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A data sharing idea for cooperatives

A data sharing idea for cooperatives

Some days the new world order just plumps itself down in front of you like an overweight chook…  So today while scraping Tim Mazzarol’s fabulous cooperative and mutual database (here), I got to thinking about what was going on here.

The website gives access to the most complete list of co-operatives and mutuals in the country. It is all publicly available. And yet, the developers didn’t make it easy to download the database.

Why create the artificial barrier? Perhaps there is some residual sense of ownership of the data. Perhaps it’s an attempt to make the site a destination for accessing the data. It’s a little hard to know.

The thing is that this approach is all back-to-front. It’s the kind of thinking that gave us CRM’s that pretend that customer data is something you own. It is not the way the emerging data-driven culture works.

Data co-operatives are the solution

We are moving to a world where we choose to share data. It becomes an asset that we control – we need to be motivated to share it (even if it means agreeing to your capricious terms of service Mr Zuckerberg).

There is an opportunity in this. At incubator.coop, we have been working on developing a co-operative operating system. A software-as-a-service model that will enable coops of whatever size to access an integrated website, member engagement app, and share registry. It’s intended to be a co-operatively owned solution for the co-operative sector.

Now here’s the thing. Very much like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the CEMI database is out-of-date by the time it is finished. It relies on the collection of static data. At its simplest however the coop mgt system offers a way for coops to share their data. They can choose what data they share to create a dynamically updating database that is truly open for anyone to use. And open, accessible data – that is shared by those that control it – is the way value can be created in the new world order.

 


 

Governance with a token

So bringing some recent threads together – this video includes a discussion about crypto currencies and governance:

  • Taking a lead from game theory – let’s say that the rules of the game define how economic value is shared across participants, and that governance defines the way these rules can be changed.
  • In the capitalist economy – money facilitates the transfer of value, the profit motive determines how value is distributed, while the power to change the rules resides with capital (ie. shareholders).
  • In the crypto-space – we can have tokens that combine value transfer with governance such that the more people that use a system, the wider the distribution of tokens and the more people that have a say in governance.

Suggests a value-in-use approach to governance where you can “distribute power more evenly across the network because everyone is sharing the same asset” – as currency and capital are combined. Power is distributed based on how everyone is contributing to the network.

Under this model, the aim is to reward participation with the power to govern. Governance becomes a mechanism to protect against being “forked to death” as the value to govern accretes to those that work within the structure. A well designed governance mechanism will therefore better enable a network to evolve over time.

Also, suggests that models that reward participation are likely to be more robust than ICO’s where external capital gets to buy power up-front – which just internalises the governance problems that exist with proportional shareholder models elsewhere.

Got me wondering how a currency & capital token simplifies the management of a mutual…


 

My non-fungible token is my home

Tokens are migrating to the mainstream. CryptoKitties has demonstrated how the blockchain can extend beyond money into real-world ‘things’. it doesn’t sound like a big leap to enable me to own my own digital cat, but it has the potential to be a whole lot more useful than digital currencies alone.

With CryptoKitties, I can have a cat and that cat belongs to me. If the developers stop supporting the front-end that enables me to look after my cat, it doesn’t change the immutable fact that the cat exists and is mine. I can use someone else’s front-end and my cat will waiting for me. Even better other developers can build other ways of interacting with my cat – my cat can have a hat and that hat belongs to the cat and not me – and the original developers can’t stop this from happening.

This conversation with one of the creators of CryptoKitties Dieter Shirley is good – he is a lucid thinker. Really liked the way he described the potential future for ‘non-fungible tokens’ (and his self-confessed struggle with coming up for a new word for ‘thing’ which must be one of the oldest word in any language).

Once we have things that can exist in their own right on a blockchain, then we have the basis for a whole heap of applications. Dieter talks about something that you earn that contributes to your status – for example, only people who attended a Kanye concert can get a certain token. Collect 10 of these tokens and you graduate to a gold token. This mechanism can send a strong social signal – it’s a form a digital self-expression the way our vinyl record collection used to be. This is exactly the type of mechanism that we are hunting for in regards to ‘reward-for-effort’ tokens in the cooperative space.

The biggest hurdles to mass market solutions are solving the currently very high technical barriers around on-boarding and know-your-customer compliance. And beyond that the scaling problems with ethereum. As Dieter explains ‘we’re running the network on the equivalent of an Apple IIe’… Ah, brings back memories, I loved my IIe.