Can Makerfox help Edgeryders to collaborate?

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?

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Win some, lose some

I see three problems in having network barter work as a engine for collaboration. In growing order of difficulty:

  1. time: if I do something, when do I get something else in return?
  2. uncertainty: can I propose to barter the certainty of something against the possibility of something else?
  3. identity: who am I exchanging with? 

I am going to look at them in the context of our example with [Sam Muirhead]'s video.

  1. Time. Imagine you are, let's say, [pacheca] and you spend some time translating the video's subtitles. Now you get something else in return, great! Suppose this something else is "funded travel to the next LOTE". That's in anything between 6 and 12 months. How does this work? You can "trick the system" saying that Rita would get immediately a voucher redeemable for some future conference, of course. Is that cheating? Notice that, seen this way "there are no debts" is not a feature, but a bug: debt is indeed intertemporal allocation of goods and services.
  2. Uncertainty. Let's follow up on the same example. We are not really sure that there will even be another LOTE – all we can say is that we are committed to do our best to making it happen. So, Rita could be compensated by a conditional voucher:  in return for her work, she gets a voucher redeemable for some future conference, if we ever manage to make one and get it funded. 
  3. Identity. This one is hard. Just let's follow the video example again. What happened:
    • Sam decided to ask [Ben] questions and make a video of it.
    • [LucasG] donated some of his time to open the Amara stub and do most of the transcription work (semi-automated, but still you need to know how to run the system). 
    • At this point, some people including [Noemi] and myself put the word out on Edgeryders and on social media.
    • Finally, a dozen generous folks did the actual translations.

It is not clear, here, who is indebted to whom. Who are we even doing a favour? Everyone I listed is volunteering time, skills, sometimes money to build some sort of common resource, the unMonastery. So, who is supposed to be compensating us? What’s more, when you are collaboratively building commons, it’s not even clear where you should draw a line. Upstream of the video, there was LOTE3, that was build collaboratively; and upstream of that there is the unMonastery project, driven by Edgeryders but from which Edgeryders LBG has not drawn one cent. I see [elf Pavlik] smiling in my head: it’s non-transactional all the way down.

I have other thoughts (not critiques, more like suggested workarounds), but I will stop here for now. This is an important decision both for Edgeryders and for the Economy App, and I would really like more people to chime in.

Some more thoughts

Thanks for the feedback, Alberto. As always, it helps! So let’s go on with the discussion a bit:

  1. Time: Yes, you can hand out a voucher for now. Hacking the system like that is appreciated even :-) If you include a voucher for a specific product or service as "debt", then a train ticket is also debt. And the time between order and shipment of physical goods is also debt. Such debt is essential in trade. It does not create trust problems with the exchange mechanism itself (as debt does in time banks), since it is P2P debt: you know who owes you what, and you chose the seller in the first place based on your trust that he or she will deliver the promised product or service. P2P debt is also not transferable (so, tied to that personal trust relationship and context). While the collectivized debt has neither of these attributes (and creates the fuzzy free rider problem for time banking).
  2. Uncertainty: Again, the conditional voucher is a good idea to hack the system. Some other implementation of network barter may support uncertainty (like investments, with risk levels) explicitly. Economy App does not, since it's focused on mutual support through goods and services.
  3. Identity: Let me tie this to the discussion about the Commons, as you already started doing. Following the thoughts of Elinor Ostrom, a commons is a resource with flatrate access to insiders, who are expected to use it responsibly, but also has or should have clear boundaries regarding who is an outsider without access. This can indeed scale up to manage large amounts of resources, like community-managed forests. However, the subtitling exercise has no "boundaries of the commons": no flatrate access rights to unMonastery resources, or sense of ownership, can be derived from taking part. Instead, it was a fun exercise for everyone involved (including myself). That's fine, it just does not scale: everyone of us has only so much resources to invest for fun. This makes us come back to the problem you realized at the beginning of this discussion: if we want to facilitate the tenfold or hundredfold amount of Edgeryders' collaboration, we are in need of a compensation scheme. The Commons idea seems of limited use to me, as it only regulates how people contribute to their own commons, not to projects of other Edgeryders. The Harmonious Hackathon approach is ingenious in its own way, as it is a rare direct barter opportunity adapt for inter-project collaboration. But it does not apply to all tasks and contexts (not to a quick need for subtitling for example): it's useful, but not for all our needs. Indirect barter (like in Economy App) is useful for all kinds of stuff though.

Now many (me included) intuitively do not like the idea of putting price tags on everything when bartering … it’s sounds like the beginning of objectification of all and everything, and like a way in again for interest rates, debt-backed securities etc. again. The alternative would be indirect barter without price tags. It has been tried (like on BarterQuest or NetCycler), but in my view nobody got it to work yet: there, transactions require a lot of manual coordination effort and are easily frustrated by one veto in a potential ring barter, so they are way too rare for a well-working economic exchange mechanism. For this reason, we looked for ways to search and close indirect barter deals automatically, and the only solution we have so far includes price tags on offers. That’s the tradeoff we made to enable collaboration not just in relatively close, trusting communities like Edgeryders, but also between near-strangers. Which seems like a prerequisite for generally applicable economic exchange mechanims.

Indeed, as you noted, it is not clear who is indebted to whom in the subtitling example. That would only become clear when the transaction logic of barter is applied to everything, including a membership fee to be paid in barter for sustaining the Edgeryders operations like LOTEs and website. I’m pretty sure we do not want transaction logic to penetrate all that. But barter is also open to gift culture: instead of membership fees, Edgeryders could support its platform by donating small amounts of barter value to it (hacking Economy App for it: Edgeryders offers “digital thank-yous” with a price tag, donors just order that product). Network barter would now map these donations as income of the Edgeryders platform user to its expenses for sustaining Edgeryders, like paying a community manager in barter value. So in contrast to now, large chunks of work would not need to be volunteer efforts but would be compensated from everyone’s small donations. Distributing the load like this is a benefit of the transaction logic … a benefit you get for accepting price tags :slight_smile:

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Some remaining issues

We are not finished here… I am left with at least one practical note and one more theoretical one.

The practical note is of most relevance to the present discussion. Let’s agree we don’t want transactional logic to penetrate everything in Edgeryders. Start by positing one edgeryder – call  her Alice – with a project, for example organizing a physical meetup. Suppose the person actually has a client, and a little money. There are two ways that she could compensate individual edgeryders helping out:

  1. nonmonetary kudos (for small things such as resharing, retweeting etc. to put the word out)
  2. material compensation (for larger quanta of work that entail taking responsibility, for example being the floor manager for the event).

Economy App can track case 1 by “thank you vouchers”, as you suggest. But there is a catch: such vouchers need to be denominated in currency. And time is the one thing most of us are very careful not to underprice. So, it looks like this: I donate, say, one day of my time to Alice’s project. It’s a real donation: I don’t expect to be paid. But numeraire means I have to track, and put a price tag on it. I am a freelance consultant, and consider myself a pretty senior one. One day of billable time goes for, what? At least 500 euro. Of course this is not the way my time is normally sold: I typically work with retainers, in which I sell  a package of days over a year or so, at a heavily discounted rate, by I am not comfortable putting my own price in at less than 500 euro a day. After all, this is how I make my living: it is my privilege to fix my own price, I don’t want any client telling me “Hey, I saw you working for 100 euro a day that time on Edgeryders!”. You know how freelancers like to say “work for a lot of money, or for free, but never for cheap”?

Problem is, at this point Alice is looking at a 500 euro gift. If collaboration works, there are probably many more people like me. It is very easy to pile up thousands or tens of thousands of euro as “sweat donations”. What is the psychological impact of putting a price tag onto it? It could be negative: the poor Alice is overwhelmed by running, say a 10K euro operation on 10K euro of gifts. Even though we are explicitly making donations, she feels in debt. On the other hand, it could also be positive: she could turn onto her client and tell him “look! for 10K euro, you got 20K euro worth of high quality labor, as my community found the work was worth doing and put in 10K worth of work as a gift. This is the magic you get if you do good work and do it with me and the Edgeryders community. It is the premium for meaningfulness of what we do”. What do people think here?

As for case 2, material compensation, on Edgeryders, could certainly take the shape of barter. But I am guessing cash would work better in most cases! Let’s stay with our example: Alice wants Bob to take responsibility for floor management doing the event. Maybe both Alice and Bob are using Economy App and could seal a network barter deal, but this particular economy is not liquidity constrained, because Alice does have a client and some money: so, the Economy App’s comparative advantage is not there. Also, there is a tax issue: at this point, Alice has an incentive to get an invoice from Bob. Paying an invoice with a mountain bike is not illegal, but there is a chance that the tax authority will come looking if you have an invoice and no bank transfer to show for it.

