Community Ownership Of Internet Applications and Services

I kicked off the second topic of the week discussion on today with a post about community ownership of Internet applications and services.

If you want to read the post and/or join the discussion, go here and do that.

Here’s a teaser to get you interested in doing that:

With more and more web and mobile applications deriving their value mostly or completely from their user base (Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Etsy, Reddit, Kickstarter, Uber, etc, etc), there is a growing sense that the community could or should have some real ownership in these businesses.

I go on to explain a bit about why this has not happened except in very rare cases and what needs to get figured out to make it happen more frequently.

There’s a lot going on, including approaches unleashed by blockchain technology, to make this easier to do and we think this is a trend worth watching and discussing. That’s why we made it the topic of the week.

#entrepreneurship#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    Cool that you’ve been thinking about this at USV. So, how much ownership in USV do all us commenters get?

    1. fredwilson

      Therein lies one of the problems. How would we value your participation vs someone else’s? Surely volume isn’t the right answer

      1. JimHirshfield

        Let’s go with upvotes. ;-)Each community would be different.

        1. Guest

          ahh, another way the community gets paid. up-votes = currency… and if so, every time someone up-votes my comment that becomes a transaction.

        2. fredwilson

          On AVC or usv.comAnd how do you stop people from gaming upvotes if they become valuable?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Upvotes would have to cost the voter some coin. Alternatively, an algorithm could be created based on time in community + number of comments + number of upvotes – number of down votes +…Each component weighted accordingly.

          2. matt

            It is an interesting approach but a slippery slide into complexity. As you make the algorithm weighting ownership more clever, you’re making it more opaque too. This erodes the transparency and trust necessary for the community to feel invested.

          3. JimHirshfield

            How is it more opaque when/if all the stats are public?

          4. matt

            Seeing who owns what is not the same as understanding how they earned that ownership. The first question someone new to the community will ask is “how does it work” and each rule/factor will make that increasingly more difficult to explain.Many suggestions here (number of comments, down votes, current ownership of voters) are dependent on the state of the community at a snapshot in time but active communities will be very dynamic by the minute. This makes a clear historical display of why someone’s ownership is what it is very difficult. If you can’t show the ledger that led up to ownership then the system is susceptible to tampering. Even just the perception that it could happen is the problem.

          5. PhilipSugar

            Anything that does not cost money will be gamed. Look at fiverr and see what you can buy.

          6. Matt A. Myers

            This is at first why I thought Reddit’s 10% distribution of their “reddit currency” was decided to be randomly distributed, but in reality I realized it’s more that they need to have it gain legitimacy with the masses – so giving people “free money” to spend helps with that.

          7. LE

            Didn’t read this when I replied to Jim that that could be gamed.You won’t be able to stop it. Go ahead and have MIT Phd’s design the system and then let me know and I will tell you how it could be gamed.Separately popularity as a metric doesn’t make any sense in an entrepreneurial community. If I cared about popularity I would have never done many things that I have done.

        3. Twain Twain

          Hey that loads the dice in your and Fake Grimlock’s favor! You both get tons of up votes for your pithy laser wits.How valuable’s humor to a community relative to say some of the techies who are here and the finance people who explain in great detail how stacks function and how convertibles aren’t as helpful as priced rounds?How do we measure stuff like that?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Fair point, but votes are votes. Is a pithy point with mass appeal equal in value to a detailed technical explanation with relative limited appeal? I think so. My implication is that (i.e. my personal belief) lengthy and complicated explanations are not widely read.#nodatatosupportthis

          2. Twain Twain

            There’s probably research out there about people up voting to indicate they read something rather than that they agreed with it.Short aphorisms and lengthy context are appealing in different ways and different communities foster different lengths.On YouTube, a few words like brilliant / crap / sexy / so funny! or emoticons work. No one wants to read 10,000 word critiques on the video!Contrast with Stackoverflow where longer context is really invaluable.”Different horses for different courses.”I like to read short, long and audiovisual embeds.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Good point. Upvoted ’cause I read it and ’cause I like it. 🙂

          4. LE

            You both get tons of up votes for your pithy laser wits.Pithy comments work for the same reason that fortune tellers manage to get people to come back for “readings”. Say enough to get on the dartboard with a generality but not enough to confuse, make someone think, or be called out or proven wrong. They are the equivalent of a popular song that has immediate appeal but wears on you after you’ve heard it a number of times.

          5. Twain Twain

            Haha, maybe one day someone’s going to write an entire opus on Disqus comments just to test what the character limit is.

        4. LE

          That could be gamed pretty easily. You aren’t devious enough.

