Interesting People #26: Damon Barnard and Christopher Cousins of Ignite Ratings

in #ico4 years ago (edited)

Early this year a friend suggested I check out Ignite Ratings after he heard them on a Crypto Street podcast. I listened to the same episode and was really impressed – in fact, I found it to be one of the most exciting projects in the increasingly busy ICO world, as here was a community-driven attempt to rank and rate crypto projects and bring some (decentralized) order to a pretty noisy, chaotic space. After asking a few questions in their Telegram channel, my conversations with the founders led to a full-length interview, which I’ve posted below.

Note: I have invested in this ICO in my personal capacity, but received no payment, bonus or any other kind of remuneration to conduct this interview. I found it a genuinely interesting project, and one which I’d love to see succeed.

Thanks a lot for agreeing to this interview, guys. How has the ICO been going so far?
Damon: Thanks for having us, Craig. We feel that the ICO has in general gone well, building a solid community in a short space of time. We have come a long way since April last year when the seeds of the Ignite project were sown.  

Chris: Yes, but we have also learnt a lot too. There are only 5 days left of the crowdsale, and for sure there are things that we could have done better. However, we have raised enough to make Ignite happen and see the Ignite INDEX come to life, and that is the most important outcome of the ICO.

So, to kick it off, how did you guys meet up and start working together?
Chris: We have been best friends, work colleagues, and business partners in one respect or the other over many years now.

Damon: I first met Chris at his very successful Thai restaurant around 6 or 7 years ago. We have also been working in the same business (Internet and Tech) in different roles for the last few years. We both bring very different skill sets to the table and have a great working relationship.

What inspired you guys to create this project? Was it a specific event that triggered it (for example, the whole mortgage rating fraud in the US in 2008) or was it just a general understanding for need of decentralization in the ratings space?
Chris: My inspiration for the Ignite project was seeing the disastrous result of the housing crisis in the US due to dodgy and biased ratings systems perpetrated by the centralised ratings agencies.

The explosion of the Crypto market presented an opportunity to shake up the system and present a solution that could facilitate a fair and trustworthy source of investment intelligence upon which people can access the markets.


The people behind Ignite Ratings – see the full team and their bios on the official site.

Who are you ultimately trying to appeal to with the product – there are a lot of ‘new experts’ in the ICO/crypto space, as well as experienced traders who have now moved into crypto, plus of course newcomers who are purely speculating too…
Damon: We want, and think that we have, based on the community members who have joined, a platform that is accessible and useful, whatever the level of someone’s experience. The principal of crowd wisdom applied to Ignite values all levels of contribution and aggregates it into a powerful source of investment intelligence.

If we had all three of the categories of persons you mentioned, we would have a very healthy Hive. We also expect Ignite to be used as a learning tool for many. The platform will, amongst many other uses, be a multi-resource with data scraped from all over, and also provided by users.

OK. Now, when can we see a product demo, or an MVP of some kind?
Chris: We launched our pre alpha platform demo on Wednesday this week and it has already got a positive response from the community. It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it shows our Hive members the direction in which we are moving with development, and the potential that it will have.


Check out the video above to watch the demo that the team recently posted to YouTube.

And as for a launch date when people can start using it? The roadmap on your website is still a little vague, just showing quarters and no specific dates.
Damon: We have scheduled a Beta launch for April, and all signs show that we will meet this timeline without any issues. Our IGNT holders will be able to access the platform and start building their reputation.

Chris: Our lead developer, Paul Morgan, will be writing up more details on how the reputation and rewards engine works and should be available in the middle of next week.

Does the change in the ICO landscape since the start of the year – particularly the move towards more private sales and less projects even getting to the crowdsale point – pose any challenges?
Damon: There has been a fast shift of ICOs selling out straight away to private pools or whales. It depends on what your ultimate objective is. For us it was never the right strategy to seek out a sale to the whales as we needed to build a community of users for the platform. I believe this strategy has slowed us down in terms of reaching our Hard Cap target, but at the same time, we have a strong community of over 1,500 Hive members.

I see that the Ignite INDEX is peer reviewed. How much of it is directly following the ratings and what the community have essentially voted on? Or, put another way, how much human intervention is there in the actual trading on what comes out of the community ratings?
Damon: It is not necessarily that the Index is peer reviewed, rather that there is peer review between members as to each others' ratings and reviews. The reputation engine is the key to all of this. Voting is in a way a part of the system, but ratings can actually take a number of forms, via sentiment (opinion), provision of content and research, yes or no actions (similar to voting perhaps) for Index trading signals, etc.

Chris: In the first instance, there will be a level of human oversight on the trading that takes place until we ensure that the mechanics of the platform, including the reputation engine both for peer review and Hive member reviews, are working smoothly. We don't foresee this type of intervention continuing any longer than it takes to test the reputation engine and other functions with real users. 


Screenshot taken from the demo video.

OK. Now let's say someone is using the platform. Will staked IGNT tokens be locked up? And if so for how long?
Chris: Hive members only need to stake 1 token on the platform in order to access its features. As per our white paper it is of course beneficial to stake the entirety of your tokens on the platform as they become one factor that counts towards the amount of rewards you will receive. Tokens are not locked on the platform.

How will Ignite discern between valid opinion vs bot-driven opinions flooding social media (or any other network)?
Damon: It all boils down to our reputation engine. There are a number of ways a Hive member can rate/review using the platform. Sentiment, providing content, written analysis etc. I won't say that our system would be able to identify those who are sponsored. However, our reputation engine will be working out the reputation score of a Hive member on the background. It will measure quantitative (nature and frequency of interactions i.e numerous repetitive tasks will not score high), qualitative (quality of interactions, i.e, does it add value to ratings process?). And then lastly, performance will be measured (on a simple level - are the calls you made correct or incorrect?). Note that correct scores can be for a negative or positive review.

Chris: Hive members are also subject to peer review. So for example. Hive member A is shilling a coin with no discernible or credible content, so Hive member B can rate that review in the negative.

Damon: In short, our reputation engine is designed and will be developed to identify suspicious behaviour and reward those who submit quality ratings.

Similarly, does Ignite differentiate between ratings from discerning (educated) sources vs public opinion (wisdom of the crowd)? Is this built into the platform/something you guys are working with in mind?
Chris: All users on the platform will be anonymous and treated equally in terms of starting reputation. What matters to us is the quality of information provided and the quality of ratings, not your level of education or experience.

Given that, how does the team at Ignite feel about the 'tyranny of the crowd' and plan to protect their ratings from it? You’ve mentioned “swarm theory in action” in another interview – how does this relate?
Chris: The crowd themselves have the incentive to work together sharing opinions. In this sense it's self-regulating as users which offer very little value to the hive will suffer from a poor reputation and inability to influence any rating.

How do you guys feel about the Weiss ratings and methodology? What are you doing differently?
Damon: Weiss is a central ratings agency, which is getting involved in crypto to stay with the times and grab some cash. We are a decentralised ratings company, built and funded by crypto for crypto.

Anything else you would like to add? Perhaps some new developments not mentioned yet?
Damon: We are now working with multiple financial funds to offer products which allow institutional investors access to the crypto markets. Additionally, we are working on some very cool ICOs that would like to use Ignite to launch their products. 

OK great. And finally, what are the reasons for your recent cutting the hard cap?
Chris: We have cut the hard cap simply because market conditions have changed since we launched the ICO and since we decided to offer secondaries in 12 months.

A big thanks to Damon and Chris for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Oliver Smith for helping coordinate. Learn more about the project at https://igniteratings.com or join them on Telegram here.

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