Conclusion: whan you move the Economy App from a local context, you lose the ease of “Alice, who has a bike, wants Bob’s skis; Bob wants Charlie’s drawing table; Charlie wants a bike”. While quanta of labor help close barter deals of material things, when labor is the main thing being exchanged the system seems to lose some of its edge with respect to a dual system made of gifts and monetary compensation of labor.

And here’s my little bit of theory: I think you misunderstood a key part of Ostrom. The clear boundaries between who has access and who does not have it are an outcome of a functioning commons management institution. The a priori of common goods is that they are non-excludable: in fact, non-excludability coupled with rivalry in consumption is the very definition of common goods.

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How donations work in a network barter system

Thanks for all the thoughtwork, this is a lot of input :slight_smile: About Ostrom, you’re right. The commons boundaries are what’s needed to prevent tragedies of the commons. I had proposed that treating Edgeryders’ work as a commons resource will only work when having these boundaries … this proposal still holds, even though I mixed up the definition of commons and their management institutions …

About using Economy App when there is money available: don’t :slight_smile: There’s no problem in this case that it could solve. Just, the other case (absence of money) will probably be the more frequent one in Edgeryders, given that there are always more projects in their starting phases than mature ones. (For those interested in hacks: if money is available, Economy App can still solve how to distribute it to where it’s most needed. Just offer the money as a product, say “1000 EUR for 1000 EUR”. Then it’s not necessarily paid as direct compensation for somebody’s service to the project, but indirectly. For example: Bob provides social network services to Alice’s project for 500 EUR; Alice provides the money product to Alberto; Alberto provides one day of consulting work to Chris; Chris provides a mountain bike for 500 EUR to Bob.)

On the tax issue in barter: Yep, there’s some stuff to be worked out still. We intend to have a full manual for all European member states one day, but not for the beta phase. It seems that, in most states except Sweden where bartering is illegal, the taxman wil be ok if you both have an invoice for your business expense, and also an invoice for your business income (the mountain bike sale in this case). Both invoices will appear as if paid in cash, which is also legal. If the mountainbike was your private property though (meaning its resale does not have to be taxed) but you are a solo entrepreneur, it gets complex already: what document you need now?

About using Economy App as a gift compensation system or not: Economy App would not be used to track and acknowledge who donated what product or service to whom. Let me try to explain more clearly the benefits of donations in barter (even though you understand the network barter concept’s “magic” already). Say, you offer one day of consulting for 500 EUR and one broken phone for 100 EUR. You want to donate 200 EUR to Alice’s project, means technically you order “200 EUR worth of donation receipts” from Alice’s project account. You also happened to have contracted a freelancer for another web dev project on your blog; of this, 700 EUR are still due.

Then in network barter, something like this would happen in one single trade, that is, simultaneously:

For Alberto

Get Give
Alice's donation receipts (152 EUR)

(still due: 48 EUR)

1d consulting (500 EUR)
web dev worktime (448 EUR)

(still due: 252 EUR)

broken phone (100 EUR)
sum: 600 EUR sum: 600 EUR

For Alice’s project

Get Give
blog post copywriting from Nadia (120 EUR) donation receipts to Alberto (152 EUR)

(still due: 48 EUR)

video subtitling in Polish from Alexey (40 EUR) donation receipts to Chris (27 EUR)

(still due: nothing)

video re-encoding fix from Matt (19 EUR)  
sum: 179 EUR sum: 179 EUR

(In addition to those mentioned, in practice such a trade would include 10-20 other people, and all would have such a little balanced box for income and expenses.)

So the key attributes of Economy App as a donations management system are:

