I am a great fan of Henry George and of the Community Land Trust model he is considered the Grandfather of. Along those lines I have been actively working to create a local CLT.
I am a great fan of open source and growing a variety of public commons. But particularly here I am interested in rebuilding the web as a user owned community commons, and how that might be done.
The US Postal Service is a self supporting community resource, and has therefore been under attack. In part, as a counter to that attack it has been proposed that the Services of the USPS be expanded into providing Public Banking.
My suggestion is to build a web based public banking service that would parallel the USPS model and take responsibility for security, privacy encryption and civil delivery of personal exchanges. It does not replace the existing social media, but it severely disrupts them by asking the user a simple question at the beginning of each interaction:
“Is my participation in this interaction worth 2 cents?”
If the answer is yes, to acknowledge any personal value to the user’s privacy will change the nature of the entire web. To send an email to a friend would cost you 2 cents. 1 cent would go to the public service, the other cent would go to the person you are sending it to - to acknowledge the worth you place on having them consider your input. The 2 cents could be considered a stamp or in social terms a handshake or bow.
I am calling the media exchange portion of the service as “PonyXPS”. The micro to macro currency accounting banking and security system I am referring to as “PonyUps” (or PonyUPS).
I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions or critical analysis or how such a system might be advanced as I am not a coder/programmer or have connections other than such forums as this one to present this idea as a model.
I will further elaborate on this in the posts to this topic though I expect there are both minor and major flaws to my reasoning. What I am most interested in is something that works. What do you think?
I’ve seen such a scheme being proposed before… Was it as a mean to deter spam? Was it part of Ted Nelson’s grand scheme to save us from damnation?
I appreciate the idea of splitting the token in two. It makes complete sense to create strong public infrastructure.
But then… If you must send money, how to make it work with fiat money and (anonymous) cash? Having a bank as an intermediary sounds like a terrible idea: look what the payment card industry has done to privacy – to say the least.
It’s an interesting idea to explore, and maybe starting with existing research on this topic.
I appreciate your comments and certainly understand the distrust of a commercial bank. Note that I am not talking about setting up some kind of commercial bank, but a Public Banking System which is very different. Also, the existing Public Banking models are just that, models, they are not exactly what “we” would put together, but we do have models to look at and evaluate as we go along.
The key to this (potential) is placing a value on the individual’s donation (any value at all) of time and attention, while protecting their privacy. In this example it would require that setting up accounts with a single penny, and transferring in and out of that account. And if such a banking system is possible at a penny, could it also handle and account for fractions of a penny; a tenth?, a hundreth?, a thousandth? And can we harness that economic ability, for whatever fraction of a dollar it might be, to both place a value on and expand the boundaries of the community commons? value that is given away free in the current social media model for capital exploitation?
If PonyXPS captured 1/100,000ths of the email business conducted in the USA in one day, at 1 cent each, it would bring in 2.936 million dollars a day for maintenance and development of the public services.
I googled and got these figures for the United States:
293.6 Billion emails per day
4.5 billion FB emojis per day
350 Million Photos uploaded to FB per day.
500 Million Tweet on Twitter per day
Maybe 2 cents or even 1 cent is too much to charge for personal security, encryption, liberation from tracking and data gathering, and unsolicited advertising.
Just how low must we go before the average Jack or Janet place any kind of value on personal privacy?
An intriguing concept. Thanks for posting @richardhroth1 and welcome to the AP community
Let me start by mentioning some payment-related protocols and softwares:
GNU Taler: P rovide a payment system that makes privacy-friendly online transactions fast and easy.
WebMonetization: JS browser API that allows the creation of a payment stream from the user agent to the website.
Hyptis: Provides distributed small-world finance systems, appropriate for use in games or for communities such as your neighborhood mutual aid network.
