App Miner Call 1/10 Recap

#1

Thank you to all who joined and shared thoughts during today’s App Mining call. You can view the full recording here. The discussion was incredibly productive and leaves us with a few key things to think about over the next month.

If we revisit the original, core idea of App Mining, we recall that we were aiming to build an algorithmic, automated mechanism for evaluating app quality that could also distribute monthly rewards for app developers.

Through much experimentation, various successes & failures, and many conversations like the one we had earlier today, we’ve learned that several problems need to be addressed in order for App Mining to better serve the Blockstack community and mission.

After a year-plus of working closely with app miners, we want to share the key challenges we are facing as a community and request feedback in the next steps of the program. In particular, we need to consider the following:

Objectively Fair Distribution

  • How can we design a ranking system that rewards apps that deliver a high-quality user experience and put users in full control of their data and privacy?
  • How will this system be resistant to any gaming?
  • Is this system scalable such that it can rank hundreds of thousands of apps?

Privacy-Preserving Analytics

  • How can we develop a mechanism for tracking an app’s user activity that does not exploit users’ data and privacy? See similar efforts by Brave.

Decentralization

  • Because of Blockstack PBC’s plans for decentralization, it does not anticipate being the long-term facilitator of App Mining. What potential independent entity (or entities) can fairly and effectively distribute Stacks tokens to App Mining participants?

Next Steps: App mining will conduct payouts as planned for the months of January and February 2020. We’re actively seeking your feedback to determine the next steps for App Mining, and aim to make a decision on the path forward by Feb 1. All options are on the table, including potentially pausing the program until these challenges can be addressed

Here’s how you can contribute to an iteration of App Mining that is a win for everyone:

  • Ahead of February 1st, 2020, submit a proposal that addresses the above criteria to the App Mining repository in GitHub.

Important disclaimer

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has qualified the offering statement that we have filed with the SEC. The information in that offering statement is more complete than the information we are providing now, and could differ in important ways. You must read the documents filed with the SEC before investing. The offering is being made only by means of its offering statement. This document shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any state or jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or jurisdiction.

An indication of interest involves no obligation or commitment of any kind. Any person interested in investing in any offering of Stacks Tokens should review our disclosures and the publicly filed offering statement and the final offering circular that is part of that offering statement here . Blockstack is not registered, licensed or supervised as a broker dealer or investment adviser by the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or any other financial regulatory authority or licensed to provide any financial advice or services.

Forward-looking statements

This communication contains forward-looking statements that are based on our beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to us. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “will,” “expect,” “would,” “intend,” “believe,” or other comparable terminology. Forward-looking statements in this document include, but are not limited to, statements about the future of App Mining . These statements involve risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different. More information on the factors, risks and uncertainties that could cause or contribute to such differences is included in our filings with the SEC, including in the “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion & Analysis” sections of our offering statement on Form 1-A. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. We disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

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#2

Are followups/input about the subjects discussed, to be posted here, or somewhere else?

My first thoughts about this revolve around the idea that there is arguably only one good metric that measures the importance of an app, or anything really, and that is purchase/payment in either money or time . Now if it’s a free app then payment is in the form of time - attention/usage. So basically a “proof of attention” (PoA), but human attention, that is not game-able. I think long-term developing a good PoA algo should be the focus for accurately awarding app mining rewards in an automated way. I think Muneeb said something similar wrt app metrics like logins/usage. And likely this will need to be integrated into the platform somehow, no doubt not a simple thing.

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#4

Thanks everyone for the call earlier! I’ll be watching this thread for input from all of you.

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#5

Reposting from my earlier github post here.

The discussion we had yesterday was very helpful to understand Blockstack’s retrospection on app mining and its possibilities in the coming future. PBC especially @muneeb-ali should make sure calls like this should happen more often (at least once per quarter) so that the developers and app makers understands PBCs perspective on App Mining in terms of how they are foreseeing this program in the long and short term. As far as I could remember the three main considerations were fair distribution of payouts, privacy preserving analytics and moving app mining program towards a more decentralized structure so that PBC is less involved in the distribution of payouts.

Before charting a future path, one has to consider what we want from the app mining program and we should be aware of our expectations from the program.

Two things come to my mind based on our past one years’ experience of participating in app mining program and the discussions we had on github. We have been oscillating between two major aspirational objectives. One is scale and the other is quality . Firstly, awareness and reach of blockstack with respect to app developers has to be expanded. Secondly we need more high quality apps that can retain real users and can compete with apps built on conventional centralized infrastructure without compromising on our ‘Can’t Be Evil’ ethos . Having said that I believe there is no silver bullet to confront both these challenges together. It would be naive to expect that a one size fits all model of app mining would accomplish both. We need to have a more nuanced and granular approach for that.
Following up on what we discussed yesterday in the call, I would like to propose the following suggestions for restructuring app mining program.
For calculations and simulation I’m taking the time period as March, 2020 - October, 2020 with a budget of total $7.8M. Please note that the numbers are indicative and I have borrowed numbers (budget) from this page to make this proposal more explanatory. PBC might change the numbers as per their factor conditions.