  1. Donations are indirect (if you donate value, it does not mean you will work for the beneficiary project; instead you do what you're best in, and the project uses your donated value to cover its needs from others' projects and services; in contrast to the direct donations of time and resources from people like now, this is more flexible: we see donations used to purchase services and products from those who did not donate to this project, at least not as much as their services are worth).
  2. Donations aggregate (extending on the above point: in contrast to direct donations we practice now in Edgeryders, with indirect donations it is possible for, say, 40 people to donate 100 EUR in barter each, and to "pay" a fulltime community manager from this for two months; while the community manager would not have been able to donate all that time herself without compensation; note how this allows to mix the "nonmonetary kudos" and "material compensation" modes that you proposed: now Alice can spend many small donations on a big chunk of work, or one big donation on many small chunks of work).
  3. Donated amounts are unrelated to offer prices (if you offer one day of consulting for 500 EUR as a package, you don't need to donate a full day; it can be an arbitrary amount).
  4. Donations are paid from any of the offers, not from specific ones (in the above example, the consulting and phone together paid for your donations and web developer together, but it's not possible to determine in more detail what paid for what; and you did not know before and could not influence that you paid with these two to get the other two; the only thing to look out for is that values match on both sides).
  5. Donations are redeemed incrementally (a 200 EUR block is not used up in one instant, but is managed as a "fluid" product as we call it internally; this helps the network barter algorithm to close more trades).
  6. Donations are redeemed on demand (if Alice's project gets 10.000 EUR in donations and simply cannot register enough orders for services and stuff to use them up, some remain unredeemed and that's ok; it's not like having 10.000 EUR donated cash on an account, so it should not feel like "being in debt to others" so much).

Good point about the visibility of hourly rates. We did not think about this so far, but are kind of lucky to have a feature that hides the rates. It works by contributing to somebody’s project and being compensated for it with a privately agreed rate, instead of making a public offer for selling a day’s worth of your time.

My hat is off to you!

Matt, you are a genius! This might actually work – or at least is as serious a claim as I have ever seen. Let me cross some is and dot some ts and we are done – at least as far as I am concerned:

  • The "offer money as money hack" is very clever. But what's your call – should someone with money use Economy App anyway and feed money into a "mixed" system with both bartering and money, or should she not? 
  • You cannot infinitely partition offers of people's time. "Five minutes of software development" are meaningless. You can work around it by asking the person to provide multiples of the minimum meaningful quantum of time to do whatever she needs to do. For example, writing a solid blog post might take 2 hours. In that case, if Bob the Blogger wants to donate a day of his time to writing posts for Edgeryders project he could offer 4 x blog posts at €120 each. 
  • Donations should be allowed to be direct. Bob might believe in Alice's projects and be willing to write posts for her; at the same time, he might think that Charlie's project sucks, and writing nice things about it would feel hollow and contrived. Have you got a hack for this?
  • [Nadia] made a great suggestion: can we do a sort of controlled experiment in Edgeryders in which, if the thing spirals out of control, we are allowed to clean the slates like Babylonian kings in Grabere's books? Could we frame it as a fun experiment in which all the community has to lose is that it has collaborated a bit more than usual, instead of a Whole New Economic Order? We could even inflate it into a research project, and even ping Dr. Graeber himself and see if he's up for playing along. 
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Final comments

When an economist says your alternative to money could possibly work, you know you’re on to something :slight_smile: Made my day, because I know you mean it …

Comments on your final points:

  • Hybrid system yes or no? The only problem with applying this hack is, it could conflict with our business model. If there is enough money on offer for everyone who orders it to get at least some, it's no problem, But we expect it to be less than 3-4% of the the turnover initially, which is the ratio the platform operators would use for prioritized wishes for money, effectively converting some of its commission fees (that are charged in-kind) to money for covering hosting and other running costs. We will however not prevent users from offering money as a product, and them making it a hybrid system this way seems to have no adverse side effects to my knowledge. The platform still gets its own money share when somebody uses the "buy-now" feature, effectively catalyzing the execution of a certain order by putting in some (10-30%) contribution in money.
  • Partitioning time. True. The suggestion is that people offer task-specific packages of time as fixed-price products (like: "writing blog post of 1000-1300 words"). Other time will be packetized by those who need a task done, by using the "outsource task" feature. All other worktime will not be packetized but traded as regular project contributions via the "authorized worktime" feature. This means postpaid payment (work first, get the compensation coming in over time). It includes thus a certain amount of P2P debt, with the benefit that payment of worktime can be infinitely partitioned, while worktime can not. (This flexibility helps the network barter algorithm by providing "filler material": it can include payment amounts for worktime in cent increments, starting from 0.01 EUR).
  • Direct donations. Everybody works only for tasks they want to do, by clicking "I want to do this" for tasks and having "authorized worktime" agreements with projects. (Only when providing services as pre-packaged packages like products, you have no control over who orders it. That's why we don't recommend doing it. Or if the need arises, we could have a feature that the seller has to confirm incoming orders when offering a pre-packaged service.) Direct donations are no problem to handle out of a compensation system, so people could simply continue doing so. Maybe you think it's nice to have it in there so one can create "contribution graphs" and have metrics of merit for reputation? That sounds like an interesting addition interesting to me, and we can investigate it at some time after the beta.
  • Clean slates. That's always possible, because: there are no slates :-) Even the donation "hack" does not introduce debt! Namely, if I have ordered "thank yous" of Alice to support her project, but things get awry or I get burned out by donating too much, I can simply take back all orders that have not yet been executed. Just like I can modify unexecuted orders for other projects.

