Civol — Community Nervous System

Introducing Civol

Civol is the world’s first asynchronous video forum, a decentralized town hall running on the Internet Computer offering discourse, debate, consensus, and collective decision making for communties of all shapes and sizes.

As a generalized, infinitely scalable governance service, Civol’s mission is to enable any community to virtually assemble, discuss the issues they face collectively, and decide what they want to do about them.

Architecture

Civol is a mobile first dapp with a Flutter frontend and a Motoko backend. Funded by 75k in grants from the DFINITY Foundation, we’re now wrapping up our MVP/Alpha. Here’s Civol’s current architecture.


The Civol experience, which we refer to as discourse, is based on a new unit of media called the xchange (a group of video posts by a group of speakers). Xchanges take place on threads, which are themselves the operative elements of every discourse. Below we see the Player on the left and the Recorder on the right. THE INTERNET COMPUTER is the discourse, and NNS : Participation and Decentralization is the thread. So a Civol instance is a set of discourses the community is currently focusing on, plus those they have focused on in the past.

The Civol MVP will allow panelists to record video discourse asynchronously, and community members to play those videos and vote their level of resonance with the speakers. We call this ambient voting because it’s built into the media consumption flow. Almost effortless yet meaningfully engaging, it requires just a few seconds and will soon be rewarded with CVL tokens.

Community Nervous System

For the Internet Computer Community it’s possible that a slightly customized version of Civol could serve as a new layer of governance on top of the Network Nervous System, a Community Nervous System that decentralizes decision making, fuels participation, educates token holders, and unites the Community behind solution proposals.

Once a consensus has been reached on the Civol CNS the proposal can then move to the NNS for what effectively becomes ratification, a final check and approval before implementation. Surprisingly, what emerges from this process is the tried and true bicameral pattern of governance wherein two separate legislative houses, upper and lower, represent different stakeholders.

Context

Expert contributors and avid readers of this forum understand the governance predicament all too well. Blockchains and the dapps that run on them have had a governance problem from the outset. One of their chief superpowers being decentralization, it implies that their user and developer communities should be involved in the governance of the chain, but this has been difficult to achieve. Variations on proof of stake coupled with text-based proposal/voting systems have tended to produce centralized plutocracies of ruling whales combined with apathetic token holders who feel their participation in governance simply isn’t worth the effort.

That said, most web3 blockchain developers are valiantly seeking the holy grail of true decentralization. They sincerely want token holders to be meaningfully involved, but it seems nothing will motivate them to vote at the levels needed for true decentralization. The futility is disheartening, and it’s tempting to conclude that token holders will never make the effort to get educated and vote. They’re only interested in windfalls, which means we’ll just have to accept the fact that decentralization is fundamentally limited and can only be maximized within those limits by clever incentivization mechanisms.

I think we can do better, and the first step is to redine the problem. It may sound odd, but I believe the root of all of this is text. Forums, messages, articles, docs, text-based proposal/voting systems… For the average token holder it feels like doing your taxes. It feels like work, and so the user’s stake has to be pretty high to justify the necessary effort and time.

Token holders do want to be educated though. Most are willing to read and research, at least a bit, but what they really need is something they can passively absorb. That doesn’t mean more YouTube analysts broadcasting opinions on competing tokens and projects based on the same basic information. Token holders need something more like a TV news talk show, but interactive. They need to be able to watch the stars of the show in action, the expert devs and execs and investors talking to each other, sometimes debating passionately, on their screens.

It’s going to take living faces engaged in spirited deliberation and debate to make people care about the relatively esoteric subject matter of most IC proposals. And it would be even better if they had the ability to feed back on the words they’re hearing from the experts on screen, especially in a way that can be aggregated into a meaningful metric on what the entire community thinks. Civol can do all these things.

Conflict Resolution

Every community experiences conflict surrounding the issues of its day, but because conflict is dangerous to group cohesion, especially when it doesn’t get resolved, such contentious subjects typically become submerged and willfully ignored. It’s the narrative control problem, and it often leads to the marginalization of dissenting voices. The problem is not the people or the issues they’re dealing with, the problem is the lack of a conflict resolution mechanism.

The compromises we all make instinctively to sustain community harmony and morale are so deeply rooted that the emergence of a true conflict resolution mechanism has the ability to completely reverse polarity on the narrative control problem. Suddenly, conflict can be seen as a good thing, and for more than one reason. It is precisely this community conflict that will produce not just the healing consensus so desperately needed, but also the inherent drama that will draw community members into the discourse.

Again, small token holders do want to learn, they believe in the Internet Computer vision, but they are averse to the tedium of technical reading. This means they are going to learn much more, much better, much faster if they’re simultaneously entertained while they learn. And this is precisely what Civol delivers — story, drama, debate, faces, emotion, reason, meaning, engagement.

A good example is the Psychedelic Town Hall. Major respect to Harrison and the other speakers for having the courage to give voice publicly to a number of issues IC Community devs have with the Foundation. This is exactly the kind of conflict I’m talking about, and exactly the kind of drama — totally authentic, totally real, totally relevant. To thrive and fulfill its destiny the IC must become stronger, its Community demonstrating more collective intelligence, unified in principle and action. Civol can help make this a reality. There is a consensus trapped in every issue raised at the second PTH, and as they emerge through Civol discourse the Community will indeed grow visibly stronger.

Proposals

All this leads to my initial proposal, a governance experiment we’re calling The Internet Computer Town Hall. It will bring top Community devs together with key members of the DFINITY team and the wider Community to discourse and come to consensus on proposed solutions to two or three of the PTH02 issues.

We’ll also be gauging Civol’s product market fit during this time. If the fit proves good I would then further propose that Civol be developed and deployed more formally as a new governance layer for the IC, a Community Nervous System designed to work with NNS, all SNSs, and all DAOs alike.

In sum, I’m proposing that we experiment with Civol to build consensus for Civol as a CNS for the IC. If and when this consensus exceeds a certain threshold (which we will decide upon collectively, using Civol) we’ll submit the formal proposal that embodies our consensus to the NNS for ratification and implementation.

In the next few days I will update this post with a link where you can install the Civol MVP from your app store of choice and thereby access The Internet Computer Town Hall experiment. You’ll also find some additional writing about Civol there and be able to preview the Civol web dapp.

Until then, I’m really looking forward to answering any questions you might have here on the DFINITY Forum, thanks so much for reading and considering!

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This just made my entire day/ week to be honest with you.

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Flutter? Padding to 20c

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Thank you so much for these kind words, @jsull9, you’ve made my day too! :blush:

Can’t wait for you to experience Civol in action, we’re putting the finishing touches on the MVP so shouldn’t be long.

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This looks incredible – excited for the community to get involved this way! Let us know when you’ll be opening it up for alpha/beta testers, would love to be involved.

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Thanks so much! I will be updating this post in a few days with a sign up link allowing you to install the mobile app from either app store. Can’t wait to welcome you to Civol!

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Like I have goosebumps. I feel everyone has read my mind before I even had these thoughts. This has happened so many times since entering space. I’ll read something, and I’ll start going on rants like we could do this, this, or that, to solve these issues, then poof community members hit me with, “we are actively working on it”, like dang guess we are on more of the same page than I keep thinking.

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Like I have a tear in my eye from how grateful I am that this is being built.

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The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is dialing up the pressure on federal agencies and crypto exchanges to protect Americans from fraudsters.

While this is aimed at Crypto Exchanges, do we also have a responsibility?

I feel we have already baked this in for future spammers and made it easier for them.

Once the spammers had to get funding to add spam proposals on the NNS to pay for a rejected proposal but now they can add their name to the “following” list on the NNS and this guarantees they will be successful as you have only one option and that’s to follow which guarantees no cost or rejection and rewards.

Total agree with @civolian:

Web3 blockchain developers are valiantly seeking the holy grail of true decentralization.

They sincerely want token holders to be meaningfully involved, but it seems nothing will motivate them to vote at the levels needed for true decentralization. The futility is disheartening, and it’s tempting to conclude that token holders will never make the effort to get educated and vote. They’re only interested in windfalls, which means we’ll just have to accept the fact that decentralization is fundamentally limited and can only be maximized within those limits by clever incentivization mechanisms.

If the followers list was decentralized then you would be able to follow by two choices, for or against.

Now instead of going on to some outside tech to get the date and time for spam proposals to vote for rewards, which was interesting in itself as these proposals were never rejected which says a lot about the integrity of token holders.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform could view this like an organized crime event and I did not participate in it and only voted to reject it when I saw these proposals on the NNS but the numbers showed me that those spammers have celebrity status by our own neuron holders and were accepted on voting thereby the spammers also rewarded with funded coins.

Low proposal periods, I believe we could see an increase in spam activity and now it is much easier for them to stick up the NNS for extra rewards behind their neuron facemasks.

But could spammers cause an attack event oneday when they put up a proposal that causes damage to the NNS and all those following them will achieve their goals and rewards as they voted yes for the spam proposal of the past when they could have voted no and still receive rewards!

There should be a list of followers that you should only be able to follow but not spammers.

@civolian is right I have much to learn and yet you show the same power grab as many others. I go onto the NNS and see this proposal and don’t know you so I rejected you on the principle you pointed out and then I come to the forum to find the knowledge and understanding.

I believe there are many here who want a better understanding and invested in the belief there is something good here but unable to comment due to the lack of knowledge and feeling stupid by those of self interests and willing to speak against you.

Too soon and too many trust issues coupled with supporting a future mistake. How about you take your own advice and educate us first, we have seen too many commentators spruik for their benefit and seen the results and they are called pumpers and dumpers.

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Thanks for your reply, @kvic, you bring up an important point that turns out to be a significant value add for Civol. That is, Civol will effectively remove the burden of proposal vetting from the NNS and shift it to the CNS.

Once the Civol CNS is in place, the only motion/roadmap proposals that will make it to the NNS will be those generating sufficient consensus from the Community. Plus, the necessity of putting your face on your proposals (video) will deter spam from appearing even on the CNS, as will the realization that posting spurious distractions will result in a serious hit on your reputation. Spammers will be quickly voted down and out of the discourse, so their junk proposals will never make it to the NNS.

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I’ll be happy to text the app!

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I have no opinion if Civol is potentially good or bad for Dfinity.

Will just leave this here if anyone wants to dig deeper (I haven’t): Introducing EOS Talkchain. A Video Town Hall For The EOS Community | by Carl Carpenter | Medium

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In Q118 EOS emerged as a powerful champion of Community Self Governance. There was nothing like it and hopes were soaring. They launched their mainnet a few months later having raised $4B. What could go wrong?

We launched EOS Talkchain, a Web2 version of Civol complete with on chain authentication and our ambient voting system, in Q119, despite rapidly waning support for CSG or an EOS Constitution. By Q319 all vestiges of CSG were being eliminated, including referendum.

I wrote a final article to tell that story, The Evolution of EOS Governance, which covers everything and pleads the case for leaving the door open a crack for the return of referendum. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

It was a heart breaking experience to be sure, but in retrospect I’m glad. The Internet Computer allows Civol to achieve its full potential — fully on chain, infinitely scalable, tamperproof, unstoppable. I see now the IC was always the true destination for this groundbreaking governance technology, and it’s turned out to be the perfect complement to the NNS.

Civol is a complete ground up rewrite of the Talkchain dapp, but I’m happy to answer any questions anyone might have on its short lived EOS incarnation.

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I dug a little and all I found was what @civolian explained below. That sounds like a cool idea.

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I’m so glad to see this project developing @civolian. I wish you and your team the best of luck going forward. Also, I am looking forward to touring the code someday.

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Thanks so much, @matthewhammer, you were a great inspiration! I would love to show you how the code turned out… At some point prior to beta we’ll need to go through a complete audit. Not sure how that is done, would it be possible for you to be part of that or perhaps advise?

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This here deserves a deep read. I’ve been waiting for it for nearly two years, since I first heard of the concept.

If this really evolves to consensus, it will thrive on model fundamentally different to every social media we’ve seen.

I’ll be among the first users in the hopes that this can take away the tribalism this, and really every community, is getting hung up via the otherwise toxic echo chambers we resort too. I can’t thank you enough Civolian for bringing this work to its completion.

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I hope that means lots of functional Trie data structures behind the scenes (and no imperative hashmaps :slight_smile: ).

I’m also not sure about how your audit would best be done, but I agree it’s important.

Perhaps before that “official audit”, where you’d likely be paying some consultants, the Motoko/Languages team can have an informal look at the code to help spot obvious red flags, or make other suggestions.

Unfortunately, it’s probably stepping out of our roles as Language Team engineers too far to do any audit with an official stamp of approval, or with any liability attached. Though, I’d love to offer that somehow, I’m also unsure how we’d ever scale it, and balance it with other tasks, as others may also want that service too.

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You were the first person I approached in the IC Community, Evan, and what an inspiration you’ve been the whole journey! You have such a way of capturing the essence of things…

Yes, but it’s kind of hard to tell the truth about Civol without sounding delusional or at the very least slightly touched :sweat_smile:

Ok, how’s this for unhinged… Soon people are going to start realizing that ubiquitous, mindblowingly accurate, massively decentralized, trustless (can you believe it?) GOVERNANCE is what comes after social, and that Web3, the Internet Computer :heart_on_fire:, is what makes it real!!

So we start with the IC itself, which is what this experiment is all about… MVP possibly tomorrow, probably Friday… Can’t thank you enough, my friend!

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It absolutely does mean lots of Tries! I knew our Motoko dev, Hitesh, was going to rock when I saw he had done a 20 minute YouTube on them. :smile:

He’s been truly great, but we have much to learn and so would be beyond grateful for the Motoko/Languages team to have an informal look at the code to help spot obvious red flags and make other suggestions.

Totally understand about stamp of approval or liability. We’ve written a ton of Motoko and actually solved the storage and scalability problems for our video files, so lots of potentially good stuff to review, and we will of course be open sourcing at some point.

Hope we can work it out, please let me know, and thanks so much for offering!

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