[DRAFT] SourceCred and the Quest to Outcompete Capitalism

Hey all,

This is a (very rough, outline-from) draft of an essay I’m calling “SourceCred and the Quest to Outcompete Capitalism”. It’s basically a very high-level view that tries to give an overall narrative of why SourceCred is important and we’re working on it in terms of the long-term social goals it can accomplish, and contextualizing why we should start with cred for open-source software. I’d like it to be engaging to crypto/OS familiar folks, but accessible to people who don’t have that context.

Any/all feedback is welcome.

SourceCred and the Quest to Outcompete Capitalism

  • A lot of people are very upset with capitalism right now.

    • Unchecked drive for expansion and consumption leading to the raping of the natural world
    • Views humans only as tools for producing more, or as vehicles for consumption,
    • Massive concentration of power among the wealthiest individuals and mega-corporations
    • Misses out on values humans care a lot about. Observe that amazing teachers are paid far less than mediocre investment bankers.
  • Capitalism also has some really impressive features

    • Capable of amazing feats of engineering (e.g. the iPhone)
    • Coordinated activity at huge human scale (e.g. the supply chain for the iPhone)
      • Estimate: how many human-years of R&D went into iPhone?
    • Coordintaed activity over very long timespans
  • One particular impressive accomplishment: production of enough food for 7bn people

    • Green revolution, massively increasing food yields
    • At this point, we can’t live with out it
    • If capitalism stopped working today, billions would starve
  • Also, capitalism should be evaluated in context

    • Preceding system (in the European context where capitalism evolved): feudal aristocracy
      • Not really a lovely system to live under
        • You would probably be a peasant, tied to some particular feudal lord
        • Less freedom and agency (and material prosperity) than modern workers
    • Alternatives tried: Communism wasn’t great, seems to go hand-in-hand with overbearing statism
  • Pithy summary: capitalism is the worst system for coordinating the activity of billions of people, except for all the other ones we tried.

  • This suggests a question: what systems for coordinating people have we not tried?

    • How can we build a system that can still effectively coordinate people, but doesn’t lock us into endless consumerism, or into a mindless pursuit of growth at the expense of all other values?
    • A system that doesn’t split humanity into disparate and very unequal groups?
      • labor: do all the work, get paid based on your replacability
      • capital: don’t do the work, but collect all the excess reward
    • What is the system that will outcompete capitalism?
  • To answer this, I think we should look at both:

    • What does capitalism get right?

      • Why is it able to effectively coordinate at scales where other systems break down?
    • What does capitalism get wrong?

      • What are its “design features” or fundamental assumptions that drive bad dynamics of the system?

What capitalism gets right

  • Capitalism is good at creating incentives
    • Consider why the customer service at businesses is usually much better than the customer service at government agencies
    • Capitalism creates a strong motivation to perpetually improve/optimize systems and processes,
    • along with a clear feedback signal (increased/decreaesd profitability) that guides the optimization
  • Capitalism has internal accountability
    • I can fool myself about whether my work/business has any value, and I can maybe fool you for a while too, but its very hard to keep the market fooled
  • Capitalism is good at making investments
    • Large group of actors (investors) who are actively seeking out opportunities to deploy their resources
    • This creates strong positive feedback cycles within the system (investors who are good at deploying resources grow the system, which gives them more resources to deploy, so as to grow the system further)

What capitalism gets wrong

  • Everything is transactional
    • The core “atom” of market capitalism is the transaction: one exchanges money for something (goods, or a promise) from the other
    • This has worked really well for things that fit very well into the transactional mould. For example, if I want to exchange money for toys or food or ground transportation, I’m afforded really great options
    • However, many things are not transactional.
      • Sometimes things aren’t transactable because the value is really hard to measure
        • Education
        • Emotional labor
      • Sometimes because the value in question is a public good
        • Ecological diversity and robustness
        • Having a generally healthy society
        • Scientific ideas
    • Capitalism fails in these non-transactional domains
    • To accomodate these failures, it tries to warp non-transactional domains into a transactional form
      • Healthcare
        • Can’t transact for health
        • Instead, transact in surgeries/medicine
        • Outputs lots of expensive procedures, less of actual healthiness
      • Information
        • Hard to transact for information – don’t know what it will be worth, easy to reproduce/copy for free
        • Instead, transact in the right to show advertisements to people seeking information
        • “Attention economy” warps the entire discourse towards controversial content / clickbait
    • These accomodations/warpings have lots of adverse consequences

What if we could develop a system with the strengths of capitalism, but without the limitations?

