Web Payments Community Group Telecon

Minutes for 2012-09-04

  1. Transparent Donations for Occupy Wall Street (OWS)
  2. Financial Autonomy for OWS Working Groups
  3. OWS Alternative Currencies
  4. Expected Implementation Timeline for Software
Manu Sporny
Dave Longley
Dave Longley, Nick Person, Manu Sporny, David I. Lehn
Audio Log
Dave Longley is scribing.

Topic: Transparent Donations for Occupy Wall Street (OWS)

Nick Person: one use case that people are agreeing on is that ... people love transaction histories and getting some element of granularity case by case would be good, hypothetically working groups are different but we'd like to expose what's going on a little more publically
Manu Sporny: we have transaction histories in payswarm now if you've seen that
Nick Person: yes
Manu Sporny: we have the ability to make an account public -- which means you can see the account and its label, etc. -- but not its transaction history
Manu Sporny: however, we've been discussing how to make that information public as well if its desirable
Manu Sporny: we want to be able to do anonymous transactions (not bitcoin anonymous) where you can see that money is being exchanged but you can't see who is sending/receiving the funds
Manu Sporny: we tie transactions to an "identity", which isn't necessarily a person
Manu Sporny: a person can have multiple different identities on the web, examples are: your business identity, your personal identity, one you use to make political donations, etc.
Manu Sporny: in each one of these cases the payswarm authority you use, per the legal requirements, needs to understand what your actual citizenshipidentity/banking/ drivers license info but they don't need to expose that to the outside world
Manu Sporny: you get to choose who your payswarm authority is and you get to trust who knows your identity
Manu Sporny: just like with your bank today, so the payswarm authority knows its doing business with a real person, but you don't have to expose that to other people you don't want to
Manu Sporny: so we've put a lot of thought into privacy when doing transactions, identities, etc.
Manu Sporny: so maybe an OWS wants transparency but maybe someone who is putting money into a working group doens't want people to know who they are (or only that that are a certain identity)
Manu Sporny: so it provides for pseudo anonymous transactions
Nick Person: when i try to imagine the concept of conversion of bank accounts to/from payswarm authorities, i've been trying to figure out how this would work, and i've been discussing w/our accounting people some of these questions
Manu Sporny: yes, we'd be interested in talking more with the OWS accounting folks to figure out what we can do
Manu Sporny: we can definitely do the automatic splitting of amounts for working groups
Manu Sporny: we can split up payments between 3, 10, 100, 150 groups, etc.
Nick Person: sure, as far as transparency issues, i know one thing that has come up is the concept of reimbursement
Nick Person: people want to be reimbursed for something when it's unclear who they were because the movement wasn't really going yet
Nick Person: how would digital listings work with physical items or how would we apply digital receipts to track cash, etc
Manu Sporny: what we could do .... the assets that are described are digital, we're sticking with those because it's less risky in terms of reversing transactions, w/digital we can revoke access more easily, once a physical property is transferred we can't undo that so easily
Manu Sporny: it's also hairy w/returns when physical things break
Manu Sporny: we're staying out of physical things now, but that doens't mean you can't describe a physical asset in a listing
Manu Sporny: you can track that a sale happens on a physical asset even though its just a digital description
Manu Sporny: suppose you were selling posterboard and markers and we were selling them for $25 or something
Manu Sporny: when you do the purchase that receipt of sale goes to the person that bought it
Manu Sporny: to reimburse them they can show you that digital receipt so you know they made that purchase
Manu Sporny: if you trust them that they used the markers and posterboard appropriately then you could reimburse them
Nick Person: right, we can't guarantee what happens in the physical world, but you could use that data to sort things out
Manu Sporny: right, it makes it easier if its verifiable, if what they bought is verifiable, if you have pictures of them using that thing, ... but there are ways of gaming the system
Manu Sporny: because someone could make up fake assets for themselves and buy it
Manu Sporny: and then go for a reimbursement from the working group
Manu Sporny: and they take that $25 without ever actually having spent it on anything
Manu Sporny: the only thing the payswarm authority can tell you is whether or not money moved