      2. William Mougayar

        Disqus has recently changed how they sift community members. It used to be based on volumes, now it appears to be some other hybrid equation.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Define ‘sift’

          1. William Mougayar


          2. JimHirshfield

            Are you referring to the publisher dashboard?

          3. William Mougayar


          4. JimHirshfield

            OK. Well there’s no single list of ranking. There are multiple lists: most active, most liked, newest, etc. Currently, I don’t think these rankings are used for anything else other than dashboard analytics.Behind the curtain, we are calculating a reputation score for each user and applying that to noise filtering.

          5. Matt Zagaja

            Making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who has been naughty or nice…

          6. JimHirshfield


        2. Matt A. Myers

          That 3+ month long hiatus killed my AVC rankings … quantity over quality though IMHO.Not sure how they measure for quality though…

      3. kidmercury

        same way governments do. the only difference between governance of nation-states and digital platforms is that in the nation-state system you have to run for office and convince people to vote for you. in platforms you simply declare yourself a dictator/president but have to convince people to emigrate to your app

      4. Twain Twain

        VALUE = QUANT (volume, time spent on site, number of up votes, number of replies, number of link clicks, A/B metrics, length of time from lurking to active commenting) x QUALITATIVEThe qualitative part needs new tools.Reddit is offering cryptocurrency back to users:*…There was a UK example (trying to find it) and in 2011 World Economic Forum & Bain released a report on ‘Personal Data as new Asset Class’*…My friends and I started looking into this back in 2008/9 along with the Personal Data Pod (mesh networks) ideas that we were bouncing around. In the end, we didn’t build the pod but the structures of a workable reward system for users have been distilling in my mind.In the case of USV constituents, it’d be interesting to see how eShares, Veniam and Coinbase collectively solve this……..

      5. kevando

        If only some services had – like a point system – that measured what other contributors thought of your contribution…

        1. JimHirshfield

          Up votes and down votes are measurement of what other contributors think.

          1. LE

            Down votes are a bad idea. Creates a situation where people are less likely to say what they really think for fear of a downvote. Promotes group think. Requires to much being politically correct. The votes don’t mean anything (either way actually) however they are a buzz kill for sure. At least in real life if someone disagrees you get a chance to engage and potentially change their mind (or explain your position) and they aren’t hiding behind anonymity.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Down votes have been around for ages. They don’t appear to inhibit people from saying what they really feel around here. I don’t think the votes (either up or down) are disproportionately used in place of actually leaving a reply to another user’s comment.

          3. LE

            I never see downvotes at AVC so what am I missing and why aren’t they appearing for me?I absolutely disagree that where there are downvotes that they don’t inhibit people. I will even say they inhibit a large amount of people from participating. People aren’t encouraged by the disapproval of others they are discouraged.

          4. JimHirshfield

            We stopped showing you (and everyone else, so don’t take it personally) down votes. They’re still there and you can still see the down arrow highlighted when you down vote a comment. What we removed is the down vote counter from the UI. Negativity breeds more negativity (“pile on!”) more so than positivity (up votes). Or from a related perspective, doing so keeps conversations more positive.

          5. LE

            So you are saying that you have the stats but you don’t show the stats? Who has access to the stats? The moderators? Or just disqus?

          6. JimHirshfield

            Just Disqus. Mods can’t see the down vote count.

          7. LE

            Let me start by saying that I am a firm believer that a business should be able to do what they want w/o worrying about people whining about something that bothers them. To many masters to serve. Political correctness all of that.Now let me say that something about that bothers me. In other words you are making public upvotes for all to see (and who makes the upvote as well) but you are keeping for your own purposes downvotes. And those downvotes are specific towards a particular person who comments. And only people at disqus see that. Therefore there is the potential for that info to get out there where it could be harmful in some way to a person that makes comment that people don’t like. And it is entirely possible, and you know this, that that info, no matter how much you think you are protecting it, can get out. I’m sure it’s not guarded to any higher standards then things regularly leaked or hacked and most likely less.

          8. JamesHRH

            LE – can you ping me? email on my site . I cannot find you in my contacts….must not have filed you as LE – LOL!

          9. JimHirshfield

            You’re talking about data that was previously publicly displayed. It is not a privacy issue nor sensitive data. It’s used in the comment sorting algorithm – i.e. what order comments appear on this page.

          10. PhilipSugar

            I have wondered about that. Maybe that is a solution, you can see I just down voted you to see how it works 🙂

          11. JimHirshfield

            That’s the point, I can’t see it. 😉 But thanks for playing.

