Introduction to SourceCred

Dandelion Mané
May 14 · 3 min read

SourceCred is an open-source technology for organizing communities.

An example cred distribution, for SourceCred itself.

Cred Matters

SourceCred is built on the idea that cred matters. Cred is the social status that members of a community earn by participating, demonstrating expertise, and making valuable contributions.

In a healthy community, members’ social status is closely tied to the value they contribute. Imagine a dance group that reveres a great choreographer, or an open-source project that respects the core developers.

Sadly, many communities fail to recognize people for the work they do. Imagine a communal kitchen where no-one feels appreciated for doing the dishes, so they pile up dirty in the sink. Or imagine a hard worker who is good at her job, but not at office politics, and is passed up for promotions in favor of people who “look the part”.

This mis-attribution of cred has consequences. People who are doing important work but go unrecognized may start to burn out. And if the community sees that the path to status is through playing politics, that community will lose track of its values.

A core issue here is that fairly tracking contributions is hard. In a group of five or six people, it’s easy to remember who did what, and to recognize them accordingly. But in a team of fifty or sixty, it’s really hard to know about all the different kinds of value that people contributed.

Contribution Networks

SourceCred’s approach is to allow communities to create and curate contribution networks. A contribution network is a representation of how contributions are connected to other contributions, to members of the community, and to the community’s values. The contributions can be imported automatically from sources like GitHub, Google Docs, and Medium, or they can be manually provided by members of a community.

A simple contribution network showing how three people collaborated on writing a post

Once the contributions have been recorded, SourceCred uses a sophisticated PageRank-based algorithm to assign ‘cred’ to every contribution. Cred is a score that measures how important a contribution was, based on how it was connected to other contributions and values.

The initial cred scores are the start, rather than end, of the discussion. Given the scores as a starting point, the community can ask: do these scores reflect our values? If not, they can add new values, tweak the connections, and re-compute the scores.

Future Vision

We think that SourceCred will be transformative, in that it will allow value-based communities to organize and collaborate at scales that corporations do today. Imagine a world more shaped by communities organized around values, rather than corporations organized around profits.

SourceCred is still an early-stage technology and a young community. Right now, we’re focused on “dogfooding” SourceCred for SourceCred itself — we want to do a great job of giving cred in the project to everyone who contributes, whether technically or non-technically. If you’d like to get involved, come take a look at our forums, or say hi in our Discord chat. Or, if you’re technically minded, come hack on the SourceCred repo!


Thanks to Michael Zargham, LB Strobbe, Amico Mané, Miguel Andrade, and everyone who participated in this Discourse thread for their feedback and comments on drafts of this post.


SourceCred is an open-source technology. We are grateful to Protocol Labs for funding and support.

SourceCred

SourceCred aims to empower open-source developers and communities by creating a project-specific reputation metric called cred.

Dandelion Mané

Written by

Software engineer, fusion dancer, pragmatic idealist. I use they/them pronouns.

SourceCred

SourceCred aims to empower open-source developers and communities by creating a project-specific reputation metric called cred.