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Your Audience Is Your Patron · Monday September 24, 2007 by Crosbie Fitch

A long, long time ago, even before the Caxtons of this world, there was another business model.

It was called patronage.

It doesn’t hold much favour today because people find it difficult to disassociate from plutocracy.

But as easily as the Internet enables diffusion of intellectual work, so it enables the diffusion of the wealthy patron – aka ‘the audience’.

It was difficult 300 years ago to collect an advance from a large readership, but then it was difficult to distribute copies without permission, so the idea of selling copies (under monopoly) was born (whether discretely or by subscription).

Today, you cannot sell copies. The illusion that you can is simply the business model’s momentum – the good will of its passengers pushing it along with the tank having long run dry.

Has anyone wondered if you can now collect an advance from a large readership?

Don’t forget the volte face though. It’s not the author’s publisher charging the customer for production, but the customers commissioning the author to produce a publication.

Of course, a nimble publisher could offer their services once again as intermediary, especially for audiences who don’t particularly care about the specific authors, e.g. newspapers.

In the case of a newspaper things would appear very similar to the subscription model. After all, the demand and supply sides are still the same. However, it’s not a newspaper that is published to sell (under monopoly) to readers, but readers who commission a newspaper to be published (without monopoly).

vaspers aka steven e. streight said 3425 days ago :

A crowdsourced art commission? A populist-dictated music recording?

Why have an aloof elite, controlled by mammonists, create what we are capable of creating ourselves?

Take the phenomenon Post Secret: 100% user generated content, then sold to the public who created it.

I think it’s all becoming We Media, as in We Average People are now The Media, we entertain ourselves with ourselves, correction: with our digital surrogates.

We make videos, podcasts, blogs, Twitters, music, with mostly free online tools, and distribute the DIY product via free socnets and file sharing status updaters.

Connectivity is King, then Presentation,, and thirdly: Content.

Smart companies will provide more types, and better reliability, of social media with networking tools, and let the audience create their own content, share it, remix and refactor it, in a Creative Commons environment, and it’s the End of Stardom, Rise of Everyone.

I think.

Reaccrediting Micropayments · Wednesday September 05, 2007 by Crosbie Fitch

Micropayments work when the payer WANTS to pay and the payee is happy to accept such payments.

When you have a million willing payers and one payee, then you have micropayments. When you have 999,900 unwilling payers and a hundred naïfs then you have uneconomic microcharging.

For micropayments you also need goods that can be perfectly reproduced a million fold at insignificant cost to payee and payers.

All this is obvious, it just hasn’t all been put together yet.

  1. We have digital goods that can be perfectly reproduced a million fold.
  2. We have a billion online users of the Internet.
  3. We have a billion creators of digital goods each of whom might be persuaded to accept $1,000 even from a thousand payers at a dollar a piece.
  4. We have a billion people many of whom can think of a few things they’d gladly pay a dollar for.

What you can’t do is microcharge for copies of published works. Well, you can try, but you won’t get very far.

Micropayments have a future. Microcharging is the flawed impostor that discredited it.

Unfortunately, because micropayments have been discredited, people feel they need to find another term.

Thus we have Micropledges instead (hat tip Mike Linksvayer).

The Patron's Jukebox · Monday August 13, 2007 by Crosbie Fitch

It’s 2010, and yet another premises, an all night diner, installs the new Nokia JB320 Jukebox. It’s very cheap, consisting only of a user-hardened touchscreen web terminal with e-cash reader (and dollar coin-slot for the oldies), wirelessly linked to the diner’s hifi system and central server.

This is connected to the Jamendo musique-libre repository, and shares high quality digital masters – with no royalty due for public performance, and no copyright infringement for sharing or public performance.

The owner of the diner believes in encouraging musicians who submit good music for the entertainment of his customers. He is therefore quite happy that the jukebox charges a dollar for the playback of each track, as then the most popular music provides a proportionate reward to the respective musicians.

He’s happy because he only pays a minimal one-off charge for the price of the jukebox user panel and the electricty the sound system consumes. His customers are happy because they get a vast variety of decent music (punters only tend to play music that’s worth paying a dollar to listen to). The musicians are happy because they get paid by people who like their music.

There are a few music tracks that the control panel denies payment for. These have been specially marked as CC-Non-Commercial to indicate that the proprietor would be prosecuted if money was charged for them.