      6. Matt Zagaja

        In commenting communities I think there are actually three types of high value contributors:1. The regulars that constantly make sure there are comments and discussion. The value of getting the ball rolling or being the first to raise your hand in a classroom. The ShanaCs, Williams, etc. of the world are the reason I know if I come back I’ll find something here and it will be interesting.2. Individuals who do not regularly comment but have a high level of subject matter expertise and contribute something unique or insightful. (i.e. if @pmarca or Angela Merkel dropped in)3. Contributors without subject matter expertise that nonetheless provide a highly novel insight or manage to articulate a point in a particularly compelling manner.

        1. fredwilson

          great comment

        2. JimHirshfield

          Upvote. You could add a few more to the list, like Debaters (some people just love the smell of an argument first thing in the morning) and BS Referees (as in, the guy that always calls BS on what the blogger or commenter is saying).

          1. LE

            Don’t forget the comedians as well.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Maybe we should just forget about them … that’d be kind of funny.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Oh, that was funny @mattamyers:disqus ….uh, nevermind.

          4. JimHirshfield

            Humorists (see what I did there? up-classed myself) are just trolls unless they also fall into one of the other categories. IOW, humor without some added value gets noisy.

        3. LE

          The other concept to consider with “1” is the “mickey mouse” effect (my name for it and my theory).Children like Mickey Mouse because in a confusing world it’s something that they can identify with and make their own. And most importantly it’s something that they recognize. Familiarity means you feel more comfortable and want to stay. If a community grows to large you can lose that.Likewise, and similar to sitcom characters, [1] I believe that people as a generality like to be somewhere where there is some predictability as well as a degree of unpredictability (not all commenters are regulars). It makes them feel comfortable and they are more likely to stick around if they get used to a “regular cast of characters”.[1] Or the Howard Stern show as another example.

        4. JamesHRH

          Its a great comment, but why limit yourself to media networks / contributing & commenting.Are there other networks where this would apply?

      7. Brandon Burns

        This is an example of why there probably isn’t a broad answer, only specific solutions.The way that the member of a comment community like Disqus / AVC creates value is different than that of a seller on Etsy, or a customer on AirBnB, or a developer on StackExchange.There is no blanket solution. Individual companies will just have to jump in and figure it out. Eventually, those that have the intrinsic desire will do so.

      8. Matt A. Myers

        Everyone’s equal, give everyone equal share – including everyone not participating; without them there wouldn’t be a society and economies. 😉

      9. LE

        How would we value your participation vs someone else’s?The way the government turfs issues like this is they create a blue ribbon panel to study the issue. That takes time and kicks the can down the road.

      10. Rick

        As far as myself… I would be the most important and most valued commenter as I ask the hard questions. The ones on everyone’s mind!

    2. LE

      how much ownership in USV do all us commenters get?Won’t work under any scenario. Separate from solving the issue which Fred asks…and like a politician parrying the question) “how would we value…”Reason is if you put a dollar amount on things then people will then evaluate the effort in terms of the remuneration. And since we know that that number is going to be pretty small (because it will be…”a bone”) then people will either take it as an insult or simply decide that the upside (now defined) makes no sense.For example well know that people will do for free what they won’t do for a small amount of money. People would rather feel generous then have a few bucks in their pocket. As only one example is how lawyers will do pro bono but won’t work for $75 per hour.Let me ask you this. If you were invited to do a comedy routine at a Bar Mitsvah and were told you were only going to get paid $50 would you do that? My guess is that someone who told you “Jim you are really funny would you stop by and tell some jokes” would stand a better chance of putting you in the proper frame of mind to perform.

      1. JimHirshfield

        So, you may have missed the combo of humor, irony, and conversation starter in this comment of mine. Do I actually think USV is going to share in the upside they made from investing in Twitter, Tumblr, etc with commenters? Duh, no.But was it a way to kickstart a thread on the subject at hand? Yes.

        1. LE

          I know when you angel funded this thread you were kidding.But it’s not an entirely ridiculous idea at all. [1] The question is implementation and specifics (which I have argued with money have a potential downside).The question of “renumeration” can be handled in any number of ways (not just money). Not saying it should be done or that there is a clear answer. But definitely not a non starter.[1] And in fact Fred seems attracted to outlier ideas that are often rejected on face by others and finds greater merit in them.

          1. JimHirshfield

            If by “renumeration” you meant “remuneration”, then yeah I agree with you more than you mis-type yourself.

          2. LE

            Actually I didn’t know that.

  2. Guest

    It would be helpful if you defined what exactly do you mean by community ownership. From the post at USV, it seems like you are jumping in the middle of a discussion thus making it difficult for the rest to join

    1. fredwilson

      How so?

    2. JimHirshfield

      Imagine you and me and all the other commenters here owned this blog with Fred. That’s community ownership. And with it come questions like who owns how much?, based on what criteria? Etc.

      1. Guest

        I get it, I just think the term community ownership is unnecessarily vague. What would I really own is what needs to be fined.My comments? I already own them.If I post a photo? I already own them.How would I get equity? By how many people like my comments? – That’s easy to cheat. Seems like a can of worm that will create more problems than benefits…

        1. JimHirshfield

          Well… now you’re on it. All that is what’s up for conversation. And to get specific, it’s not ownership of your UGC, per se. It’s ownership of the total community that’s under discussion.

          1. Guest

            UGC Is just the manifestation of the community, in this context is one of the same. If 10k people read this blog and none of them commented i.e. generated content, it would be as if there is no community.

        2. Greg Kieser

          Why shouldn’t you get paid a 10th of a cent for each upvote? You are creating content and traffic that is subsequently used to sell advertising.

          1. Guest

            So 1k up-votes before I get paid a dollar…A quick glance at my disqus says I’ve gotten 186 up-votes ever since i joined years ago… I am about 1800 up-votes before I can buy a hotdog.

          2. Greg Kieser

            Get to work! You gotta eat!

      2. Guest

        Btw, I am already getting paid here for my comments. Every time I get a response to a comment that equals pay.Sometimes I get paid (knowledge) without doing much other than showing up. Community Ownership is like the internet, lets leave things as is. No need to gate or define rules around things that have come to be by nature.

        1. JimHirshfield


        2. Greg Kieser

          “Come to be by nature”. Actually the architecture of the internet today has little to do with nature. It has much to do with how money flows… and because of lack of ability to do micropayments it does not flow so easily – eg. value created is not often rewarded, as it should be. I think that is what they are getting at. The internet is going to change BIG time and micropayments via cryptocurrency will be at the core of that change.

          1. Guest

            figurative speech – chillax dude!

          2. Greg Kieser

            I’m chillaxed bro… and I get the figure of speech. 🙂 Just making the point that the internet today is like and English garden where the gardeners get to say what grows where and the internet of tomorrow (thanks to blockchain) will be more like the amazon rainforest.

  3. Jess Bachman

    I’m not sure why there needs to be, or should, be ownership in the mix if there is already a fair trade of value. I get a lot of value from reddit, I’m happy to look at or even click on some ads. Adding ownership or financial incentives feels like it would complicate or change the relationship, like mixing money with family.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. That’s one of the things I mention. Maybe a low take rate or ad load is the right answer

      1. Jess Bachman

        We can’t determine how much others will value something. Put four people in a room, give three of them one cent, and one person two cents and you have created perceived disparity for a nickel.No such thing as just a little bit of politics at the dinner table.

  4. William Mougayar

    I’ve been thinking about that as well, and believe we’ll be experimenting with various degrees of hybrid structures. On one hand you have the pure DAO which is decentrally owned and operated, and on the other hand you’ve got the traditional model of dividend participation.One key aspect to make this work is to nail the relationship between user actions and the value they effectively provide to the company. If decentralized ownership is just pegged to the core operations of a company, there’s nothing creative there. But if the decentralized/community owners add a different kind of value that is additive to the core, then there’s something there and that added value and reward can be variable.Basically, I think that governance, value and ownership are interrelated to make this happen. There is a lot of innovation that can happen around these models. I was going to write a post on this….The Reddit Notes model is obviously being watched, and it’s one such example they are trying to figure out. Swarm Corp is going to have that service available and they will run it for companies that want to give crypto-equity as part of their ownerships.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      If equity makes sense (and I’m not sure it does) seems like it can and should be tied to people who help develop / build the product structure. Also maybe it’s a new kind of stock e.g. preferred, common, community

      1. fredwilson

        That’s what our portfolio company assembly does

        1. JimHirshfield

          Seems like Assembly has addressed all the ownership questions already, no?

          1. fredwilson

            in their model, they have

        2. Jess Bachman

          I love what assembly is trying to do, but in my experience with the platform, responsibility gets diffused so quickly that it turns a burning desire into a thin paste. This paste has been gamified there to an extent, but passion is not something that works in low levels.

          1. William Mougayar

            You got to tie outcomes to rewards, not just actions.

          2. Jess Bachman

            Im not sure our society of instant gratification has the patience to wait for outcomes, or the ability to value the far-out chance of an outcome reward with the instant reward of actions, which Assembly does with Appcoins.We are not rational actors you know. It doesn’t matter what you incentivise if it doesn’t jive with how we naturally act.

          3. matt

            I agree generally with this insight but don’t think there is a dichotomy between instant gratification vs long term rewards – you can have both. On social platforms the instant gratification is often peer validation like “How many people liked my photo”, “upvoted/hearted my comment on reddit/avc/stackoverflow”, “followed/forked my repo on GitHub”, etc. Community ownership can then be layered on top to maintain a fair and healthy defensible network.The feedback is great Jess, I’m at [email protected] if you ever have more.

          4. fredwilson

            great feedback

    2. awaldstein

      The ideas of community and ownership while not mutually exclusive are not tied together naturally.What i don’t see is decentralization as the behavioral building block that creates this natural link.And honestly William, I balk at design that starts with tech and tries to pry it into behavior rather than behavior which uses platform capability to make it more seamless.

      1. JamesHRH

        Don’t understand last para but agree further up there. The key to any online network ( and the core value ) is the centralized SW system that hooks everyone together, no?

      2. William Mougayar

        No…How is technology prying itself here? I see it as the other way around.Decentralized / distributed participation has always existed. Technology facilitates and enables new ways to link it together, AND in the case of pure Dapps and DAOs, the actions of users help to contribute to the core, and there is new behavior here.From my Forbes article:”Each member is also a “worker”, and by virtue of their collective actions and activity levels, they contribute to increasing value for the DAO. Some examples of user actions could include sharing their computing power or Internet access (e.g. to create mesh networks), donating data they own, delivering on bounties, or other value-adding action that is specific to the segment being targeted.”

        1. awaldstein

          Never trust a sentence that requires two acronyms to make its point William.Makes me think of the coffee ordering scene with Steve Martin in LA Story.We simply disagree.Not on the potential, not on the power of blockchain but on the obscurity of the language that is needed to communicate that power.

          1. William Mougayar

            I’m sure we can do better in describing the opportunity.Maybe the word “ownership” is too strong. How about if it was just a transient reward?

      3. Greg Kieser

        Cryptocurrency opens doors and makes things possible that were never possible before – including ownership. Decentralization is not necessarily the building block as it is a trend that the new crypto tools are driving. If you ask me, every platform we use on a daily basis will look incredibly different in 10 years. And community ownership (yes they are one in the same now with crypto) will be the driving force.

        1. awaldstein

          I don’t disagree with this at all.This has been a career long obsession for me honestly.I understand the decentralized nature of this. I just don’t see this as the design center of how to think about it.Community ownership may exist as you state–i think their are new terms needed to articulate that shared value and prosperity.

          1. Greg Kieser

            Got it. Makes sense.

      4. Jess Bachman

        It feels to me that “great” communities and ownership ARE mutually exclusive. Ownership, down the individual level is about “me” and what “I” get out of it. You think that way, you optimize for it. Pretty much the antithesis of what great communities are about.

        1. awaldstein

          Great comment.The counter thought to that and what I think this post is driving at is that the more you empower the individual to take responsibility for themselves and encourage unfettered expression, the more community thrives around them.This is undeniably true.Possibly ownership semantically is the problem here. Replace it with the sense of ownership we all feel towards this space regardless that it is not ours, is not democratic, has a leader–and you start to circle in on something.

      5. Matt A. Myers

        “The ideas of community and ownership while not mutually exclusive are not tied together naturally.”Bingo. Ownership is merely an attitude, much of which good leaders don’t believe they own or control – perhaps manage or moderate fairly and reasonably. Community then forms around these leaders who in reality act as role models, bringing other like-minded role models and leaders (or students; people who want to learn from the community) into a community.

      6. Twain Twain

        Worth reading ‘The Stupidity of Computers’: “The bad news is that, because computers cannot come to us and meet us in our world, we must continue to adjust our world and bring ourselves to them. We will define and regiment our lives, including our social lives and our perceptions of our selves, in ways that are conducive to what a computer can “understand.” Their dumbness will become ours.”*…I’m with you on how, oftentimes, designers & developers build based on convenience for the machines rather than reflect us and our natural behavior and build based on those design principles.

        1. awaldstein

          Great comment and link–thanks.I live this one.My career job has and is discovering the market for products.Building community, designing distribution, creating brands are simply the tools.Damn–I’ve been lucky to be able to do this.

    3. Meredith

      Quirky also doing some interesting work in this space.RE: user actions + the value they create… The reward/remuneration algorithm is going to be iterated on, much like search was iterated on. So we should not expect to get it right the first time.The SCI FI version is: if this all moves to the blockchain and you are personally doling out currency with each virtual interaction then you can you can script the algorithm yourself. (IFTT for rewards)

  5. JamesHRH

    The problem with community ownership is control.Community profit sharing makes sense though.

    1. pointsnfigures

      that’s dividends!

      1. JamesHRH

        Which makes me think of tax treatment….

