Tokenizing Wikipedia

Prompted by a tweet from Michael Arrington, I thought I’d throw this together.


We can tokenize Wikipedia as it stands right now, using a variant of curation markets. In fact, in the extreme, we don’t even need Wikipedia’s permission to do so.

This proposed system:

  1. Will provide a continuous stream of revenue towards Wikipedia.
  2. Will improve quality of content through skin-in-the-game tokenized signals.
  3. Will attract more curators and reward those who are contributing & editing content.
  4. Can be attached onto Wikipedia as it is, right now, even without their permission.
  5. Will remain free for readers. No tokenized access.

Wikipedia is doing an extremely stellar job at maintaining this wealth of global knowledge. I use it daily. In order to get to this point, it had to innovate in terms of managing quality. We stand on the shoulders of the humans that built this grand, shared artefact. But, we are still human. This means that our subjectivities still filter through even though we feel we are unbiased. The internal processes have helped to avoid that.

With that being said, there’s still issues where we could benefit by introducing new signals into the curation of wikipedia. Whether it is contention between editors, or contention between different diffs (which one is better). Much of wikipedia is about effective curation.

Using curation markets, we can introduce a tokenized system that will add *new* skin-in-the-game signals to the content that will help us determine how to more effectively curate it. It won’t remove the human editors as it stands, but merely help and inform them. A new swarm of editors will arrive that stakes tokens towards variants of edits. Like a human doctor listening to an AI’s diagnosis, it would be up to the human to decide how to head these new signals.

Curation Markets

Curation Markets is a tokenized system I designed that allows groups to coordinate around shared goals (and interests) and benefit from the value they collectively create. It does this by adding tokenized, skin-in-the-game signals to (any) information curation.

Rules for tokenized value creation & curation are built into a smart contract that acts as the schelling (focal) point for coordination.

Using this, the collaborators can curate information & share in the value that is communally created.

This solves 3 core problems:

  1. Owning the value you create: Information creators & curators that is not reaping the collective value extracted from platform.
  2. Improving coordination: The difficulty in coordinating amorphous groups around shared goals: including things like open source projects, to global warming.
  3. Increasing novelty of information shared: Curating an increasing abundance of information with skin-in-the-game signals.

It does this by:

  • A token that can be minted at any time (continuous) according to a price set by the smart contract.
  • This price gets more expensive as more tokens are in circulation.
  • The amount paid for the token is kept in a communal deposit.
  • At any point in time, a token can be withdrawn (“burned”) from the active supply, and a proportional part of the communal deposit can be taken with.
  • The tokens are used to stake it to curators, who then curate information with their proportional stake.

I wrote a longer intro at the following post. It contains the longer whitepaper as well as the initial code, which is up on github. We’ve been discussing finer minutiae of the protocol design to ensure we get the desired outcome: rewarding curators for curating. It contains EXACT implementation details: from the cost curves to how tokens are staked.

Curation markets can be used in myriads of applications:

From metadata validation in the music industry (coming soon 😉), dank meme markets (like rare pepes), crowdfunding new projects, building AI art , personal attention markets, managing public funding, a trading sub-reddit (with a full, practical example, here), etc.

The applications are broad. Whatever is bolstered by the desire to curate is beneficial.

Curation Markets + Wikipedia

There’s a WikiToken.

This WikiToken can be minted at any point according to the set cost curve (putting the ETH paid for into a communal deposit). This WikiToken is then used to stake it towards curators who effectively help to improve the quality of the content. New participants can buy in whenever, and current holders can leave when they wish.

The variant is that instead of all the collateral remaining in the communal deposit, Wikipedia earns from the new tokens being minted. It’s a known variant in the whitepaper (adding beneficiaries).

The 1Hive beneficiary variant is even more elegant where the Wikimedia Foundation only earns from making sure that they remain aligned to the shared goal.

Market vs Social Norm? To tokenize or not to tokenize?

There *is* value in providing incentives and aligning them in such a way to keep something like Wikipedia existing (and flourishing). The way Wikipedia is structured currently means that it relies a lot on altruism: people who have a desire to help craft this shared artefact for the benefit of all humanity. Adding in tokens changes up the dynamics where it might push it out the altruists, forcing them to conform to the incentives of the token system. We are still quite early in terms tokenomics designs and thus we might prematurely innovate to a sub-optimal system. In an extreme, for example, we might end up with forking the style of content to become more viral, rather than objectively *good*. We should be wary of how these cocktails of incentives stack up.

Thus, we should experiment.

Competing Curation Markets.

Curation markets can be implemented as additional signal generators outside of current information systems. So, in the absence of knowing exactly what designs will be effective, these curation markets can be implemented right now without Wikipedia’s permission. They can then experiment with different variations.

These permission-less curation markets can have built in code that takes the funds it earns, and then donates it to Wikipedia at the end of every month. The best curation market would however be one where Wikipedia itself implements it, as it gives more credence to the tokenized signals this curation market generates.

Conclusion:

We can thus get tokenized systems that can help us curate this corpus, whilst simultaneously funding Wikipedia.

Curation Markets are in early stages of design and implementation. I’ve received a lot of feedback from many people, and have iterated with this continuously. For example, there’s in depth protocol discussion here on improving some of the early designs. I’ve written the first alpha code that is also on the github.

There remains outstanding questions around this, however.

What constitutes effective curation in this context? Curation markets thrive best when attracting attention, but attracting attention at the cost of quality is not the trade-off we want. It’s very easy to design bad incentive systems. We should be wary of this. One simple addition can set off completely unwanted feedback loops. There are, also however, potentially myriads of protocol variants that could be inserted that improve it towards the desired goals.

The great thing is, as stated above. We can start, today. We can build competing curation markets on top of wikipedia and get to the best ones. We have to start somewhere.

At the end of the day, it’s worth exploring. Want to help me build curation markets & implement it on Wikipedia? I would love help as curation markets are 20–30% of my time atm. Contact me on Twitter.


Thanks Juan Benet for feedback on the article.

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Simon de la Rouviere

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Explorer of all stories, master of sunsets. Writer, Coder, Musician & Dancer. Blogging here lately: https://blog.simondlr.com

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