Eli Gothill on Punkmoney 0.2

Written by Eli Gothill Thursday, 29 March 2012 06:35
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A community is a group of people who honor each other’s gifts, who can trust that their gifts will be reciprocated some day, in some way. – Bernard Lietaer

#PunkMoney is a Twitter-based promise currency anyone can print, transfer or redeem on Twitter, using a simple syntax. The idea began in October last year, around the time of Occupy Wall Street and the Contact conference in New York. Since then it has undergone some refinement, and the PunkMoney tracker has been deployed. Last week, I did an interview for Dowser magazine, where I explained some of the sources of inspiration and ideas behind the project.

This led to #PunkMoney receiving some renewed attention, while I happened to be working on the next version of the tracker. I’ve finally deployed the second versiontoday (PunkMoney 0.2.)

So this post is all about new features, and developments to the project. (For an introduction to #PunkMoney, read this.)


The first small change is about naming conventions. The currency protocol, which nobody owns and anyone can use, is called #PunkMoney (e.g., with a ‘#’ in front.) Think of this as the currency code. PunkMoney (without a ‘#’) will be the name of the tracker: the tool for finding, interpreting and storing #PunkMoney statements. I’ve spent the last month re-writing the original PunkMoney tracker, and building in several quite cool new features.

#PunkMoney (the currency) remains largely unchanged, except for one thing. More on that in a bit. On to what’s new…

Refactored, open source code

The first version of PunkMoney was a prototype written in a hurry, on a plane to New York, in several cafes and on a park bench. The new version of the code is much leaner, better organised and makes use of Object Orientation. This will make it easier to maintain, build on and share. The code is also now an Open Source project, available on GitHub (under an MIT license.) If you’re a developer, feel free to check it out.

It was always my intention to open source the code at some point. It’s an important part of the project that anyone with the skills can, in principle, set up their own tracker. The more trackers, the merrier, leading to less reliance on any single point in the network, and provides better coverage of the Twitter API. A second reason to do this was to support communities who want to setup their own #PunkMoney-based currencies.

If you’re a developer, or interested in using PunkMoney for your own community, I am happy to support you with setup and installation, as long as I am not too busy. Likewise, if you’d like to contribute to the code base in any way, feel free to submit pull requests on GitHub.

A new way to redeem

The first new feature makes it a lot easier to redeem a #PunkMoney promise. The old method, which is still supported, is to reply to the original tweet with ‘redeemed,’ like this:

@someone Redeemed #punkmoney

Although this method works, it would be nice if there was an even simpler one, which reduces friction and room for error completely…

The new redemption syntax is so simple it would be difficult to get it wrong. As of PunkMoney 0.2, any promise can be redeemed by its recipient by favouriting the tweet:

This is nice an intuitive, and easy to do from a mobile phone as well. For the time being, it is an experimental feature. Starred tweets will take on average 30 mins to show up in the tracker, versus the old method which should take about a minute. (The slower time is, unfortunately, due API rate limitations, and the fact that Twitter doesn’t have a direct way to check who favourited a tweet.)

A trust score

A second major new feature is the introduction of a trust score for each user. Although I’ve done some previous thinking on perspectival ways to measure trust, I opted for naive representation of trust for the time being. So your trust score just means, for now, the number of people who trust you, who are part of the #PunkMoney trust network already:

While this is definitely simplistic, it’s a start. As (and if) the network grows, I’ll explore how this can be updated using a hubs and authorities algorithm to measure influence more precisely. For the time being, it’s meant as a quick way to find out how many people trust a given user, and who they are.

Finally, the trust map

The most exciting new addition to the tracker is the trust map. This is a network graph, which represents each user in the #PunkMoney network as a node. The connections between two nodes indicate a trust path. At a glance, it shows who’s in the trust network and how they’re connected to each other. Clicking on a user shows all the relevant information about them.

This replaces the previous global trustlist, which didn’t provide any insight into the actual relationships between users. Although the map is fairly simple for now, it’s a starting point for a more complex version.

Next steps

The feedback and interest in #PunkMoney has been encouraging, so I plan to keep working – and collaborating – on the next iterations of the tracker. There are some very cool new ideas to work on already, though I’m cautious about over-complicating the project. 

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