  • Such a system would…

    • Be capable of recognizing the value in things that are non-transactional
      • Like a great education that enhances one’s experience of life and the world
      • Like the flourishing of natural ecosystems
      • Like a community
    • But still retain the accountability of capitalism
      • It can’t be a “popularity contest” kind of system where people vote on what things they valued
      • Because people would shift to just gaming the metric measuring value rather than producing the value we care about
  • How could such a system work?

    • Be based on flowing cred rather than exchanging value
    • Exchanges == value needs to be negotiated up-front
    • Cred == retrospective recognition of value that was provided
  • A concrete example

    • I have a high school math teacher named Mrs. Leblanc who taught me calculus
    • She was a really good teacher, made the subject quite engaging, and helped solidify my love of math
    • In the current system, she gets paid based on the lowest price that some other qualified math teacher would be willing to receive (which is pretty low).
      • She’s paid based on her replacability, not on the value she creates
    • In a cred-based system, she would now be earning some cred from all of the math-related work that I do
      • Which, since I’ve worked on TensorFlow, SourceCred, etc, should hopefully be some valuable cred :slight_smile:
    • the goal: a system that rewards people based on the value they create, rather than on what price they were able to negotiate, when framing their services as a transaction (employment)
  • However, there are many open questions in how such a system would really work.

    • How could we decide the right share for Mrs. Leblanc, vs all the other people who taught, influenced, or helped me?
    • Won’t people be incentivized to cut deals and mis-report their cred (e.g. I make a deal with my gym teacher, and give him a big share of my cred, in exchange for a kickback)
    • The system needs to support transactions, e.g. the transaction of buying lunch. How do such transactions fit into a cred-based system?
  • Also, such a system will be high-friction in its immature stages

    • Manually entering data for every interaction to try and flow cred will be a lot of work
    • System might not be valuable until after it has tons of data and usage-- chicken and egg problem
  • Rather than aiming to build the full system, we should aim for a simpler domain where we can make some immediate headway.

  • An ideal domain would:

    • Be very poorly served by the existing capitalist system
    • But still be very active + creating a lot of value
    • Be full of tech-savvy early adopters who are willing to fool around with a new and experimental technology
    • Naturally output tons of public & machine-readable data on the kinds of contributions people are making

All of which brings us to open-source.

Case study: Open-source as a failure site of capitalism

  • open-source software is an example of capitalism failing, in action
  • Open-source embodies a non-transactional approach to software. Anyone can use it or change it freely.
  • Because it is non-transactional, it struggles to get resources or investment in the current paradigm. Investors invest based on the potential for future transactions. There’s nothing for them to buy or own.
  • Despite these huge disadvantages, it’s been an enormous success

Where is open-source used?

  • Open source is everywhere that the web is. For example:
  • Google and Amazon both run Linux in their data centers
    • And a huge fraction of the web runs on Amazon Web Services now adays
  • Basically all websites use open-source software–jQuery, Wordpress, Ruby on Rails, React
  • Not to mention that the major programming languages are themselves open source

Open-source’s victory over closed-source software

  • Back in the day, the tech megacorps identified open-source as a threat, and tried to crush it
    • Steven Ballmer, Microsoft CEO: “Linux is a cancer”
    • Microsoft had a strategy (“Embrace, Extend, Extinguish”) for killing off open-source
  • Instead, open-source won. Resoundingly.
    • It’s reached a point where companies (e.g. Google) will pre-emptively open-source their crown jewel technologies (TensorFlow)
    • They know that the best technology in the space will be open-source, so they’d like it to be their technology rather than someone else’s

Why does open-source thrive?

  • It leverages a great network effect. Since every user is potentially a contributer, more users==better software
  • This is true because it is open. As gmail gets more users, the software doesn’t naturally get better. Because those users have no access to improve it.
  • Also, making it free to use makes it available for new and experimental use cases.
  • Today’s hacking and tinkering is tomorrow mainstream product.
  • Can’t imagine Raspberry Pi running Windows, both b.c. Windows costs way more than an RPi, also because it wouldn’t be possible for outsiders to tweak Windows to run on such a small machine.

