Open social graphs are the future of cryptoart: How $RARE staking empowers better, more authentic community building

This is part 2 in a series of deep dives on the proposed $RARE staking model and its benefits to artists, collectors, and curators:

In this post, we’ll discuss how your staking social graph – when exported as plain text data from on-chain actions  – unlocks an incredibly powerful, platform-agnostic dataset.

Ask any artist or curator working in web3: Building digital communities is hard.

To begin, there is the question of where you should build your community. Instagram? Twitter? Discord? Most likely, you’ll need to be on more than one. Then you’ll have to decide how. Followers and likes on Instagram don’t translate to followers and likes on Twitter, so you’ll need to post engaging content on every platform, tailored uniquely for each audience. And once your followers start to accumulate, then comes the challenge of identifying loyalty amidst the lurkers: Who really supports you vs. who’s placing bets only on a quick flip? Who is a flesh-and-blood person vs. simply a realistic bot? To whom should you dedicate your scarce resources, attention, and creative energy?

A social graph is a representation of social connections between people on the internet. The average user on Facebook has 338 friends, but we all know that’s bullshit: only a fraction of those people are really invested in your journey. And as every NFT creator knows, it’s hard to separate the Twitter followers that do authentically support you from the ones who are only hungry for your attention - often you’re lucky if a thousand likes on Instagram even lead to a single artwork sale.

Shouldn’t web3 have revolutionized all this by now?

One of web3’s greatest promises is the ability to “go direct” to your audience and truly own the relationship with your fans and collectors. If this promise could be applied to the web2 social networks we use to organize creative communities today it would be nothing short of revolutionary - and it would make for a massive improvement over the perverse, advertiser-driven incentives that motivate those companies today

Content & social interactions in web2 vs. web3
Content & social interactions in web2 vs. web3

Anyone who has collected NFT art has tasted this potential – as something very special often happens after that transaction. In the words of renowned NFT art collector, Art On Internet:

“Before NFTs, if you were looking to connect with an artist, good luck tracking them down. But with NFT art, after collecting my first piece, the artist reached out and said hello. I thought, wow, this is unique. It wasn’t just the experience of buying the art, it was something deeper.

“I think that’s something a lot of people who aren’t in NFTs miss, because they think of this as a tokenized image, or a form of ownership. But when you peel back that technical layer, there’s something greater behind it. And unless you buy an NFT and interact with the artist and be part of the community, you’re never going to experience that magic.”

Despite the potency of this bond between creator + collector, the reality is that only a small handful of even the most widely acclaimed artists’ supporters can hope to collect a piece of their 1/1 work as these works are often intentionally scarce. As a result, the gap between those who can and cannot afford to experience this “magical” relationship building experience remains far too large, forcing most artists to shill their work to the faceless mobs of Twitter and Instagram hoping to attract the attention of these finite, yet well-heeled patrons – casting GM tweets like fishing lures, in the hopes that one will eventually hook a whale.

$RARE Staking unlocks web3’s native social capabilities

In our first post on Rarity Pools and Staked Lists, we discussed the system’s potential for greatly improving artist and artwork discovery: **

”**There are two main concepts in the system we’ve proposed to the DAO: Rarity Pools and Staked Lists. At a network level, the benefit of Rarity Pools is a decentralized reputation system. And the benefit of Staked Lists is that they can serve as a new discovery engine, in addition to being a decentralized curation system.

“A Rarity Pool is a smart contract in which a $RARE holder locks up tokens to signal support for another actor (artist, collector, or anyone else with an Ethereum address), in return for rewards from their future sales. The makeup of a Rarity Pool is based on how many users have staked $RARE, how much they’ve staked and how long they’ve been a participant in the pool.

“When a user stakes in one or more Rarity Pools, a beneficial side effect is the creation of a list of addresses on which the user has staked, known as a Staked List. These lists then become canonical, on-chain curated feeds. The Staked List of a prominent artist or collector – say, Jason Bailey, or Diewiththemostlikes – then becomes visible to all network participants and a source of insight for keen observers to browse. Which creators are they listing? Who have they added in the past week? And if you discover someone new and interesting from inspecting a list, who is on this new person’s list that might also blow your mind?”

In this post, we’ll discuss how your staking social graph – when exported as plain text data from on-chain actions, something no web2 platform would ever dream of providing to their users  – unlocks an incredibly powerful dataset. And further, how this dataset can be used to supercharge community building - by uncovering deeper insights around, AND fostering greater connectivity between – artists, collectors, and anyone else in the world.

It’s like art collecting, only way cheaper

With Rarity Pools, by simply staking a few $RARE tokens, anyone can begin building their own Staked List – a publicly accessible, on-chain record of all the wallets you support and vouch for. And since the cost to build a staked list is 10,000x lower than the cost of collecting a 1/1 artwork, staking welcomes virtually anyone to participate. With only a few dollars you can now join an artist’s community and provide value by signaling your authentic support in a way that helps both advertise and bring increased attention to their work and career. For the price of a  single good artwork you can now spread your support across dozens, or even hundreds, of artist communities. And instead of being locked in a single illiquid asset you can actively rebalance/reallocate as needed at any time, with no secondary buyer needed to “buy your bags.” We believe this will lead to a larger, deeper, and more meaningful layering of the social bonds that define cryptoart: Artist to collector, artist to artist, collector to collector, and beyond.

Before we dive into why this is so powerful, let’s set the table with a little theory:

From The Network Effects Bible
From The Network Effects Bible

Using the topology above, we can categorize most NFT platforms as “Transaction networks” (the middle diagram). They make point-to-point connections between buyers and sellers to execute a sale: nothing more, nothing less. Most of the connections between these dots (people) can be thought of as “weak ties,” since they are ephemeral and limited to the context of an auction. But the connection between an artist and their collectors (or true fans) are what we would call “strong ties,” since shared skin in the game creates incentive alignment for both parties and tends to foster a deeper sense of shared community. Staking decreases the barrier to entry for creating these strong ties and broadcasts them more effectively across the network - increasing both their total number and visibility.

Just as the cryptoart industry tore down the walls that galleries had built between artists and their collectors, staking can – through inspectable and exportable social graphs – tear down the walls that web2 social networks have intentionally built between creators and their prospective communities; unlocking intricate and actionable webs of connectivity that remain - to this day - trapped inside the server farms of Musk and Zuckerberg, sold to advertising’s highest bidder.

Nice L'Aperitif, but where’s the 🥩?

By now, this all might be seeming a bit esoteric. So lets step beyond the theoretical, and look at a few tangible examples of how staking data can be built into the user experience of platforms like SuperRare (assuming the DAO were to adopt this staking proposal):

Individualizing activity feeds through Staked Lists

As we covered in our first post, with on-chain staking data, your art browsing experience can become a more personalized, ever-evolving journey that leverages your unique tastes and preferences - as expressed via your Staked List and the creators whose communities you actively choose to follow and participate in. By curating your own list, and the lists you decide to follow, each user can “curate the curators” who influence their discovery feed – allowing as few or as many reputable community members as desired to supercharge their personal art discovery processes.

Rarity Pool data can be used to enrich your SuperRare profile

When you navigate to an artist or collector’s profile, you will be able to see not just who they’ve staked on, but who has staked on them, and with what degree of conviction. By simply exposing this information to the public, anyone can now gain both a sense of anyone else’s individual tastes and reputation (a sense that, it’s worth adding, might influence one’s own purchasing decisions), in addition to extracting insights throughout the web of connections between that individual and the wider cryptoart ecosystem. This can help with the discovery of new talent, or like-minded collectors – as well as aid in finding new communities of interest - and building new connections beyond the limits of an individual’s known professional or social circles.

The Artists of SuperRare, by @Barabasilab

Supercharging your community organizing

One of the most exciting innovations unlocked through staking data will be customizable messaging systems that empower artists and collectors to communicate more directly and intimately with their community.

Today, by accruing followers on Twitter artists can add to their social reach, but they have no qualitative way to judge how committed those fans actually are in the flesh. As everyone has come to appreciate, 100 true fans are much more important than 10k fake friends. This leaves artists with two options: Talk to everyone at once, or talk only with their tiny community of bona fide collectors.

This antiquated model of communication neglects a whole kaleidoscope of potential connectivity: Let’s say you wanted to identify all of your most invested fans, perhaps to send them an airdrop, or maybe allow-list them for an upcoming edition. Maybe they just haven’t had the chance to collect a piece yet, or maybe they’ve been waiting patiently for the right opportunity to come along? How do you know who those fans are? How do you qualify and segment them? How do you communicate with them in a way that can’t be gamed by bad actors? Well, with Rarity Pools and Staked Lists you can clearly distinguish between the lurkers and your loyal supporters by choosing the five (or five thousand) stakers you think deserve whatever opportunity, alpha or insight you’re about to gift.

*SuperRare Primary Network, by *@Barabasilab

Rarity Pools are for everyone

The true power of open social graphs powered by staking data is that they become a universal public good that anyone can utilize, from any website or platform.  Like any good blockchain technology, it is simultaneously owned by everyone and no one at the same time.  This openness provides a blue ocean of composability on which anyone can build or interact as they see fit – gate access to content? provide tiered rewards? send a personalized newsletter? – now anyone can do so just by slicing their staking pool in any which way they’d choose to.

*SuperRare Secondary Network, by *@Barabasilab

Isn’t this just the same old popularity contest?

In short, no - quite the opposite. Rarity Pools are designed so that as a pool gets more popular, stakers are incentivized to actively seek out emerging artists with smaller pools and support them early on in their growth. But it's not just about how many tokens are staked in a given pool. Much more importantly, it’s about how many unique stakers an individual has. We can think about this problem holistically, balancing factors like who is staking, what each of their individual reputations tell us, how similar lists are between different stakers in the same pool, and how much each has staked in a given pool. This provides a significantly more nuanced picture of each staker’s authentic commitment to the pool. Our goal is to design a system where the quality of staking relationships is balanced appropriately against the total quantity of tokens staked, in a way that is as equitable as possible.

There are excellent examples of similar problems being addressed in other areas of crypto - most notably in the work that Gitcoin has done with quadratic funding, allowing their community to direct tens of millions of dollars to open source software and climate projects democratically and effectively while limiting fraud. We’ll spare you the technical details, for now, just know that we are actively collaborating with industry leaders from Gitcoin and other communities to develop increasingly powerful models that can balance the voices of the many with the voices of the few in order to create clear signal around who authentic members of the community actually are while mitigating the risk of fraud and misuse by bad actors.

We know that what we propose is bigger than us and that the stakes are high (pun intended). Getting this right will have a real, positive, impact on the livelihood of artists, collectors, and curators across the industry. We even think that RARE Staking could fundamentally change the way that peer to peer networks generate reputation, forever. But at the end of the day, this only works if we all believe the reputation generated by staking is legitimate. Because of that, we are firmly committed to transparency, collaboration, and community involvement in the research, development, and implementation of these models.

This is much bigger than just SuperRare

The most exciting thing about RARE staking is its unrealized, and unpredictable, potential for the future of Web3.

Staking isn’t a feature for SuperRare. It is a decentralized reputation system that can give social graphs back to the people who should rightfully own them. If adopted, this system will be a public good for the benefit of the entire cryptoart community. By reimagining reputable social graphs through small but meaningful market signals that can provide open source data for anyone to leverage, we can use $RARE staking to reimagine community building from the ground up, baking more subtlety and nuance into how artists and collectors form, sustain and grow relationships among both their fans and creative collaborators.

If you’ve got a question or an idea for something you’d like to do with staking, jump into the DAO forum and make a post, apply for a $RARE grant, or just get to work building on top of the source code yourself.

Together, we can build a better digital art market for the future, one that helps empower creatives to own their own social network, unlocking more powerful and more fulfilling relationships between artists, collectors, and curators.

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