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🎚 Trust Levels

SourceCred's purpose is to empower communities to allocate rewards to contributors, through Cred and Grain. However, this allocation leads to gaming opportunities which are not part of the community values. For SourceCred to help sustain community safety, it must be resilient to such gaming.

The kinds of gaming that will happen depends on the ambient level of trust and social cohesion within the community. A small community of aligned, like-minded members might see very little gaming, where the majority will work together to make sure everyone is fairly credited. Whereas a larger and more anonymous community may have members who choose to focus on increasing their scores, rather than the community's mission.

The SourceCred team has developed the concept of "Trust Levels" in an attempt to determine which communities SourceCred is ready to support, provide a structure for communities using SourceCred to use if they choose, and consider what kinds of problems communities might encounter along the way.

  • Trust level 3 (TL3): Collaborative. This is the highest trust level. It is taken as common knowledge that everyone in the community is acting in good faith. People feel comfortable reflecting on their own incentives: β€œAm I subconsciously skewing the Cred to benefit myself?”; β€œHow have my motivations changed over time?”. When asking the same questions of others, we trust that the responses are thoughtfully and truthfully given. Discussions of accidental or subconscious gaming are treated as precious data to be shared and analyzed, never as evidence of any kind of wrongdoing.

    As an example, imagine a group of friends launching a startup together, with a bold vision of improving the world.

  • Trust level 2 (TL2): Wary. The community has a core backbone of contributors that are focused on common goals, but some members may be more focused on optimizing their own rewards. TL2 is primarily distinguished from TL3 by good faith is no longer a uniform assumption. Expect skewed voting records, underrecognition of others’ help, and quarrels over attribution or allocation.

    As an example, imagine the startup is now a growing company. The "core group" is motivated by the vision, but some of the new hires just see it as a job.

  • Trust level 1 (TL1): Alert. This community controls a scarce resource. That resource is considered intrinsically valuable by some people outside the community, who are willing to devote their time to acquiring that resource without much thought for scruples. TL1 is primarily distinguished from TL2 by gaming being the main goal rather than an opportunistic β€œside hustle.” Expect voting cliques, sybils, chains of obfuscated self-dealing, and attempts to corrupt structures of leadership and governance.

    As an example, imagine that the startup is now a large company. It has hired a lot of ex-management-consultants and business school types.


This is only one dimension among several that will influence a community's experience with SourceCred.

Using SourceCred healthily also requires emotional maturity, conflict resolution skills, and community leadership.


It’s important to recognize that trust level varies both with time and with community. As of mid 2020, the SourceCred community is in TL3, but (e.g.) some communities are surely in TL1.

A given iteration of the SourceCred system will be appropriate for some subset of trust levels. As of SourceCred 0.5.0, SourceCred has been tested in TL3, is experimentally available for Tl2, and should not be used in TL1.