Where do open-source resources come from?

  • Open-source projects generally have very little money
  • Classic image: Henry Zhu with a cardboard tip box for Babel
    • (Babel is an important and incredibly widely used part of the JS ecosystem.)
    • (SourceCred uses it.)
  • However, open-source is rich in one resource: free labor from programmers
    • I call it “scratch your own itch funding”
    • Programmers use programming tools, and want to improve on them
    • So they make a new version of a tool and release it open-source
    • More programmers use that tool and also want to improve it
    • So they contribute fixes, and get involved in the community
  • Programmers benefit via implicit cred
    • Having worked on an important project provides credibility, which can help with getting jobs later on

Limitations of scratch your own itch funding

  • Need to be well-off to have tons of spare time to work for free on side projects
  • Being run by volunteers is a big constraint: hard to have anyone “on call”
  • Open source projects can’t afford to run infrastructure (unless someone donates it).
    • Hard to have real “open source applications” because no one is availalbe to pay for server time
  • People gravitate to the work that’s fun/interesting, but can’t reward people for necessary-but-unfun work
  • Pieces of core infrastructure (e.g. OpenSSL or Numpy) that everyone depends on go uninvested in, sometimes with big consequences (Heartbleed)

open-source as a testing ground for a post-transactional paradigm

  • I think open-source is an ideal place to start with cred-based systems:
    • Lots of public data of the work that went into the project
    • ‘Cred’ is already the main thing that contributors get (its just not measurable)
    • Open-source creates a lot of value, so a system that can help recognize and direct that value should get a lot of traction

cryptocurrencies as early adopters

  • Cryptocurrencies are really unusual in that they are open-source projects that create money
    • But they have no direct way to reward/incentivize contributions
    • Observe that as Ethereum became huge, it created an incentive not to improve Ethereum, but to launch new coins on top of it
  • Cryptocurrencies can test SourceCred by using it to pay contributors, in their native cryptocurrency
  • Cryptos that do this can outcompete cryptos that don’t, because they will have a more engaged+motivated contributors
  • In the long run, we can create new cred-based tokens (‘Grain’) that represent “sponsorship” or “patronage” of a project, and flow along the dependency tree
  • So that everyone who contributed to a project (rather directly or indirectly) can get rewarded

how grain will work

  1. By contributing to a project, you earn cred
  • cred is non-fungible and non-transferrable, since it’s tied to your particular contribution
  1. The project creates Grain, which is a token that represents support of that particular project. The grain is distributed to three groups:
  • People that contribute to the project
  • People that financially support the project (e.g. the project sells some grain)
  • People who have grain in one of the project’s dependencies
    • E.g. some SourceCred grain would flow to people that have Nodejs grain
  1. Grain now represents “proof of support”. If you have grain, it means either:
  • you supported the project by working on it
  • you directly supported the project financially
  • you indirectly supported the financially (by buying it from a project supporter)
  • you supported the project by supporting one of its dependencies (in the 3 ways above)

Because grain represents “proof of support”, it’s a principled measure. If someone demonstrates that they have a lot of grain, it makes sense for the project to take notice. And to find ways to reward them for their support.

why grain will be valuable

  • if the grain is from a cryptocurrency project then it’s valuable because holding grain entitles you to cryptocurrency dividends
  • if the grain is from a widely-used project with a lot of active interest around its decisions, governence, feature prioritization, etc, the project can reward people who buy grain in the project, meaning people will buy it for the rewards
  • if the grain is a dependency (direct or transitive) of a project with valuable grain, then the grain is valuable, because it entitles you to a dividend of the dependents’ grain

ways a project could reward grainholders

  • bug reports and feature requests by grainholders can be prioritized
  • project can provide hand-on support for big grainholders trying to integrate or use it
  • project could give some free advertising for big grainholders (e.g. “Sponsored by…”)
  • in the extreme case, projects could have licensing that prevents for-profit enterprises from using the software unless they buy+burn a certain value of grain per year

