behavior (adding references / citations to relevant work). These approaches have gotten us started, but they won’t scale.

For example, consider the SourceCred poster art. Since the poster uses the logo design, it should have an edge to the logo explorations. It doesn’t, because @LB didn’t do the cred-historical work to add the references. And that’s OK! We shouldn’t be expecting every contributor to also be a cred-archaeologist. That would become a big impediment to contributing to SourceCred.

Instead, we should have a specialized group of people–Curators–whose primary role is to upkeep the cred graph, and are rewarded for doing so. Modifying the cred graph is a sensitive matter, requiring trust, and many modifications will require review. So we’ll rate limit curation with mana, which represents trust earned by contributing to or sponsoring the project.

Riffing off some thoughts by @atitcomb, I imagine curators having “spells”, each of which modifies the graph in a specific way. Here are some examples (please don’t treat them as canoncial).

Curator Spells

Boost

Boosting is the simplest spell a curator can cast, and requires the least trust/mana. A boost basically injects cred into a node. A curator does this when they think the node is under-valued, and will become more valuable in the future.

In exchange for spending their mana to boost, the curator gets a new edge in the graph, connecting the boosted node to the curator. The weight on this edge is inversely proportional to the existing cred of the node (so you get more for boosting low-cred nodes).

Thus, a curator is incentivized to boost a node that they believe will get more cred in the future. (Note that the future cred will likely come from sources other than boosting, so it’s not a “greater fool” type game.)

Create Edge

The second curator spell creates a new edge in the graph. This is how a curator could, for example, properly connect the poster art to the logo work. The curator then has an interest in the edge, and recieves a fraction of the cred that flows across this edge. (From an implementation perspective, we’ll probably implement the curator edge as a node, which has edges to the curator and to the target content.)

Adding edges is sensitive and more subject to abuse than Boosting. It could be used to parasitically leach value out of important contributions. Therefore, (at least initially) every added edge will be reviewed by a trusted leader of the project. We’ll develop more sophisticated governance, review, and appeals as we go.

Note: an effective curator strategy when discovering a node getting insufficient recognition will be to first boost the node (thus getting an interest in its future cred) and then create edges to the node. Provided that the newly created edges are legit, this is a fine strategy.

Create Node

Often times there will be contributions that aren’t properly represented by any existing node. Possibly there will be a curator spell to create a new node for a contribution. Although it’s not clear if this is necessarily a curator ability, or if this is a permission we’ll grant to any contributor. (Creating a new node without incoming edges doesn’t require much trust, since it won’t flow any cred; it’s adding the edges to that node that is more tricky.)

Refactor

On occasion we’ll find a need to refactor the cred graph. For example, we could imagine that we have a single node representing the Discourse plugin, and it now has become hopelessly complicated with dozens of commits focusing on different parts of the plugin. An ambitious curator could refactor the graph, replacing the single Discourse plugin node with sub-nodes representing different features or pieces of it.

This should be an expensive spell, because it’s sensitive and will require thoughtful review by others in the project.

Is Boosting A Pyramid Scheme?

Taken at its face, the curation game may sound like some kind of pyramid scheme. Every curator who invests in a node (boosts it) is hoping that there will be future cred coming to that node. But if cred comes from boosting, who will be the last booster?

The answer in the medium term is that the rewards will come from growth. If people do new, exciting work on the project, people will want to boost it, creating new cred. And the new work will depend on the old work, meaning payouts for the boosters–even the last booster–of the old work. (This depends on proper edges connecting the new work to the old work, but curators will be well-positioned to ensure those edges exist.)

In the long run, many projects may arrive at a steady state (‘maintenance mode’) where not much new work is happening, and not much new cred is being created. At that point, if the project is providing real value to the world (e.g. widely depended upon), then we’ll use mechanisms like Grain to flow tokens or other value directly on the cred graph. Thus, the true “last boosters” (as the project reaches maintenance mode) will get paid by the real users of the project.

Conclusion

@s_ben often talks about “future cred historians” picking through the early discourse posts to fix up the cred distribution and catch the things that were missed by early iterations of the algorithm. My hope is that this system will both enable and incentivize such historians, and thus bring that future much closer to the present.