Manu Sporny: and it can tell you what the purpose of the transaction was
Manu Sporny: if the buyer and vendor were in cahoots w/each other then they can pretend that money was exchanged for something when it really wasn't ... if they then want to be reimbursed
Manu Sporny: the other thing that you could do is that, if the working group has a way of tracking, saying "here's some money we expect you to spend on X, Y, Z", then if they don't show up with the money/goods then you know not to trust them (sort of a prebuy type of trust test system)
Manu Sporny: the working group could deposit funds into members' accounts
Manu Sporny: another way is to have members show up with the physical good and then do the transfer when they are present with it
Manu Sporny: there are many different ways to do the reimbursement model, we just need to discuss how
Nick Person: having a really easy way to generate the meta data so if there's a problem we can look at it and connect it with other semantic web communities, etc. is useful
Nick Person: a public rating system could also be used
Nick Person: Yes, we've been thinking of a public rating system as well.
Manu Sporny: using the identities you could keep track of positive/negative transactions and link them to identities
Manu Sporny: and keep track of "karma" (etc) to help people decide who they want to do business with
Manu Sporny: we were thinking of having a publically accessible database to keep track of this to help payswarm authorities use a public rating system to help figure out who to trust, etc.
Nick Person: i'm hearing some good things like transaction history, etc. we had a couple of meetings where there were open books, no photographs, etc., but any of this that can make the accountants job easier -- i'm just concerned about what all the difficulties might be there -- so i'll ask more people to figure out what we need, etc. for use cases
Nick Person: i'm always happy to know what aspects of payswarm you think would be novel over systems i don't know or may not be using or that others may already be using, etc.
Nick Person: so if you could help explain how payswarm is better than other choices, etc that would be good
Manu Sporny: one of the biggest selling points for payswarm is that its a fully programmable financial system, whatever you need to automate, it's really easy to do that, the standard is open and published/being published
Manu Sporny: and because it's open and a standard, you aren't locked into any given provider
Manu Sporny: it's just like how we have multiple different browser companies out there right now
Manu Sporny: and the reason those exist and smaller browser manufacturers exist is because of open standards
Manu Sporny: so payswarm has that same advantage
Manu Sporny: also this is all REST-based to make an easy API for interacting with the financial system (good for tech people to understand)
Manu Sporny: for non-techies it's good to know that the system is very flexible and you have access to the raw data/financial system so you can build whatever you want on top of it
Dave Longley: There are a couple of other things that aren't available with other financial systems - for example, PaySwarm supports micropayments - we support up to seven digits of precision. So, $0.0000001 [scribe assist by Manu Sporny]
Nick Person: Is this available anywhere? [scribe assist by Manu Sporny]
Dave Longley: No, I think PaySwarm is the only one that is accurate to $0.0000001 [scribe assist by Manu Sporny]
Nick Person: why isn't this supported elsewhere?
Manu Sporny: paypal and companies like them don't see the money in it
Manu Sporny: is my best guess
Nick Person: so it's like y2k bug
Manu Sporny: it could be, if we built a system today we wouldn't have that system the limits are pushed much further
Manu Sporny: before 2000 it didn't really make sense to make micropayments
Manu Sporny: there was no system that could do that many financial transactions to make it profitable
Manu Sporny: today we have the web and more scalable systems
Manu Sporny: we want to get longtail micropayment business models w/payswarm
Manu Sporny: we want to capture both macro and micro payments
Manu Sporny: so the payswarm system should support the full range
Manu Sporny: if you look at a 2-percent surcharge on that transaction it doesn't even register, so you'd have to do hundreds of thousands of those transactions to make money off of it
Manu Sporny: storing those transactions on disk would cost more money than the transaction itself
Manu Sporny: which would be cost prohibitive
Manu Sporny: we're starting from the point "let's build a really flexible system" and see what they do with it
Manu Sporny: we want that option out there and hopefully someone surprises us building a business with it
Manu Sporny: does that explain why we support it?
Nick Person: yes, i was curious about that for a while