grain enables investment in open-source

  • earlier I said that the ability to organize investment is one of the strengths of capitalism
  • this system would enable investment directly in early open-source projects
  • suppose there’s a new project starting up that you think might be very important (either due to its direct usage, or because of the 2nd order projects that will depend on it)
  • in this system, you can buy the projects Grain.
  • doing so pays the developers, and encourages more people to get involved, because they see there is a healthy market for the project’s grain
  • if the project indeed becomes valuable, your grain becomes valuable too, which gives you resources to go invest in more projects
  • it’s like venture capital, except you are funding public goods rather than private ones. Hence, I call it “Venture Socialism”

grain as an alternative to ICOs

  • ICOs are one way for (crypto) projects to raise capital, but they have a lot of bad properties
  • they require adding a token into whatever project is being created, and the token often has tenuous justification for existing
  • they are structured as a one-off capital raise that doesn’t

when do we start?

  • not yet!
  • grain is a promising idea, but right now we can’t implement it, because we don’t have a fair way to distribute the grain to project contributors
  • we could give grain on the basis of activity (e.g. 10 grain per commit), but this would encourage gaming and would not create good incentives
  • we could just give all the grain to the project maintainers, but this would not be fair to all the other contributors, and encourage unbalanced power dynamics
  • we need a fair system for attributing cred to contributors in a project
  • that’s where SourceCred comes in


  • the goal idea of SourceCred: we want to give creators cred in a project in a way that is fair and transparent
  • the core idea: we can organize a project as a network of contributions
  • contributions can be anything – organizing a meeting, coming up with a design, writing a blog post, or making a change to a codebase
  • a contribution is important if other important contributions depend on it or reference it
  • for example: you produce the graphics that are used in my blog post. if my blog post is a hit, then your graphics will get a lot of cred, too.

prototyping stage

  • sourcecred exists as a prototype. you can run it on any GH repository and get scores
  • currently working on a “manual mode” that allows anyone to track any kind of contribution (whether or not it lives in GitHub)
  • soon: we want to start experimenting with using SC to pay SC contributors
  • as we gain confidence: start partnering with other crypto projects that want to reward their contributors

future vision

  • we want to trigger (or accelerate) a renaissance in open-source
  • what if people started to quit their jobs at tech megacorps and write open-source software for free?
  • what if our platforms weren’t built to lock us in to an advertising system, but were freely modifiable in any way we want?
  • if the experiment succeeds in open-source, we can start to set our sights higher.
  • what if there was a huge community of poeple rewarded for creating open-source 3D printable designs?
  • could we make the key infrastructure for maintaining humanity (designs for houses, designs for tools, designs for cars) all open-source?
  • what if drug discovery was open-source, and anyone could produce vital medicine without needing to pay massive royalties to patent holders?
  • come aboard as we try to build the first piece of that future. :slight_smile:

This is a good way to sum up the path to the present. I think the historical context is key but also observation the political-economic evolution is appears to have a punctuated equilibrium style evolution. Technological advances, particularly around finance and information have historically been correlated with major shifts.

I would argue that our current capitalist economy is still born of the industrial era (largely de-risk through aggregation, profit from economies of scale.) Most of our economic theory is built on assumptions made in the 50s and 60s that to a very real extent don’t suit us today.

The next thing is going to come, but there is no guarantee it’s better (more freedom/agency); if we want it to move in this direction, we cannot sit back and just let the change happen, we need to engage with it and help build the future we want.

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Very much agree with this. SourceCred could (and likely will) enable a hyper efficient form of capital formation (i.e. capitalism). The question is whether this evolves us in a better direction (more freedom/agency) or less. I’m excited about this project because valuing human contributions (i.e. labor) is valuing humans generally. The middle class in this country and whatever dignity that came with it (while it lasted) was largely due to organized labor. Most interesting utopian schemes revolve around rewarding people for the value they create. Measuring that value is the missing piece.


