New innovations in blockchain tokens that track user opinions

Bringing Social to Blockchain

Since March, we have been sitting on what we think is an exciting secret project for Telos™: a way to twist the thinking on how blockchain tokens typically work. These new tokens allow people to express their opinions about other accounts, dapps and users in a persistent way that further benefits from the aggregate opinions of others in a form of shared sentiment that can function a bit like a prediction market about various aspects of others’ social identity. We call these Sentiment Tokens.

In the simplest terms, a sentiment token could be thought of as a blockchain “like” feature. If I assign a “like” to some social media item, it publicly reveals something about me and my individual relationship with that item, and further, the aggregate collection of “likes” from many users may reveal something about the general prominence of the item, of course the current social media “likes” all exist within the confines of centralized systems subject to the whims of their owner companies. Sentiment tokens allow these types of expression of opinion to be recorded on a blockchain in a permanent, transparent way. This allows us to do many useful things not previously possible.

Sentiment tokens can power likes (and dislikes), trust-ratings similar to a blockchain-powered, blockchain-wide eBay seller ratings, vouching for or warning about others, sharing networks of people in the same field to recommend others mutually but not directly known in a decentralized way, ratings, certificates, accomplishment badges, and a lot more. The core of this is that sentiment tokens are issued from one account to another, and the account holding the tokens does not have the power to change or get rid of those applied to their accounts. This is the inverse of how economic tokens operate, where only the holder account may transfer them. Because it is important to be able to express both positive and negative opinions, sentiment tokens also pioneer the concept of anti-tokens, which for the first time introduce the equivalent of negative values to tokens using a paired anti-token such as LIKE and DISLIKE or TRUST and DISTRUST deployed on the same token contract and interacting to offset balance changes between positive and negative values.

Sentiment Tokens Illustrated

A story from the early days of Telos helps illustrate one of the most obvious uses of sentiment tokens. Right after the Telos mainnet launch, an early user created the account name ‘chainrifteos’ which was the account name used by the exchange ChainRift on EOS for accepting deposits. ChainRift was the first exchange to ever trade TLOS tokens upon the activation of the Telos mainnet. It used a different account name on Telos than on EOS, but some users did not realize this and sent their tokens to this account instead. To this day, those tokens have not been returned.

This situation frustrated me considerably, because it clearly poses a problem towards mass adoption. Many people in the Telos community knew that this account was misleading other users, but there was no simple way to inform others beyond sending a transaction with a warning in the memo field, which would successfully warn no one. Reputation and identity solutions will not be able to address this type of scenario because they are all opt-in solutions. Nefarious accounts won’t take part willingly in these efforts and it will be a long time before it will seem odd to send tokens to an account without an open reputation or identity.

Fortunately, sentiment tokens make opting-in unnecessary. If users identify an account as being a bad actor, they can send some DISRTUST tokens to the account which will stay there regardless of the owner’s wishes. If enough users send these tokens or they aren’t offset by an amount of TRUST tokens sent by others to restore the reputation of accounts mislabeled, then there will be a visible warning to users that they should consider more research before sending tokens to or doing business with that account. By adding tools to let users easily check these sentiment token balances, the blockchain-based reputation system requiring no opt-in can be deployed. Wallets, for example, will be able to warn users before completing transfers to accounts with DISTRUST scores higher than the threshold levels the user selects.

The Open Secret

The Telos developer community has kept sentiment tokens a bit of an open secret: we have addressed it as a “secret” project we’ve been working on in some of our TCD correspondence, and yet the paper, specification, and initial implementation have been on the Telos Github repository for seven months now.

Sentiment tokens are not a concept that can or will be kept to a single blockchain. We expect that all EOSIO blockchains will adopt them in time. However, as the originators, we were keen to build these first on Telos. Given the demands on our finite developer resources, this has taken some time to bring to fruition. Fortunately, Telos Voyager has joined GoodBlock in building a working implementation of sentiment tokens and this will soon be available for us to present to tool builders to start testing and integrating into their wallets, block explorers, and dapps.

We believe that adding functions like “likes”, trust ratings, certificates and badges will further bridge the gap between blockchain and social media-type user experiences. Soon, we anticipate a new class of services on Telos that use these ratings in business-logic ways. For example, voting proxies could assign their votes using chain-wide metrics around LIKE or TRUST tokens associated with the various block producer accounts. Escrow services could scale their fees by incorporating the TRUST/DISTRUST balances of an account. We have documented a number of initial uses in the paper LIKE, TRUST and RESPECT: Tokenizing Sentiment and Opinion on the Telos Blockchain. Further reading can be found in the Telos Improvement Proposal #34: Sentiment Token Standard, and the initial implementation of the Sentiment Tokens Contract API.

Sentiment tokens offer a new level of utility to blockchain and offer the ability to greatly enhance the user experience by borrowing popular interactions from social media platforms with new powers that can be unlocked by tokenized economies. Telos will soon be integrating these tools into the user experience. We welcome tool makers, app developers and users who are interested using sentiment tokens in expanding their uses of Telos and other EOSIO blockchains to contact us and get started. The next round of code for the Telos sentiment tokens will soon be released, including an expanded API and documentation.

Download Sentiment Token Paper PDF
LIKE, TRUST and RESPECT: Tokenizing Sentiment and Opinion on the Telos Blockchain.


About the author: Douglas Horn is the Telos architect and whitepaper author, and the founder of GoodBlock, a block producer and app developer for the Telos Blockchain Network.

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