These tend to be recognised for what they are: promos by bands signed to old fashioned record labels. There’s the occasional hard core Cliff Richard fan who’ll try out his latest track, but most of it is ignored as dross – only used by the proprietor to check the system’s up and running each morning.

Kids find it hard to believe that only a few years earlier about 95% of all the money they spent on music went to record labels and collection societies, with only 5% left for the musicians (once all costs had been recouped, which took a few decades and several chart hits).

Today, musicians tend to get about 95% with 2% taken by e-cash handlers. Of course, out of this the musicians still have to pay for the costs of production, but then they have the luxury of very much cheaper music distribution and recommendation services. CD manufacturing occurs independently and promotion costs are far cheaper.

Today musicians just upload their songs to the Jamendo repository, they’re analysed, distributed by CC-Torrent and then recommended by Pandora according to the taste of the person who visits the Jukebox with the intention of paying for a tune to be played that they like. The band gets a dollar each time minus a penny each to Jamendo, Pandora, and CC-Torrent.

Ideating Identity · Wednesday July 11, 2007 by Crosbie Fitch

Who am I?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think I know who I am. I’m me.

Ah, but, perhaps the question uses the word ‘who’ as discriminator, as in “Which person of many am I, and what means can I provide to enable anyone to demonstrate this?”


Identity in 5 Minutes

Consider twins. We can’t identify people 100% based on appearance, but it’s pretty good. We can’t identify people by their names – not only are there many called ‘John Smith’, but knowing that one twin is John and the other is Jack doesn’t actually help you identify John. Having a name or ‘identifier’ doesn’t constitute identity, it’s the label you can attach to the identity once you’ve apprehended it.

What we are left with is the only thing guaranteed to be 100% unique, an individual’s experience (their mind and its memories). And we can only corroborate this by referring to those who have intersecting experiences, i.e. who have memories of encounters with the person to be identified.

However, corroboration remains hearsay. We can never be 100% certain, we can only be confident according to how well we trust the words of those we consult, and this can depend upon how well we know them, or how well those we know know them, etc.

We find that identity coincides with reputation.

We also find that identity/reputation is not something that the individual possesses. Their identitiy/reputation is something possessed collectively, in part, by everyone they have ever met.

In correspondence or online, appearances are rarely available. We therefore need to create artificial appearances, artificial names, and artificial recordings of meetings/transactions and appraisals thereof. From these we can create artificial identities and reputations. These needn’t correspond to human beings, i.e. humans can control multiple artificial identities, and some identities may be entirely controlled by computer, whether AI traders or dumb proxies.

Online, we don’t record our identities, we record our experiences of everyone we deal with.

Identity/reputation is extracted collectively, ad hoc.

The Identity Reputation Duality1

I think we should disintegrate everything back to first principles, which also means decentralised and distributed. Deconstruct ‘identity’ and all preconceived notions related to it (especially IT based ones). It’s probably best to rewind one’s perspective back to a preindustrialised era too – just to be safe.

Identity is reputation and, for convenience, an associated name.

Identity is something an individual entity possesses only as a consequence of the fact that they are inescapably distinct from any other individual, by dint of a distinct experience (interaction with other individuals). Even a cloned identity will immediately diverge into a distinct identity from its fellow clones.

An individual’s identity is not constructed by the individual, but is a product of their relationships with others. Thus if they partition their relationships they can obtain separated/multiple identities.

However, identity is dependent upon the individual’s memory/experience of their relationships with others, because it is only through corroboration by shared memories/experience that the identity is sustained. A ‘Stepford wife’ becomes detached from their identity despite retaining their name and appearance. However, the identity they lost has not been destroyed – it remains intact in the minds of those they knew.

Incidentally, because it is a more familiar term and is less jarring to our understanding of how identity operates in human society, I will sometimes use ‘individual’ even though ‘identity’ is generally more accurate. We just need to bear in mind that a 1:1:1 correspondence of human:individual:identity is just the familiar case, i.e. to at least keep at the back of our minds that an individual is not necessarily human, and may possess multiple identities.

An individual’s name is a disambiguator only from the perspective of each individual it encounters (has relations with). The name only needs explicit disambiguation if two or more individuals need frequent reference in the discussion of one or more other individuals who know them. If I know two John Smiths I may need to use “John Smith the deputy prime minister” and “John Smith my brother in law”, which is often rendered unnecessary through context. However, each John Smith may have no other relations that need such disambiguation (everyone else they know may be unaware of another John Smith). Names do not need to be universally unique.

