Tokenizing Upvotes – Reddit’s Crypto Experiment is Over, For Now


Conor Maloney

February 2, 2019

A scheme allowing members of the r/ethtrader subreddit to profit from upvotes has taken a number of twists and turns and, perhaps unsurprisingly, ended in a “corrupt” free-for-all described as a “pay-to-pay plutocracy”.

But that’s not to say that the next version won’t take off.

Tokenizing Upvotes

Since October the +200,000 members of the sub have received 2 million tokens called ‘donuts’ allocated in proportion to the karma (upvotes) each user has earned that week, and the donuts gave those with higher amounts more of a say Reddit’s weighted polls. The polls give prominent members a louder voice to deter Sybill attacks where many fake accounts are created to manipulate votes.

So, the idea at first was simply to encourage participation and prevent vote manipulation on community polls.

However, that all changed on May 15 when a subreddit member called u/shouldbedan introduced a system that allowed the donut tokens to be traded as non-fungible assets on different crypto-exchanges. Suddenly the karma that people so often joke about farming or wasting time collecting was actually worth money.

It resulted, of course, in chaos.

A poll created by u/HodlDwon shortly afterward showed that the community wanted trading of the tokens to stop, pointing out that users could now simply buy donuts on an exchange and grant themselves excessive influence on the weighted polls, defeating the original purpose of donuts.

u/shouldbedan declared the experiment to be over with the remaining donuts redistributed.

Should Influence Be Tokenized?

The interesting thing about this is that given that the poll that killed tokenized donuts was weighted, it could have conceivably been manipulated by those who wanted to keep the dream alive. All they had to do was buy influence and sway the poll, but this doesn’t seem to have happened.

It raises the question of whether tokenizing Reddit karma really was as disastrous as it was made out to be. Reddit Karma exists as a means to incentivize good behavior – as well as the “status” some users feel it brings, it actually grants administrative privileges, with many subreddits denying commenting and voting rights until an account has reached a certain level of karma.

It stands to reason that profiting financially from karma, or any other form of social media validation, is the next logical step in online communities now that cryptocurrency enables tokenization so easily.

The issue is not with people profiting from their karma, but in people being able to buy karma, as pointed out aptly by Ethereum developer Afri.

Despite getting shut down for the foreseeable future, the potential was not lost on all users, with

Other Platforms Are Already Doing It

It’s worth pointing out that while Reddit would be by far the most mainstream platform to allow users to profit from other users liking or upvoting their posts, it’s wouldn’t be the first.

Decentralized social networks like Sapien and Steemit already do this, running native cryptocurrencies that can be earned through participation and receiving high levels of engagement on the social network platform.

Now that it’s been piloted on Reddit, it could be that another version of donuts will crop up to be traded on other DEXs in the near future. It certainly posed problems in the weighted poll scenario, but broadly speaking, the idea of monetizing time spent on social media is already out there in the wild.

Even on r/ethtrader many users lamented the dismantling of the scheme. The potential far from lost on them, with u/cryptofuck even exclaiming the following:

This shit is the future.

Hey, maybe they’re right.

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Interested in more crypto content? Check out Britain opposes U.S’s take on utility tokens and Venezuela to Become a Bitcoin Haven?