A few notes:

Love the title. Would suggest shortening to ‘The Quest to Outcompete Capitalism’ [sub headline mentioning SourceCred]

While I agree with the general sentiment/politics of this, I would caution that, if you want Source Cred to appeal to a wide range of crypto projects, bashing capitalism too much and using the term ‘venture socialism’ is going to turn a lot of people off. Ethereum is actually the only “liberal” crypto community according to recent research. I like the term outcompeting capitalism for a couple reasons:

a) SourceCred is going to enable hyper efficient capital formation (i.e. be at the bleeding edge of capitalism itself).

b) Even the high priests of capitalism are calling for its reform it’s gotten so bad (ray dalio is on a book tour called saving capitalism for gods sake). There is a general desire to evolve into something better. And having hung with a bunch of anarcho capitalists in my journey, I can say that they often have valuable, devastating critiques of capitalism of their own. Outcompete is nice because it will appeal to all political persuasions that desire revolution, bring energy and ideas.

The term capitalism itself is unproductive these days anyway, as everyone arguing about it has a different definition of it. Just like someone in the Bitcoin community defines socialism as a totalitarian murder state, someone in the Bitcoin community will likely have a totally different definition of capitalism than someone in the Ethereum community. Just putting ‘socialism’ in the term describing this will instantly turn off %55 of crypto, even though they might agree with you. I think just sticking to the common (devastating enough) pitfalls, as well as strengths (as you also lay out) is good. There’s a lot of common ground in crypto that is divided by political terms.

“you indirectly supported the financially (by buying it from a project supporter)”

Contradicts the statement above that grain is non-fungible. I think one cannot stop grain from being fungible.

> open-source as a testing ground for a post-transactional paradigm

So this is the part I’m generally struggling with… I’ve been to burning man. I want to transcend the transactional nature of capitalism as well, connect more. However, the way this becomes financially sustainable (the goal here), is through….transacting grain in some way. Perhaps with licenses if we have to (IP enforced by government monopoly on violence) should the greedy amoral corporations not pay for their grain (which they will do, last resort will be needed).

I think the answer, personally, is removing money from as many transactions as possible. Then, for the transactions where money makes sense (and it is a necessary technology for mass coordination, feeding the planet, innovation, etc.), make those transactions more accurate and expressive, so that they capture more of the value being created, including emotional and other types of labor (what SC has the capability to do). The fact that SourceCred is capturing human-created value is what gives it its humanity.

Another idea, to get super hippie, is changing the nature of money imbue it with more human values. in the book sacred economics (great read),

the author (an economist) proposes creating currencies based on things we value as humans that are scarce. E.g. carbon in the air, acres of rainforest, etc. Gold works because it’s scarce. Rainforests are scarce. Make cutting down a forest as expensive as buying gold, and economies will emerge that involve not cutting trees, or using them more effectively. And we don’t have to spend trillions mining a metal that just sits in a vault! That doesn’t seem terribly enforceable to me. But a currency based on value created by humans. Now there’s an idea…:slight_smile: In other words, maybe just turn it into an ERC20 token already?

Yes! I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating relationships between political and economic modality. E.g. in pre-industrial times, the dominant economic modality was agriculture, most of the population is peasantry, and political systems are organized around controlling land and peasant populations. Hence as late as Jane Austen, you read Pride and Prejudice, and bachelors are getting assessed based on the size of their estates, and the corresponding wealth that generates.

Around the industrial revolution, the economic modality shifts to emphasize capital (read; the ability to organize and set up factories) rather than agriculture. Agriculture doesn’t decrease in absolute terms, but in relative terms it shrinks compared to the massive size of the manufactured goods economy. It’s kind of like zooming out on a fractal, and seeing a new piece come into view that is a lot larger than the whole rest of the pattern thus far.

I think the internet is ushering another paradigm shift, another “fractal zooming out”, this time around information-based value rather than physical-goods-based value. (At the end of the day humans value experiences, and physical goods are valuable insofar as they enable good experiences, but once we saturate on physical needs, information can provide a much vaster experiential range.)

This fractal zooming out changes the rules of the game in a way that obsoletes the existing paradigm (e.g. having a power structure based on a nobility of highly-trained knights gets obsolete once your enemies can mass-produce rifles). The book Capitalism without Capital lists properties of “intangible capital” which distinguish it from more traditional physical capital:

  • synergies: most of the value unlocked by combination with other intangible capital
  • scalability: very low marginal cost to additional deployment, so winners achieve great scale
  • spillovers: hard to locally capture the value creation, a lot spills over to adjacent projects
  • sunk costs: hard to recover the upfront investment, can liquidate a factory for parts but can’t sell a software project for parts

This means that if you try to take the traditional corporate “build a factory, you own factory, extract profit from everything made in factory” model to intangible capital, it just doesn’t work. Too much of the value leaks out in spillovers, and you don’t wind up with assets you can price on your balance sheet, and you are charging for access so the synergies don’t get realized, so the technology never scales, etc.