    Of course, then donations mean no guarantee of income for a project; this is bad in some circumstances like barter-based crowdfunding. There, a special feature would prohibit later modification of such orders that were made to crowdfunding. Which introduces debt of course, which is probably why we’ll avoid adding in-kind crowdfunding …)

A research project? Great! Something that could be a source for further funding and study of this proposal and the math behind it, would be warmly appreciated :slight_smile: If one day a specific collaboration idea for Economy App and some economist’s research gets into your mind, tell us please! (We already have an initial indication of interest from a PhD student in economics – she’d maybe investigate if network barter could be a large-scale alternative to austerity.)

So, summarizing…

Matt: I don’t understand everything you write, because you know Economy App and I don’t (“buy-now” feature, “outsource task” feature, “authorized worktime” feature). But I think we have a sort of rough plan. It would work like this:

  1. We integrate Economy App into Edgeryders, and hammer it into a collaboration enabler.
  2. We tweak it to make sure it supports a "mixed economy" of (a) people donating effort to other people's projects; (b) people investing effort into other people's projects (I get paid if your projects takes off); (c) downright compensation, i.e. people selling effort to other people's projects. I suspect a major contribution would be to engineer ways that donations can somehow count towards leading to paid work.
  3. Edgeryders LBG will (hopefully!) play a role in this, that of channeling money into the system and demanding paid work for it. This might be a positive role or not, we will see. 
  4. We study this closely as we do it – it is, after all, a test. My educated guess, in the aftermath of this conversation, is that we will need lots of tweaking on the sociological side to support the algorithm: to reinforce, so to speak, the meat part of the system. We'll need things like metaphors, unwritten rules, degrees of freedom, exception handling... This is why I think a research project in anthropology makes possibly better sense than one in economics: Graeber is no economist, and in fact this is what gives him his edge. So, let's also start thinking about a cool research project on the introduction of a new exchange system and its evolution. 
  5. We present the whole thing as an experiment – for example, we do this for a year. We understand we are taking some risks – the main one is probably to make our exchanges unnecessarily complicated without enabling any more collaboration – and we are cool with it.

To do all this, we need two things:

  1. Make sure the community is on board and buys into it. 
  2. Make sure the costs of running Economy App at this scale are reasonably low – Edgeryders is a new thing, and it barely stands as it is. Do you have an estimate, or a range of estimates?

Agreed, more or less :slight_smile:

Plan sounds good to me, just that integrating Economy App into Edgeryders cannot mean platform merging of sorts. It will be a second platform, and has to be, because the larger its user community, the better works the network barter algorithm (so Edgeryders are great for seeding the community from our perspective, but we later need many more). About the costs, it will not cost Edgeryders any money to be part of this test, and just like for all other future users of Economy App, transactions will be charged with a commission fee of 7% in barter value, not in money. We’ll have to ask the community of course if this sounds acceptable.

An anthropologic study sounds great. Indeed this is the part that we sometimes are a bit clueless … since even explaining network barter from a system perspective can be a challenging task …

And, quoting you: “that donations can somehow count towards leading to paid work.”: Possible by letting the network barter algorithm prioritize users for compensated work (normal barter) according to their donation track record. But let’s see first if this is really needed: we’re very wary of killing our software by adding unnecessary complexity, and have invested as much time killing features than inveting them (I invent them, my brother kills them :smiley: )

Agreed with me, too

Of course, I was not expecting platforms to merge. We’ll need to figure out a simple way that people can go from A to B.

Who do you charge the commission to? The buyer or the seller? And how? If I am bartering my bike against your suitcase, I assume either I or you have to give EA some cash, not a suitcase handle…

As for donations leading to paid work: absolutely, I was not asking for a feature. A study might pick up the signal of people tending to do that, and if the need is perceived you might want to code it in the software. For the alpha there is definitely no need… unless people in the community clamor for it.

Do you want to propose a road map for this? Call an ER directors meeting?