The Web Monetization stuff is currently currently being evaluated in combination with cryptocurrencies / blockchain technology (off-topic: in which I have NO interest for various reasons, until maybe in some years the technology matures). Note that the specification is blockchain-independent, and is being proposed as a W3C standard. (I’ve seen discussion on Hacker News about native browser support). Hyptis by @cwebber is very interesting as it is very close to standard technology being researched and developed that will become available to the Fediverse.
Now about the idea…
Small is Beautiful
I think the combination of Local Community and Public Banking concepts in some form or other is a great and inspiring idea. You mention “It does not replace the existing social media, but it severely disrupts them”. Here I think KISS (‘Keep It Small and Simple’) and not target a disruptive web-wide technology from the start.
I think a good way to elaborate this idea is to follow a SmallTech (and related: Small Web) approach to the technical implementation and document and/or develop protocols & ‘business domain’ in parallel (which may become this disruptive thing later on).
So what does this mean in light of PonyXPS and PonyUPS?
No handling of millions / billions of transactions and trying to rival FB.
Pony services are scoped to a single Community.
Like Communities, Pony services may federate to other services.
(Note: I mention “federation” here, but a future distributred Fediverse will probably be a hybrid of federation and peer-to-peer)
A Community Land Trust serves a real-world (physical and local) community, and that is great. I love the concept, and I think local community support in all kinds of ways modelled like that is a requirement to fight off hypercapitalism and plutocratic tendencies that continue to erode our social fabric and true connections between people.
Besides physical the community might also be online-only for netizens (e.g. a global audience). In any case software support and a digital representation of the community are needed to manage things. This is where PonyUPS / PonyXPS can build on top of another #fediversity:fediverse-futures topic, namely:
The concept of Sociocracy mentioned there to model the community organization may be very interesting, even if the particular patterns in this library are not a direct fit (maybe too formal with e.g. double linking etc.). They can be extended with custom patterns that match specific needs.
What is it in domain-driven design terminology that Pony services provide on top of the Community domain? Is it a Micropayments domain extension? Are there multiple business domains involved? I think the latter is the case here. We just need to define them clearly and can then elaborate them each in their own Bounded Context.
So there are some business domains that need to be developed / implemented to provide Pony to the community.
Because each community has different purposes there will be potentially many other domains that are modelled on top of or interact with the Community domain. And also with the community’s Pony services. There are interesting ways that payment transactions can be modelled in interactions with other domains.
A Ticket representing a RFC may be upvoted with a Like to collect budget as a bounty for the Contributor.
A CI build, fork, download, dependency inclusion, code review (outcome), etcetera… all candidates for payment.
As part of the Pony domain there may be a concept of Payment Schemes to model all of this, and reuse as templates. There’s many interesting ideas to follow-up on in this idea.
Federation goes beyond community boundaries: anyone that uses the software is encouraged to pony up.
Money goes to Contributors, and this need not be one-time payments, but may be continual revenue streams.
Part of the money is split flowing partially into the budget of the Project itself (e.g. into an OpenCollective)
I think here the aforementioned Small is Beautiful approach already pays off, and you are defining the Key Benefits of the Pony services in the wrong way. Privacy-and-security-first approach to software development is a best-practice and should be a mandatory requirement (especially for this fin-tech use case). @Sebastian mentions how Spritely OcapPub fits in here.
With the Pony services bound to the Community, being a member of the community means you get privacy and security as intrinsic qualities. It raises your trust in the community and makes it more likely you’ll participate actively. Personal privacy with common people is often not motivation enough to adopt a technology, as you rightfully say. But here being part of the community and the value it provides is the motivator.
People join a community for a common cause. They are way more likely to be willing to contribute financially to the community (incentive to pony up) and its members that are similarly aligned. So 1 cent goes to the non-profit that upholds the community, and 1 cent goes to the member-contributor of value within the community (this might be for content they provide, but also for other services e.g. time / effort they spent).
By scoping Pony to the Community you also assure that payments align with community Terms of Services / community theme / moderation policies. Without the community scope you might see money flowing to things you do not agree with, and be less inclined to pony up.
