Decentralized Reward Platform

This research is an attempt to identify a new approach to the problem of social and economic interaction between creators and consumers and to offer a possible solution based on blockchain technology. This article is published as a part of [XRE] RevolverCoin cryptocurrency research program.

Intro

The concept is based on a support functionality which is designed to build a stronger relation between users than a well-known interactions in popular social networks, such as likes, following, and friendship. Literally “support” is a direct, emotional and/or financial support of a creator by his fans. Usually such kind of support can be seen between close friends and relatives. The first step in this direction was made by crowdfunding platforms (such as https://www.kickstarter.com/) and sustainable income services (such as https://www.patreon.com/). With a help of a support concept we will try to make one step further: the developed technology aims to improve the relation between consumers and creators by building social connections of a new type, that will give a possibility for a user to express his support as a fan, while a creator obtains a freedom of creativity and a consistent income. The main objective for the concept is to open up new opportunities for creators by providing them with consistent income and thus allow them to focus on the creative part.

Problem

People express their support unconsciously when they purchase the work of their favorite author: new book, new musical album, movie — every purchase includes the author’s royalty which is a creator’s reward. This scheme works pretty good for signed artists, those who are in the retails’ product catalogues and can afford big promotion campaigns. But for the independent authors and internet artists this story looks different. The reward opportunities don’t look optimistic for those who want to make open-source projects or projects under open licenses such as Creative Commons. The only support they get is their own community, and there are not too many tools that come to the rescue when dealing with open-license community reward monetization.

We will try to exaggerate the support concept in order to identify the basic principles of the system that would be able to deal with this problem. The system in which the opportunity to be heard is available to every person, regardless of their social status and financial means.

Solution

Network as a graph

So, what is support? The person gives a positive emotional energy by expressing support to other people. It can be performed by a social interaction or financial donation. And in their turn, the person who has received the support energy gets higher motivation to continue doing creative work and begins sharing the energy with other people that the person supports. We see that these principles form a self-motivated and self-configured network with nodes that generate energy, pass energy through themselves and diffuse it among its connections. The network as a living organism consists of nodes generating and using energy and connections between these nodes serving as energy transport channels inside the network.The network as an organism exists because of the energy circulation inside it and expands when transport network grows along with the transported energy volume increase.

These fundamentals incentivize nodes to create rational connections (edges) with other nodes to maximize reward inflow.

We use this idea to solve a previously described reward problem in creative communities, moreover this approach helps us to solve the problem of quality content discovery among a huge amount of information.

We are going to represent the network as a graph, where each node is a specific type of a user with definite functional set that serves network’s motivational purpose. Graph edges form connections between nodes and literally provide a support of a node (user) for one another. By creating a support edge a node creates a two-way connection which represents an energy transport channel between nodes. A part of received portion of energy will be used by the node as a reward and the remaining part will be passed further through the adjacent edges. The process continues until energy is fully distributed.

Implementation on the blockchain

Network entities with their short description represented on Illustration 1.

Illustration 1. Types of nodes and connections

Generators are POS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof-of-stake) nodes which generate emission and commit transactions to the blockchain. Nevertheless the consensus can be of POS, POW or hybrid type. Generators are physical nodes that perform a certain work required for the network and referred as a computing resource. In blockchain a generator is represented by the record that contains generator’s address and locked certain amount of currency, which guarantees the generator node owns a stake and participates in the network consensus process.

Authors are nodes that create the content and register it in the ledger. Unlike generators, who are physical computing nodes, authors are abstract nodes and are represented in the blockchain with the address and the set of private keys assigned to each author’s work registered on the blockchain. The work is an ordinary string message of limited length signed with the author’s private key and usually containing URL to the author’s published content on the web.

Users in the blockchain are represented with the address only.

Additionally, each node (generator, author or user) can register one or more supports. Each support defines a source and a target node addresses, thus creates a link between two nodes. Similarly to generators, support links require certain amount of currency to get locked. Locked currency is released when support is removed and becomes available to its owner. The rule is that the number of support links corresponds to the amount of locked currency. If generators want to create more links — they need to lock more money.

Illustration 2. Network graph

As we see on Illustration 2, supports are graph edges and mostly are bidirectional which means the reward received by a node will be shared with connected nodes according to the reward sharing rules, regardless of the node type. Supports can be created with authors as target only, so a support link cannot be created between generators and users and vise versa.

How it works

Lets consider the reward propagation principles in the network with the following example. All artworks used in this example are created by http://patryk-garrett.deviantart.com/

Assume there is a 3D artist named A1 who has published his works in this network. Undoubtedly A1’s pieces of art are amazing creations and A1 deserves to be rewarded and to get heard. Fortunately A1 knows about this network and has published his works here. As mentioned earlier, each A1’s work is represented on the blockchain with a special record containing reference/URL to the actual work and signed with A1’s private key.