Topic: Financial Autonomy for OWS Working Groups

Nick Person: we may need to do a paper demo in front of large groups of people
Nick Person: and if its not accepted at the GA that's fine, it could still be world changing
Nick Person: what if we use sliders like simcity, etc., so let's programmatically allow people to distribute money that way to allow more flexible control
Nick Person: maybe when you donate to a working group you could hear about what they've been doing lately, etc.
Nick Person: there are a lot of user interfaces that we'd like to build to tie this data together
Nick Person: we'd like to have an app for working groups that have payswarm accounts that mesh well/play well with this system, if they are distributing money within a working group we want them to have some ability there so long as they generate meta data (...)
Manu Sporny: we support that today using the architecture we have
Manu Sporny: the slider thing could work like this: there's a set of sliders for say, $25, and they could select one of the working groups and give 100% to them or add another one and move the sliders around and divvy up where the money goes
Manu Sporny: at the end of that they would say "accept" (yeah, this is who i want to donate money to) and then the site could generate an asset/listing for who is getting paid
Manu Sporny: so you could on-demand generate who gets what and when they click the pay button, the money would go to those chosen people
David I. Lehn: there are examples of this slider idea out there. it's not running a deal right now, but the www.humblebundle.com site does this. they offer up a handful of apps for any price you want. you give them $X and can split it up between software authors, charities, and the humblebundle site owners. and they have live stats showing up too while the deals run.
Manu Sporny: you could do that today
Manu Sporny: you could have the GA basically say that we think the percentages should be X way because of how they think the money needs to be distributed
Manu Sporny: maybe in different locations they don't need as much money and the percentage gets agreed upon
Dave Longley: Yes, you can get as custom as you want with your listings. [scribe assist by Manu Sporny]
Manu Sporny: so a static fixed asset/listing could work that way, people could give as much as they wanted but it would break up using percentages
Nick Person: we also want to use recurring budgets
Nick Person: say maybe let someone set $1/month that they want to give
Manu Sporny: yes, we have budgets now
Manu Sporny: you can set up a budget, for instance, to allow a GA to pull up to $5/month from someone (but not over that)
Manu Sporny: the GA could dynamically pull the money from any person with that budget set
Manu Sporny: it could be done whenever they want (the money could be pulled in a recurring way, or when necessary)
Manu Sporny: so you could have a "line of grant" where people have previously agreed to allow $X from their accounts
Manu Sporny: and with this pull based model people just agree ahead of time
Nick Person: is this like a payment intent?
Manu Sporny: a payment intent is slightly different
Manu Sporny: where you say: "We need $X by october 15th, if we dont' get it, you get your money back"
Manu Sporny: the model i'm talking about is "we need a line of grant from people who want to support our cause"
(different from a line of credit)
Manu Sporny: so each person can say "i'm willing to give up to $25"
Manu Sporny: and it isn't a payment intent, it's a "we need to have a line of grant open for $25,000 and we don't know when/if we'll need to use the money, but if we do we'll pull it from your account at that time"
Manu Sporny: and people can allow people to do that as needed
Manu Sporny: a person can say "I allow the nyc GA to pull up to $5/month"
Nick Person: makes sense
Manu Sporny: budgets are supported today, but payment intents are not implemented yet
Manu Sporny: but they will be, but the budget mechanism is pretty powerful
Nick Person: i'm curious if this is supported/will be supported: what about crazy/custom budgets
Nick Person: like i want 75% of money in this account to be in the budget... we could do that in our own software i guess, it wouldn't necessarily be all transparent either
Manu Sporny: this goes back to flexibility, for instance, once a month you could pull money from a budget and then send 25% to X and 75% to Y you could do that
Manu Sporny: and that would all show up in the transaction log
Manu Sporny: you would just write the custom software to do that
Manu Sporny: does that make sense?
Nick Person: let me find a different way to ask, could we trust someone to set up an account and then we'd be able to verify certain things that they are distributing funds in a certain way, could we look at an account and see things like that
Manu Sporny: let's try to clarify terminology: a budget is strictly a spending limit that you set
Manu Sporny: a vendor is someone you're going to pay for an asset
Manu Sporny: you could set a spending limit with a vendor or say, 5 different vendors, that is a budget
Manu Sporny: if you set a $50/month budget and assigned 5 vendors
Manu Sporny: you could spend up to $50 a month and it wouldn't go over on any combination of assets from those vendors
Manu Sporny: i think what you're talking about is a business rule or a triggered payment of some kind
Manu Sporny: we don't have a plan right now for setting up payment triggers
Manu Sporny: so right now, it would have to be implemented in custom software
Manu Sporny: that said, it should be pretty simple to do some REST calls to do that
Manu Sporny: so you could do a GET on an account and then a couple of POSTs to transfer money to two other accounts
Manu Sporny: so that would be like 3-HTTP calls to transfer money around
Nick Person: ok, makes sense, this is sort of out of left field and not crucial, i was just curious
Manu Sporny: our hope is that people will write interesting apps on top of this system, it's an open standard and we want people to write open source software on top of it to really innovate a lot
Manu Sporny: maybe someone completely unrelated to OWS would write some open source stuff that does what you guys want, we really would like to see that happen
Manu Sporny: we want to see code reuse and innovation
Nick Person: makes perfect sense to me