You mentioned Public Banking, a nice concept, and @how mentioned we should not into common pitfalls as the payment card industry did. I mentioned Community Trust, and also OpenCollective in the distributed forge example.
With Pony service attached to your Community and real money involved, there must be a form of Governance that guarantees Trust is maintained. It should be Privacy-respecting, but also ensure sufficient Transparency about money flows and how budgets are spent.
I really like OpenCollective in that regard, in terms of the underlying ideas implemented in the service. What I like less about them is that they are VC-funded and the rather high rates they charge for payments. Also they are a SaaS (though you can self-host) which is less (or rather not-at-all) fitting to the SmallTech principles.
In the case of Community-bound Pony services, only a single-tenant version of OpenCollective-like financial governance is needed.
Before checking them out though I want to thank you for those referrals. I love the open source community because it grows a community commons, I assumed that a group like this would have the basic pieces that could be combined or adapted to a project like this. All I can do though is imagine what a system might look like - and in most ways my ideas would have fatal flaws. To save “the dream” would require folks who know how such a thing could be put together. I am not a programmer.
@aschrijver I was pleased to see your reference to the book “Small is Beautiful”. I have been a great fan of E. R. Schumacher and for several years was active in a local Appropriate Technology group based on his writings. I am also a fan of the Luvins at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Lester Brown and “State of the World” books, and, as I mentioned previously, of Henry George, author of “Progress and Poverty” published in the late 1800’s.
I believe I was misunderstood if I left the impression that Pony services would go head to head with FB, gmail, and twitter. My intent was to examine if a penny would suffice, or even be too much to charge for maintenance of such a system that was 0.000001% the size of the existing web exchanges. Perhaps that was too large a chunk to evaluate. It would be great to know the current volume of exchanges now taking places within the “federation” and what the costs are for maintenance.
As for scope, FB was scoped, ie. bounded by, a single university system, then to other universities. There was much luck and little long range planning. I would expect a “pony” vision would take considerably longer to plan and develop, growing and testing just one step or service at a time, if interest is enough that we map out how and what service resources are appropriate and within reach.
Thanks for the referrals = https://gitlab.com/spritely/ocappub/blob/master/README.org
I am making my way past the technical jargon of the section on Activity Pub which is a foreign language to this neophyte.
The rest I comprend and find most readable. As an agriculturalist I find “Don’t confuse an argument for “freeze peach” for an argument for
“free speech”.” as an great “frozen peach” emoji for responding to hate speech whereby the 1 cent does not go to the originator, but to investments in the commons - such as a Community Land Trust where “once invested - forever in service”. - BUT I would suggest that such an emoji require with it a written explanation of why, written in a box where pasted responses were NOT allowed…
Next: In the example of Bob the Spammer and Alice the target. I very much like the idea that Alice could up the number of stamps that Bob, or anyone, would have to pay her. However, I think much of the spam could be eliminated in the first place, if Bob had to buy a stamp (2 cents) as a baseline set for anyone that wanted to contact Alice or anyone else. The premise of the PonyXPS is that the sender feels it is worth it to spend money to contact this individual, money that is split between building and maintaining the commons and the individual.
The cost of posting to a forum (such as this one) or bulk mailing system would depend upon how efficiently 1 cent can be fractured, delivered, and accounted for among the individuals in the group, or how that penny was delivered whole to, - such as the maintenance and efficacy of that particular bulk or forum service.
Well, being a ‘domain expert’ is just as valuable, if not more so, to ensure the right things get built Wonderful coincidence that you’re a E. R. Schumacher fan. I have that book, but should just give myself the time to read it.
Regarding FB scale it was just me poorly phrasing it. I think its because I see so often people mentioning “Yes, but this will not win from GAMAF”-like statements. @darius did an AP Conf talk Let's Play and Win Our Own Game which I recommend watching.
This depends on case by case basis, I guess, and where the mentioned concept of Payment Schemes might be useful.
