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Name: Jim Carrico
Member since: 2001-03-05 14:58:11
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Homepage: http://www.potlatch.net

Notes:

I'm a web developer & father of three from Vancouver BC. For the past few years, my main gig has been providing technical assistance to an international team creating an online encyclopedia of elections and democratic systems. ( ACE Project)

When i have time left from the first two, i like to research and propagandise new concepts in human ecology - focussed primarily on the way that ubiquitous digital networks are changing the fabric of our society. For instance, the potentially infinite supply of information-based goods, and the potentially zero cost of publishing and distributing those goods. These form new physical laws which our social institutions need to adapt to - rather than try to fight against them. New cultural and social institutions are being invented right now that follow the new rules - one to one and many to many, no center, no hierarchy.

The internet of 2001 lacks a few key factors that will be necessary for this new decentralized human ecosystem to truly flourish - one is a reputation system, a way to build networks of mutual confidence (webs of trust); and another is a payment system, a way to send money or it's equivalent directly from one party to another.

The potlatch protocol is an attempt to address both of these issues, an open-source micro-payment system backed by the payer's reputation. I was introduced to Advogato via back-links to the Money Flow thread, started, as objective chance would have it, the same day that i posted the above document.

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3 Apr 2001 (updated 4 Apr 2001 at 04:40 UTC) »

darwin diary

getting off the plane was like walking into a sauna - my glasses fogged up - warm rain pounding on the tarmac, palm trees thrashing madly in the darkness.

6th floor - holiday inn darwin. i had to jimmy the sliding glass door to the balcony - guests aren't supposed to open them during the rainy season - apparently everything gets moldy, "even the cat." fuck that - i hate air conditioning. silent flashes of fork lightning illuminate black ranks of thunderclouds marching westward across the timor sea, to the north.

darwin is not a big town, maybe 70 or 80 thousand - but it's the biggest population center for 2500 miles - about equidistant from Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and Jakarta, which is in fact the nearest of these. A first world city projected onto a third-world backdrop.

I'm here because it's the staging area for the UN transitional administration in east timor - I'm meeting with an international group involved in "capacity-building," helping to bring the timorese up to speed in the theory and practice of democratic elections, something they haven't had any experience with.

After 400 years of portugese rule, they were granted independance in 1975, only to be immediately invaded by the Indonesian Army, with attendant pillage and massacre - an event noted by Noam Chomsky and hardly anyone else since then. The legacy of the portugese is their religion: the east timorese are catholics, which distinguish them from the muslims of west timor, and the rest of indonesia.

In 1999 the UN finally succeeded in establishing the illegality of the indonesian occupation, and ran a referendum to let the east timorese decide whether to become a province of indonesia, or an independant state. In the weeks leading up to the referendum, truckloads of indonesian soldiers drove around waving machine guns and warning the locals that if they voted to secede, there would be another massacre. The population turned out in droves anyway, and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independance.

The reprisals were not long in coming. The indonesians burned every hospital, every school, every power plant, police station, and government office in the country. And unknown numbers of people were killed. The UN compound was surrounded by razor wire, then ordered to evacuate when it became clear that there was unsufficient force to protect them. Some of them refused to leave, reasoning that if they did the thousand or so refugees inside the compound would be slaughtered. I stayed up late one night drinking mini-bar whiskey with a couple of these people, who were never really sure that they wouldn't all be slaughtered anyway, they just couldn't bring themselves to leave, while mothers were passing their babies through the razor wire to try to save their lives.

It's an epic story, that i'm not qualified to relate - somebody sure as hell should. And it's far from over - there's an election this summer to elect a consituent assembly which will be charged with drafting a constitution - they don't even have a constitution yet!

as far as elections go, it seems rather futile, given the rough treatment democracy is receiving in the good old US of A - and satellites - lately. There's a conference in Quebec City in a few weeks that may determine the effective sovereignty of Canada, Mexico, South and Central America - and we aren't even allowed to know what's on the agenda! I have to keep telling myself that it's better than nothing, every little bit helps, etc. But if democracy isn't about what you do, how you participate as a citizen, on all the days you don't vote - then it doesn't really mean anything.

5 Mar 2001 (updated 5 Mar 2001 at 19:35 UTC) »

reply#1 to the "Money Flow" thread: (i sent this to netdancer and mattbradshaw on 3/5/2001 with a bit in italics that i added just now because i realized it wasn't actually a sentence 8^\

hey there

i tripped over the advogato thread you started about money flow, scanning my referrer logs.

a curious coincidence that you posted your article the same day i put up the first draft of a proposed "potlatch protocol" on my site at potlatch.net, designed to provide an open-source decentralized micropayment system. It's phrased in terms of voluntary payments, but in fact the mechanism itself doesn't care if the payments are voluntary or not. I'm simply assuming that, long term, creators will be relying on that portion of their fans/users who actually *want* to support them, as anyone who doesn't want to will be able to get what they want from any number of sources.