This is a large part of why I think open source has been so successful. All of these properties of intangible capital are perfectly leveraged by open-source. People are unworried about the sunk cost because they did it for free, because it’s free it can realize all possible synergies, the spillovers get fully realized without IP BS trying to lock it down, successful projects can scale a lot. Grain is basically an attempt to create an economic system that can work with these dynamics (let the tech be free, once the value is realized, try to share the rewards across all the different pieces that contributed).

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Interesting. I’m coming from a pocket of the filter bubble where capitalism is basically a bad word, so I may have played that up a bit. In a number of respects, I quite like capitalism (which I alluded to in the second section); in part, I am really impressed by complex systems and the global economy is an incredibly complex and successful system.

Originally, I was using the term “venture altruist” (inspired by Accelerado). However, it’s not quite right. In this model, the investors are still investing for their own return, so they aren’t altruistic; it just so happens that they are invested in a public project rather than a private one. So “venture socialist” seems appropriate to me. Also, I feel like recent political developments have shown that having a clear message is more important than avoiding turning people off.

Yep, good point. I’m riffing off an essay called How to Outcompete Capitalism? and its author takes the time to give a definition of capitalism upfront.

Grain is fungible. It’s basically designed to be the fungible analog to (or derivative of) cred. Cred is not fungible.

Yeah, I really like the idea of things that are like currencies, but embed values. Not sure how to do it though. It’s definitely not as simple as making an ERC20 token. :slight_smile:

What capitalism gets right

Capitalism is very good at distributing stuff–both physical stuff (technology) and intellectual stuff (science). Small world networking works to general advantage–few hops to connect producer to consumer.

What capitalism gets wrong

Capitalism is very bad at distributing reward. Small world networking works to general disadvantage. Hyper connected bridging nodes get a cut of everything monotonically increasing concentration of capital in these nodes. As capital concentration increases, bridge nodes tend to merge accelerating the concentration. Network with too few bridge nodes is unstable. Panic, aka depression, aka recession, aka correction ensues. Rinse, repeat.

Cred would be a back-propagation mechanism that certainly could offset the monotonically increasing concentration of capital in the bridging nodes, which would be a really good thing–more palatable than taxes in general and confiscatory estate taxes in particular.

Question: Is this Socialism–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_each_according_to_his_contribution? Perhaps micro-socialism, which would also be a really good thing–macro-socialism has a lot wrong with it, too. Maybe a second paper is called for, “SourceCred and the Quest to out-cooperate Socialism”?

I love this suggestion. I am a fan of pointing out that our historical political and economic systems are a very small subset of the possible set of such systems; rather than being biased by structures in the past, we can aim to leverage technological change and paradigm shifts to create new ways of organizing that are not necessarily inside the convex hull of previous ways of organizing. This is the kind of newness evidenced by the shift from agriculture to industry in @decentralion’s previous post.

SourceCred and the Quest to Outcompete Capitalism

SourceCred and the Quest to Outcooperate Socialism

together help place the future as being neither and both at the same time, which helps people build their thinking enough to make a new open source based economy feel possible, even obvious.

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How about: “SourceCred and the Quest to Out-cooperate Capitalism”?

I feel like capitalism is a better “opponent” to draw definition from than socialism, since capitalism is the dominant organizing modality of the present day.

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Agree with this sentiment. I think outcompete Capitalism has a better ring to it. Maybe the discussion of cooperation and realizing net sum productivity gains through a less individualistic paradigm can just come through in the text.

@decentralion, definitely stick with out-competing capitalism, and you’re right about keeping the comparison to capitalism in the forefront for now, and your outline is a good one.

Keep the socialism comparison on the back burner, though. Capitalism and Socialism are the major economic theories around today. (Unless you want to count cronyism, which I don’t. That is more about pure power than it is about economics.)

