David Russell Moore

New York, NY

 
 

Projects & Notes, Semi-Abandoned WP Install

Created Jan. 2011, content is dated. Reachable at @ppolitics or @sanschain on micropublishing.

Micro-publishing

 

Lock The Web Open in 2019

Writers must have a term for this, right? The story you’ve been sitting on for months because if the draft doesn’t come out as powerful as it should be, it feels like a terrible shortcoming, to be insufficient to the cause. But it doesn’t feel any less urgent to try to get the ideas out there.

I think, like most people who have been “extremely online” for 20-plus years, I have a couple such stories. Here’s my latest pass at “the Web we lost”, on my continual frustration that the technology field didn’t mobilize to support independent creators, and why I’m excited to be on Civil.

My insistence that “it can all be so much better for everyone”, this drive for shared abundance in the commons, comes from my borderline-pathological obsession with the written word–really, the whole cultural experience of the humanities–and, yeah, blogging and web page hacking.

Back in 2000, my friends & I could already barely finish our term papers on Wittgenstein because we were constantly refreshing Talking Points Memo, Arts & Letters Daily, and Metafilter on the library’s desktop computers. You can probably imagine how much worse the attention hunger for quality content has gotten since then.

After graduating in spring 2001, I rushed down to Brooklyn to become a blogger, in the hopes of parlaying earnest neighborhood news reporting to a link on Plastic dot com (it was a thing) to some guest posts on Gawker to the dream: an article in Lingua Franca magazine. (For posterity: late Wittgenstein still rules, and that is still sort of my life plan, still stands. Kidding, on that latter front.)

So yeah, late U.S. capitalism fucked up the internet but good, with ad-supported revenue models (junk views), platform centralization, a lack of funding support for open-source and open standards, info silos for corporate media conglomerate profit, and a lack of hate-speech policies. Technology for self-publishing and social sharing, on its face, should have made it possible for independent bloggers and media creators to monetize their labor and thereby create new systems of extracting decentralized economic value (for greater human health & happiness) from the mass of human activity, and hack and delight and enlighten and re-wire the world.

But of course Facebook and Twitter and YouTube refused to integrate user-focused payment features on their platforms for creators, for the same reason that the e-petitions company Change doesn’t allow peer-to-peer local organizing of signers–their revenue and profits come from dumb eyeball scale and thin user attention, not the deeper membership of invested supporters.

Circa-2000 self-publishing–blogging, but also art-making and free-culture online organizing–was full of exciting activist experiments and white-hat-info-hacks, from Talking Points Memo holding the NYT more factually accountable to (a few years later) distributed net artists forming “surf clubs”. To expansively use open technology for digital abundance, to help make awesome things happen in the world and thoroughly change the fearful, locked-down, conservative, austerity-maniacal ideology of American late capitalism, some paths might be as follows. For an independent artist, if a goal income is $4,000 per month for nearly-full-working-time dedication, one goal is to reach at least 800 supporters at an average of $5 recurring donation per month.

To maintain this goal, one could imagine: bundling donations into a package deal (support ten creators for the price of eight, and get some highly special rewards program); or splitting into micro-payments, where 2,000 supporters donate $2 per month; or automated ways of rewarding attention, where 10,000 quality experiences with a project directs $0.40 apiece from a fund to the creator, to pay rent and health care insurance and buy groceries and go to a gym and pay their local monopoly ISP. Maybe your local artist punk friend still works retail part-time, but maybe it’s not 3/4 time, maybe it’s only 1/4 time, and that’s huge! Because with that time they’ll launch the zine or throw the DIY show that you’ll remember as being meaningful in ten years, when you’re trapped in the cycle of working long hours just to stay afloat and pay Obamacare premiums.

This next possibility deserves a more focused analysis and is widely known in its broad outlines (cit. Shirky, Lessig, Krontiris [Kate], Benkler, Older, Cyril, Zuckerman [Ethan], Taylor [Astra], Doctorow, Noveck, Rushkoff, Crawford [Susan], Wu [Tim], boyd [danah] et al), but such media networks have already formed–they just weren’t monetized for small publishers. If Twitter was a co-op (instead of a public company) that charged one dollar of its 335 monthly active users for its service, even after deducting company operating expenses, the dividends could go to a dedicated program towards helping independent publishers build a membership or subscription base through special rewards programs, online events, member swag, and much more. But Facebook and YouTube’s inexorable centralization made it difficult to onboard new subscribers through any integrated payment system on social media platforms–even Paypal’ing a creator requires several additional steps, with silo’d interfaces.

What was lost was the “open federated web”: where your social ID was authenticated back to a web domain you controlled, or a reputable service, that authenticated your account to login to other apps and services, with extensive customizable personal privacy settings–a truly user-focused Facebook ID login, one that might have powered new markets for content curation and crowdfunding media. Allies included the free culture movement, for libre copyright reform, and the digital #opengov movement, for data-driven public accountability in government. My nonprofit work from 2005-2006 with the Participatory Culture Foundation worked towards these goals in high-quality online video, through BitTorrent-backed self-publishing; from 2007-2017, with the Participatory Politics Foundation, on open-source web apps for civic engagement and p2p organizing around open (liberated! scraped and standardized and re-published) government data.

Still, some tech tools were developed, then and now, to help self-publishers monetize their work: one under-appreciated tool, I think, is Flattr, the browser plugin for micropayments, launched in 2010, and version 2 from 2017 supports YouTube, Twitter, WordPress, and more, though it’s not clear how widespread its use is. You transfer money to its service and it allocates it from the fund based on HTML snippets, not too shabby, pretty close to the goal of rewarding attention.

Meanwhile, open ID standards (ha, OpenID or Identi.ca or whatever is now some hilariously budget Pump dot io service) sought to make social ID more portable, much as blockchain tech is nearly doing now (more on that shortly) between separate databases for platforms or apps or services. Kickstarter et al continue to develop new tools for crowdfunding; as email remains the most-direct communication channel, Patreon and Substack have powered a new golden era of subscription newsletters.

To be clear, no government agency is (yet) directly censoring U.S. publishers, though there are extremely harmful consequences to media consolidation. (Hence I’m not choosing to publish this on Medium, but rather on my personal old WP site, styling & CSS maintenance be darned.) Independent WordPress sites can embed payment widgets–thank goodness for WordPress, holding it down for open-source publishing on the open Internet (bring back RSS and Blogger, make Tumblr copyleft again, etc.).

Recently, projects using Ethereum blockchain technology for decentralization such as the Brave browser & Basic Attention Token (BAT) are developing new systems for compensating media creators for their work–as well as the startup Relevant social platform and various ConsenSys spokes on Ethereum (such as Ujo music platform and uPort ID). I can’t type here about the upsetting outcomes of the Diaspora project, it’s not my story to even gesture towards, all respect. There is the Gobo Social experiment. The beautiful and vibrant Are.na platform for curation is ad-free and member-supported, with an enterprise tier, helping social bookmarking as the (scarily-mostly-offline) del.icio.us once did (help, Pinboard, help).

Typing of ConsenSys and Ethereum–soon, the Civil publishing platform will launch its full platform as well, as another option for digital self-publishing on the open internet, with additional features for optional archiving to the Ethereum blockchain and IPFS. Over a dozen “First Fleet” newsrooms and a hundred professional journalists have been publishing mostly-entirely-free-and-open content for the past four months on the internet using Civil’s custom WordPress and generous grant support for salaries and infrastructure and operating costs; soon, it’s open to new public applications, far & wide, competing and collaborating with and complementing existing newsrooms.

These permanent and distributed archiving features offer tremendous, immediate, journalist-design-friendly value for anti-censorship and press freedom; as Maria Bustillos wrote recently for CJR, again, distributed backups are indeed still needed in U.S. climate for “billionaire-proofing” and digital preservation. Here I can gesture towards yet another article I’d like to write, on the interlocks of media companies with the politicians and corporations on which Sludge reports, exposing their lobbyists’ influence on policy making–so absolutely, it’s essential to our Sludge mission of covering systemic corruption that our readers have the strongest-possible assurance that our articles have been uncorrupted since they were published with the publicly-verifiable crypto addresses of our reporters and editors and Civil newsroom.

(To see how this works in practice, folks reading can download the free MetaMask browser plugin, register a free MetaMask account, and send themselves a small amount of ETH or other crypto currency purchased on an exchange with fiat currency. It’s neat, it’s a hot wallet, it works like an app. Send yourself a dollar’s worth of ETH for two cents in gas fees or whatever.)

Skeptical audiences react with aversion just to the terms blockchain and crypto currency, in part because of “Silicon Valley”-esque marketing culture, but another way of describing them is open tech for decentralization. The commercial forces of centralization (Facebook & YouTube) won web 2.0, the social web, but decentralization is back in the battle for web 3.0 (which is cliché and overly-broad, I realize, as it encompasses IoT and other distributed tech, but really, cit. Steven Johnson). Closed & silo’d tech for monopoly-driven profits has been winning the past ten-plus years, but strong tech for decentralization can counter the trends, and ‘if’ it works, then it works. That might sound obvs., but good social outcomes from tech are desperately needed, as are functioning feedback loops for public accountability–as we struggle with daily living in Facebook hell-world and on Twttr’s un-hate-speech-patrolled hell-site and in the vortex of pain and anger of YouTube. New decentralized systems are needed for new projects to just have a chance at catching an audience and recruiting some supporters.

This decentralization is key, and I think under-emphasized: blockchain integration means that the Civil platform is fundamentally decentralized. That’s an up-front commitment not just by the Civil Media Company and the non-profit Civil Foundation, but also based on the core technology itself: if an article’s full text can be accessed from the Ethereum blockchain, or just its original publishing metadata, it doesn’t just exist in a Civil-owned database. Civil is different from publishing platforms such as Medium in this way, because even though a Medium post might be branded by a company or a blogger, it owns the database that stores the words that appear in the web browser. Medium might not currently take down a critical post on its sibling company Twitter’s negligent-by-intention hate speech policies, but it could. Civil cannot take down a blockchain-archived article fairly critiquing its policies–no company can wholly shut down or block access to that store of data, as it could a database (even in the cloud). If a Sludge article abides by journalistic standards while reporting on a powerful media corporation, it cannot be deleted later if our database is purchased or legally threatened on groundless or bad-faith basis by a billionaire.

If you were today designing tech systems towards the goals of a more-thriving independent culture online, less Facebook-style bland commercial awfulness and more The Awl-style creativity and diversity and raucous critique, less “resistance podcast” style and more Data For Progress think tank substance, I believe it would start with Civil’s fundamental decentralization. This web platform of independent publishers is formed into a network by Civil’s token-curated registry, which is formed through the self-governance method of new CVL tokens (acquired with Ether, which is acquired with fiat currencies)–all governed by the community journalistic standards of the Civil Constitution.

It’s all there in writing and math, from the Civil white paper (which was originally published over a year ago, maybe it hasn’t been commonly read again recently) to the Constitution to their platform roadmap blog posts and open-source public GitHub commits: there’s a formal platform challenge protocol for disputes, there’s a Civil Council for review (which can itself be overturned by a supermajority vote, brilliant). It incentivizes participation and engenders trust because it can be discussed and amended and affected. It’s possible for token-holders to govern the platform’s policies. That’s not possible on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or Medium.

So on the answer of, “why should I care about governance”–I definitely care about Twiter’s broken hate-speech policies, or Facebook’s misinformation policies. If I could delegate my votes to Prof. Zeynep Tufekci or Prof. Susan Crawford or Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan and other experts on those fronts, I would, as well as taking part myself–and the Civil governance platform enables such a liquid-feedback system of vote delegation and transparent voting on challenges and propositions, after a formal deliberation process. On Civil, with CVL tokens, we all have this option, we can. It’s (finally!) real platform self-governance, built on the foundation of open-source code and the CVL token blockchain, for thicker community engagement, as opposed to the thinner ad-targeting notions of simply hosting your media for distribution on Facebook or YouTube.

Why should independent journalists consider Civil’s decentralized platform as an option for self-publishing on the open internet? Answers include at least the following four innovations, again built in open-source code, with newsrooms owned-and-operated entirely independently (Civil takes no formal equity in newsrooms and no middle-fees on CVL transactions):

1. Optional, built-in archiving to Ethereum and IPFS (for even greater affordability) – as part of a custom WordPress CMS, making it easier than ever for real workflows of journalistic publishing and collaboration with multiple cryptocurrency wallet addresses.

2. Self-governance, based on participatory challenge and new-application actions & votes on the Civil platform – a community built around the journalistic standards of the Civil constitution and CVL token holders, with the Civil Foundation enabling publishers with less resources to stake tokens and participate as well. A token-curated registry (see nice diagrams!) of trustworthy journalists, with the Civil network’s “seal”, but with total control of their own projects and sustainability paths and design and marketing and editorial and publishing.

3. Smart contracts for reporting projects, made possible on the forthcoming Civil marketplace, with support for multi-signature contracts of different contributors. One straightforward vision for how this might proceed: a contract for a journalism project can receive crypto wallet signatures from two reporters, an editor, a data journalist, an illustrator, a digital video producer, and a fact-checker & copy-editor. Once all have initially signed, the contract is activated on the blockchain, the work is conducted, and when the project is completed and delivered (for example, published on the internet on a Civil website), then all signatories can execute the contract to the blockchain, and the CVL tokens held will automatically be directed to token holders as per the terms of the contract.

For freelancers and independent publishers with specialized journalism skills, this option–and it’s just that, an option, in addition to regular contracts in fiat currency, of course–unlocks the capacity and bandwidth and experience by individuals in the currently-over-centralized media market, as a strong incentive to do the reporting work. It is trust-less, in the blockchain sense, i.e. “the tech is inherently trust-able”, because the contract will be fulfilled when the signatories have all executed it, with their autonomously-set amounts of CVL tokens transferred to their individual wallet addresses in just minutes. Far less emailing for invoices or changing the terms of project scope.

When a round of media layoffs unfortunately occurs and writers take to Twitter to commiserate, such a decentralized system will help individual reporters get contract work happening again: propose a project in the Civil marketplace for token-holders to sign and activate, or sign-on to an existing crowdfunded contract as a contributor for a portion of the pooled CVL tokens (held in escrow or by a service or perhaps somehow transparently by the Civil platform) when the contract is activated. The CVL tokens are still imminently-forthcoming, it’s all so early yet, they haven’t even been handled by users yet in their hot wallets in their web browsers, they haven’t been used in a micro-transaction on a Popula piece or a Sludge investigation’s web page yet–but their decentralized nature unlocks these new possibilities for revenue streams for independent journalists, towards the benchmarks mentioned above of bringing in regular income.

4. Micro-tipping on articles – the CVL token meets this widely-agreed-upon need, for à la carte micro-donations to an article’s writer or an add-free website. It makes it frictionless and with more options for continual, follow-up engagement than a Paypal transfer. It’s likely this feature will initially be implemented as a button to donate a CVL token to the writer of an article, with the transactions batched and processed as opposed to immediately executed via MetaMask or other Ethereum app in the browser. But it’s a huge advance for independent projects seeking to build membership or subscription programs–to use tokens for reader polls, or commenting, or just to unlock a higher-tier of rewards program (e.g., “donate in CVL to receive the $9 / month rewards of event invitations for the equivalent of just $5/mo. level”). If a popular article gets 10,000 tips of one-tenth of a CVL token, those 1,000 CVL tokens can help new work be created on the platform by the recipient going forward–they can stake new reporting projects and sign-on to new journalism contracts in the marketplace, and open up more paths to income through USD in membership or subscription revenue.

Any of these on its own, built in open tech and offered by a community of journalistic experts (such as the Civil Foundation), is a major advance in making tech for decentralization more user-friendly and designed for small newsrooms to publish professionally. Civil is tackling all of them, with more forthcoming features for the Civil Media Company’s business operations. But in my eyes, as a grantee of Civil Media Company, this is the promisingly wide scope of possibilities “unlocked” (yes, that term, but I think it’s deserved) by the decentralized CVL token–to build a governance platform, to build a marketplace, to build thousands of sustainable subscriptions for local news.

If I were a local news publisher seeking to meet my community’s info needs, currently I could set up my own WordPress site, register a Mailchimp account, register a Substack or Salesforce CRM + Stripe commercial account for subscription revenue, and launch a Kickstarter for seed funding. Dozens of such local news projects would do that tomorrow, if a path to subscription-driven sustainability was straightforward to reach in the local news market. But to date, sustainability is still a difficult challenge, to reach professional payroll for a team of, say, five full-time equivalents (e.g., a local newsroom consisting of two reporters, an editor, a community manager and a tech or media contractor). I see the CVL token as the foundation of a network that’s designed specifically to address this sustainability challenge–to support independent journalism that attracts its own donation base of subscribers or members or philanthropic backers, to keep (at least 800 microdonors / staffperson / month * 5 FTE staff = 4,000 donors at $5/mo., as just as baseline towards a $48,000 annual salary) reporters attending the community board meetings and together publishing important local news.

With the decentralized CVL token, the growth of the network benefits all token-holding publishers on the Civil platform, and directly supports the creation of more quality & ethical independent journalism. I believe strongly that more local news and policy journalism will be created in the world if publishers choose to publish on Civil and circulate CVL tokens than they would in individual crowdfunding campaigns or de-facto competing for charitable foundation grants. More five-person reporting teams can spring up on such a network than through silo’d, isolated Kickstarters. And all those existing tools are still there as options for publishers (who can still apply for grants and even accept advertising, in ethical ways, though that’s continual for the Civil community to debate and evaluate).

With the Civil platform as open tech for decentralization, there’s the new (and innovative) and immediately-useful option of getting people to sign up as members of an investigative newsroom or subscribers to a local newsroom because they can use the CVL token to support media they want to see exist. For me, as an Executive Director for the past 11 years, and an open-source tech Project Manager for several before that, this is one summary of the use of the CVL token: creating a token-curated decentralized network of aligned projects, for greater sustainability of independent publishing across the entire ecosystem. Why blockchain and crypto for journalism? To form a network for sustainability of independent publishers. A real network can bring positive network effects, which can build-in sustainability while preserving independence.

One about which I’m most excited: cross-newsroom collaborations can generate positive network effects among Civil newsrooms on the platform. For example, city residents’ lives are deeply affected by the policies coming from state capitals and a culture of lobbyists–budgets, broadband, buses, more. If Sludge coordinates with a local newsroom on a state house investigation, perhaps funded through a crowdfunded smart contract of CVL tokens, the local reporting gains increased readership from an audience of national money-in-politics watchdogs, and the corruption reporting gains a reputation among city news readers for local public-benefit impact.

Put aside the blockchain and cryptocurrency options, or as I’ve been describing them, the open tech for decentralization–Civil newsrooms operate primarily as custom WordPress websites that publish articles on the internet and pursue sustainability plans through accepting fiat currency from subscribers or voluntary members. Building the audience is key, attracting sufficient small-donor revenue is the goal. That is the basic Civil newsroom business strategy–n.b., no prominent mention of blockchain or crypto, there! Those are vital, but can be viewed as under-the-hood. The CVL token and blockchain publishing integrations are integral to the mission of the network, but the individual news sites on the platform will pursue income through mixes of the following:

A. Subscription plans–with a subscription paywall (think WSJ) or gated, timed paywall (think NYT or WaPo). See: Block Club Chicago, Colorado Sun, Cannabis Wire, Popula.

B. Membership plans–support our independent journalism (think National Public Radio stations, or investigative reporting projects). See: Sludge, Documented, FAQ NYC, ZigZag Podcast.

C. Philanthropic support–grants from charitable foundations (think of the awesome ProPublica, but likely at a smaller scale, to start).

… these primary revenue streams (open to mixing and experimentation) can be augmented with secondary revenue streams through such rewards programs as events (IRL or online), merchandise and swag, advertising & promoted partnerships, and even consulting projects for media, in ways that are consistent with the Civil Constitution’s ethical standards. For various reasons, the innovations of “blockchain and crypto currency for journalism” have gotten in the way of communicating this fundamental design for individual newsrooms’ member support–that a five-person newsroom seeks to build a local subscriber base, and maintain its trust and accountability directly with their readership, who in turn can engage with the newsroom through CVL tokens and backing cross-newsroom collaborations in new and creative ways. If the smart contracts for reporting are done on Civil with CVL, then the contracts are executed upon signature upon delivery, and your donation of CVL tokens to fund it is automatically allocated to the newsrooms’ crypto wallets–there’s no need to enter your credit card twice, or for newsrooms to worry about properly allocating funds from one service, or of grant reporting with a funder. The project is delivered and the newsrooms stand or are challenged on the token-curated registry, by any token-holding entity staking the tokens for a challenge.

New subscribers in Southern California gained through quality local news collaborations thereby help grow the Civil network in upstate New York, and vice versa. Individual newsrooms can pivot and test new revenue strategies in ways that are compliant with the Civil Constitution and fairly-challenged by other token-holders on the network, and out of this decentralized foundation, local news websites should get a lot, lot better, less ad-cluttered and click-bait-y and rushed. For example, for our five-person Sludge reporting team, a typical investigation into campaign contributions by an industry or sector usually takes a couple of days per person: one day of research to clean and standardize the disclosure data, and surface the insights; another to report out the story and build a data-viz (e.g. with LittleSis’ great power mapping tools or Tableau). With the support of donations from membership, we have this critical editorial time to report out the real story of how special interests exert their influence over public policy making. Its inherent responsiveness to paying members means it’s designed effectively to be agile, and as long as we do quality work worth supporting by a sufficient number of recurring donors, it’s sufficiently robust–see how Talking Points Memo has grown to earned-revenue sustainability from a community-driven Forums membership and their original news analysis. There can be more such successes on Civil, at true open-internet scale, many more than on Facebook or YouTube.

For those who have inquired about the comparison with individual non-profit publishing efforts: well, Civil’s token-curated registry will be one of just a few out in the wild of the internet, along with AdChain registry and a few others, and it will be the most consumer-facing. So in terms of comparable analytics & evidence with which to project-out the benefits of the Civil network, for local newsrooms and policy journalism, this new platform is indeed an experiment in consumer tokens, so it’s early yet (the full governance platform and blockchain plugin are not even launched publicly as of this writing, on Sunday, Oct. 14th). But as above, the design of the decentralized network incentivizes quality contributions from stakeholders, whose incentives are finally aligned–resulting in far fewer ads, far thicker reporting, better editorial judgements, prioritizing building a membership base over scale of traffic for banner ads and pop-up videos. It stands to reason that such a network should attract new publishers, seeking to gain access to its unique publishing features and its trustworthy ethical standards by the Constitution and community of journalists, as well as offering readers and under-served news communities a media experience that’s worth supporting with a micro-donation or subscription.

If you’ve actually read along this far, it’s time to dive into some of the realness of project budgeting and public-benefit fundraising, based on my eleven years of experience with non-profit PPF: there will inevitably be budget gaps for projects (ask around, if the Executive Directors are in a financial position to be honest); even generous foundation funders don’t generally seek to fund (valuable & unique) work for more than six years at a stretch; and even the most-reliable, much-appreciated small-donor supporters eventually wonder if your org. is on a path to earned-revenue sustainability. (It might take a decade for the most dedicated to grow impatient, but in the meantime, there is such a thing as natural “churn” in grassroots donations.) (That’s about one-third of the total realness, actually, call me sometime if you’d like to hear the other two-thirds.)

In my experience, the Civil network is well-designed to address these sustainability challenges, by providing new ways of engaging donating members and gathering paying subscribers for independent newsrooms. If a local reporting project has a budget gap for news illustration or web design or video production, distributed CVL token-holders can contribute a fraction of a token towards meeting it, with no middle-fees and without needing to enter their credit card again through a new web-form. If your monthly subscriber base dips below (say) 800 donors, you can feature a new reporting project on the Civil marketplace, and other CVL token-holders on the network can discover it by your keyword and publishing reputation and pledge tokens to back it, to make up the shortfall as you build back your audience. I know that’s far less likely to happen on Facebook, and I think it’s far less likely to happen if startup publishers are all promoting themselves individually, instead of part of a decentralized network.

If you’re reading this, you probably maintain subscriptions, as I do, to several recurring monthly charges for digital media on a personal debit card: in my case: Spotify (or $AAPL Music); Amazon Prime (for streaming Video–or, you know, Netflix or Hulu); YouTube TV (to watch “All In w/ Hayza”, obvs.); MLB TV (Go Brewers 2018) and NBA League Pass (gah, that lousy product); as well as several Patreon newsletters; not to mention an unreasonable amount of print magazine subscriptions. A baseline membership of $5-9/ month for full access to several Civil sites is a near-future possibility, thanks to the frictionless efficiency of the CVL token–thereby mitigating the need to sign up for, say, a Popula subscription, a Sludge membership, a Documented one-time donation gift, and an FAQ NYC podcast micro-tip all separately. (That’s just an example–from this decentralized foundation, we can build our own joint programs, try our own experiments, share lessons for communal abundance, underwritten by recurring small-dollar memberships that support our original work.)

Civil has done an admirable job of publicly sharing and transparently documenting their company’s roadmap on their Blog and technical progress on their GitHub repo. Last month I wrote on Sludge, it had been exactly one year since I first read in the Civil white paper in full, and I was immediately hooked by how its tech works to “lock the web open“, as Brewster Kahle wrote (channeling Lawrence Lessig) in 2015. More concretely, I grasped how a token-backed publishing network could help my co-founder Donny Shaw and me generate a sustaining base for Sludge’s unique muckraking in a way that can be augmented and project-basis-filled by (say) charitable funders as a secondary revenue stream, but primarily supported directly by Sludge Members and by other CVL token holders. See, as background, our Jan. blog post on our experience with covering the news on systemic corruption in Congress, on OpenCongress from 2007-2013.

I’m very proud of our Sludge team‘s real-world impacts so far, in our first four months of publishing, as part of the remarkable “First Fleet” of talented newsrooms on Civil  I’m especially indebted to my incredible colleague Maria Bustillos of the unbelievably-inspirational Popula, on Civil, for leading the way on the vision and articulations of the value of decentralized publishing for more quality writing and ethical journalism. The CVL token sale continues through tomorrow, Monday, Oct. 15th! Feedback welcome on my essay, it was obviously unedited and under-designed on an old unstyled WP install, but email me, I’m easy to reach: david at readsludge, dot com, @ppolitics. Let’s make tech work better for human creativity in 2019 and 2020.

p.s. Hey now, how about the sheer existence of Popula and Hmm Daily, with contributors to and editors from the much-missed The Awl and Gawker, how incredible is this opportunity for their continued independent publishing.

 

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