The street performer protocol makes a good point, which is that the "audience" needs to be given an incentive to pay, and that the promise of future works provides this incentive. However, there are several problems with this. First, it doesn't help the unknown or unestablished artists, they need to establish a 'track record' of quality work before anyone would dream of giving them money for something they've never seen/heard. Second, it doesn't help the established artists to be properly compensated for work that they have released which is *already* being traded around the various networks. Third, it assumes that an artist knows *ahead of time* how popular something is going to be, and therefore how much to "charge" for it. And finally it assumes that this *predetermined amount* will in most cases be more than the total amount, long term, that an artist will earn by simply releasing all work when it's finished, and soliciting payments on the basis of an *informal* contract that "if you pay us, we'll keep making more of this stuff." (That is, the street performer protocol puts a cap on what a creator may earn.)

Basically, I'm suggesting that you can't force people to pay, and the more you try the more you make it a fun game for them to cheat you. If we put one-tenth of the effort into simply making it easy for people to contribute, actually let the users and fans become partners in the creative process as *supporters*, and dream up ways to encourage this process (eg. advance or discount concert tickets, etc.) - maybe we can come up with an economic system that moves with the tide of technology instead of trying to dam it up.

I'm arguing that a voluntary payment system is not something that needs to be "relied upon" for an artists sole means of support, but that it is an appropriate and necessary mechanism *among others* for artists to get paid. Certainly no-one will partipate if it's too hard/onerous to do so - it has to be easy and fun. And there's nothing in it that says people shouldn't sell CDs , t-shirts and whatever else people want to buy from them.

I'd post this to Advogato, but i guess i need to be "certified" in some way - this in itself is very interesting to me, as it's pretty obvious that my draft protocol depends upon some type of reputation metrics, which advogato appears to be pioneering.

It's a pretty important subject - right now i'm involved with the developers of Espra, a music-sharing client for Freenet (http://espra.net) - they are committed to incorporating voluntary payments into their app. Someone made the point in the 'MoneyFlow' thread that a patent-free open source micropayment system is essential for a functional and efficient digital economy *without middlemen*. The banks and governments have no interest in creating this - otherwise we'd have it already - i'm afraid it's up to us

Jim Carrico http://www.potlatch.net

________________________________

reply#2 to the "Money Flow" thread: (i sent this to netdancer and mattbradshaw on 3/5/2001)

"mattbradshaw" wrote: "i believe the system is doomed to failure as a result of the enormous burden it places on the aggregator(s). collecting promised micropayments is so very difficult. especially without a network payment protocol and having to rely on an expensive traditional transaction cost. i'm also not really sure why several different brokers using the same protocol wouldn't be a better form of decentralization. the final nail in the coffin of the protocol is the ease to which is permits attacks on aggregators. the same signed receipt could be sold to several aggregators. it was an interesting read though. and perhaps i've misread the details. "

It all comes down to reputation. - the "burden" on the aggregator is to facillitate a transaction that both parties have an equal interest in. If the payment is voluntary, there is no reason to cheat. What is the advantage of me saying I'm going to give you money if I don't intend to do it. the aggregator takes a risk, but they can define the terms of that risk. For instance if i was running an aggregator i wouldn't accept any of these promissory notes without the stipulation that they would be returnable if the payer didn't actually pay - (eg. the next time i make an aggregate "buy" from that artist - this is the way newstands handle magazine distribution, they buy N magazines, sell M, and return N-M (with the covers removed) to the distributor for credit the next month)

As for a "network payment protocol", this idea can be seen as an effort to bootstrap just such a system. the point is, without banks or governments, with what do we back our payments? I'm suggesting that we develop a currency based on reputation. It has to be decentralized, otherwise we're back where we started, a centrally controlled hierarchy beholden to no-one but a few inside interests - not sure what you mean by "several brokers using the same protocol" or what your point is there.

as to selling the same reciept to several aggregators, yes this would be easy. But it would also be very easy to catch. The artists are after all quite visible in this scenario, and duplication of certificates is plain ordinary fraud, and would be treated accordingly. If you write me a check and I photocopy it and deposit it into two bank accounts, you're going to notice - and there's a trail that leads straight to me. the questions to ask are, 1. can someone cheat without getting caught?, and 2. is it worth the effort?

anyway, thanks for thinking about this stuff. my proposal is only a proposal, and an early draft at that -

 

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