The Right Incentives, Interview with KARMA's Founder

2018-10-18 05:42:00 · 46 views · 14 min read

With so many gaming dapps out there it is reasonable to assume that's all there is in the dapp market. In light of this misconception, reached out to KARMA a soon to be released dapp social media platform which aims to have it's community reward each other for the good deeds they do.

What interested us in KARMA was their new take on social media and their incredible support from their community. Keep in mind that, on the day of this interview, the community has over $600,000 worth of KARMA “Powered Up” earning staking rewards, in anticipation for the release of the application. With these facts in mind, we wanted to know more about KARMA and what it has in store for their community.



What got us hooked to KARMA was when you mentioned that if you paid to use this dapp, it would be hard to sell, with platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram offering a free service.

Well, I think we are transitioning from a time where everybody was just so excited to use any blockchain dapp. Our standards were lower, and we were all thinking "It's cool, it's new," and we're invested in this new frontier discovering this exciting technology. In reality, people aren’t going to massively adopt any application if it’s inferior to existing applications and doesn’t present any unique features. The average person doesn’t really care as much as we do that an application utilizes blockchain technology. What they do care about is if they can get the benefits that the blockchain allows them to have with that app. Especially the people who are not already in the blockchain, which is really more important anyway.

What triggered the creation of KARMA? And why a dapp?

My personal journey with everything related to blockchain and crypto was initially just someone who was interested in it being new, investing, holding and trading a little bit. I used to trade Forex and stuff like that so this was a cool thing to find out about. There's a learning curve with a lot of it, everyone goes "I know what a blockchain is" but then you go "well can you explain it?" and it's followed by ten seconds "emmm…" There's a lot of that going on, so I started a YouTube Channel right as the markets were not at their all-time high. My thinking was that we're probably going to be in a cold period whether that's eight months, ten months, or a year. So if I spend this time to have a channel, learn, and share what I learned, that would be a good use of time while there's a down market.

With that, I started interviewing different people, different founders, and that got me thinking about blockchain ideas that I had. Dan Larimer’s (Creator of EOS) ideas really resonated with me. I regularly rewatch a lot of his videos. It's almost like listening to a song for the first time when you’re 19 and it doesn’t mean that much to you. Then, you hear that song again later on and it means the world to you at that moment. EOSIO is still evolving but you can do a lot more on EOS than any other platform. There’s a lot of features we need that are coming like decentralized storage where users will be able to stake EOS for their storage needs.

Also, for me, discovering Steem was a revolutionary thing. I got really excited about the possibility of new applications enabling us to take elements of human activity, human effort, or human creativity and monetize those actions for people utilizing thoughtful inflation. If done right, I mean as right as you can, we have the opportunity to create and set applications in motion that allows people to create & discover value for themselves.

I was very excited about the idea of these self-funding apps, I think that's the way to describe them. I started thinking about it, I live in Medellín Colombia with Matt the Co-Founder, and we have an apartment with a nice view, where we can see the city. The city is very interesting. It’s sort of like bowl where one side has these really tall buildings, like 20 story apartments, then you have the city center and on the other side is the neighborhoods where many people are living in poverty. So we began thinking about what is going to make people over here leave their comfort and make them want to go over to the other side and help those people out. What is going to incentivize them to do that? Incentives are a huge concept that Dan Larimer is always talking about. Incentives are crucial to everything. At the same time, I was also thinking, what can people over there do to empower themselves to have another option or options to get out of their current situation while improving it for others in the process.

After thinking on the problem for about 30 minutes, I said “what about KARMA” and explained the concept. Funny enough, Matt had sketched out a similar idea years prior and we knew it was meant to be. Steem was the very first time that social media had been monetized through inflation, ever. We then began mapping out the idea and White Paper to fully formulate the concept.

Especially now, when you look at Facebook, when you look at Instagram, the algorithms they use are cool and useful to serve their interests. They are good at showing you things that will keep you on the platform. Unfortunately, that stops people from being exposed to new ideas and constantly exposes them to negativity. Mainstream media understands this and creates narratives & storylines based on this subconscious response in most of us. I was bothered by the amount of negativity out there. I think millions of people are in search of more positivity in the world and they can’t seem to find it. Factoring all of that, KARMA began to take shape and was created.


How does KARMA go about incentivizing us to be good?

The goal is for users to have an extremely simple process to get started. Initially, people will download the app, enter a private key and customize their profile. They can then start following their friends or browse posts from other users on the popular feed. It will look and feel familiar to users. They can go out into the world, and record a video doing awesome things for people and share their experience inside of the app.

