Boosting news creativity through blockchain

After the wave of blockchain explainers at the end of 2017 lifted (some) of the confusion regarding the workings of the technology, more and more things are happening in the blockchain space this year: Civil’s CVL tokens are on sale right now, an indie comedy was released with the help of blockchain in June, and at the ONA conference in September, Amy Webb described blockchain startup Honeycomb as the ‘most clever’ startup she’s ever seen.

And now, we also have a blockchain-powered-social-network-project stemming from a collaboration of partners from different European countries to add to the list of blockchain hopefuls. It’s called DAFNE, which stands for decentralised platform for fair media distribution empowering creators and user communities (and also happens to be the name of the first opera). It aims to boost Europe’s collective creative effort by providing a decentralised platform where musicians, journalists, coders, writers, photographers, video producers (and the list goes on) can sell their creativity without a middleman controlling the distribution, pricing and revenue model.

We caught up with Federico Alvarez, Ph.D, Telecommunications Engineer and assistant professor at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), to find out why DAFNE wants to bring creatives from different industries together, how the community on this social network will learn to self regulate, and why the use of blockchain technology could boost creativity.

These are notes from our conversation. Edited for clarity.

Controlling your own content

Journalists, writers, photographers and media producers are often forced to look towards bigger platforms, which have control over what kind of content is produced and how the revenue is shared. With a decentralised platform, creators can collaborate, produce and sell, on their terms.

Musicians who create music outside the mainstream may have be able to make a name for themselves on big platforms, but ultimately if they can only follow the paths of others, we are going to lose out on a lot of creativity.

This is something that we should fight against. It’s therefore important that the journalist or the writer or the musicians are the ones deciding under which conditions they share their creativity.

For an unknown musician, selling the first songs can be very difficult. Who is going to discover their content? Also, to get reasonable revenue from their work means they need a great number of clicks. And this takes time. The blockchain platform lets you set your own conditions and see who is consuming your content. This can help you figure out in which part of the world your fans are and where you need to plan a concert. The platform can also help you find other artists to go on tour with. And lastly, blockchain allows for immediate payment: you don’t need to wait for the end of the month to get your money.

Collaboration

The platform also includes a recommendation system, just like you’d find on Netflix or Spotify where you’re recommended films or music based on your taste and connections. The recommendation system on DAFNE is not just for the user but also for the creator: when two authors on the platform are doing similar things, they can find each other easily and collaborate. For example, if you’re a journalist and you’re reporting on a certain location, you can indicate on your profile that you’re open to collaboration. An algorithm that scans the data on the platform then gives you suggestions of other creators who are working on the same thing. This could be a photographer who is selling images of the location you’re working on or video producers who have shot video content about it. In short, you don’t need to create everything by yourself. And given the smart contracts offered on the blockchain you can fairly distribute revenue between the co-creators.

Image provided by Federico Alvarez

Revenues

The finished product, which may be an article, can be sold on to a third platform. This could be a well known mass media platform or a newspaper. A user can also pay for a premium account on the DAFNE platform and have access to the product by paying for it directly. The creators can then share the profits between them using the smart contracts: for example, 30 percent could go to the photographer, 30 percent to the video producer and 40 percent to the journalists.

But we’re not saying that this platform is only for independent creators. Big players could also use the platform in order to find journalists that they’d like to work with.

Tools

The DAFNE platform will host a number of open source tools to help the different artists create their work. Here are some examples:

  • Audio and music content creation tools

Modular tools for musicians and sound designers in the form of libraries for standard environments (Max/Pure Data, web audio API, etc.). These tools will feature advanced audio analysis, processing and synthesis algorithms and user interfaces.

  • VR & AR and 3D content creation tool

Creation tools for 3D modelling to be used from the content production communities. These tools will allow:

  1. personalisation and full customisation of a virtual avatar;
  2. realistic and efficient 3D avatar animations;
  3. 3D model reconstruction of people or objects from multiple images.
  • Image and video processing tool for automatic generation of artworks

Deep-learning-based artistic creative tools will assist and inspire artists to generate artworks of specific style resulting in more beautiful, delicate, and creative artistic content produced and distributed through the DAFNE platform.

  • Collaborative text, image, and video editing tool

This tool will allow the collaborative generation of content

  • Trusted Sources and Curation Tools

DAFNE Trusted Sources and Curation tools will allow the verification of the content stored in the DAFNE platform in order to detect and remove fake or offensive information.

Merging different fields of creativity

The platform offers the chance to merge different areas of creativity: journalism, games and music. Giving these actors fair revenue models is something that is very different from other approaches and will boost Europe’s creativity.

For example, in the past a video game was created by a person coding and locked into the market. Now a video game is like a movie: it has a writer for the story and script, the accompanying music is sold separately, and there is a specialist journalist who writes about new games. It’s an evolving environment: in the past it was all separated, but now it is interrelated.

Avoiding a cold start with a trustworthy community

One of the problems that big platforms are facing is disinformation. Anyone viewing content on the DAFNE platform can raise an alarm if they come across content that they don’t deem reliable. The user can also rate content and creators.

But how can we make sure that this self moderating community is a good community itself? In the beginning, we’ll encounter a cold start: we’ll have a low number of users and a low quantity of content. Our idea is therefore not to start from scratch but to start from trustworthy communities that already exist, such as the Global Editors Network or IRCAM forum. The model is a bit like Wikipedia, which started small and attracted communities that wanted to contribute information because they believed it was the right thing to do.

The communities we’ll start with are already established. They are trusted and will contribute content meaning that we’ll hopefully avoid this cold start problem.

We want the community to moderate the community. We are going to implement some rules to make sure that we are moving in the right direction: preventing fake content without censoring.

The future is blockchain?

Massive adoption of a blockchain technology will not happen overnight. But in a few years, I believe that people from many sectors will start adopting this kind of solution to offer transparency and new opportunities for users. I don’t think that it’s a problem of technology, but it is more about knowing and testing what brings about revenue for professionals and knowing to what degree we need investment in marketing and publicity.

Sustaining DAFNE

We have asked for funds from the Horizon 2020 programme from the European Commission and we are waiting for the results. We hope to first invest in the technology and do first trials and testing with users.

After developing the technology and the pilot testing by early adopters which may take around two years, we want to start with around 30,000 professionals/creators and grow this number to more than 100,000 in the first year. In terms of users, we’d like to have 1.5 million on the platform in the first year.

There will be around thirty people working on DAFNE in different European countries.

Disclaimer: The Global Editors Network is proud to be a partner for the project and in charge of starting the community of digital journalists and editors on the platform. The GEN community will test and promote the blockchain opportunities offered by DAFNE.