Illustration 3. An artist publishes his work

The user S1, browsing new publications published on the blockchain, founds that the author A1 creates great stuff and user S1 gets really impressed with his findings. The user S1 establishes support and links it to A1, expressing a real support to the author.

Illustration 4. Creating a support

Over time the author A1 gets lots of supports from fans and each fan can bring the author a reward in prospect (Illustration 5.)

Illustration 5. Multiple supports

There comes a time, when the author A1 gets supports from users, who integrated into the network densely and are a part of the transport channel of energy transfer from a certain generator. Those users can be generators who support the author A1 directly (Illustration 6.2), or common supporters who share the reward indirectly through the connections with other authors (Illustration 6.1)

Illustration 6.1. Indirect reward
Illustration 6.2. Direct reward

The key feature of this concept is the fact that as supporters both user and generator, also get a part of author’s reward. It means that the author shares the received reward with all active supporters. From the authors graph node perspective, a part of the received reward will be propagated to the network onward through connected support edges, except the one by which this reward was initially received. Technically the supporter implements energy transport function and obviously should be rewarded for the work. From the user’s perspective, the author expresses gratitude to his users, people who purchase and support author’s creative work. From an economic point of view, a popular author (the one who has lots of supports and who gets a decent amount of direct and indirect reward) shares a significant amount of reward among his supporters, thus the support link to this author is economically sound, can be paid off in the future and has return of investment evidence.

It is important to note that early-supporters gain an advantage over others, to incentivize quality content discovery.

To prevent an abuse of the network rules by using automated network nodes (bots) which can generate and configure multiple support links, the following points should be discussed:

  • The operation to set and remove a support requires a fee and a certain amount of time to be activated (preventing change a graph structure abuse)
  • A certain amount of support links are required for an author to publish his next work on the blockchain (preventing spam from fake authors)

The application

The network fundamentals were stated in the previous example and a wide range of real-world services and applications can be implemented on top of this network platform. As an example, let’s design a social service that utilizes above mentioned decentralized reward network.

Let’s call our social service ArtBook. The purpose of this service is to create a community of free painters, 3D designers and other independent artists and provide social tools such as sharing and discussion of artworks, performing social interactions, and providing reward mechanics based on the proposed idea. Moreover ArtBook will bring the platform that will help unknown talented authors to get discovered and supported in the easiest and fastest way possible.

This online service is implemented based on the decentralized blockchain platform and ArtBook website is represented only as a user interface to the platform backend. ArtBook has functionality of all popular social networks such as Create Profile, Follow, Publish Content, Like, Add to Favourites and many others. As an example, we suggest to refer to DeviantArt (www.deviantart.com), which is the world’s largest online gallery and community.

The user can browse published artworks by authors he\she is subscribed to or browse the latest and most popular publications using filters, etc. Supports as a new functional is introduced as well. Each user can support other user/author by obtaining a support link. Supports are paid and their purchase can be treated as a one-time subscription to the particular author, or the purchase of an access to the author’s content. The size of the reward of an author depends on how many supports he has and what are the network profiles of their supporters. Moreover the user who is not an author, and who transfers the reward towards the other authors, will be rewarded also for the reward transport channel maintenance. Diving deeply into the specifics of connections between users and authors an additional rewardable user role can be uncovered: Talent Discovery. We won’t go into the details of Talent Discovery at this point since an additional research paper is required to describe all the opportunities that lay within this feature.

The next introduction is a new user type: Superuser. This user is a physical computing unit under the hood, that contributes its computing power to the blockchain network. Exactly this user is a generator in terms of the described system. From the blockchain network’s perspective this is a POS-node which provides the consensus, commits transactions to the ledger and generates reward for the whole network. Superuser or generator, is rewarded for their contribution to the network and thus has pragmatic benefits to support the network along with ideological motivation. If we observe examples of specialized communities such as DeviantArt, Musician Network, Myspace, etc, the skeleton of the community consists of generic user type, which combines an author, a user and in our case even a superuser.

The following brief UI mockups demonstrate basic scenarios using ArtBook social network. The red line accents links, which user would click to navigate between mockups (photos source: TruthIn7Minutes.com).

Illustration 8. Timeline
Illustration 9. Artist’s profile
Illustration 10. Supporting an artist

As mentioned before, the social demo network ArtBook is only one example of the service which provides an interface to the global decentralized reward blockchain network, and it helps artists and their fans to get a simple access to the network mechanics and to take part in sharing rewards. In the same way the unlimited number of music, video and gaming services can be created based on their own rules but adhere generic principles of the reward sharing decentralized network.