I’m only a quarter through reading this long article, but it is gold. He’s analysing social networks, but the insights are much broader, for example into how to grow SAFE and Solid, what matters, how scarcity and proof of work (in social terms) is a vital ingredient in successful social networks.
See his three axes for analysing social networks: Social Capital v Utility v Entertainment.
Then let’s consider the questions this raises. For example, which are relevant to SAFE Network or Solid as a whole, and which apply to different aspects, subsets and components (such as farming, app development, users, different application categories, storage / music / comms / social etc etc)?
Here’s another taste of how this post is giving us new ways to think about this (well me anyway ):
Proof of Work Matters
Why does proof of work matter for a social network? If people want to maximize social capital, why not make that as easy as possible?
As with cryptocurrency, if it were so easy, it wouldn’t be worth anything. Value is tied to scarcity, and scarcity on social networks derives from proof of work. Status isn’t worth much if there’s no skill and effort required to mine it. It’s not that a social network that makes it easy for lots of users to perform well can’t be a useful one, but competition for relative status still motivates humans. Recall our first tenet: humans are status-seeking monkeys. Status is a relative ladder. By definition, if everyone can achieve a certain type of status, it’s no status at all, it’s a participation trophy.
One of his points is that social networks succeed or fail at accumulating social capital, or rather by incentivising users (status seeking monkeys) to compete to create it on their platform.
In which case, how do SAFE and Solid disrupt this? Which has two sides: 1) in what way do we want change this game (eg by shifting ownership of capital, and the platforms, from centralised profit seeking companies, to those who create the social value - ie everyone using them)? And 2) if we do this, how do the dynamics of these ‘games’ change?
The second seems important to keep up front as we explore these issues, because if we assume the game is unchanged, and try to replicate Facebook etc in a different environment, we will fail. First because even if we succeed we really haven’t changed much (if we’re still incentivising status seeking with little social purpose or value - just follower counts), and more pressing - we may set ourselves up to fail if the models just don’t work in a more democratising environment.
So tbh this means looking at what makes those models work and figuring out whether that still works, and looking for things that might work better. In turn, we can then look for things to build that are both workable and meet wider goals - such as unleashing human creativity rather than finding ways to accumulate and exploit the value created by others without them even realising. But maybe that’s just me
Anyway, this looks like fertile ground for us, here’s the article: