Blockchain as a global, immutable catalog of content

In my last blog post, I discussed the needs of researchers in the scientific community and how those needs align well with the strengths of blockchain technology. In this final blog post in a three-part series, I will discuss how blockchain might also be disruptive in the publishing industry.

It has become almost cliche, but it’s true. In today’s digital age, everyone who creates content is a publisher. Content production and dissemination, once the domain of publishing and media companies, is now frighteningly easy. While self-publishing has provided a method for virtually anyone to promote their ideas and research, the vetting that has traditionally accompanied such publications is missing. The content world is awash with published works that have been pirated, plagiarized and even intentionally falsified.

Blockchain has the potential to address these concerns by acting as a global catalog that manages content attribution and ownership. Though ambitious, software startup Po.Et is attempting to create that global catalog.

While most content creators focus upon reach and virality, Po.Et begins with discoverability and security. In using blockchain for content attribution, Po.Et is creating a global catalog of published content and assets that is immutable, leaving authors free to distribute their content without the fear that it will be stolen or plagiarized. The catalog puts authors in control of their own content and how it is distributed, accessed and monetized.

In scholarly publishing, a paper’s validity is determined by the author’s credibility, citations, and the journal in which it was published. In reality, the scientific community deems papers published in more reputable journals as more credible, principally due to the vetting process applied during the peer review cycle. A researcher typically requires 6 years in the industry before they receive their first citation.

However in Po.Et’s view of the world, authors live within a global community, and that community is charged with policing itself. Content in the catalog becomes discoverable through a product called Block Explorer, and much like Reddit and other social media tools, Po.Et tokens are awarded by other users raise or lower the content’s value in the catalog. When content is found to be stolen or plagiarized, tokens are stripped from the author and awarded to the users who discovered the problematic content.

The idea of creating alternative metrics for authors and their published works is not new, of course. In 2012, Andrea Michalek and Michael Bushman launched Plum Analytics to create an alternate means to generate research metrics. However Po.Et is very ambitiously trying to solve the issue across a broad spectrum of content, from blogs to newspapers to content in the scientific community.

It is easy to visualize the power of a global catalog and marketplace for content. What remains to be seen is whether products such as Po.Et can acquire the widespread adoption necessary to make such a venture a success.

Whether technology such as Po.Et is adopted in the scholarly publishing community, or in the publishing community at large, remains to be seen. Whether it is from researchers with a product such as Artifacts, from publishers with a product such as Po.Et, or a still unannounced product, any attempt to use blockchain to create an immutable content catalog for research artifacts will require widespread acceptance from both content publishers and authors in order to be successful.


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