Credentials are how we communicate learning to each other. At fathom's core is a decentralized assessment protocol that allows us to create credentials that scale.

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Why Credentials Matter

Credentials are how we communicate to the world what we know and what we can do. Examples include degrees, certificates, titles, letters of reference, and other records of achievement. They assert our knowledge, qualifications, and experience.

Our society functions on knowing what people can do. Everybody needs to communicate their skills and abilities to coordinate with others. In small communities we can achieve this through direct interactions and word of mouth. But in large populations, we rely on institutions to fill that role.

The problem we face today is that we need to communicate a greater diversity of skills and experiences than ever before. And we need the ability to do so across geographic, cultural and linguistic barriers.

We need a system of credentials that accommodates rather than constrains us -- one that encourages us to pursue, learn, and make new connections; and one that enables us to communicate these skills with each other.

Fathom Credentials

Fathom makes it possible to create and assess credentials for any kind of knowledge or skill.

Fathom introduces a consensus protocol for people to collectively create credentials. Communities form around credentials they care about. Members work together to create defintions, and then use those to assess others and issue credentials. This moves the credentialing process away from the exclusive domain of institutions, and makes it something anyone can participate in.

This makes it easier for anyone to earn the credentials they deserve. It makes possible a credential ecosystem as rich and diverse as the population of learners. Pathways are opened for individuals to learn and build experiences in unique ways. Opportunities are created for learners to collaborate with others in their expanding universe of knowledge communities.

Fathom is built and deployed as a system of smart contracts on the public Ethereum blockchain. This is important because it allows the protocol to function transparently and without a central authority. It removes a single point of trust, failure, or control, and makes it possible for anyone to use or extend it.

How it works

  1. You offer tokens to start an assessment and indicate the number of assessors you desire.

  2. Assessors are notified and can accept by staking tokens of their own.

  3. You communicate separately with each assessor to carry out an assessment, and each of them submits a score.

  4. Each score is measured against the overall consensus, and each assessor is rewarded or punished accordingly. Your final score is based on the consensus.


What is a "decentralized consensus protocol for assessments"?

It is a way for people to be tested by a distributed group of peers. Fathom's assessment protocol outlines a set of rules and procedures for evaluating any skill or knowledge.

What makes it decentralized is that the testing process is not run or controlled by a central entity, like a school or testing service. Instead, there is a distributed online community of qualified individuals from which multiple assessors are randomly drawn.

The score, or test result, is determined by the consensus (i.e., majority) opinion that forms among the assessors. Assessors are rewarded for reaching a consensus. However, the protocol design incentivizes assessors to conduct their evaluations honestly and independently, while disincentivizing them from colluding with each other.

Why use tokens?

We use a token within the credentialling protocol to incentivize assessors to come to consensus. Under the ever-evolving classification of crypto-tokens, it's a "staking" token.

Because the token is used to pay for assessments, it roughly reflects the value of the credentials in the network. This means that assessors, who have to hold the token in order to stake, will make assessment decisions in order to increase the value of the network. This is a powerful tool for creating a scalable and meaningful credentialling system.

Why use a blockchain? Why ethereum?

Deploying the assessment protocol as a smart-contract system on a public blockchain is incredibly valuable.

Firstly it makes the credentials robust. They're not controlled by any one entity that can fail or be corrupted, and so you can know you'll always have them if you earn them. This also goes for the tokens that back the protocol.

Secondly it allows people to interact with them through the cryptographic identities you use to interact with blockchains. These can be simple or complex, but ultimately are in control of the user, no one else. They're self-sovereign.

Finally having the system run on a public blockchain allows it to be taken and extended by anyone else, permissionlessly. We're trying to build an ecosystem with fathom and so this quality is essential.

But why specifically Ethereum?

When we started working on this Ethereum was essentially the only option. Today there are other competitiors but ethereum has them beat for developers tools and community. More importantly however, public blockchains are valuable because of the interoperabilty and network effects between different applications, and Ethereum has the most meaningful applications live today of any blockchain.

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