A Token-Curated Registry (TCR) is a list; one that is captured on a blockchain, and is curated through a voting process involving holders of the list’s associated token. Just as with a blank notepad and a pen, there are many uses for a TCR.
The team that is credited with originating the term “Token-Curated Registry,” for instance, are developing AdChain: a registry of non-fraudulent publishers who are eligible to participate in the associated advertising network. (A good reading list on TCRs is here.)
I am interested in what opportunities TCRs present to existing and new online communities. Consensys developer Mike Goldin, who has written extensively on TCRs, posits that they may be possible for very small communities. However, most of what is currently available to read or listen to about token-curated registries pertains to the design of their smart contracts, and so I am left with some questions about the off-chain, social-layer attributes of TCRs. For instance:
Can large TCR networks fragment? Can one TCR token “nest” inside another?
TCRs are meant to be valuable lists that return compensation to curators who hold a proprietary token: each list probably must have its own token. There must be a minimum level of user interest for a TCR token to gain value. So, by narrowing the scope of a TCR too much, the incentive for contributing to the list would become insignificant for its token holders.
In my experience with growing online communities, I’ve learned that they like to fragment into increasingly obscure, unrelated groups. Also, the most high-quality user-generated content is often found in the less active, more niche groups. This presents a paradox to TCRs; higher quality content may be generated by communities focused on either obscure or locally-oriented topics, but there may not be enough consumer or business interest in that content to support a token that provides meaningful incentives for the registry curators.
So, can one TCR token be “nested” inside another? For example, could a tokenized list of the best restaurants in New York play host to a tokenized list of the best vegetarian restaurants in New York? You can imagine the mutual benefits to both communities. But how would such an inter-token value network be structured?
What may be the unintended consequences of financial rewards on existing curation value networks?
Someone suggested that TCRs may be useful for creating “a list of NGOs that responsibly spend your donations.” I suspect that such a list exists in some format, someplace or another…and I am sure that there is an active community online today that discusses NGOs.
What is the best way to introduce the concept of a TCR to such a community? A TCR that is to be successful requires users that are well-informed on the subject, as well as well-intentioned, since there is voting involved. The way in which a TCR is pitched to potential contributors in existing networks will affect the quality of the contributions.
I used to be a volunteer Reddit moderator in their broad community of book reading groups and writing clubs, and a constant source of negative interactions was users that were participating on the forum primarily for financial gain. There were users who would post Amazon links using referral codes, recommending the subreddit’s most popular books at every chance. These users were contributing a high volume of content, but not typically of good quality. I think TCRs could become plagued by low-quality contributors, if the initial pitch makes certain promises about the rewards and does not make the need for quality clear enough.
How should the “Squarespace of TCRs” be constructed (if it should exist at all)?
Learning to deploy an Ethereum smart contract is, at present moment, a barrier to entry for launching a TCR. To create a new registry with some custom dimensions, such as a list of accredited dealers for a brand of GPU mining hardware, you would need to, at the very least, edit some parts of an existing smart contract’s code.
There is no off-the-shelf platform (of which I am aware) that enables the creation of a smart contract with customizable attributes, such as voting mechanics and data attributes, plus tradeable tokens that can be exchanged for a liquid currency.
For funded technology projects chasing audacious goals, this is not a problem — but as early TCR innovators have pointed out, a TCR could be a suitable model for a very small community. Should there be a Squarespace of TCRs? Could such a service be decentralized, with one TCR token to rule them all? How would that work?
Some closing thoughts:
The biggest opportunity presented by TCRs, I think, is for structured consumer-interest data to become publicly accessible (and virtually free). Not only will the lists that communities make be valuable commodities upon which businesses can be built, trends in how those communities then interact with those lists will contain valuable insights. That data has historically only been available to the gatekeepers in control of the information vehicle, and I think through TCRs that data can be made free.
With that data, independent investors would be able to get a more accurate picture of their industry, in much less time and for much less capital. The same goes for individual consumers, too, and companies that are listed on TCRs; everyone would benefit from more transparency.
The hurdles to realizing those benefits, I think, are user-friendliness and privacy concerns. I don’t see TCRs becoming very widely used if the people contributing to them have to interact through command prompts, nor if they believe that by interacting they are giving up too much personal info about themselves. These hurdles present opportunities to any developers looking to build a TCR platform, for which I will be watching…
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