The Social Consensus Protocol — A model for fairly recognising contributions within a Social Media ecosystem

For a self-sustaining community to exist and govern itself, it is natural for a hierarchy to develop based on merit and social consensus. These are the fundamentals that characterise a democracy. People use their vote to recognise candidates who they trust to represent their community. Although opinions will always differ, group decisions based on social consensus is generally recognised as the fairest solution.

Within a social media setting, this should also hold true. Generally, good content is appreciated with positive engagement, creators grow their following on merit and their influence increases. However, as social media platforms continued to drive engagement and keep users scrolling, the landscape began to change.

In the attention economy that we now live in, many people have tried to shortcut their way to the top and grow their followings on social media in the hope of reaching influencer status and monetising their reach. The issue here is that this is not a true indicator of influence. Perceived influence can be bought with several methods. This may include purchasing followers outright, marketing giveaways and using automated bots to manipulate the numbers and engagements.

Those savvy enough could identify changes in which content the algorithm was rewarding and could improve their reach with controversial, inflammatory and engaging content to boost their reach and follower count. Herein lies the issue. Looking in from the outside, artificially manufactured ‘influence’ cannot be differentiated from merit-based influence. Existing social networks lack transparent valuation of social value.

Some platforms have features aimed to address this. Reddit users earn Karma based on upvotes and engagements on their posts which reflects their contribution to their community. UHive has included a visible Social Scale rating on each user’s profile from 0–100. The issue with all of these attempts is the lack of incentivisation for accurate rating and reporting.

This is a problem faced by all social media platforms. A solution could be in financial incentives via a token-based economy layered with a social consensus protocol. Currently in development, social platform Waivlength integrates its own cryptocurrency (WAIV) and pledges very generous token rewards to its users. It has also designed a protocol to incentivise genuine engagement and ratings and fairly apportion rewards among its users.

Recognising Contribution

Waivlength is designed around a relatively simple concept: everyone’s contribution to the community should be recognised for the value it adds. When people’s work is recognised, they continue to contribute and the community grows.

The challenge faced by Waivlength is to derive a protocol for scoring individual contributions that is resistant to manipulation and that the vast majority of community members consider to be a fair assessment of worth. This is important for guiding the fair distribution of financial rewards among users.

Waivlength aims to create its own unique protocol for ranking users in keeping with the ethos of the platform which takes consideration for all those who contribute to the ecosystem. This will take multiple metrics into consideration and utilise the more expansive post engagement options on Waivlength to reward content based on merit. The metrics that get interpreted by the algorithm will be made publicly known, however the scoring and ranking system will not be made visible or stored by the platform.

A project using a similar approach is Yup. Yup is a web extension which allows users to earn financial rewards via tokens for rating social media content across multiple platforms. The Yup protocol is a social consensus run on a curator economy. Users are rewarded by how closely their rating relates to the average.

To treat all users equally, you can’t treat them the same

Waivlength has identified a number of distinct groups which contribute hugely to the ecosytem and will ensure the social consensus protocol recognises:

Active Engagers

Most users will fall under this category. These are the life-blood of any social network. This includes day-to-day users who browse, comment, share and engage within the platform. While they gain experiential value from the social content within the platform, their activity helps the platform by informing the curation-algorithms of the most engaging content and helps recommendation systems to provide a better user experience. They can also help the network in other ways like referring new users, labelling and reporting content etc.

Creators

Those who produce highly-rated content and have been successful in building a lot of engagement and followers bring a huge amount of value to a social network. They provide entertainment to many users and help to grow the appeal of a platform. The talent, hard work and time commitment to create quality and engaging content is significant. It’s important that the platform can reciprocate this effort, reward its creators fairly and give an opportunity for the most artistic, creative, knowledgeable, educational, charismatic and talented individuals to be financially rewarded for creating content.

Moderators

As a decentralised, community-governed platform, Waivlength relies on its users to fulfill the role of upkeeping the integrity of the network. Many other decentralised platforms have been adversely affected by the influx of right wing extremists, criminal gangs and are awash with uncivil behaviour due to a lack of appropriate moderation. While freedom of speech is a universal human right, there are codes of conduct to uphold for any functioning community to coexist in harmony and those in breach of these codes must be subject to actionable sanctions. For users who participate in Waivlength’s unique ‘jury-duty’ decentralised moderation system, they are playing a vital role in maintaining the network and will be recognised for their value here.