The uniqueness of an identity does not come from its name, but from the identity’s uniqueness. It means the identity is amenable to a unique name, but it doesn’t depend upon one. A unique address saves time in delivery, but again, the ‘wrong’ John Smith will recognise cases of mistaken identity and can disambiguate upon such occasions.

So, when we pare it right back, we find that identity consists only of a set of shared memories of interactions. A unique-ish appearance that helps us associate an individual with a unique-ish name that we associate with a set of memories of previous interactions with that individual. We don’t even need the appearance – it’s just helpful. Given a typewritten letter and a name, we can corroborate the letter/name with our memories for that named individual. For people we know well or who are otherwise distinguishable by the nature or content of their writing, the name can often be omitted, and we can still recognise the identity of the author.

However, it is the nature of human beings that identity is difficult to impersonate if appearance is involved (disguise can be tricky), so we may readily authenticate identity on appearance alone, and only worry if what should be self corroborating shared memories fail to corroborate. A new Stepford Wife, despite initial acceptance of authenticity obtained through identical appearance, soon triggers ‘corroboration failure’ alarms in the minds of those who presumed the presence of the previous identity.

So, identity is first protected from impersonation by the difficulty of reproduction of appearance (including voice, mannerism, smell, etc.), but secondly protected by the difficulty of reproduction of memory (non-consensually).

Why do we care about impersonation? Because 1) we don’t know that impersonation is occurring, and 2) we don’t know the identity of the impersonator. If we don’t know that impersonation is occurring then any decisions that we may make dependent upon an identity (and their reputation) become invalid – likely to be highly divergent with the decisions we’d make were we aware of the true identity (invariably the impersonators’ precise intention).

If we knew that impersonation was occurring, we’d at least be able to avoid making incorrect decisions. And if we also knew the impersonator’s identity then we need only decide whether their intention is fraud, benign substitution or humour.

Benign substitution is where impersonation occurs with the consent of the original identity (perhaps unable to be present) – hopefully undetectably (with risk of detection). This may be dishonest, but at least no harm is intended. All decisions are likely to be safe where the impersonator can sufficiently replicate shared memories and convey new ones back to the original identity. This also assumes a situation in which the original identity’s body or other associated property is not required to be present (unless it too can be sufficiently emulated).

The reproducibility of identity requires knowledge of shared memories:

  1. obtaining them via records (diary)
  2. obtaining them directly (from discussions with one or more of those who possess them)
  3. continued company with the identity to be impersonated and/or others with which they share memories

Humans are thus careful where they keep their diaries and what they put in them. They also keep track of who knows them and their friends the best, and ensure they can trust those that are close to them. Corroboration can invariably be achieved through exhaustive search of shared memories that haven’t been written down. And unshared memories are 100% private – for humans – hence Deckard’s easy demonstration to Rachel of her replicant nature by describing some of her undisclosed, private memories (Blade Runner).

So, an individual doesn’t hold their identity so much as half of it, which is a means of corroborating it. The other half is held by everyone they’ve ever known. This also means that the individual’s identity could be recreated if everyone they’ve ever known could collaborate. Even so, the individual could retain a secret that might demonstrate their superior claim to the identity over that of an impostor.

But, I’ve said from the start that an identity comprises reputation. This is because identity is more than a set of shared memories. Identity is ‘who you are as a person’ – in the eyes of those who know you. Thus identity is also reputation, a set of shared memories of the quality and strength of relationships. Trustworthiness (reciprocal exposure of risk, etc.), reliability, punctuality, number and value of meetings, interactions, transactions, etc.

Identity in Practice

I think this is enough to begin to get a glimpse of how a distributed identity/reputation system might look.