Just as capitalism is a reaction to the excesses of cronyism, socialism is a reaction to the excesses of capitalism. The problem is that socialism has its own excesses that took almost no time at all to emerge. The reason for the fast emergence of excess may have something to do with socialism having theoretical origins that were then tried out. Cronyism and capitalism just sort of happened, and theories about them came later to model observed behaviors. To put it another way, cronyism and capitalism are what they are because that’s the way people behave under those conditions. Socialism, on the other hand, starts out with a priori assumptions about how people should behave, and then builds conditions that are thought to promote those behaviors.

The value that I see in SourceCred is that it is following an observation-based approach to understand cooperative behavior. We are observing the behaviors of people spontaneously assembling to produce something, and we are using those observations to build views of how contributions of individuals affect the assemblages’ production.

This observation-based approach gives SourceCred the potential to actually fulfill the promised goal of socialism to blunt the excesses of capitalism. Socialism has great cooperative slogans. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” However, it must resort to authoritarian means, because the way in which it defines cooperation has no basis in the way that people actually behave. People naturally follow leaders–hence cronyism. People naturally act in their own self interest–hence capitalism. People are naturally drawn to causes bigger than themselves–hence SourceCred.


Truth. It’s a loaded word.

Good counter option but I think they are both terms that generate all kinds of racket. Perhaps just make up a new frame that wont incur the bias of todays age?

Tbh, if i were to pitch SC to the project I currently work for, it would be a hard sell already. If some of the decision-makers saw that it was socialism (or even just being coded by socialists), they would instantly say no, without looking further into it. I realize that using these loaded words could give SC a narrative boost, which would allow its message to spread quickly. But I think that’s a double edged sword. And also, do we want SC to be a politically neutral platform? I would argue for it to strive to be as objective and politically neutral as possible. If it’s powerful enough, it will shake the status quo, which is capitalism. Ergo, the title, ‘outcompeting capitalism’ is good. And will appeal to the capitalists too actually.

Frankly, I am neither a socialist nor capitalist; I think both words represent low dimensional projections in a massively high dimensional design space for human organization. If anything I am trying to break out of the socialism vs capitalist plane and into a new plane that combines the best aspects of both and new ideas yet to be fleshed out, that are now possible because of advances in information technology.

Reducing it to “ew socialism” is that decision makers problem not mine/ours. I very much back @decentralion’s decision to go deep not wide, in part because I don’t care to go out and convince people to use this tool. I’d much rather focus on using it well for our own project and a handful of others who are aligned on message. The people who matter can be attracted much more organically, not through ‘marketing’ methods.

Without being to cruel, I’d say many of those same people who make decisions purely on ideological heuristics will be the first to copy paste a successful solution methodology if it becomes successful/popular. It’s the pattern of making decisions without really thinking about them, blindly accepting and copying some pattern of thought. Those people will never be my priority, over genuinely figuring out how to get something right, with feedback and iterations from people who are also thinking about it at a more fundamental level.


@noman, what utility would SourceCred bring to the project you work for?

@davidfs I can imagine many ways. The most exciting possibility is simply paying people, cred “dividends”. I imagine that if done right (or right enough), it could be a much better way to pay people, and would also attract new talent. Probably the most sellable application would be a recruiting initiative. I.e. time-based cred that accrues to new contributors only if they actually start making commits. Aragon just put out a blog a couple days ago announcing some new products, including “rewards”, which pays dividends in ETH or “spice” (very similar name to SC’s grain; great minds:). They mention a similar idea, where dividends go to people that commit during a specific time-frame.

I was also told to read this book!!

I love that aspect of SourceCred, “retroactive funding” is what can help organizations break out of unproductive patterns. I assumed that DAOs would also be solving that issue but interestingly, in the DAOs I’m part of (Genesis DAO & PolkaDAO) we also follow the traditional funding strategy (only fund future effort) except rare cases. The reason for this, in a nutshell, is that 1) one may ask to be rewarded for something no-one actually cares enough about and/or 2) that no approval was given for funding a task.

The first point (ask reward for something no-one actually cares about) can be very problematic for the contributor: if you spend several weeks working on a task then you may only realize afterwards that it is not valued (hence you don’t get rewarded for it). However, this issue often happens because a contributor is new and takes too much risk: assumes she/he knows what should be done AND tries to tackle a task that’s too big for a new contributor. Anyone with experience will usually build up enough knowledge to avoid that kind of issue. This issue also happens if the project direction isn’t clear enough (i.e. the project is still young & a lot of topics haven’t been worked on yet [no examples/precedents]) - whoever drives the organization can try to solve that by communicating the project direction more clearly (via any communication channels available).

