Friday, October 12, 2012

Use twitter to create banknotes: the punkmoney concept

This year in May, I was visiting the 15th Digital Money Forum (well organised as ever, by Dave Birch and his team at Hyperion), and ran across a very elegant alternative payment concept, that makes use of Twitter as a technology. The concept was called: Punkmoney and its developer Eli Gothill explained on the forum the workings and background of the concept (see the presentation here and read an interview with Eli on the background here). With the concept, he took a step back in time, skipping to the times before money was used widely.

In these early times, we can imagine societies to be local communities in which the economy consisted of exchange of services and committments. The scale of the village/community was limited and thus a trusted network of users would exchange services, goods or favours, knowing that either directly or over time, the service or favour (helping in building a house) would be returned. Later on in history the concept of money took over, so that the chain of exchange would become longer. A favour or service would then be paid for with money, that could be used to buy a service or good elsewhere.

Now, what Punkmoney does, is to use Twitter to re-create the old 'favour/gift-economy' in which no money existed. In order to print your own banknotes on Twitter, all you need to do is use your existing account and the hashtag #punkmoney. In English you might call these: Twitnotes or in Dutch: Twitbiljet. So let's see what a Twitnote looks like in real life:

As you can see, this is a promise from me to Occupy Amsterdam (@potbanging_NL) to deliver a brief talk on the financial history of Beursplein. As I used Twitter, it is a public statement that everyone can read. As such it is also read by the Punkmoney tracker, which makes a record of the statement. This central database registers all promises made on Twitter with the hashtag #punkmoney and thus serves as a register in which you can see which promises were made.

Now back to the Twitnote. My Tweet says NT at the end, which means that it is non-transferable. Another option might have been to state: TSA, meaning: Transfer Subject to Approval. In addition, my promise is quite exact in that it specifies specific moment in time when I will deliver a brief presentation (13 October on  a global noise manifestation). Alternatively I could have left out this specific time and have noted: expires in 2 years/months/days.

Of course there's a lot more technical details to be told on how to transfer and redeem notes. But the important thing to note here is that anyone who is seeking alternatives for money in its current form, can easily use the punkmoney concept in his/her community to start exchanging goods/services by using Twitter.

As I understand from Eli, he is going to be presenting his Punkmoney system/concept to the banking community on the next SIBOS (a very important banking conference for all companies, banks, central banks etc. in the world). And I truly hope that the delegates there will recognize the elegance and beauty of his design.