  1. An identity is a closed list of names of other identities with which this identity has had one or more relations with in the past, and attributes associated with each relationship. This can be secured by the owner of the identity with a human memorable password (which must nevertheless, withstand dictionary attack).
  2. Identities are online (http/soap) or near-line (e-mail) autonomous, interactive entities.
  3. Each identity has a non-unique, human readable name, e.g. “Fred Bloggs”.
  4. Each identity has a unique ‘appearance’, e.g. a universally unique public key (only disclosed per encounter).
  5. Any identity can be asked if it recognises an identity’s name, and if so, whether they have the same appearance (without needing to exchange the public key).
  6. Any identity can be asked for its subjective measure of another identity’s reputation.
  7. Any identity can be asked to disclose one or more ‘well known’/reputable identities with which it has had a relationship (referees).
  8. When two identities interact for the first time they exchange a secret (appearances/public key’s are exchanged to do this) and each demonstrates to the other ownership of their appearance (knowledge of private key).
  9. Upon the formation of a relationship, identities may exchange contact details: primary and secondary online locations (web service URIs), with backup near-line locations (e-mail addresses).
  10. If identity X suspects A knows B, X can ask A to corroborate B’s identity by immediately interacting with B and confirming knowledge of the secret previously exchanged.

Identities DO NOT contain any private data beyond qualitative measures of interactions.

Identities can make no truth assertions concerning other identities, except whether they have evidence that the identity is authentic and that they have had a previous relationship.

Identity is not a matter of private data retention, or trusting others to exchange the identity’s private data. Keeping some relationships and transactions secret is a separate matter.

The reputation of an identity is held by others. An identity records subjective reputations of others.

By interacting with several identities that one knows it should be possible to gauge a less subjective measure of the reputation of an identity that one expects to have a relationship with.

An identity could maintain a cache of identities it has explored a relationship with, but ultimately decided against.

1 Closely based on my post to the ProjectVRM mailing list on 2nd July 2007.

Harald K said 3527 days ago :

Man, I found you through the wikipedia page on Assurance contracts. As far as I can see the work you do is important and great, but I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t very familiar with the concepts before.

Your explanations are not exactly accessible, you know. It took me a while to figure out that this post was neither joking nor crazy (... right?).

I hope you have someone to help you with the marketing :-)

Crosbie Fitch said 3527 days ago :

Thanks for the perceptive comment Harald.
There’s very little that I publish that I expect will increase the size of my audience.
The FeedBurner subscriber count of zero should help assure readers that this is an esoteric blog where the author is the primary judge of quality.

I’m glad that I have at least one reader who is familiar with the concepts.

I apologise for my inaccessible explanations.

I do aspire to accessibility, but it is a long, uphill struggle.

I try sprinkling a little crazy humour here and there, but I’m pretty serious about what I write.


Scott Carpenter said 3526 days ago :

Now the subscriber count shows 2. I’ve been subscribing for some time but was using a built-in feed instead of Feedburner. (Does Textile have a plugin of some sort to redirect to the FB feed?)

Crosbie Fitch said 3526 days ago :

Hi Scott, I really wouldn’t want anyone to try and figure out how to fix the insignificant statistical vagaries of Feedburner’s metrics. It’s designed for bloggers who get at least 20 new readers every day.

Textile isn’t really a blog tool for those seeking blog fame and fortune. Unfortunately, it does attract the generic attention of comment spam so I’ve used the only captcha plug-in I could find.
I don’t think there’s much in the way of FB support – nor much demand.

Consider the FB subscriber counter a little amusement on my part.

Scott Carpenter said 3526 days ago :

Sure — I should have mentioned with my last comment that I realized the exact number wasn’t really the point — maybe I just wanted to say, I’m here! :-) Having the FB count on my site appeals to my neediness, but maybe it’s all just splogs that are subscribed. In any case, the number is best treated lightly.

(One feature that would be much more helpful here is a feed for comments on individual posts. I like to subscribe when I make comments so I can follow the conversation.)

Crosbie Fitch said 3525 days ago :

I presume you are e-mailed when I reply to this comment? If not, yes, it’s a bit naff.

Maybe there might be an option to create a feed for “all comments”? I’m not sure, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

I’ll have another look at the FB vs Textile RSS subscription thingy too.

Crosbie Fitch said 3524 days ago :

Ok, Scott, I’ve discovered a treasure trove of plug-ins for TextPattern that I’d previously missed: Textpattern Resources

I’ve created a site-wide comment feed on the front page, and a per article comment feed.

TextPattern may not be the blog of choice for the bloggerati, but it’s very good and I’m glad I chose it.

Scott Carpenter said 3494 days ago :

Hey! I’m a little behind — I just noticed the new per-post comments feed in the IPistemology post and then found the announcement here. This is great — thanks! (Now I won’t be a month behind in the conversation.)