The last point (no approval was given for funding a task) is not something I resonate with, imo if one creates value then one should get rewarded. However, each project has a limited budget & some priorities so trying to keep some control over what should be worked on next (future work rewarded vs past one) does make sense. However, again if the project direction is clear on basic time frames (i.e. short term & mid term) then this problem will be solved.

I’m very excited to see the outcome of the CredSperiment, it might inspire some organizations to allocate some funding for past work done (i.e. once a week like you’re doing in the CredSperiment). This would definitely encourage more constructive contributions.

Well, that’s assuming all the alternative regimes/systems that were crushed by other regimes are totally responsible for their failures. One could argue that capitalism could have never seen such success if another system had been big enough to prevent it to grow. We’re slightly getting off topic here as it’s not the main point of the discussion here but I wanted to raise awareness about this as most of us have grown up in capitalists societies & forget that important point: wars were/are fought to convey the message that capitalism was/is the "right” system.

You meant “write open-source software for Grain/Cred:slight_smile:

Being provocative here to reflect on possible edge cases: if a project uses SourceCred using long term contributions as the main setting for reward, wouldn’t that be similar to a patent (or even a DRM) ?

Definitely can add something more sci-fi such as:

  • What if you and all your everyone you know were working for several decentralized organizations at the same time, each of them rewarding you fairly for your overall & continuous contributions?

And something more grounded:

  • What if in 2029 every mainstream tech companies like Google and Apple started to use SourceCred to give 0-25% bonus to their devs every month?

:100: Paradigm shifts is what will make us go forward. I see the “retroactive funding” aspect (rewarded for what you have done vs on what you negotiated beforehand) as a key component of what can help trigger such shift. Crypto is also a key component & is well on its way to change a lot of the world as we know it today - so many fields impacted, it’s mind blowing. DAOs are still at infancy but at the same time so obviously ground breaking that it’s just a matter of years before we see them changing organizations as we know them today.

The title is catchy. But doesn’t it fall in the “them vs us” category a little too much? As in, as much as we dislike some aspect of capitalism it comes with many different shades (i.e. capitalism in the US vs capitalism in Germany). I really like the post from Dandelion, it shows a lot more the two sides of the coin of capitalism and the post title does not reflect that.

The rest of your comments totally makes sense. Afaik crypto is probably one of the most risky investment assets out there & is very much geared towards ultra-capitalism (anything goes). So if one cares about attracting crypto minded individuals this might not be the best title.

My understanding is that SourceCred is beyond capitalism. At the end of the day, it’s a tool that at its core wants to trigger a paradigm shift in how we work, how we reward. Maybe the title could be “SourceCred: beyond Capitalism” ?

Mind that “socialism” means something different according to different countries. So you might get some misunderstanding. It’s quite catchy though so maybe raising eyebrows might give you the attention you need to get people to read up further.

“our-cooperate” is a bit heavy imo

:100: Breaking out into new paradigms means we have to leave those labels behind us

General remark

Beyond the capitalism/socialism discussion, I think the essence of SourceCred is to try to help humanity reward work more fairly. If I had to convince someone to invest in SourceCred, that’s the elevator pitch I’d go with, simple & touching a value everyone can relate to: fairness.


Great to hear from others in DAO land! I think real-world experience in these systems brings a valuable perspective. My main gig is in the Decred DAO. Which does pay in arrears (retroactively) for most day-to-day work, but uses a more traditional future-looking proposal system for larger projects. I’m now a big believer in paying retroactively, though there is definitely room for improvement, which I think SourceCred has potential for.

Welcome! Your post just gave you some cred. As does this reply:)

This is basically my reality now, working mainly for Decred getting paid in crypto, and now getting paid as part of the CredSperiment also. Paying the rent :money_with_wings:

@decentralion came here from Google. Has some interesting stories to tell.

Even better, it might be a never before seen holy fusion of capitol and labor, which results in new, fairer systems not possible before.

Not a bad one word description.