Please note that this proposal is just a starting point and completely open to have your inputs on how we can make it better and more effective. The ultimate objective is to create a long lasting, stable, thriving and ‘Can’t Be Evil’ (d)app ecosystem.

1. My first and foremost proposal is to restructure App mining into two components. Tier-1 and Tier-2

App mining- Tier 1

a. Whatever the shortcomings of current app mining program in the past one year, it cannot be denied that it has been the single most important growth engine for engaging new app developers with the blockstack ecosystem. If we have 250+ functional apps right now, that’s only because of app mining program. Tier-1 will be an evolution of current version of App mining wherein the overall payout per month will be pegged at $600,000 per month with a distribution curve of 2%. This is to ensure that a steady flow of new apps are constantly seeding the growth of our app ecosystem. This is to ensure that app mining continues to spread and app developers across the globe continue to come on board the blockstack ecosystem. It is important to understand the implications of having an App mining component solely focused on attracting new developers to our ecosystem. This is an important requirement for attracting independent developers and app makers at scale to ensure that there is a diverse and wide pool of apps. We have to be cognizant of the fact that our main objective with Tier-1 apps is to reach scale, say 700-1000 apps in next one year. With this obviously we might find apps that are mediocre, simple or plain second rate. But it would also help us in bringing a new set of app makers even if they are making simple and basic apps. This will help us in bootstrapping many things like bug discovery, talent discovery and mutual collaborations. These things are extremely valuable for a nascent growing ecosystem. The community with the help of PBC should keep a check on the process so that we can at least maintain a reasonable quality . Having said that we need to set our expectations according to that. Attaching a screenshot to compare ourselves with other platforms were we stand in terms of scale. Courtesy Dapp.com.
Screen Shot 2020-01-11 at 10 13 09 PM

b. A payout pot of $600,000 per month and a distribution curve of 2% will ensure that app ranked 1 would get $12000 per month and app ranked 200 will get $215. With the long tail it will ensure motivation level of app makers is high and influx of new developers will be continuous. This model will incentivize independent developers, weekend projects and hobby app makers to participate in the program and who knows one day we might get an Instagram, shutterfly or Pinterest out of this.
Screen Shot 2020-01-11 at 9 59 02 PM

c. I completely agree with @njordhov that Can’t Be Evil should be at the core of whatever we do. It can be taken as a multiplier of other parameters. Rather than adding the NIL score and averaging it out with other components make it a multiplier.

d. I would also like to see active users as a parameter that should be added to the current scheme of things. I understand that currently we only have raw users data and privacy preserving analytics is a key challenge for us, but I feel ‘user’ should still be a parameter . To make it fair for new entrants ‘new users acquired every month’ could be one of the parameters. Once measuring is solved we can incorporate that in the scoring algorithm.

e. Make Trymyui to select users who have prior understanding of what blockstack is what should be their expectations from a blockstack app (can’t be evil, data and identity ownership, privacy etc). They should at least have a blockstack id registered before testing the app. A small explainer video could be made with the help of community and shared with trymyui users beforehand.

App mining- Tier 2.

a. Tier 2 will focus on addressing the higher order challenge i.e. maintaining quality of Blockstack App Ecosystem . This could potentially be seed fund for apps targeting mass adoption and complex use cases. Every quarter 10 apps/ideas should be selected based on their idea, team and product. Any team can apply for these rewards. A selection panel comprising of PBC team members, blockstack volunteers like @friedger and active blockstack evangelists should be part of the panel. We can discuss this further to make the process more nuanced and avoid any conflict of interest.
b. Specific time-bound milestones should be finalized for each team with mutual discussion and the funding should be unlocked based on meeting those milestones. Milestones and achievements should be made public to the overall blockstack community to ensure the money isn’t misused.
c. A total payout of $100,000 should be earmarked for each apps/ideas subject to fulfillment of milestones.
The rewards to these teams could be unlocked in the following fashion. Q1 milestone (Initial seed) - $10,000, Q2 milestone (After 3 months) - $20,000, Q3 milestone (After 6 months) - $30,000, Q4 milestone (final instalment)- $40,000.
Screen Shot 2020-01-11 at 10 19 24 PM

2. As a key differentiator, the maximum amount an app can be awarded if it is participating in Tier-1 should be significantly lower than what an app can get by being in Tier-2. The above proposal ensures that. This will make sure that apps that want to garner a higher share of stacks tokens aspire to work on critical and difficult problem statements. Further, if people are trying to game Tier-1, we can introduce a criterion to restrict the payouts to apps for a maximum period of 6-9 months which further reduces the incentive to game the system and at the same time enhances the incentives to solve critical problems which come under Tier-2.