Take the example of a small FOSS Community with passionate members supporting a new project. Mere cents will not fund the project at this early stage (funding is not always needed, but in general a big problem that the free software movement struggles with). Some other large and popular FOSS software may have corporate users who are submitting urgent RFC’s to the issue tracker and putting the maintainer under pressure to implement them. Well… pony up big time, and maybe it will be implemented.
Maybe “Payment Schemes” is a wholly separate (sub)domain to the “Micropayments” domain. All kinds of mechanisms can be attached to this concept. For that matter I will post a link to this discussion in the Snowdrift.coop Matrix group. Think they will be interested.
Snowdrift is implementing Donations for (software) projects, and their primary model (they are investigating multiple models) is one of Crowdmatching. As the popularity of a project grows - measured in the number of Patrons - the amount donated per Patron grows with it. This is similar to the idea of “paying for value” in PonyUPS. Here’s the concept:
This is just one example of possible Payment Scheme mechanism. There are undoubtedly many others to be discovered, like e.g. in the earlier example of the small FOSS community having early-bird participants pony up relatively large amounts of money on their interaction, so the project gets enough money to bootstrap itself, and then later on - once a certain treshold is reached, these early ‘investors’ either get very low, rebated rates or might even earn some or all of their investment back.
Discovering use cases
I think this whole idea has potential. But it also involves a ton of work to realize this as actual working software. One thing that is most precious, and a big barrier to find project contributors and get this off the ground, is Time. Time may be the most precious commodity in the world, nowadays!
Here’s where you as a domain expert, and others like you (such as me, atm) can prep things, to provide the incentives and initial boost for technical contributors to join PonyUPS: By elaborating the domain, and clearly demonstrate the Key Benefits for the various ‘stakeholders’ to get involved.
There are tons and tons of use cases for Micropayments and Payment Schemes to be added to numerous other business domains. It does not require any technical knowledge to brainstorm them and document in brief snippets of text. Like I did in previous post for FOSS Community.
From a brainstormed list and on a domain-by-domain basis we can take these use cases and elaborate them further, like providing more detail on the Payment Scheme mechanics, and - based on usage metrics of running applications - estimate how much money is involved, etc. Things like that.
A good starting point for that is the ActivityPub Application Watchlist that has the whole range of federated applications, covering multiple business domains. Some of these are already directly implement Group / Community concepts, but even if they do not “Community has no Boundary”… the entire Fediverse or individual instances are communities too.
I made a mistake in saying that the model for PonyUPS was a Public Bank. Rather closer, is the model of a Postal Bank, who’s primary purpose is to provide banking services to low income individuals and families who do not have access to a regular bank. Typically accounts can be opened with little or no money. Sometimes there are upper limits to the amount that can be saved in any account, and limits to the amount of money that can flow through an account in a year.
Even when it’s just 0.01$, it will exclude people. That’s an intended effect in case of spammers (they will just calculate if it’s worth it and might do it anyway), but also poor people (they have to constantly think “can i afford this”. it adds up) or people without the technical requirements like a bank account (again, poor people, children, …). So this might make the inequality worse.
I thought a lot about funding the commons. In case of free software, my plan is that most users should support the development financially, voluntarily. What’s needed is 1. infrastructure (Patreon has high fees, but Liberapay is OK) and 2. a cultural change that users want to support what they use (they seem not to care about privacy and community infrastructure).
Hi @davidak nice to see you here! And welcome to SocialHub
Important point. I think voluntary payment is also in the intention of @richardhroth1 by asking the “Is my participation in this exchange worth 2 cents?”. Both in ‘participation’ and ‘exchange’ there can be a voluntary decision to ponying up, so that no one is excluded from the community based on their financial prowess. Payment can be modelled as ‘tokens of appreciation’ or ‘rewards’.