Every day, new KARMA will be created through a very small inflation. When users upvote or “like” another user’s post, they will receive some of the newly created KARMA. The amount they receive will be relative the amount of KARMA that the “Liker” has staked. So to make it simple, the more KARMA you have Powered Up, the stronger your upvotes are. There’s a number of other things that users can do inside of the app. Users can comment on posts, see their notifications and send & receive KARMA. A number of additional features will be added to the application in the near future.

Daily rewards are broken into 4 categories:

  1. Content Creation Rewards - 70%

  2. Staking (Power Up) Rewards - 15%

  3. User Engagement Rewards - 10%

  4. Development Pool - 5%

I get a lot of people asking me "hey is this good KARMA?". I can't be the decider of what is good KARMA because it's up to the community. Once it's out and released, I don't know where it's going to go. Many subcategories may appear, or it may become more general content. Regardless I’d still love to see "doing good" be the focus. For example, if someone said, "Hey guys I haven't been working out in years, but I woke up at 7 this morning to do it, and I feel amazing". This post is positive and may inspire others. I would say that is good KARMA. You're definitely going to be more positive to the people around you. Ultimately it’s up to the community to decide individually what they feel is “good KARMA”.

For KARMA, inflation is capped at 5 percent annually. For a more detailed breakdown, you can read more in the KARMA White Paper.

I think KARMA appeals to such a broad demographic. I believe anyone from teenagers to your grandparents will use it to do good. So we want to make the experience as simple as possible for everyone.


Speaking of being popular, we read in the White Paper that people can share their good deeds on different social media platforms, is this not a concern as you are competing with them?

We realize that hundreds of millions of people are currently using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Users on KARMA will want to share their posts to their current social circles and that’s a good thing. It will help KARMA gain more exposure and get introduced to more potential users. Today on Instagram you can share your post on Twitter. Technically these two entities are competing and this is no different. KARMA offers a unique proposition that current social media platforms just don’t offer. We think that non-KARMA users will see that their friends are using KARMA, receiving likes and a tokenized incentive and want to try it out for themselves.


Blockchain social media platforms have one big concern, and that's how to manage toxic or unwanted members. What solutions will KARMA be using to avoid such problems?

We have a reporting system at the moment with a three strike policy for people. If I just report your post that won't be enough for you to get flagged because I might not like you and do it out of spite. We have to have multiple people report on a post for you to be flagged. No one's had an issue with it in the community, but then again this can change if/when a better solution arises. We are trying to make rules as fair as possible for everyone. To pretend that we know the perfect rules prior to the app being live would be ridiculous. Everything is subject to change if it will improve the experience for the majority of people. What I'm envisioning for the future is a decentralized way for a certain amount of people to become decentralized arbiters. When an account gets flagged, they can review it, make a decision on it and earn KARMA for whichever choice they make.


So at the moment KARMA, like right now, is not 100% decentralized, will you be in future?

When it comes to centralization it’s important to ask the question, “Compared to what?”. KARMA will be much less centralized than the current social media giants. We will not store and sell users personal data and want to get community input on major decisions. At the moment we are decentralizing as much as we can with the tools available. When EOS storage comes out, it's kind of going to be like IPFS on EOS where all the nodes will be able to store photos and videos, and you’ll just stake a certain amount of EOS for as long as you need your data stored. When EOS storage comes out, we will be transitioning to that, and KARMA will get closer to full decentralization. In the future, we want to make KARMA a full DAC and allow everyone to vote for new features and other proposals for the platform.

Will KARMA be implementing features like Daily Challenges?

Yeah, we have an ongoing list of future features that we are going to include, we rank them by how fast we can implement them and how important they are. Like here's a few, one of them is going to be the idea generator, so if you keep tapping it, it'll give you suggestions to do, which we thought was crucial.

We are partnering with charities that verifiably give 99% of their donations to the intended cause. We want to have a space in the app where users can donate KARMA to these charities to help fund their initiatives. We’d also encourage charities to have an account to document the things they do so that our community can get a better sense of where the money goes. We want to have Chat, Discovery boards, Badges for people to earn, Rankings and much more. The first version is about getting the core things right, allowing people to post, allowing people to like, give KARMA according to how much you have staked and find your friends.

Over time KARMA should have some pretty impressive and kind people, and they will be swimming in KARMA, what can they use KARMA for?

