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From beach cleanups to user research, bounties are reinventing how organizations incentivize communities to take action

When we talk about the future of work, what we’re usually talking about is the future of earning: how are people’s sources of income changing? Blockchains have not only helped far-flung users transact more efficiently, but they’ve also opened up new incentive systems and completely new sources of income for communities worldwide.

At Bounties Network, we’ve taken a most primitive form of incentive — the exchange of tokens for services rendered — and spent over a year experimenting with how it can be used to shape human behavior. What we’ve found is that there’s a long tail of varied and unique tasks that capital allocators are now able to fund, and the curve is only getting flatter as people discover new ways to incentivize each other.

The Long Tail: 5 Bounties Use Cases

As we analyze the types of tasks that are being bountied, the glaring truth before us is that a large majority of our tasks will be outsourced work: code, design, translations, research, and writing. However, what we’re also seeing is a new genre of tasks based on incentivizing whole communities: bounty creators are asking one or more people in a community to do something — anything — in order to spark larger community action.

If you met anyone from the Bounties Network team at an event in 2018, we probably asked you our golden question: If you could bounty anything in the world, what would it be?

Some people wanted to bounty burdensome chores like cleaning or dog-walking. Others said they’d put their money towards community commons: things like art, education, or environmental stewardship.

Gradually, we’ve seen people become more used to the idea that bounties are valuable for more than just code. Over the last year, we went out and tested bounties in the wild, and here are some of the long-tail examples we encountered.

Bounties are helping people incentivize social impact

One of the first places we knew we wanted to test bounties was in the social impact space, realizing that it was ripe for innovation. The cool thing about bounties in this use-case is how they easily allow people from around the world to coordinate and pool capital and deploy it towards practical causes. With bounties, contributors can be certain that 100% of the funds go to people on the ground who are actually completing the tasks, rather than to NGO marketing or admin costs.

One example of a social impact bounty is our Bounties for the Oceans project, which started off as a simple bounty and grew into a much larger phenomenon after we ran a targeted cleanup event in Manila Bay last December. Check out the trailer for The Bounty for Basura, a documentary we’re working on with filmmakers Will Lee and Nathan Beer about how crypto-based incentives can fix community issues and reinvent what it means to work in the 21st century.

Bounties are helping marketers scale community management

The world of marketing is rapidly changing. With the advent of the internet, marketing has gone from organizations just communicating to the outside world to organizations engaging the their communities in more meaningful dialogue. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the crypto space, where community management now makes up a growing percentage of our marketing expense.

What would happen if companies slashed their marketing budgets, and instead gave the money to people in their communities?

This is the question we’ve been asking ourselves, and we’re seeing more and more companies beginning to ask themselves the same thing. My favourite example is a recent bounty from the Status team that incentivizes members of their community who are attending ETHDenver to submit media content for the film they’re creating.

#ETHDenver Chronicles Bounty #1 (simple pictures, short video)

Another meaningful example comes from the Ocean Protocol team, which used a bounty to engage someone in their community to run a meetup for them. Again we see an example of an organization using bounties to engage their most loyal community members to become ambassadors of the organization. This is how you scale community management.

Organize a local Ocean Protocol event

Community Engagement is one of my favourite verticals, because it revolves around strengthening the relationship between a core team and their community members through the use of smart collaboration. The best way to help people feel like they’re a part of your mission is to blur the lines of your organization and have them actually help you achieve that mission.

Bounties are helping startups talk to their users

Your users’ time is valuable — you should pay them for it.

If you’re a startup building towards product-market fit, then you know that feedback from your users is worth its weight in gold. They will tell you exactly how they feel while using your product, and slowly guide you towards solving their most pressing pain points. Responding to user needs is the hallmark of a successful startup, but as anyone who’s ever tried to gather feedback knows, it isn’t always very forthcoming.

What we’ve noticed is that user research is far easier when you can pay people who otherwise wouldn’t have been willing to volunteer their time. Research bounties are a staple on the platform, and we rely on them heavily as a team. This recent example from Trustless Atomic Loans pays 25 DAI for someone to complete a 30 minute video call interview:

Complete a Zoom Interview on Cryptocurrency Mining

Bounties are helping audiences commission creative work from the world

Bounties are reactivating and broadening the patronage model that gave the world some of our greatest art. Commissioning creative work that the public can consume is a magical feeling. I put a bounty on a musical mashup I wanted to hear and the result surpassed anything I had expected. These bounties for art give us a taste of what’s possible when people put capital behind the creation of commons.

Commissioning creative work through bounties also has a potentially lucrative side: individuals can pool capital to commission some artifacts and then generate an income from either selling them, earning ad revenue for their consumption, or using a mechanism like a bonding curve for creative works that we’re beginning to see teams in the ecosystem explore. I suspect that once someone figures out how to close the value loop on bounties, these will become a massive sector on their own.

Bounties are helping teams outsource work and hire top candidates

Alongside our exploration into the deep end of bounties, we’ve always made sure that people could still use Bounties Network to outsource work and help teams move faster when there’s an overflow of tasks. We’ve seen Gitcoin use the Bounties protocol to make massive strides in the Open Source community, helping many of Ethereum’s most important development teams ship faster. Similarly on Bounties Network, we’ve seen teams bounty design, translations, research, and writing tasks, once again engaging their communities while at the same time moving closer towards their individual goals.

The strongest teams know that when they outsource work to their communities, they strengthen ties by bringing people into their organization. Bounties are also our team’s most important hiring tool: we hire people who have completed our bounties, and we also use bounties to vet candidates before extending offers. We find bounties to be the perfect way to test candidates in a meaningful way — to have them produce code you’ll actually end up using — without just taking advantage of candidates for free labour.

What we commonly see is that productivity bounties are themselves an element of an organization’s community strategy: forward-thinking teams are pulling back the curtain and letting the community help them produce the show, rather than sitting in the audience watching it. This recent bounty from Uniswap is a great example of a team with an active community using bounties to build in a more collaborative manner:

Uniswap Logo

What’s Next and How to Get Started

As more teams move from just building projects to actually shipping and testing them with users, we expect we’ll see more teams using bounties to engage with their audiences and move even faster.

What this all means, practically speaking, is that the way people are earning money is changing. By all accounts, the long tail of bounties is only getting longer, as people begin allocating capital in new ways to shape and change human behaviour. We’re only just beginning to unpack what it means to “work” or “create” in the age of the internet, but what we can tell for sure is that people love earning tokens to augment their existing income streams, and we want to help them do that more.

We’re working on some cool updates coming to the Bounties Network over the next few months, and we’re excited to continue exploring the way that individuals engage and collaborate with organizations and with one another.

If you’re excited about a bounties-powered economy and looking to create, earn, or just learn more, here are a couple great places to get started:

Disclaimer. The views, information and opinions expressed are solely those by the author above do not necessarily represent the views of Consensys AG. This article is a general interest piece and is not an endorsement of any betting or gambling platforms. Any reference in this article to any person, organization, activity, products, or services does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of ConsenSys. This article does not constitute legal or other professional advice or services. ConsenSys is a decentralized community with ConsenSys Media being a platform for members to freely express their diverse ideas and perspectives. To learn more about ConsenSys and Ethereum, please visit our website.

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How Crypto Bounties are Changing the Way We Earn was originally published in ConsenSys Media on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.