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Commission system

The commission is charged from the seller. And it is really charged in barter value only, meaning that the seller is not required to put in legal tender money. Think of this as the seller receiving a product called “platform services” for 7% of the value of his sales. The network barter algorithm has the task to make it all balance out, as usual. Since this product is required every time, the task is more difficult though. So we solved it by generosity: the platform gives credits to all its users, to pay for “platform services” that cannot be paid otherwise at the moment. These credits have a low limit of about 30-50 EUR, and the platform operators promise to only settle them in barter value alongside future deals – we think that users can be comfortable with these credits.

In effect, it means that the platform can get 7% of a trade’s turnover and get products and services for it in that very deal. We will use it to build up the platform itself by getting us marketing services, community management services etc… And for the financial needs, we will have a (prioritized) order for the “money product”, which only comes in when people voluntarily spend it by using the buy-now feature. (In sort, a buy-now offer is for example: You can get this 50 EUR product right now instead of waiting for an automatic trade to happen, but then you have to put in 9.67 EUR in money, and only the rest is paid from your offers. The exact buy-now offers are again calculated by the network barter algorithm, so they differ according to the solutions it can come up with instead of being one fixed percentage in money. Effectively, money as a “fluid” product can be used this way to catalyze network barter deals to happen right now, also including products and services of 10-15 other users typically, who profit from the one user who agreed to put in some money. So if you want, what we propose is already a hybrid economy because of this buy-now feature.)

How to proceed? Let’s first get the beta version finished I think, which is some weeks still :slight_smile: Then we will show it to the directors and the community, and discuss a detailed strategy based on that.

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I said it already: genius

Charge commission in barter, then reclaim it against services to build your servide? Very elegant! Well done. Go back to coding, we have a (rough) plan.

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topic is of interest

Dear Matthias and Alberto,

Just to say this topic is of interest. :- )

It has been my intention to study this info,

not yet been able, though.

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opt-in accounting systems

I don’t see that any particular accounting system would serve all possible cases and especially all the people where we all have different optinions, worldviews, lifestyles… To emphasise that i put up almost two years ago

In general I would like that we design all the accounting systems as complementary, opt-in, multiple choice options which everyone can choose to use (or not!) on case by case basis.

Sometimes I compare it to messaging, you can contact me over SMTP, XMPP, SIP, IRC, Twitter, Facebook, Edgeryders, sometimes SMS etc. As long as we all have just some of all those possible channels of communication in common with each another, we can communicate :slight_smile:

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Yep, but how to make them compatible?

[elf Pavlik], I agree with your proposal that there is no one-size-fits-all in economic exchange system. Indeed there’s for example a need to not subdue everything under the logic of “units of value” and “transactions”, for example (see the above discussion with Alberto on how to integrate gifts into Economy App).

What I’m still struggling with (also in a recent video call with people from Sensorica Value Networks) is how to make the different modes of alternative economic exchange interoperable. Because interoperable they have to be: in a DIY / low resource economy, resource differentiation is even higher than in the money-based consumer economy. For example, I often need used spare parts for specific power tools, computers etc. and even with large marketplaces of used stuff (such as eBay in Germany), it can take weeks to get the right part. If this would be split over several economic exchange modes and possibly hundreds of mutually incompatible complementarry currencies, this severely limits the usefulness of what we can do in the alternative economy …

Your thoughts on this are welcome :slight_smile: I have no clear idea for a solution yet, just that maybe a barter transaction could be the least common denominator of several systems (for example, no debt or deposists involved, so no currency needed as a net result).

decoupled & linked

In my approach I aim for distributed architecture of online marketplace leveraging Linked Data technologies (aka Web3.0). Complemented by broad diversity of decoupled and opt-in accounting systems to which everyone can delegate the accounting logic. Have you looked by any chance at GoodRelations and  Web Payments?

video explaining very basics of Linked Data

GoodRelations vocab & barter

Martin Hepp leading GoodRelations vacabulary effort have just posted on their mailing list:

Quick answer: The textual definitions in GoodRelations will soon be polished to reflect the fact that the compensation for a certain offer can include non-monetary assets (e.g. barter trade).”

Economy App source code?

BTW I look at and see no link to its source code… where do i find it?


We have a repository on GitHub where the network barter algorithm goes:

The network_barter_tradegraph part works, but it’s just our very first prototype and not useful for any practical purposes. We will publish our current, production grade implementation there when Economy App has reached a useful community size. Will be AGPL v3 licenced.

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