Bron Gondwana said 3228 days ago :

Coming along rather late, but I just wanted to reply to this bit:

… Even so, the individual could retain a secret that might demonstrate their superior claim to the identity over that of an impostor …

Actually, that’s bogus. If they have a secret that’s not known to anyone else, then the only person they can use that secret to prove their identity to is themselves. Kinda pointless.

Crosbie Fitch said 3228 days ago :

Possession of a secret need not necessarily be demonstrated by corroboration, but by an action that could only be performed by the possessor of the secret.

Thus, if with one’s distributed identity a code or digital signature is also supplied, then an imposter should be less able to demonstrate decryption of the code (despite otherwise having been able to recreate the identity). Each component of the identity may also be signed (not encrypted).

Ronny Ager-Wick said 3125 days ago :

This is brilliant! This is the research they should have done before they started using OpenID.
I landed on this page while researching OpenID here: idcorner.org/2007/08…
In essence, my conclusion is that OpenID must have been made by monkeys, for monkeys – thus only monkeys will use it…

However, it would be interesting to build an online trust/ID protocol based on the same principles as the society is based on, like you’re outlining here.

v0.3 PHP client library released · Thursday October 19, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

All classes have now been implemented in PHP.


Next step: implementing and testing monetary deposits, withdrawals, and transfers upon deal completion.

v0.2 PHP client library released · Wednesday October 04, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

Just done the Event handling code in the PHP client library.


Plenty of scope for it becoming more sophisticated, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Now on to contingencies…

The first client library is now released · Wednesday August 09, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

Version 0.1 of the PHP5 source code (GPL v2) to the first release of a client library for the Contingency Market is downloadable here: CM_PHP_Client_v0.1.zip

By way of simple demonstration it is hosted here

At the moment library classes have only been implemented to handle sessions and agents. Events, contingencies, offers, and deals will be implemented in due course.

Status · Thursday June 15, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

The Contingency Market has a considerable proportion of functionality implemented and tested (C# + MSSQL).

A PayPal deposit/withdrawal handling gateway is also largely implemented (PHP->MSSQL), but not yet hooked in or tested with the main CM engine.

Most of the CM engine’s functionality has yet to be exposed via the web service. This is being done at the time of writing.

The session authentication system for the web service has just been completed and will be used by all web service methods.

A separate, non-session based web service will replicate all the non-critical and public methods.

This work on the CM is being done in parallel with its incorporation into QuidMusic.

NB Use of the CM is and will always be unrestricted. There is no, and will not be any, subscription or commission charged for its use.

Sample code for integrating CM into your own sites will be provided in due course.

Status · Tuesday June 13, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

The next steps in QuidMuic’s evolution are as follows:

  1. Temporarily relocate site to quidmusic.digitalproductions.co.uk (by July ’06).
  2. Replace existing PHP based ad hoc engine with Contingency Market.
  3. Given CM supports PayPal payments, make this clear on QuidMusic.
  4. Move to zero commission on CopyLeft sales, and 10% commission otherwise. CM exposes payment provider surcharges to depositors.
  5. Review site content and add various cosmetic enhancements
  6. Add facility for musicians to sell their previously published music (in addition to inviting pledges for unpublished music).

Status · Tuesday June 13, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

I had developed a functioning prototype of the Digital Art Auction in PHP/MySQL as a plug-in to the Xoops CMS/framework.

Unfortunately, I failed to keep my version of Xoops up to date, and despite some effort couldn’t get Xoops operational again.

T’DAA! has now reverted to the older FrontPage site for the time being.

Once the Contingency Market is operational, and I’ve finished migrating QuidMusic to it, I’ll produce a new T’DAA! site.

David Liao said 2728 days ago :

I hope your art auction website succeeds! I would find it useful. I am a visual artist making the best of selling art to the public domain using kickstarter.com:


I tried programming something similar on my own website using PHP and the PayPal API, but I’m not a programmer by trade, and it took 7 hours. On kickstarter, I just had to post a picture and write the contract describing my proposed release of art to the public domain.

I see value in the eventual success of the T’DAA site. Prospective patrons would understand the concept of paying for the release of public work, so I wouldn’t have to include a distracting explanation in every painting description. Customer attention spans are precious! It might also help marketing. It’s time consuming to search acquaintances for people who naturally think in terms of ransoms to release art to the public domain. I hate to say it, but people are still more familiar with purchasing of one-of-a-kind original art or licensing copyrighted work.

David Liao




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