Programmable Incentives - A blockchain proof of concept

Blockchain: Programmable Incentives

A quest for internal excellence

Blockchain, it was hard not to bump into the word last year. At Design Is Dead, we believe blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt many existing and yet to be discovered business opportunities. No disruption is possible without people, one of our mottos is ‘to go fast go alone, to go far go together’ for good reason. We asked ourselves a couple of questions; how we can showcase blockchain and increase internal awareness, how we can share knowledge internally and how we can engage everyone on the team.

Blockchain happy blocks

To tackle these questions, we decided to make a proof of concept that incentivises some internal processes. Along the way we try to engage different team members (designers, UX analysts, full-stack developers). Not only to create an experience that integrates with our current infrastructure and has a low entry barrier, but also to familiarize the team with blockchain in a fun and interactive way. We do have lunch sessions and internal excellence tracks, but nothing beats a real world, tangible example. We settled on two tasks to incentivize as starters: filling in timesheets on time and submitting/reviewing pull requests. The latter was an idea from our full stack team after one of our other internal excellence tracks.

A unique opportunity

One of the cool things about blockchain is that the technology has evolved from a payment system (e.g.; Bitcoin) to a full-fledged decentralized computer (e.g. Ethereum). This means that certain blockchains can be programmed with “smart contracts”, a set of conditions recorded on the blockchain so that transactions automatically trigger when the conditions are met. The code can not be changed once deployed onto the blockchain, as a result we do not have to trust a third party to reward us when we meet the conditions described in the contract.

This is exactly what we are doing with our programmable incentives; sending tokens after someone completes a pre-defined set of conditions that is known to tall parties involved.

Incentives drive behaviour, (open) access to these programmable incentives sets a stage for potential change. We want to thus program incentives that promote positive outcomes in a trustless system: cooperation, equitability and morality.

Smart Contracts

We have created three main smarts contracts on our blockchain. The first smart contract, is our very own virtual currency, Knuckles! The knuckles will be our incentive for completing tasks. The smart contract will keep track of the token balances and contains logic for sending tokens to one another.

The second smart contract is a simple module that allows us to create and remove timesheet administrators, who can then verify and approve submitted timesheets. Users and their manager can see a historical list of processed timesheet periods and their rewards.

Our third and final smart contract is slightly more complex: a bounty hunter game. Our employees already get paid for their work of course, thus the approach is slightly different from some bounties you might encounter in open source projects or open protocols. As a software company with multiple teams we use a versioning tool, called bitbucket, to better organize collaboration. Team members submit pull-requests to projects to upload new code. These requests need to be approved by someone on the team after a code review. When a pull requests gets approved a reward gets sent out to the reviewer for completing this nagging task. If the submitter did a great job and not too many changes are requested, he too gets rewarded.

Blockchain pull requests

A Bounty Standard

One thing we’ve worked really hard on is standardizing our implemented features. This means that the same smart contracts can be used for any company to start incentivizing employees or even customers through bounties. Some examples include a job request, Voluntary work, rewarding customers to view ads, smart energy credits for responsible energy usage or even automatic payment delivery in the supply chain based on location. We can even go much further in the future, where we can drive ethical AI behaviour through cryptographic incentives.

We’re currently finishing up the blockchain side of things for the project and will keep you posted on new developments, stay tuned.