Topic: OWS Alternative Currencies

Manu Sporny: we take alternative currencies seriously but we're not going to be able to get them implemented very soon
Nick Person: OWS is the same way
Manu Sporny: the core protocol today has a currency string so you can say "USD/EUR" or whatever currency you have
Manu Sporny: the unit is separate from the unit, so you can model chickens and eggs or dollars
Manu Sporny: so we have a concept of a currency mint which would allow anyone to mint new currency
Manu Sporny: if you can own a URL online and you have a server/etc something online, you could issue your own currency
Manu Sporny: and a payswarm authority should be able to just interact with that currency mint
Manu Sporny: so when we design stuff we keep alternative currencies in mind, we just haven't spec'd everything out yet
Manu Sporny: we need to set up exchanges for bitcoin/ven/things like that
Manu Sporny: we're sort of waiting for someone to say that they really really want to use alternative currencies before we devote a lot of time to implementation
Nick Person: there are a lot of OWS people that are kicking around alternative currency ideas, and i'm sure it will take some time but use cases will begin to crop up
Nick Person: i heard on previous calls (the payswar minutes) i heard about other ways of exchanging alternative currencies offline
Nick Person: i liked the idea though i realize that trust was an issue that was mentioned on the calls
Nick Person: there's potential there for those use cases
Manu Sporny: we're trying to provide some halfway implementation between bitcoin and current monetary systems
Manu Sporny: we want to support offline exchanges as much as possible
Manu Sporny: we just have to focus in certain areas
Manu Sporny: the future will be more an more internet connectivity, not less
Manu Sporny: so those use cases/solutions might become more fringe as time goes by
Manu Sporny: there are still legitimate uses for being completely offline and being able to exchange funds
Manu Sporny: the main thing i wanted to discuss was that OWS didn't have short term needs for alt currencies
Nick Person: nope
Manu Sporny: if there's a big need for something we might jump at that opportunity
Manu Sporny: if something changes in the future where other use cases pop up we'll focus more on it
Nick Person: i know a lot of people who are very excited about alt currencies and i see payswarm being a potentially easy framework to implement these things into -- and if i hear that people are trying to do things i'll definitely recommend that they let you guys know

Topic: Expected Implementation Timeline for Software

Manu Sporny: most of things discussed today are done...
Manu Sporny: we talked about transparent donations, we have a concept of public accounts, anonymous identities, right now if there's a transaction the only people who can view it are those that sold/bought the asset
Manu Sporny: we can extend this to show others (if desirable) to show money going into/out of accounts w/out showing the identities involved
Manu Sporny: the last step is showing fully public transactions
Manu Sporny: the only thing that is keeping us from doing that are the privacy implications
Manu Sporny: technically it's easy, we just need to make sure to be careful w/privacy
Manu Sporny: we might need something like a flag that says "i don't ever want to show up on a public transaction log"
Manu Sporny: we'll need to talk more about your use case i think
Manu Sporny: do we only need to know who is getting money or do we also need to know who is sending it, etc.?
Nick Person: i'll try to clarify this with as many people as possible, we want to be as transparent and anonymous as possible
Manu Sporny: yeah, it's a sliding scale
Manu Sporny: we can always go from very anonymous to less anonymous, it's fairly safe
Nick Person: yeah, not so much the other way
Manu Sporny: transparent donations are technically easy for us to do, but privacy issues have to be figured out
Manu Sporny: we could easily implement it and spec it out once we figure that out
Manu Sporny: doing the line of grant stuff, customizing listings, etc. that can all be done today, the custom software to generate the listings from whatever UIs just have to be written
Manu Sporny: alt currencies -- the protocol supports it, but not really a strong case to implement now
Manu Sporny: i'd say OWS could achieve a decent number of its tasks today using the existing system
Manu Sporny: we could help explain how to integrate some of the things like slider/bar-based donations, etc.
Manu Sporny: i think you also tried out the demo and wordpress plugin
Nick Person: yes, it worked well
Nick Person: i'd like to work on some node/express clever stuff too
Nick Person: the potential for this is ridiculously insane
Nick Person: that summarizes my feelings
Manu Sporny: we'll try and create some simple nodejs server (or maybe php) that does split donations so you guys can see how that's done
Manu Sporny: and let you hack on that after that
Manu Sporny: thanks for your time, nick
Nick Person: sounds great
Nick Person: thank you guys

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