As a new user of Narrative, I'd like to share my initial thoughts. I've already made an investment in the platform: I've spent time suggesting and voting on niches, and I've already submitted a bid on one. But I consider this investment to be speculative, because I think the chances of Narrative being successful are small.
Here are my thoughts (some of which echo those of @Peter Wagner):
(1) This feels like a platform built by geeks, for geeks. I participate in a lot of social media platforms, and I believe I have a good sense for the general audience. I think if you take the average Facebook user, and drop them onto Narrative, their reaction is going to be "WTF is this?"
I have not seen any compelling advantages for the average, casual user. And without those ordinary folks, you can't build a successful broad-based community.
(2) Cryptocurrency? Seriously? Why would you even CONSIDER this? How does it add to your core mission? This is a good example of the "by geeks, for geeks" feel of the project.
(3) The niche bidding system has the feel of a ponzi scheme. It will also seriously limit site growth. Many, many good topics will go unaddressed because nobody is willing to "buy" the right to build the niche.
(4) Niches badly need some sort of categorization. This is already a pain point. If I want to suggest a niche, how do I know whether there are already similar niches? Once the site launches, how will people find topics that interest them? A category hierarchy or ontology is de rigueur for sites that attempt to organize large volumes of content. Why did you decide that you don't need one?
(5) Why do I need to register separately for the Narrative site, and for the Community section? Shouldn't that be automatic?
(6) You need user documentation. (And no, the FAQ is not enough.) This should be developed and deployed in parallel with code. There are two reasons for this. The first is that, quite simply, it's needed. It's hard to figure out how things work. The second reason is that documentation is a great way to validate your UI. If you have a hard time explaining how something works, that's a good indication that your UI needs improvement.
(7) The content editor feels "over-engineered." I reminds me of the new Gutenberg editor in WordPress, but without the power. Again, this feels like "by geeks, for geeks." A simple text box with a toolbar at the top - like that used for posts in the Community forums - would have been much easier to implement. In fact, it could be built in a day or two using off-the-shelf components. And it would have the great advantage of being instantly understandable by anyone who has ever used a word processor or a blogging tool.
(8) I am frankly dubious about user-run sites. It's a social experiment that has been tried many times, and generally failed. What happens - in almost all cases - is that the site ends up being run by a petty bureaucracy that eventually drives people away. This is one of the things that killed DMOZ. I hope I'm wrong in this case, but like I said, the history is not good.
(9) The content review process:
"If someone reports content and it is found not to be a violation of the AUP, the reporter will receive Conduct demerit (receive negative points for Conduct)."
Wow. So if I report something that I believe is a violation of the AUP, and the content review process disagrees, I get penalized for making the report. OK, fine... you've just created a disincentive for reporting violations.
(10) LEGAL. You say that you will "take action if mandated to remove content via an official legal edict/injunction/warrant/request from a government authority."
What about DMCA takedown requests? These requests are not initiated by a government authority, but if you do not comply, you open the site to direct liability.
ON THE PLUS SIDE:
The design is engaging, and that can go along way toward attracting users.
There seems to be a committed core of people who want to see the site succeed.