  6. Jim Peterson

    Managing by committee (and a large committee) would be brutal

    1. awaldstein

      Communities are not managed by the members, they are led by leaders.The dynamics of communities is rarely one of ownership, it is one of self empowerment.

  7. pointsnfigures

    What if you had to pay to get in? Suppose we created Oculus Rift. We offered “developer shares” to the developers and denominated them in Bitcoin. Developers would have to pay a small fee to get in (recall, they bought development kits on Kickstarter) . They’d get some sort of share, and it could be shown on the cap table. That asset could be listed on a bitcoin exchange and traded.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Traded like seats on an exchange? Very meta

      1. pointsnfigures

        yes, or more like intellectual property. It’s an intangible asset. But, there might be a market for it, especially if there was a stream of cash flow attributed to it.

  8. Joe Cardillo

    Don’t have an exact answer myself, but aren’t there some differences between how this might apply to service vs. applications layer?

  9. William Mougayar

    Side point- why aren’t you using Disqus in the community discussions? I’m sure you thought about that, but curious about the reasons.

    1. fredwilson

      we are. you can comment using disqus on any postwe want to encourage posts in addition to commentsso the ideal contribution is a post you wrote on your blog or you write directly on

      1. William Mougayar

        Got it. Disqus is below the post hierarchy. The end-result is a richer set of conversations. Discussion PostsComments

        1. fredwilson

          getting that hierarchy to work and make sense is a challengewe are thinking of adding post typestext postquote postphoto postvideo postaudio postlink postjust like tumblr doeswe think that may help a bit

          1. William Mougayar

            Aha. The plot thickens. Yeah I was thinking you would be tumblrizing it. Then it’s reminding me a bit of , back to our conversation when your daughter was looking at building her community.

          2. ChuckEats

            you’ve got product/market fit – there’s decent conversation/engagement/production despite persistent complaints about the confusing UI.fix the consumption first. test an iteration of design & get informal feedback; or do a few calls w/ users to see how consumption can be improved. (obviously this is all PM 101)

  10. christopolis

    what problem is this solving? gazillions of people on wikipedia, stackoverflow and here and everywhere else contribute for nothing. Why do they need to gain some equity?It is probably hard for people like VCs that care so much about money and how much they have to understand its not all about money.

    1. fredwilson

      we realize its not about money for these people. but do you think there is an element of exploitation going on?

      1. christopolis

        Not if all parties mutually agree to participate. Assuming that it is exploitation is assuming that the contributors are not smart enough to know what they are getting into. If that is the case what is the value of the content they are contributing?From my experience money would be a turn off for the current contributors in most user contributed sites. It would cheapen what the people feel they get from contributing. My time is probably worth more than the equity you would provide and at that point it becomes about the equity not about the intangibles. In addition I think it would devalue the contributions themselves in the eyes of many(oh they got incentivized to write this). Not to mention that figuring out how to incentivize people is one of the hardest things to do there is an immense amount of psychology involved that differs from person to person. An incentivized network is going to attract a very different group of contributors than a non incentivized one.I can see some cases where it makes sense, where the contribution requires lots of work. I think there is a tough problems site where fortune 500 engineers can submit hard problems they are working on and offer rewards. That makes sense to me. Justanswer I think has done this to a degree their implementation makes sense. So in summary I have no idea. I can see it working. I have not seen it work very often yet. I also thought mario brothers was as good as it was going to get in video games.

        1. LE

          Not if all parties mutually agree to participate.Freedom to participate or not doesn’t mean that there aren’t addictive elements which the community exploits to get people to give up the freedom to decide.I dated someone once who’s mother was a member of an “do good” organization and she spent all her time helping that organization and ignoring her own children. (Her license plate even had the name of the group on it). While that is not anybodies fault it is a reality. Point being just because you manipulate people and get them to give up their time doesn’t mean you are out of the woods and can go guilt free. [1][1] Back in the early days of the Internet I remember the time that someone first helped me at no charge. I thought that was strange and offered to pay them and they declined. A few years later another person came along and started on a regular basis doing things for free. I then hired them to write some software. Then after the software was written they continued to maintain it at no charge. I felt this wasn’t right so to this day I pay them every single month even though I’m pretty sure they would still (many years later) help me at no charge (because they’ve told me they get something out of helping in various ways). When they are away and they have helped (say while on vacation) I’ve told them to send me the bill for a dinner which I then pay as well. Because I appreciate what they are doing and don’t take the help for granted.

      2. LE

        but do you think there is an element of exploitation going on?You could call it exploitation if you take advantage of people’s good nature I guess. That said business is survival of the fittest so I’m not sure it matters in the end.