That said, this should all be configurable in the Payment Scheme, e.g.:
Mechanism for payment calculation
Activities that are subjected to payment
Objects that are subjected to payment
Amounts of money thata are input to mechanism
Conditions to influence the mechanism operation
So you might define a Mechanism called “crowdmatching” in your federation code, and in the implementation call the Snowdrift API to register transactions on your platform.
When applying to a FOSS Community domain, all kinds of mechanisms can be defined. Like “tiered-subscriptions” that include a ‘Free plan’. Or “pay-what-you-want”, or whatever.
You may also define Conditions under which people pay less do not have to pony up:
If [Condition:Contributor] then [ActivityN] payment equal to [AmountX]
If [Condition:Translator] then [ObjectM] access payment equal to [AmountY]
I.e. you pay by your time and effort spent in adding value to the community. Balance must be found, or there is once again inequality (poor people work, rich people pay). But wait a minute… we didn’t discuss payment vs. income. As I mentioned in previous post, your contributions to the community might lead to a continuous revenue stream, payed by the participation + ponying up of others.
PS. Did Snowdrift document the mechamism of crowdmatching (going from ‘domain’ to technical impl)?
PS2. Very nice article of Snowdrift as high-prio FSF project. I will promote as such. To others: recommended read!
Yes. It will exclude even regular users like you and me, because it will require us to consider if giving - say this post a <3 would require us to ask if we really mean it, and if giving that <3 was sincere enough to spend 2 cents on. Also, consider the impact of the receiver of that <3 who, not only would get the <3 but also a “Pretty Penny”.
Yes they might, but consider all the systems out there that do not require any cost to spammers at all. By no means would such a cost eliminate all spam, but I believe putting a price on the use of the exchange that actively works to include conditions that would discourage spam is just dumb, and they would soon figure that out. Note also, due to the privacy and encrypted nature of the system these spammers would be shooting in the dark as they would have the skimpiest data to direct their attacks.
So let’s figure out a way to fix that problem before we launch the system. Say some poor 11 year old from Ethiopia (I have several friends from there) gets web access through her school and she signs up and finds her way to Snowdrift, but in the process of signing in she now has a “bank” account in PonyUPS. Now suppose that that account is free, and not only free, but she gets 1 dollar credit to begin using the PonyXPS delivery system. So she spends 2 cents of that credit to ask if Snowdrift can help her raise funds for her school and her post is delivered to the Snowdrift forum. Say 80 people read her post and 12 people like it so much they send her <3’s. She started with 1 dollar, spent 2 cents, and received 12 <3’s along with 12 cents (a penny with each heart), and so now she has 110 cents - 12 cents she has earned and can be invested in purchases in say a future PonyMkt or added to the 98 cents of her initial credit to be used expressing herself.
Ok, now suppose that Snowdrift set up a world wide scholarship program. Well, they now have a contact in Ethiopia, the 11 year old girl that has asked for help for her school. What could be better than educating kids on goals, objectives, and a avalanche of free software resources and scholarships. That girl, with 2 cents of the dollar she earned through curiosity and initiative, started something that snowballed.
@aschrijver in regard to voluntary payment my intent was a bit different. In my mind, reading or viewing an exchange, (email, forums, toots, viewing photos) would be free, but paying the 2 cents would be required to engage in the conversation. However: each time I have engage in an exchange I have asked myself "Is what I have to contribute worth 2 cents to ME! If I answer yes, then I might consider the 2 cents well spent. AND THEREFORE: I am not interested in receiving the penny from those who exchange back or to me. Instead, I designate a non-profit (say the Snowdrift Scholarship Fund, or the free 1 dollar credits to students in Ethiopia) to receive the pennies designated to come to me and am well satisfied if those pennies add up to promoting good. In my mind, those types of alternative choices should be a voluntary option of the PonyUPS.
I love the general idea of matching funds, but would prefer that 51% to 100% of all funds raised come from within the Fediverse, so that it is clear that this social program is clearly owned and controlled by the users, and not dependent or obligated by the wishes of the rich or corporations. I realize there will be temptations.
