1 Ways to Reward your Contributors (the last one will SHOCK you)

Hey all, OG SourceCred shill (aka founder) here. Thanks @METADREAMER for posting this. I’m seeing some great questions and pushback here and wanted to share my perspective.

On Gaming

IMO, the biggest mistake people make with gaming is treating it as a binary–as though a system is either vulnerable to gaming or 100% impervious. In reality it’s a continuum. As an example, look at Google. It definitely gets gamed through link spam and SEO, but is sufficiently robust that the system is still useful, even if bad actors get the advantage here and there. Another example is democratic politics: democracies get gamed in all kinds of ways (gerrymandering, lobbyists, etc), but it’s still the best system of governance that we’ve tried at scale.

The goal when designing social incentive systems then, is not to aim for a 100% perfect system, but one where the results are high enough quality to be useful.

Based on experience, I’m confident that SourceCred meets this quality threshold. In our own ~year of dogfooding, we’ve distributed about $700k through the algorithm, and haven’t had any serious issues with gaming. More recently, MakerDAO has distributed about $20k in their pilot usage and also haven’t had issues with gaming.

The robustness comes from a few sources. One is that, as @blacklotus mentioned, the PageRank algorithm is reasonably hard to game, and has some nice automatic properties of Sibyl resistance. The second is that SourceCred is open-source and totally configurable (both through changing the weights, and through changing the underlying data source). This means that if it starts getting gamed, the community can come up with new weights to penalize the gaming behavior. This really means that someone trying to game the scores is really trying to game the community. Communities of smart people are hard to fool.

As an example of the kind of configurability we have in mind: the MakerDAO community was worried that there could be issues around like brigading, especially since they sometimes see a bunch of new accounts being made to upvote new collateral proposals. So at their suggestion, we modified the heuristics to take Discourse trust levels into account. In the long run, I think we’ll treat gaming vulnerabilities in SC like security vulnerabilities in software in general: have bug bounties, responsible disclosure, and have being open-source be a source of robustness.

On Monetary Rewards & Sustainability

I think there’s a solid case to be made that the community doesn’t need any monetary incentives for governance at this point. People in the community are super passionate, and many of them already have plenty of YFI, so they’re already aligned. However: will this be sustainable in 2-5 years? Some of the early adopters will have moved on or lost interest, and lots of the new faces won’t have much YFI. Meanwhile the governance overhead will only grow as YFI becomes more systemically important. This something Maker ran into–the governance overhead kept getting bigger, and relying on volunteer labor became unsustainable.

That said, I think creating a super “gamified” contribution experience would be a big mistake. It would orient people too much on extrinsic rewards. SourceCred is actually kind of designed as anti-gamified contributions. There’s no fast loop of make post, get like, get money. Instead, the algorithm is always looking retroactively at the long-run value of your contributions, and rewarding you based on the totality. The idea is less to cultivate a mindset of “I need to get 5 likes today to meet my quota” and more “If I make substantial long run contributions, I’ll get a solid long-run reward”.

Closing Thoughts

I think y’all are really right to be skeptical of using a system like this. The potential downsides of incorporating a broken incentive system are huge, so it pays (pun unintended) to be cautious. For my part, SourceCred is my life and passion project, and understanding it as well as I do I was still really worried about activating it for SourceCred. What if it wrecked the community and shifted everyone to fighting about Cred all the time?

So I started really small–in the first week we only distributed $500. We’re now at a point where we distribute $25k per week, but we built the confidence to do so over many months, and as we all learned how to use the tool. You can also take a look at what the Maker community’s initial thoughts were, and similarly they started really small–about $1k in the first month–and have ramped up usage as they’ve gained confidence. Just using it as a leaderboard for a while to see how it behaves is a very reasonable approach.

Ultimately, SourceCred’s goal is to enable truly decentralized communities like YFI. Because it’s hard to directly value contributions, and thus to have decentralized rewards, projects often wind up forced to set up centralized foundations to hire employees, and we’re right back in the old world. The goal of SC is to make decentralized communities (and open-source more broadly) sustainable in the long run. So, I’m hopeful that you’ll find it useful. But keep rocking on either way. :call_me_hand:t4:

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Thanks for the additional information and insight @decentralion . I still believe the best use of this for now is as a non-compensatory leaderboard. Although you unsurprisingly seem more inclined to use they system for rewards, it looks like you agree that a slower approach is reasonable:

Interesting tool and can see ways it might benefit communities but I agree with LapisLime. A non-compensatory leaderboard is a fun idea and might actually push more people towards solid contributions. If we start compensating members it complicates everything. I fear it might shift the board dynamics from how can I help Yearn to how can I help myself. I think we are doing just fine as is. I’m all for revisiting in a couple of years and/or if engagement drops off a clif.

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Thank you for the detailed write up. I can definitely see the value of SourceCred for evaluating the contributions of community members. As you mentioned, it seems to be a pretty robust system considering that it works well without a need for an accompanying identity system. I guess my only concern is the monetary reward part. When a community member’s contribution is considered valuable, giving them some form of non monetary reward might be better aligned than a cash reward per se. But its just my personal point of view I’m sure other community members might have differing opinions. Either way Sourcecred is super valuable for evaluating contributions for sure and I think we should figureout a way to incorporate the ranking on the gov.yearn.finance site. Thanks again for your wonderful work. We all very much appreciate your contributions to this community and the overall decentralization movement.

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As someone who would benefit from such a system, I’m trying to stay away from outright advocating for this system, but I did want to add one thing that I’ve mentioned before that I think can help add some context for why a community might want something like this.

I think a system like this can simply reward those who are helping to improve the governance ecosystem. We already have community grants for all sorts of other projects that help improve Yearn– and this can be framed as doing the exact same thing– the only difference being that in this case the funds come retroactively, after the person has demonstrated the worth of their contributions to the community.

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Yea, the retroactive part is one of the killer features, makes it so that capital allocation is purely results/outcome driven: retroactive payment based on actual impact instead of upfront payment for potential future impact. IMO this helps a lot to mitigate the “I’m doing this for the compensation” behaviour.

I do think its valuable still to just use it purely as a leaderboard to start just so everyone can get comfortable/familiar with it and get a feel for how things could work,

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Any news about that ?

Thanks for the idea. I took part in a similar experiment few months ago on another crypto project. I must tell you that it ended up being a complete mess on the forum, people liking each other’s posts without any good reason (except the fact that they were creating a network of followers with whom they were earning some free cash on a daily basis). The project dumped this reward system 3 months after the launch. A complete failure. I think that the current $YFI incentive mechanism is working well and the grant system is enough to crowdsource new (good) ideas. Nevertheless, a simple leaderboard would be ok :ok_hand:

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I think a leaderboard would be nice to have and encourage active participation in governance. Just keep the monetary compensation out of it. That is why we have vaults.

Out of curiosity, what was the software you were using for this experiment?

I think it was DaoMaker under the hood

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That is not true because MakerDAO has actually extended their trial and increased the rewards paid to the users. https://forum.makerdao.com/t/maker-sourcecred-trial/2551/3

DAOMaker is not MakerDAO :joy:

My bad. I was referring to SourceCred’s trial.

Has anyone looked at sourcecred and integrating our github and discord to http://yfi.sourcecred.io/ as well? I think this shows promise.

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I mentioned it on discord and even got the developer to DM me. He said that the community has to want it and nobody seemed to. So I gave up on it. Everyone insinuated that it was a selfish cash grab.