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This is an exiting possibility. Partially because it taps into a natural desire for a subset of humans to curate. This will be enjoyable work for people genuinely committed to accurate attribution. The main problem I see is in gaming. People boosting something because they either, a) personally financially benefit from boosting, b) are being paid to boost (vote buying), or c) are facing some nebulous (or not) social pressure from groups that have a financial interest to boost (this is probably the hardest, and will never be eradicated completely).

This is an instance of a general problem around boosting, or voting (interacting) in general. And I’d be curious to hear ideas on how to fix this. I keep coming back to some human dispute resolution mechanism, like an Aragon Court. Only other humans are likely able to make subtle distinctions necessary to call out abuse. Perhaps another active role in the system such as a “cred defender”, who roams the system actively searching out patterns of corruption and calling them to judgement and possible punishment (slashing of cred). Certainly there is a natural desire in a subset of humans to be journalists, judge, jury, etc. But more fun, because people are directly impacted. Like people that follow Serial and chase real-life criminals and fight to free the innocent, but less entertaining and more entertaining at the same time, because while the stakes are lower, they impact your day-to-day life more than a far off event.

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I really like this “cred defender” idea. I think adversarial systems have proven really valuable in designing effective governance structures; I’m thinking on the one hand of criminal justice systems, on the other in “checks and balances” between different parts of government. I think the term “cred defender” might get a bit confusing because this role is actually more like a prosecutor, so let’s call them “cred challenger” for now.

We will need to figure out how the system determines what outcome to take when the challenger challenges some cred. Obviously we can’t automatically rule in favor of the challenge.

@kronosapiens and I were discussing this earlier today, and he suggested we could have a staking/voting system, where when a challenger challenges some cred, they need to stake mana on the change. Then defenders can stake mana on saving the cred in question. If there is a preponderance of mana staked on either side, then the challenge resolves in favor of that side; if it’s close, then it goes to some other intervention (a vote? a ruling from some kind of cred judge?).

The winning side gets the losing side’s stake (maybe with some subtler rules pertaining to how close it was, or…?) so there’s an economic incentive to play.

We could definitely draw some inspiration from the Augur whitepaper here.

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I feel this role is going to emerge somehow. For instance, no community of any size doesn’t have moderators. Who basically go around enforcing rules around communication. This discourse, if it gets big enough, will probably have moderators. Who will influence cred distribution once the discourse plugin is integrated. Good moderators at some reddit communities, for instance, are also really inspiring.

When cred/money is involved, there will be disputes. There will need to be some way to resolve these disputes, and also check “cred challenger” power. The two main approaches I’ve seen are elections and courts. With many approaches involving some staking mechanism, directly or indirectly. Aragon’s founder was just on Unchained describing the staking system Aragon court uses. Pretty interesting. The mechanism of appealing to larger and larger numbers of jurors seems sound.

I also like the idea of griefing. The most interesting example of which I heard described on another Unchained podcast (shilling it today!) about Numerais. Basically you can ‘slash’/‘burn’ someone else’s cred if you think you’ve been wronged, but you have to burn some of your own cred to do so. The ratio of how much you burn relative to how much burn of your own is determined by a ‘griefing factor’, which could be a measure of your power/cred in the system.

https://unchainedpodcast.com/numerais-richard-craib-on-how-to-crowdsource-good-predictions-ep-89/

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This reminds me of the memex and creating “trails” through the internets. Such excite! Much wow :slight_smile:

It would be really cool if in addition to flowing cred through these graphs, people could actually traverse them as well to see all content related to something

I like this. Almost every decentralized network has “validators” who earn rewards for discovering and surfacing invalid data. This is essential to incentivize curation and reduce spam/attacks

Sounds like you’re kind of describing a hybrid between the Aragon Court and the Daonuts Challenger app

I’m not the biggest fan of the griefing factor because there’s downsides for all parties involved. It does create a credible threat, but frankly it would probably be cheaper to damage someone’s reputation outside of the system than actually burn your tokens to grief them, so I don’t know if it’s the strongest or best way to go about this