Stakers/Holders of $WAIV

For a decentralised token economy to function, it is vital that there is sufficient stability in the system. A currency must strike a balance with supply and demand and have appropriate reserves of liquidity. This is maintained by investors/token holders who stabilise the price of the token by holding. Those who stake their tokens as a means of validating transactions on the network are also crucial. It is important that a strong portion of the community engage with this to uphold the stability of the currency. All community members who contribute here will be recognised for the value they are adding.

For further details on the breakdown of financial rewards among groups, see this section of the Waivlength whitepaper.

What are the implications of a Social Consensus Protocol?

We are aware of the challenges that surround the idea of a social consensus protocol. People may argue it could lead to a dystopian Black Mirror-like episode, that it may oppress the voices of the minorities, penalise those for expressing opposing opinions or force people to conform to a certain viewpoint or set of behaviours. This will not happen.

What a social consensus protocol does is incentivise users to rate the content they see accurately. As research has shown, when reviewers are vetted and paid to review products, their opinions are usually a stronger indication of quality. This shows that with the right incentive structure, accurate ratings and reviews are possible. Without any incentive to review honestly, users tend to express negative reviews more often and more extremely, with little reason to contribute positive reviews.

Interestingly, despite the current lack of incentive for honest online ratings and reviews, Podium’s report on online reviews shows that 93% of American consumers say that online reviews have an impact on their purchasing decisions. 91% of 18–34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Star rating is the number one factor used by users to judge businesses.

It’s clear there is a substantial disconnect between the objective quality of information that online user ratings actually convey and the extent to which consumers trust them as indicators of objective quality. Within a social media platform, one could expect the same to hold true.

A social consensus protocol can provide a fairer weighting on influence based on a number of different metrics, not just the number of followers they have. By factoring in post ratings and engagements, followers and social scale of followers, length of time on the platform etc. it can create an environment where there are wise influencers which are highly respected for their high-quality content.

Ultimately, it will help to bring the power back in the hands of the community and can help to create a collaborative ecosystem that is centred towards fair appraisal. As well as financially rewarding the main contributors as voted by the community, it will help to curate better content for all users to enjoy and send the poorer quality content to the bottom.

A community centred towards fair appraisal

Harnessing the wisdom of crowds is a subject that’s been researched a lot and shows huge promise. Crowdsourcing from a group of 1,128 of users, researchers were able to segment groups as small as 10 individuals online that could accurately determine whether an article was false — about as well as professional fact-checkers. A recent study has also yielded positive results in using the crowd to verify or debunk claims far faster than professional fact checkers, with similar levels of accuracy.

The main factors which allow this to prosper is to preserve independence, diversity, and equality when processing crowd opinion. This is very difficult to do when rating is done in the context of a social network. However, crowds made interdependent by social influence can still exhibit wisdom — even greater wisdom — in the right environment.

This environment would involve having wise influencers. Those with the greatest following to be ‘centred towards the truth’. How can this be achieved? With engagement options that allow users to rate content with more detail than a simple binary ‘like’. These content creators can build their reputations over time based on the quality and reliability of their content.

Waivlength intends to harness the power and wisdom of its community as much as possible. It’s community moderation system will reward users for accurately flagging inappropriate content. Much like Wikipedia, design solutions for harnessing the wisdom of crowds for a collective good is a priority.

Forthcoming Updates

Waivlength is a grant recipient from the Algorand Foundation. While developers and advisors continue to work hard over the months ahead on platform build and securing external investment, it is clear that this platform has the potential to make a huge global impact as a competitor to current mainstream social media. Learn more at www.waivlength.io where you can find a more detailed whitepaper and roadmap for the development of the platform along with contact details for the team.

There is an incoming series of articles providing more detail on how Waivlength is seeking to revolutionise the social media space. Be sure to follow so you don’t miss out.

Special Mention

As always, the fantastic work of others must be acknowledged for the inspiration they’ve provided. Big thanks must go to Sinan Aral (Twitter — @sinanaral) whose book The Hype Machine and other work has been a very informative source of information for our articles and research. Also, a special word of thanks for Nir Kabessa (Twitter — @nir_III), founder of Yup whose content and ideas within the Web 3.0 space and written articles are also a great source of inspiration. Your continued work to improve the future of the Social Media landscape is admirable.

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