  11. William Mougayar

    Honestly, I think “Community” is the wrong word here. An online community might be one of the scenarios of participation. But I think the atomic unit of participation is the USER. The community is just what it looks like here, but it doesn’t have to be a community.Do Uber users think of themselves as a community?I think it’s the collection of users, no?

    1. Jess Bachman

      Yeah there is a lot of semantics going on here. It feels like there should be three questions; What do we want? Why do we want it? and how do we get there?… and we are only concerned with the last one.

  12. Greg Kieser

    Just in time for La’Zooz – a blockchain based competitor to Uber that will be starting a pre-sale tomorrow:“LaZooz is a Decentralized Transportation Platform that is owned by the community which turns vehicles unused space into a variety of smart transportation solutions. By using cryptocurrency technology La`Zooz has developed a “Fair Share” rewarding mechanism for its developers, users and backers”

    1. fredwilson

      we’ve been watching them. very interesting

  13. Pablo Osinaga

    I think the best way to solve this problem is to commoditize the infrastructure for creating such networks.For an individual user, it is a super marginal feature. E.g., core product features are 100x more important for an individual user to decide to use a product rather than the inner-governance of its legal entity status.So very much like everybody today uses open source and that’s great ( not just from a cost perspective but from a “societal do-good” perspective ), there will be a time when the “default” for starting an online community will be a community-owned-blockchain-based thing that you start by copying and pasting one line in your terminal.So my perspective is that it won’t be reddit or a big company like that which will lead the way, but rather, “hobby” projects that will solidify the infrastructure until it’s so commoditized and easy and no-brainer to use that all the new community startups use it – and then one of them will be huge and that will be the first “successful” example that Time magazine will highlight.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i mentioned that in my post on i think you may well be right about this.

  14. LIAD

    Bourgeoisie vs Proletariat 2.0 ?”History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”[x-post from USV]

    1. fredwilson

      great post. it is making us think we should have post types like tumblr, one of them being quotes

  15. Matt Zagaja

    I think that I tend to lean towards the lower take rate model (used by Amazon?) because ownership of anything necessarily involves transaction costs. People’s engagement in communities shift over time and by lowering the take rate the benefit of “ownership” becomes proportional to the engagement of the user. Another idea/model to think about is YouTube where the most engaged users as measured by subscribers receive special benefits like access to the YouTube recording spaces where they can borrow high quality equipment. So it seems to me that making it a hybrid approach is best: reward the most engaged users with resources that improve and recognize their experience, and lower the take rate for users generally.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m leaning that way too

  16. Chimpwithcans

    A couple of thoughts – 1) confirmation of your online identity will take on way more significance once it means you can own a part of an app/site online. 2) Could the dark web have some lessons for this conundrum – who owns those dark web marketplaces/communities? How do they reward each other for their quality of service or popularity?

    1. fredwilson

      great comment. would you mind posting this into the discussion at

      1. Chimpwithcans

        Sure thing

        1. fredwilson

          thank you

  17. LIAD

    WANTED: No BS reason for fostering community ownership/governance model…

  18. Brandon Burns

    I tried to interact on, but the experience was a bit cumbersome. :-/I figured I’d put some QA notes here in case anyone’s tweaking things on the site.____I wasn’t sure if the content under the post were comments on the post or not. The ones on top are from last year, when you usually either see “most recent” or “best” first. Also, having titles with the comments was a bit confusing since you usually don’t see that in comment feeds.Also, when I add a comment, why do I see it on a separate page, but not within the context of what I just commented on?

  19. Matt A. Myers

    If a community is serving or servicing something well then a business has no real incentive or gain to putting everything into the blockchain, the user perhaps does even if it’s merely a leverage point in non-verbal negotiations – that if you do something wrong I and my data is fully mobile.Unfortunately though gossip and rumours and false marketing campaigns/politics can lead huge swarms of users potentially disliking a service because of a bad actor – paid for perhaps by a competitor or even someone who has a grudge against you or different political viewpoint.That’s currently how politics is won, whoever can reach more people influences those people to behave in a certain way.If online businesses and data become that mobile where people can do one action to switch their vote (I see the value there too), then should a business put itself into that position?Facebook surely would look very different today if it started under a fully open data model – especially if everyone with an advertising dollar could try to get 1 person + incentivize them to get their whole network to switch over to their platform (x100s of people wanting to gain those users); maybe if they started as a fully open data model that would have kept them in check but it doesn’t prevent that other competitive aspect.The value certainly increases for the user however, where any service with niche or stylized offerings could easily exist and flourish if enclosed-controlled data becomes readily available.

  20. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    A thing I sometimes value is when a commentator highlights someone who should get credit but is below my radar. Or flags a behaviour that I have and it makes me reflect on whether my opinion / humour is / was appropriate, gentle and a contribution. These “taste gatekeepers” are inherent in any functioning community – if there is impedance between an individual and these people, typically the individual will go elsewhere. Ultimately all active members n a community play a part in this – and IMHO that is what a community is

  21. Rick

    If you are serious about this kind of stuff. Please be sure to include a way to opt-out. I don’t want to pay an accountant to handle a couple dollars worth of value!!!

  22. David Fox

    +1 – The “sharing” economy startups are mostly anything but with the wealth accumulating to founders/investors/staff and (in most cases) zero returned to the service providers whose labor helped build the company. It makes business sense to share equity that vests (i.e. increase the ‘cost’ for participants to switch to another service). ESOP may be a model… – it’s been around for a long time in many industries.

  23. Kenny Fraser

    New forms of ownership are bound to emerge as technology becomes more pervasive. Social Enterprise would seem a logical place for this to start but large communities like Twitter or Uber also make sense. Possibly this could be the business model for the next great social network. I also think more disruptive ideas may lead the way. Community owned and led applications as a vehicle for protest or democracy. Although not strictly community owned, the example of Ushahidi in Kenya is very interesting.It would have been interesting to hear some of the tech leaders who attended Davos last week exploring this type of thinking. Unease about tax arrangements, privacy and just general anti business feeling is building into a threat for some of the largest companies. Community approaches are surely a better way of dealing with these concerns than uncoordinated and ill informed regulation.Perhaps countries like Israel or Sweden with a deeper history of community ownership will lead the way? Or maybe Ushahidi is a signpost for Africa to be the cradle of this idea.

  24. ShanaC

    we need to talk about communal ownership as well as communal debt – who owes whom what is part of communal ownership. People get insulted pretty quickly when debts aren’t paid.

  25. JoeK

    I disagree with the fundamental concept that there is need for community ownership. The community members already extract value from the business – I use Facebook to share photos because it costs me orders of magnitude less to do so than mailing them around, and saves me hours relative to collating hundreds of friends photos myself. In return, I sell them Facebook a few seconds of my attention each week, which they then sell onto advertisers, at rates the market deems acceptable.If Facebook undervalue my attention, by selling it too cheaply to advertisers, then I will simply sell it to someone else by quitting Facebook. If Facebook overvalue my attention, then advertisers will refuse to pay for ad space, and take their business elsewhere.You could choose to create a new medium for the exchange of this value, via say a crypto-currency, or do so by recreating part of the the value transfer mechanism of print media (buy this newspaper, and get a coupon to save on milk!). But I’d suggest that if anyone wants to focus on a value transfer problem – at least do it somewhere where it would actually matter – like insurance, or taxation.

  26. baba12

    From what little I have observed Mr.Wilson (Fred) has maintained that USV invests generally in ventures that create a network effect or create a platform for connected users and generally the thesis for such investments in say Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc is that they tend to offer size and scale for revenue creation through advertising to this network of users as the basis of their revenue creation.This wealth that is created for the companies shareholders has generally been accepted by the end user of these platforms in that they get to use these platforms for free and the platform uses their users data to generate revenue for themselves.I don’t think most people using these platforms have ever realized that they are contributing to the revenues of these platforms, they just tend to see it as a service and probably have no idea even what they have signed away in the TOS.I don’t see why these platforms even feel the need to think of a way to give ownership to these end users.Unless of course suddenly they are realizing they have a conscience and feel the need to include them in the wealth they create for their shareholders.I don’t expect to get any shares on AVC cuz I have commented a few times nor should I even think about it. I choose to participate in this forum, volunteer my time at some soup kitchen or share and learn from others on many other forums I participate in. At no point in time does one get into these venues with the hopes of getting compensated and if they thought that way then they are thinking differently.I guess in the world we live in now there has to be some ulterior motive to contributing to some forum, possibly as a way to get visibility or a foot into a door etc.. But just from personal experience I have not ever thought that way nor has any door ever opened up for that matter.If AVC is to be valued it is valued because Mr.Wilson has managed to create an environment that seems to want to engage and have a dialog about certain aspects of financing schemes for companies and thoughts/ideas around how things may shape in this niche.Maybe if value is accrued to a user on a platform etc it maybe possible to measure it just as the rewards program many credit cards and airlines have.How that metric will be decided will depend from platform to platform and possibly having just like Airline Systems and their alliances we may see alliances being formed online as well and these value of units can be traded across many different platform, will crypto currencies and the blockchain make it feasible…Though I wonder if there is a rewards program will the engagement be sincere and real or be driven by the incentive…I don’t need any incentives to engage in healthy dialog on this forum… thank you Fred…..