If you’ve been mucking about the interwebs for a few years, chances are you’ve joined a few groups on social networks maybe in some Reddit forums. Just to read or maybe to collaborate on a project. It’s also a good likelihood that eventually you lost interest. Or maybe an argument broke out on who did the most work, or who stole code from someone else. Digital groups form, dissapear, reform and evolve constantly. Unlike real-world groups, digital ones don’t tend to span into many years. Some have, but they are the exception not the rule. Now, Social Tokens, may change this dynamic.
All cultures around the world operate with systems of reciprocity. Some function through bartering, others through an implicit system of a favour for a favour and others, through financial means, such as fiat currencies. Online communities have relied for the most part on information reciprocity. Those who contribute more in terms of information are valued higher. Linux, the open source operating system, formed this way through a years long effort. The system of information reciprocity was code to build the OS.
But a problem that has existed for the life of the internet had been that information reciprocity has not proven to be much benefit to truly long term efforts or building ultimately long-term, sustainable value and digital culture. Now, social tokens, may help solve that problem. Some have suggested NFT’s would. They have not. They won’t.
So what are social tokens? It is the next innovation out of the blockchain world and edges into cryptocurrency territory. Basically, it enables you to monetize yourself and enable better group and project outcomes by truly recognizing value delivered by members of a group, whether it be to build software, write a book/manual together or even perform tasks in the real world. It brings together DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organisation), crypto and NFT in a practical way. There’s a good article here that goes into deeper detail. Basically, Social Tokens are generated by the group when someone contributes. The more a person contributes, the more tokens they can earn. These can then be used like coupons and traded for cryptocurrencies. or stored or used to buy things from other groups or digital product offerings. Which is another reason Social Tokens are so powerful. It’s incentivizing beyond the exchange of information, which is, at best, fragile.
What Social Tokens really do however, is solve the dilemma of sustainable reciprocity for online groups and brings the necessary system of value to a decentralized web and the services that exist therein.
Some, like Eliot Couvat, suggest that Social Tokens will improve and enhance digital culutre. From the reciprocity perspective, yes. But online groups are sub-cultures and aren’t broader societal cultures. This is an important distinction. Social Tokens can be a “glue” if you will, but it doesn’t mean it will incentive the other spects of cultures such as music, language, values and arts. Social Tokens can also contribute to the behaviours and expectations of groups. But should be understood as a way of enforcing norms. If you don’t participate, you don’t get a token, or you lose tokens for misbehaving.
An inherent benefit to Social Tokens however, is that the group agrees on them. It is therefor highly democratic. This can help avoid issues with online communities that may suffer from more autocratic personalities or intentions. Either way, Social Tokens bring the necessary reciprocity system that all social groups need in order to to deliver desired, beneficial outcomes. They also build trust within communities, another social value that has been incredibly difficult to solve with regard to online communities.
Social Tokens also herald a new era in cryptocurrencies. Social Tokens may also help to alleviate the concerns of many consumers and citizens around the current messiness of crypto, which has huge trust, ethics and stability problems that need resolving and remain why blockchain struggles to get a foothold and why the financial community still has little faith in them. The value of Social Tokens cannot be understated. I will explore them more in another article.