True Review: Censorship-resistant reviews

🏆 2C won 1st place at ETHDenver 2021, allowing people to submit company and app reviews that cannot be censored by corporations.

It’s ETHDenver 2021, and we tackled another project — pandemics can’t stop us from hacking! We decided to tackle a controversial topic in the tech space — reviews. We’ve been sitting on this summary for a few months, heads down launching our DAO, so we’re excited to share more about this project.

The people of /WallStreetBets vs. Wall Street

The backstory

On the morning of Jan. 28, Robinhood sent an email to its user base restricting stock purchases from several companies such as GameStop, AMC and Nokia, citing “market volatility” as the reason. The Reddit community /WallStreetBets felt otherwise, that the move protected hedge funds and institutional investors, rather than the everyday person trading on the app.

In response, users took to Google and Apple to post negative reviews of the app, driving down it’s 5-star rating to a measly 1.1 star review. The fun didn’t stop there, either — Google and Apple came to the rescue by removing over 100,000 of these negative reviews, restoring Robinhood’s app store standing. The /WallStreetBets community demanded an explanation for why their voices were being silenced across the big tech companies. According to Gizmodo, Google claimed that it had taken “coordinated or inorganic reviews’’ down, but did not comment on how it defined an inorganic review.

The backlash continues, with calls to #DeleteRobinhood and a class-action lawsuit stating, “Robinhood’s actions were done purposely and knowingly to manipulate the market for the benefit of people and financial institutions who were not Robinhood’s customers.”

Our take

The online community has made it clear that people demand ownership of their voice and their data. We decided to build a blockchain-based review platform in response to this controversial event. What has transpired over the last month has revealed an opportunity for a blockchain-based solution to ensure that reviews belong to the people, not big tech companies.
We decided to therefore tackle the two sides of the problem of posting trust-worthy reviews: identity-verification and record-permanence.

Decentralization for the win

Reviews belong to the people, so let’s build it that way.

🐶 True Review is a censorship-resistant review platform. It lets people own their reviews, and share them without fear of censorship. We believe that reviews are meant to support better decision-making and transparency, so long as you can prove that the reviewer is a real person.

From identity, to storage, to gamification

We thought through these sponsor integrations to come up with those that worked best to accomplish our goals for 🐶 True Review:

  • People own their data by backing rich text/image/video reviews with IDX & Ceramic (all stored on IPFS of course!)
  • Real companies are verified through local government APIs (also backed by IDX/Ceramic/IPFS)
  • People can verify their identity through Colorado’s myColorado app (or similar) for optional bot & spam protection
  • People can link their reviews and identity to a decentralized namespace with Unstoppable Domains
  • To make things fun and practical, why not add some gamification using NEAR Protocol NFT rewards and prizes!?

The tech stack

We were dazzled at ETHDenver last year with the maturity of ecosystem tools, and this year did not fail to impress us. We could not have stitched together a solution quite like True Review without these players.

Challenges

One of the most challenging parts of the project was nailing down decentralized, user-owned data the right way. We considered 3 layers of decentralized data in the ecosystem:

  1. Base Layer (Blockchain/Ethereum/etc.) — storing data directly on a fully decentralized blockchain is the purest approach, but can be costly, slow, and difficult to scale
  2. Middle Layer (Filecoin/etc.) — a mix of both worlds (1 & 2), blockchain backed monetization powers a more trusted and permanent storage marketplace, much more scalable than directly on Ethereum, but still has atomic transaction costs
  3. p2p Community (IPFS/Pinata/Ceramic/Textile/TheGraph/etc.) — a community driven ecosystem, mostly leveraging core IPFS technology to provide a network of peers that help store and share data in a more fluid nature

Each layer has its pros and cons for specific use cases. For a review platform:

  • People paying a cost in order to leave a review isn’t realistic
  • People want to interoperate with a variety of wallets, blockchain technology, and social identity verifications
  • People want to own their data, and decide where it is stored

The Presentation

The team that made this happen:

Nico Valencia, Katy Jeremko, Chieri Wada, & Julian Ramlal.

The Future of this Project

Web2 solutions offer review systems today — we could start with partnering to provide the right APIs and blockchain-based solutions from the bounty sponsors and consult them on moving into web3.

We could also provide this solution by starting from scratch, funding the effort as a public goods solution backed by the ETH community, or by local governments.

Awards

Our hard work paid off with much appreciated community support for the project. At the end of the competition, 2C received over a dozen awards, including 1st Place Overall. Check out our submission on Devfolio.

  1. 1st Place Overall!
  2. Top 20 — Celebrity Judging Choice Award
  3. 8+ ColoradoJam Bounties
  4. Ceramic Network
  5. NEAR Protocol
  6. IPFS
  7. Unstoppable Domains

Lastly, we were invited to the ETHDenver & Colorado Government sponsored ColoradoJam incubator, and hope to continue working on this project in the future.

Huge thanks to the ETHDenver community for hosting one of the greatest hackathons in the world. We’re excited to return next year for more hacking!

If you’d like to play with True Review, 👉🏼 view the design prototype here.

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2C brings bold business ideas to life with ingenious dev & design. We match dream projects with dream teams, combining precision engineering with world-class design. Our network of experts collaborate worldwide, using the 2C Indie DAO.

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Katy Jeremko

Katy Jeremko

Designer and entrepreneur, building teams and tools at twoscomplement.io.

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