The Urbit community hosts many IRL events and, inevitably, this means splitting tabs with other Urbiters. Urbit needs its own expense sharing app that seamlessly keeps track of all expenses and IOUs in one place and works with both crypto and fiat RFP.
Urbit is for small communities. And those need a way to keep track of and to split shared expenses.
Basic User Story
A member of a group wants to keep track of all expenses in order to eventually settle debts with a minimal number of transactions.
Basic User Tasks
- Create or select a group
- Invite other people to the group
- Add an expense involving other group members
- View all expenses
- Edit an expense
- Delete an expense
- Retrieve a suggestion on how to balance debts with minimal number of transactions
Basic User Flow
- Select a group
- Add an expense
- Check balance
- Who is owed, and who owes money to the group and how much?
- Settle debts
- The app suggests an efficient way to settle debts in the group
- Mark outstanding expenses as paid
An expense can involve only a subset of all group members. It has the following attributes:
- title (For what reasons?)
- payer (Who paid?)
- involves (For whom?)
- date (When?)
- amount (How much?)
All group members are ships (
@p). A list of group members and all expenses of the group will be stored on the ship of the group initiator. Other group members will read and write from/to there.
In order to find a minimum number of transaction to settle debts in the group ("simplified debts"), shared expenses will be modeled as a flow network. Money flows from the participants who owe money to the group (debitors) to the participants who are owed money by the group (creditors). Using Edmonds–Karp algorithm, the maximum flow of this network will be computed. From the resulting residual network transactions to balance out shared expenses will be derived. A Python reference implementation can already be found here.
Note: The trivial case of settling debts among two person (group size of two) is of course supported.
The backend will be a gall agent with a basic set of operations addressing the user's needs listed above. Alongside the gall agent, a couple of libraries will be created: A library implementing the Edmonds-Karp algorithm and a library handling currency exchange rates and conversions.
Keep it simple, stupid! The frontend will be a mobile-first website.
It is an open question whether the frontend will in the initial phase be served from Mars or Earth. The website should eventually be served from the ship.
Documentation and tests throughout the code base will be present. The source code will be available in a public git repository and licensed under MIT.
Milestone 1 - Proof of Concept
Completion: Beginning of App School Live (August 2023)
Deliverables: Edmonds-Karp Library
The Proof of Concept (POC) demonstrates how to model shared expenses as a flow network and how to derive from it the minimum number of transactions needed to settle debts. The POC implements the Edmonds-Karp algorithm as well as the logic of how to construct the flow network from a list of expenses and how to derive a list of transactions from the residual network.
Milestone 2 - Minimal Viable Product
Completion: End of App School Live before Assembly (October 2023)
Payment: 1 Star
Deliverables : Gall Agent: Website
The Minimal Viable Product (MVP) consists of a gall agent as backend and a website as frontend.
- Create a gall agent containing a basic set of operations to manage groups and to add, store, delete and retrieve group expenses.
- Create a simple, stupid and mobile-first website as an interface to the gall agent.
- Add a feature to “simplify debts” by integrating the Edmonds-Karp library into the gall agent. The agent can suggest a way to balance out shared expenses with a minimal number of transactions.
- Synchronize expenses among the group members.
- Handle different currencies. Retrieve the current exchange rate and do conversions between currencies.
- Make the app available through Software Distribution.
Since the list of expenses is stored on the group initiator's ship, when it is down other people can not synchronize their state of the application.
Additional Future Work
The future of the app could entail:
- A robust decentralization/synchronization mechanism which addresses the limitation raised above
- A more polished interface
- An integration into Groups
- Apps for Android and iOS
- A new feature to categorize expenses and derive statistics
- Yet unforeseen improvements
I am in search of something worthwhile to contribute my time and effort to.
My name is Matthias Schaub (
~talfus-laddus). Even though I work part-time as a software developer for a non-profit corporation dedicated to better society and environment, I feel the need to spend my time on projects of which I am more confident that they provide sustained value to society (or at least have the potential to). That is why I am invested to contribute to the Urbit ecosystem by learning Hoon and how to build applications on Urbit. A more basic motivation is to have my flat mates on Urbit. Beside a chat, we need a way to handle shared expenses.
In order to find out more about my previous works: