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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!