I am so grateful for the responses my idea has generated. I am sure some of the particulars as I have presented are wrong, flawed, or poorly defined and welcome criticisms, modifications, editing that might make something like this actually work in real life.
Thanks. Though those solutions you name are all blockchain-based, which for various reasons are not interesting to me, atm (maybe in future I might consider blockchain + cryptocurrency if / when the technology matures and my reservations no longer hold).
I know only a little bit about crypto, but I invested a bit 3 years ago during the previous surge. I got out of it last week because I do not understand any real life value it has. I do not understand blockchain either but expect it will be useful security and accounting tool with likely application to a “stamp” based system like I am proposing.
I will check this out. I am interested, just nolonger invested.
I need to clarify what I propose the “value” of a PonyUPS stamp to be (and which I have not done until now). It is twice (2x) the system maintenance and development cost of transmission and delivery, PLUS 10%.
I suspect that value is less than 2 cents US dollars. If, in truth, that value is higher than 2 cents (US) then my proposal is probably a non-starter.
But I expect it is less. And I expect, as system efficiencies improve, that that cost would decrease - - - as could the cost of those stamps.
So we have a community commons resource that is fully owned and managed by its users, PLUS 10%
So what is that extra 10% used for?
I suggest that it be invested in those natural resources that contribute to climate regeneration as a physical tangible anchor point for calculating the value of user contributions, and we use PPM CO2 as a value indicator.
Today, the PPM CO2 is 412. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the PPM was around 280. Let’s call 280 PPM ideal, and 412 PPM the mess we are in today. The difference is 412 - 280 = 132. On a log scale of 100 every reduction in PPM would increase the value of our contribution by a factor of about 1.75 so a 1 cent contribution would be worth 1.75 and it would progress like this as additional PPM of CO2 would be sequestered out of the atmosphere:
Value of investment per PPM reduction: 1.75 3.06 5.36 9.38 16.41 28.72 50.27 87.96 153.94 269.39 471.43 825.01 etc.
Calculated this way, if we were to reach the goal of 350.org (which is 350 PPM CO2 in atmosphere) that would be a reduction in PPM of 62. At that point our donation TODAY of 1 penny would THEN be worth (take a breath) OVER 6.6 TRILLION DOLLARS.
It then gets just ridiculous. . . . . . : )
If then we reduce PPM to less than say 285 PPM investments would decline in value.
My point is that investing in the community commons has great investment opportunity BECAUSE it belongs to everyone. By attaching an open source project investment into a natural resource like PPM CO2 can and does reap a heap of social satisfaction. This would be just one measure to judge just how successful such contributions are, whether it is pennies, discussions like this one, or open source, and public domain resources. These contributions are, as the slogan of the Community Land Trust Model states: Once invested - forever in service.
Schemes like these have been proposed numerous times before and they have yet to catch on, because users don’t actually wish to pay money to send emails around. Users tend to be resistant to any form of friction of this nature, in fact.
I don’t have anything useful to contribute other than that observation. Good luck.
Though it does cost, I think what might be unique is that participants would receive money back (1 cent) for every reply they got. It is kind of up to the person that uses the system . And if they do not think their participation is worth anything to themselves. I am thinking that voluntary payment as @
I had not considered voluntary payment as an option, but that may be a better option, at least to start with. Both sender and receiver would have to have enrolled in the system or it would just confuse people.
Thank you for the feedback. I thoroughly appreciate the consideration and feedback.
Schemes like these have been proposed numerous times before and they have yet to catch on, because users don’t actually wish to pay money to send emails around
Hmm, ask e.g. digitalcourage.de cause their stamp email server model works.
Maybe only in Germany people want to “pay money to send emails around” because they get a spam-free environment.
Things like pay for no advertising are working perfect at Europeans major newspapers and magazines like Der Spiegel / Spiegel Online (which for me is the most serious)
[disclaimer: also a customer of mine])…