Alberto just made some observations about how the Edgeryders community colaborates, and that finding an adequate compensation mechanism could make such informal, network-mediated mutual support way more commonplace in our community. The same question was also discussed at LOTE3 regarding the development of this website (and lead to the Harmonious Hackathons idea).
At Alberto’s post, I proposed that Economy App (edit: since renamed Makerfox) could be an adequate compensation mechanism, and offered to let Edgeryders start using it during the beta phase (and of course, getting the hackers and geeks as beta testers is very attractive for us in return …). But, is Economy App indeed adequate as a compensation mechanism in this community? We gotta talk.
Alberto raised this concern:
once tabs are kept, will people stop asking for help to avoid being indebted? Does translating subtitles to Sam’s video mean that someone (Sam? Ben? Edgeryders?) now owes the community five thousand euros, or goods for a value thereof? That’s a lot of almost-new skateboard tables. You know how time banks fail? Enough people are willing to put in work in return for IOUs in time, but very few are ok signing those IOUs. There is always more supply than demand.
I need to be convinced that putting price tags on quanta of labor is not going to break the workflow. I know you are just using euro as a numeraire, but still.
Here’s our take on this:
Yes, time banks fail because users like deposits better than debt (it feels more generous, and also more powerful, because it allows immediate spending for desired items). Time banks also fail because of the complementary free rider problem: if too many users get into debt too much and then leave the system, by not offering anything, which renders the deposits of others unredeemable. Or more precisely, time banks fail because people fear this free rider problem and shy away from doing much with time banking for that reason.
That’s why time banks usually say that all members have to commit to keeping their accounts balanced (at zero) as much as possible. Because all credits, and the deposits on the other side, entail the above issues with collectivized trust.
Now, the network barter mechanism in Economy App can be understood as the “ideal time bank”: every network barter deal enforces this condition of keeping the account balanced, as every involved user will give as much value as she gets. There is no debt, and there is no deposit. It’s a barter, just like Harmonious Hackathons are barter (but without using numerical accounting).
So in the case of the video translation: unMonastery would register an account on Economy App, and add all it offers and needs, as an organization. It would create tasks for the subtitle translations, one per language, and assign a price tag to each. Other Edgeryders with freetime and the desire to explore or try something new would look through tasks and sign up to do those which sound interesting to them (also taking into account the price tag of course). It’s important that one user signs up for several tasks to get to do at least one, as that provides the flexibility needed by the barter algorithm. That network barter algorithm then finds an exchange where unMonastery gets one or several translations, and hands out some offers for an equivalent value. While translators hand out the translations, and get something from their order list for an equivalent value. (What might unMonastery offer? Anything that’s of use. Free stay for a one-week visit to the unMonastery for example.)
Note that such an exchange between unMonastery and translators is improbable to happen with direct barter (the very fact that limits collaboration right now, as people also tend to avoid debt). As a solution, the algorithm will find any number of people in between to make an indirect barter. Both unMonastery and translators are settled (“at zero account balance”) before and after the deal: no debt is involved.
I am aware that adding numerical accounting / price tags to goods and services changes the social dynamics of mutual help. That is probably what you worry about. It is most prevalent where debt is involved (as it gets a moral stance then, as David Graeber explains). While without debt being involved, as in network barter, the numerical units can be rather hidden. They only serve the algorithm to calculate which deals are valid. Indeed we should think about hiding the numbers in everything except the “deal journal” in Economy App (which is a way for users to check that the platform created valid deals).
Does that make sense? What other concerns are there that might make Economy App inadequate?