Slava Balasanov

@balasan

Relevant: An Introduction

October 23rd 2017

Relevant is a social news reader that values quality over clicks.

Our mission is to create a token-backed qualitative metric for the information economy — making the human values of veracity, expertise and agency economically valuable.

The Promise of the Internet Betrayed

Once upon a time there was universal optimism about the web. Every tech company’s mission was to make the world a better place, and we believed them. The internet would revolutionize knowledge, social networks would spread democracy and automation would reduce inequality…

What happened?

As they scaled, Web 2.0 platforms had to face the economic realities of running a business that offered free services. In order to generate income, they had no choice but to turn their users into products — exploiting user behavior to capture, monopolize and privatize data as a means to maximize ad revenue.

The Vicious Cycle: Garbage In Garbage Out

“Without realizing the implications, a handful of tech leaders at Google and Facebook have built the most pervasive, centralized systems for steering human attention that has ever existed, while enabling skilled actors (addictive apps, bots, foreign governments) to hijack our attention for manipulative ends.” — Tristan Harris

The internet has given us access to more information faster than ever before — but the quality of that information is deteriorating, and we are beginning to see the consequences on a global scale.

The fact is — there are few incentives to produce quality information.

Perverse Incentives Result in Perverse Innovations

What you measure determines what you make. Networks do not only reflect human behavior — they determine it.

The current culture of misinformation is a direct result of the way we measure online behavior.

Counting clicks gives you clickbait, chasing engagement gives you addiction, personalization gives you filter bubbles and ad analytics give you copy-paste journalism — creating a vicious cycle of perverse incentives fueling perverse innovations.

Opportunity & The Blockchain

Blockchain technology allows us to build an economy around the information we value. Instead of manipulating user behavior to extract capital, we can formulate new economic incentives that reward the creation and dissemination of quality content.

Put simply, if we can attach economic value to human values we can transform the information economy.

We can do this in three steps:

  1. Create a quality metric for information (Relevance)
  2. Back it with a token that incentivizes quality contributions to the platform, creating an economy around information quality (Relevant Token)
  3. Develop a platform where content is filtered, ranked and distributed according to that metric (Relevant App)

RELEVANCE: A Quality Metric for Information

Relevance is the return on attention (ROA): how much value we get back when we pay attention.

Relevance differs from traditional Web 2.0 engagement metrics in that the latter only measures the quantity of attention, not its quality.

For example: If a person spends two hours looking at cat videos and ten minutes reading about climate change, Facebook would infer that cats are more important than climate change and that everyone should pay attention to whatever it is that cats are doing.

This user would probably tell you that climate change is more important to them than cat videos, but the algorithm never asked them. Conclusion drawn from these kinds of metrics are not just intellectually problematic, they are also factually wrong.

The Relevance metric gives users the option to rate, classify and annotate content — bringing agency, nuance and meaning back into the information ecosystem. In the short term this will result in better curation and discovery methods. In the long term this will lead to a total restructuring of the information environment.

We know that there will always be cat videos but there is less certainty that quality journalism will survive. We want to make sure that it does.

Relevant App — Research Lab

For the past six months we have been beta testing Relevant, a news sharing app that encourages users to rank content according to quality.

The app serves as a lab for formulating and experimenting with the Relevance metric and its underlying economy as we work on the decentralized technology to support it.

Here are a few things we have learned:

Democracy needs expertise

On Relevant, every article and user is ranked according to their Relevance score. Similar to Reddit, users can upvote or downvote an article — but not every vote is equal.

For example: Kim Kardashian might have a high Relevance ranking for fashion, but a low ranking when it comes to science. If she upvotes an article about fashion week — that content will shoot up in Relevance, but if she upvotes an article on climate change — that content’s Relevance value will change very little.

Relevant is not a popularity contest. Your Relevance is not tied to the number of followers you have, but by your authority on a given subject.

A ”Like” is not enough

Binary feedback is not sufficient to distinguish between the nuanced array of responses we have to what we see online. At Relevant, we are developing feedback options beyond upvotes and downvotes in order to separate valuable information from noise.

Personalization is perverse

The user is not the center of the Relevant universe — information is. What you see is not filtered by who you know or how you feel, but by what is most salient on the platform as a whole. Everyone sees the same feed and users are exposed to a variety of viewpoints and opinions. The feed is a result of communal curation, not your personal preferences.

In order to truly revolutionize the information economy we need to dig deeper into the ecology of online networks. By enabling the linking, editing and annotation of content, we can create a multidimensional platform that transcends the attention metrics of current networks.

At Relevant, we envision a decentralized, democratic and transparent network that allows engaged experts to participate in the creation of a global knowledge project while providing readers with the best discovery tool on the market.

Relevant Economy

User activity in the Relevant App produces Relevance — both a social good and a data-rich record of information quality.

This data will be stored in the Relevant Knowledge Base — an open, decentralized database that maps the relationship between users, content and applications. The value of the Relevant Knowledge Base is represented by total market cap of Relevant Tokens.

We do not sell our users

Relevance data is the result of engaged and intentional behaviour — not spying. Relevant does not track, package or sell users as a product. What we measure is the saliency of the content — the issues, positions and publishing platforms that really matter to them.

We do not sell ads

Relevant does not sell or display advertising of any kind, but the Relevant Knowledge Base offers a new opportunity for ad placement. Instead of linking advertisers to individual users through invasive profiling — the Relevant Knowledge Base enables coupling to high-quality content and sources, whether they are large publishers, individual writers or influencers.

Contextually relevant advertising will gain an ever-increasing market share as consumers switch to more privacy-oriented browsers. By identifying the most relevant real estate online, we enable advertisers to pursue sophisticated brand awareness campaigns that go beyond the call-to-action format used by most digital marketers.

As a result, our Relevance metric will offer publishers new financial incentives to produce meaningful content, original research and investigative journalism — effectively reversing the damage done by the click-metrics of Web 2.0.

Users own the platform

Because Relevant data is generated by users, we believe they are the ones who should reap its benefits. The more value users contribute to the platform the more tokens they receive.

A decentralized protocol will control how these tokens are distributed and control access to the data.

To make use of the Relevant Knowledge Base, businesses will have to buy tokens from users. This means that users directly benefit from the value they create.

Roadmap

  1. Develop Relevance metric — Completed
  2. Build mobile news sharing app — Completed
  3. Create proof-of-concept economic incentives — In progress
  4. Build desktop browser version of platform — In progress
  5. Integrate cryptocurrency token into the app — Winter 2017
  6. Create Relevant Knowledge Base — a blockchain-based record of Relevance — Summer 2017
  7. Fully integrate decentralized database of Relevance (Relevant Knowledge Base) with Relevant Token — Fall 2018

Links

Get an invite to Relevant here: https://relevant.community

If you want to get involved or just say hello you can find us on Slack or follow us on Twitter

Co-authored by Babak Radboy and Taylore Scarabelli

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