Based on the above mentioned points, A total of $4.8M is earmarked for Tier-1 and a total of $3M. A budget of $7.8M will be needed to cater to both these aspects which are crucial for the long term growth of app mining ecosystem. As mentioned previously I have referred this page to get an indicative estimate of the budget for the proposed period.

Screen Shot 2020-01-11 at 11 18 08 PM

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#6

Thank you for the call, it was very instructive. I will define a list of problems I see in the current app mining based only on the “Objectively Fair Distribution” point. I am writing this quickly (so sorry for language mistakes) as a first draft and will detail more later.

A1. Problem: App developers are not limited on the number of app they can submit to the app mining program

Even if the distribution per app looks fair, if we look at the distribution per app miner, we can see that some app miners are capturing a large percentage of the payouts by submitting multiples apps in the program. Submitting more than one app is acceptable but we should fix a limitation to stop people from applying with 20 different apps.

Let’s be honest, some app miners are only trying to make as much money as they can.

A2. Problem: The payouts are not limited by app developer

Related to A1. Currently more an app miner will submit apps in the program, more he will capture payouts. Some of app miners are clearly only motivated by the payouts and this is impacting the quality of the app ecosystem.

A3. Problem: Apps mining registration is renewed every month for an UNLIMITED period

We could make the participation of each app expiring after 3 months and then the app miner will have to register again for the next trimester. He could have to justify his motivations and explain what he is planning to do for the app in the next trimester and what he did in the previous one. Renewing automatically every months and indefinitely is a bad idea (I will detail later).

A4. The ranking is not “categorized”

We have seen apps from similar categories dominating the ranking. By creating categories (storage, social, personal management, etc.) we will increase competitiveness. If someone want to launch an app with the same use case(s) of an existing app, then he should be free to do it BUT he will have to be “better” than apps in his category to get a good ranking.

My proposal is simple:

  • Limit the number of app per app miner
  • Limit the total amount of payouts per app miner
  • Add an expiration to the app mining and give the ability to the app miner to renew (or not) one app after expiration
  • Categorize the ranking
  • Allocate a predefined total amount of payout for each category
#7

First of all, thank you for doing this. This problem is really interesting and hard.

Challenges:

Decentralization

  • I think a solution to this will depend on how much different the new App Mining will be but it seems to be that we should find inspiration for best practices in existing open source communities. Blocstack is unique but the core of the issue we are facing is not.

Privacy-Preserving Analytics

  • this is an issue shared with other projects so my question is what is our comparative advantage? Do we have some kind of expertise to share or funding or something else?

Objectively Fair Distribution

  • this one is tricky because what fair means can be subjective (that’s why it’s great you are gathering feedback)
  • maybe I am overly pessimistic when I think that we can’t create a system resistant to any gaming, maybe we should focus on a system where gaming isn’t an issue.
  • one thing which would help here is to incentivize apps to focus more on getting customers rather than being on top of app mining. Right now for a lot of apps, it makes sense to overly focus on app reviews score.
  • what if app mining goal would be to sort of accelerator for decentralized apps where certain quality apps would get a with getting started but would be motivated to be self-sustainable as soon as possible. In this case, app reviewers would act as a semi-automated application process. As some already proposed we could limit time or resources for each app.

Community Ownership
I agree with @muneeb that the community should feel and take at least some ownership over the platform. This is something which we tried at our company. Unfortunately, the main issue here is obvious - resources.

We are a software house with a focus on cryptocurrency projects and ofc I am biased but I do believe that we have experienced team with a passion for cryptocurrencies and Blockstack and we could provide help. Right now this help is limited because we have to focus on paying customers and any help is limited to our free time, which is often divided between personal life and other crypto projects. We would be happy if Blockstack would be able to cover our expenses in which case we could allocate people to work on issues that Blockstack community finds valuable. I am sure more professionals are in the same situation as we are.

That’s why I would like to see part of resources going to app mining to go to community approved projects similar to grants project like Gitcoin Grants, IPFS dev grants,Web3 foundation grants, etc

#8

@deepak @1DjAmGAnSdBKZMYSyCMw @Trudko this is great – please keep the input coming. The feedback from this community is extremely valuable. We’re collecting the feedback, will distill it, and post updates over the Jan weeks.

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#9

Our blog post from yesterday, links a bunch of proposals from developers as well: https://blog.blockstack.org/the-next-phase-of-app-mining/

Some proposals include stricter rules for entry and qualification, adding tiers of support depending on the projects quality and success, or unique ideas around app stacking.

We’d love to get more feedback from developers and community!

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