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blog: Don Marti

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See you at the Voice of Blockchain conference?

23 August 2018

I'll be at the Voice of Blockchain conference in Chicago on Friday and Saturday. Two panels: "Journalism: Incentivizing the Truth" on Friday, and "Crowdsourcing, Bounties, and Democratizing Access to Jobs" on Saturday.

So what does blockchain have to do with incentivizing journalism?

One important reason that we have standards of fairness and accuracy in news is that news organizations sell advertising to mainstream brands. Brands that want to be able to sell to everyone, not just one side of a political or social issue. High-reputation news sites don't respond individually to the demands of advertisers, but the principles on which high-reputation news sites operate have developed in parallel with the needs of brand safety.

On today's web, reputation-based advertising is not so much of a thing. Adtech firms place ads from legit brands on brand-unsafe sites, usually without anyone at the brand knowing about it. Faris Yakob points out, By squeezing fees and margin procurement put incredible pressure on agency principals, who have obligations to hit certain targets from the holding companies. Rock meet hard place. Thus new sources of revenue were found, in media rebates, or opacity, or programmatic trading desks, or production fixing - all conflicts of interest that can be leveraged to try to appease both masters...for a time.

When agencies try to get ad impressions in front of the desired audience at a bargain price, a lot of ad money ends up with fraudulent or brand-unsafe sites. Even legit sites end up running 50 to 70 tracking scripts because they lack the market power to protect their audience from being tracked to cheaper sites.

Incentivizing journalism depends on helping users protect their personal information from being tracked from one site to another. As users get the tools to control who they share their information with (and they don’t want to leak it to everyone) then the web advertising business has to transform into a reputation contest. Whoever can build the most trustworthy place for users to choose to share their information wins.

Blockchains are slow and expensive compared to databases or conventional payment systems, but cheap compared to trust networks. As browsers take a more active role in protecting users from third-party tracking, reputable news sites will need a new technical infrastructure for Internet advertising that accurately reflects the trust relationships between brands, agencies, sites, and users.

What about "Crowdsourcing, Bounties, and Democratizing Access to Jobs"? This is a fun area. Learn market design is the new learn to code.

Developers would prefer to release open source software at a high quality level and get paid for it. Many users would prefer to use software at a higher quality level if they could pay for it. The current software market, though, incentivizes companies to release at a low quality level, in order to get early adoption and build network effects. One approach is to build a new kind of market, one that allows users to hedge their software quality risks while enabling developers to trade on the likelihood of bug fixes. More info: Rao et al.

IMHO, open source bounties still have problems with incentivizing partial work and meta work, so there are lots of opportunities to build better markets here. (Ever notice that there are more companies offering solutions to open source license risks than solutions to developer burnout risks?) Anyway, go read Sneha Sinha's piece on paid internships.

Has the GDPR law actually gotten European news outlets to cut down on rampant third-party cookies and content on their sites? It seems so

A web of anxiety: accessibility for people with anxiety and panic disorders Part 1

Targeted advertising (where the browsing habits of consumers are tracked and then used to provide them with more specific adverts) was another commonly cited source of anxiety, with many respondents feeling powerless to stop the intrusion. One described how “a lot of my particular anxieties came into full swing when I learned more about how online advertising works. When I noticed Facebook ‘Like’ buttons on unrelated pages and when ads follow me around. The feeling that I had no privacy was claustrophobic and has led to so many anxiety attacks I have lost count”.

Hackers Use Chipotle Ad To Spread Malware

The link from the Chipotle ad redirected consumers to an Amazon gift card scam that presents the viewer with a fraudulent message that is intended to prompt a click to steal the user’s personal information.