My Experience so far as an OpenBazaar Moderator

in #openbazaar5 years ago

For those who don't know what OpenBazaar is, it is a decentralized market place that facilitates peer-to-peer sales using Bitcoin as the native currency. Sending bitcoin to a faceless vendor might not seem like a good idea to some, so in order to prevent scams, the buyer has the option to make use of a moderator who co-signs a Bitcoin multisignature transaction when the order is placed. In this way, if the buyer and seller have a dispute, the moderator could side with one of the two parties and release the funds to the person they deemed was in the right.

When OpenBazaar launched in 2015, I was convinced that this would be the killer app that would accelerate Bitcoin's adoption by the general public. Given that I have some professional experience with dispute moderation, I thought that my services might be of value. I have thus been proposing my services as a OpenBazaar moderator since version 1 went live and have continued up to the present with the recent release of version 2. My main motivation was simply to learn about OpenBazaar, contribute to the OpenBazaar ecosystem, and perhaps make a little of money on the side.

My experience was not exactly what I expected. Even though I learned alot about OpenBazaar and crytocurrencies in general, during this time I moderated only 3 disputes. Two were a result of technical glitches where funds couldn't be released by one of the two parties, and a third was for a test using an early version of OpenBazaar 2. In total, I earned about 4 USD, and today it is not even worth moving this from my Bitcoin wallet as the bitcoin fees are higher than the balance...

Though I completely support the concept of OpenBazaar, it is simply not economically worth my time to continue offering my services as a moderator. Other professional moderators have expressed similar sentiments. It's true that I have spent very little time moderating actual disputes, but I have spent a large amount of time following the software development, filing bug reports, getting the software to work with Tor, writing moderator policies, keeping a remote server running, keeping up to date with what the community is doing, and so on. At some point in the near future, I will simply restart my computer and will forget to relaunch the OpenBazaar client, ending my moderator services in the process.

So what should be done? There are three things that could be done to keep moderators like me interested and actively involved in this project. Not only that, these changes would be certain to attract a wider audience to OpenBazaar.

1. Add payment support for Ethereum and Ripple.
Part of the reason that I have moderated so few transactions is that there are not a lot of sales being made on the network. This is partly due to the fact that Bitcoin fees are prohibitive, and transaction times are glacial. An easy solution would be to add support for a few standard cryptocurrencies that work. The OpenBazaar team is currently working on adding support for Zcash and Bitcoin Cash, but I think that this is the wrong approach. These two coins have niche markets and will not attract a significant amount of new buyers and sellers. Instead, the development team should add support for a few widely used cryptocurrencies that have the most secure future. Of course, you could debate which ones are the best, but it seems to be a no brainer to add support for the second and third most popular cyrptocurrencies by marketcap: Ethereum (ETH) and Ripple (XRP). Both of these coins have cheap transaction costs and quick transaction times (less than a minute). Ethereum supports smart contracts, and XRP is best positioned to be accepted by the banking community. In my opinion, Zcash should continue to be supported, as it is the only coin that is provably anonymous. Bitcoin itself should be discontinued and put to pasture as soon as possible.

2. Moderators should be paid a fee when there is no dispute.
In the present system, the moderator only receives a fee when a dispute is resolved. Thus, even though I am signing multisignature contracts without my knowledge (yes, that is how it works), I have no idea if I am being used as a moderator or not, and I get no return on the service that is being rendered (which is the knowledge that the moderator could help during a dispute). Given that moderators today can not even make enough money to buy a beer over a several year time period, there is no economic incentive for qualified moderators to propose their services. I suggest that the moderator should receive a small payment for each moderated transaction. The amount could be either a fixed amount (including zero if you like), or a small percentage. Obviously, micro transactions like this are not compatible with Bitcoin fees, and Bitcoin would need to be dropped when this feature is implemented. The small amount of income would not only give the moderator an idea of how many times they are in fact being used as a moderator, but would also keep them interested in contributing even when there are no disputes.

3. A moderator reputation system needs to be implemented.
OpenBazaar has realized that a lot of scams are occurring where vendors collude with moderators. As a first step, they will be keeping a list of verified moderators that should help buyers in selecting reputable moderators. However, what is really needed in the end is a reputation system based on reviews of the two parties. The details of such a system were already discussed long ago in a blog post on the OpenBazaar web site, and it is time to implement this. The proposed system might not be perfect, but it is vastly better than having no reputation system at all.

So, in summary, in case my negativity got in the way, I want to emphasize that OpenBazzar is great! However, if they want to expand their customer and vendor base, certain changes need to be made. Ethereum and XRP should be accepted, moderators should be paid for each moderated transaction, and moderators should be reviewed.


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Thank you for a thoughtful post on an important topic. OpenBazaar is as far as I can see an industry leader in decentralized dispute resolution, and tackling these challenges are part of leading. I and others in the EOS.IO universe are very interested in the experiences of OpenBazaar users and moderators, and we hope to learn more.

is ob the best platform today , have you looked at any p2p alternatives ?

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