Dan Larimer said this about staking more of a token to have a stronger voting weight, "It gives people influence and clout on the platform. This is something of "intrinsic" value which will provide the base of demand. Everything else is all perception." This was an important starting point for using KARMA. For example, if you have 12 likes on your post today and you see that from the first 11 people you got ten cents, but then you see I liked your post and you got $30 dollars that’s going to get your attention. It’s like a “superpower” within the ecosystem. That's the blockchain version of a blue checkmark, a verified person, so it gives you clout and influence on the platform.

That for me wasn’t enough. At a primary level, people can transfer KARMA peer-to-peer. We’re already seeing people starting to send each other KARMA for doing good things prior to the release of the app. We are working on incorporating some corporate partners on the platform. These partners need to be businesses that are socially conscious with quality products. These businesses will need to spend KARMA to advertise on the platform. We want to completely flip the current advertising model on Facebook. They want anyone and everyone with money to pay to advertise. Typically those ads are very disruptive to the users experience. We like to set up a system where the largest KARMA earners can vote on if a business is allowed to advertise on the platform, ensuring that these businesses interests are aligned with the users of the platform. This system could possibly make KARMA deflationary. The funds that advertisers pay would go directly back to users as rewards on the platform.

Being able to spend KARMA in the real world or online on real products is very important. We want to work with businesses like cafe’s, restaurants and gyms to accept KARMA so that earning and spending KARMA is a very fluid process for all parties involved. It would be amazing to have a directory inside of the app, showing all of the businesses willing to accept KARMA. KARMA is in an excellent position to do that. I mean no one's done it yet, you can ask a lot of people who don't know about crypto, and they still think everything is a Bitcoin or they’ve never heard of the blockchain. We’re still very much in the early days, so why can’t it be KARMA?


We're convinced, we desperately need people to start doing some good? When will KARMA be released?

We are going to announce the release of Version 1 after we conclude the beta phase. We need to test everything and get valuable feedback so that Version 1 is a great experience for everyone. KARMA will be available on Android and iOS. To show that we’re serious about releasing KARMA as soon as possible, we announced staking for KARMA prior to the app's release and are allocating 1 Million KARMA per day as staking rewards for everyone who stakes their KARMA early and supports the project.

In addition to staking, we’ve ran two mini-contests with the KARMA community in the KARMA Telegram. We allocated 25k KARMA per qualifying video for the first contest and 10k KARMA per qualifying video in the second contest. The community was challenged to go out in the world and make a video doing something nice for a complete stranger. Collectively we’ve had over 500 video submissions in just a couple days for the two contests. I was shocked by the engagement of our community. We’ve had video submissions from countries like Nigeria, South Korea, and Canada to name a few. It’s been amazing so far to see that with a little incentive, we can inspire 100’s of people to affect the lives of thousands in a positive way.

Are there any negative opinions about incentivizing people to be good?

What some people say is "isn't bad that people are doing good just to earn money." I thought a lot about that, and this is what I think about it. I think it’s very binary. You're a person and you're going to do what you’re going to do today. You're either going to do something nice for someone else who needs the help or you're not. The chances are that you probably won't spend much of your day doing something for someone in need.

We all have our responsibilities, relationships, jobs and things like that. So if an incentive is what people need to take action and help a stranger out, then I think it’s better that they actually do the good. The recipient of the good doesn’t know the difference. They needed help in some way and got that help. So I’m all for the experiment.

Off-Topic: What do you think is stopping the popular social media platforms from moving to the blockchain?

Ok, so it's like the Titanic, you can't turn a big boat suddenly, or the entire thing falls over. I think in the case of the big social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter there are many factors at play. One is just that there is soo much going on technologically that there are many challenges there. They have an extreme amount of resources and intelligent people that I’m sure understand some of the benefits of the blockchain. The more significant problem is that they are all publicly traded companies. When you have current investment holders, who like the current model because they are making money, you can't come in and say "whatever goes, goes," because you are only a shareholder of the company like all the rest them. You won't want to get the others angry and ruin your stock. Facebook or Instagram implementing a token seems like it may be conflicting with their stock price as a private company. Lastly, what do they have to model it after? The only successful experiments that we have seen is Steem, and Steem is very different from their social platforms. I think if KARMA gets a few million users, then I'm sure that they might go "OK, hold on what are they doing and what are we doing?”. There’s a lot of factors at play.



We thank Dallas for sparing the time to talk with us about KARMA, and we hope that you, our community, enjoyed it as well. If you did, please let us know in comments below, and feel free to suggest any dapps that you want us to interview or review in future.


By Alessio Casablanca

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