Are You In?
At Blockstack’s recent “Growing Internet Ownership” event in Austin, Texas, Blockstack’s Head of Growth, Patrick Stanley, sat down for a fireside chat with Balaji Srinivasan. The angel investor, entrepreneur, and former CTO of Coinbase has a new project called Nakamoto. Srinivasan talked with Stanley about the new community he’s building and how he envisions it to be more positive and cooperative than mainstream media.
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the launch of Nakamoto. Srinivasan’s crypto community which is taking shape initially as a journal of technology, philosophy, and culture.
The contributors understand and respect that their views vary widely — and that was by Srinivasan’s design: “It’s a place for the crypto discussion that I’d like to have where people aren’t yelling at each other,” Srinivasan said. “We want to create a venue for quality technical, philosophical, and cultural writing that is of general interest to the crypto community as a whole, for beginner and expert alike. Over time we want to build Nakamoto into a real community, add crypto-native features, and start facilitating in-person meetups to discuss these topics. But our first goal is to surface important developments for a technically literate audience, and to serve as a clearinghouse for the builders and engineers in the space.”
To gain access to the Nakamoto community, “proof of HODL” — holding a minimum requirement of Bitcoin — is required, along with a positive attitude. Srinivasan believes that a lot of issues related to cryptocurrency are better discussed in long-form, and he wants to create a space where people could do that with a baseline of respect, instead of lashing out at each other on Twitter. “Nakamoto is information sharing and discussion because as we maybe run into the next boom, we’re going to want something that you can send to people and say, ‘Hey, there are adults in the room,’” he said.
With Nakamoto, wants every member to be a builder who is endorsed by another “Nakamotoan.” This community-first approach mirrors that of crypto communities in many ways; just like the Blockstack community self-organizes and proactively corrects misinformation and supports the spread of important news, the Nakamoto platform is designed to have built-in accountability and culture via its contributor layer.
Endorsements will be tracked, so if a member vouches for someone who doesn’t interact positively — or who won’t play by the rules — they could lose endorsement rights for six months. “So it gives a disincentive for recommending somebody who then turns out to be a jackass,” quipped Srinivasan. He’s hoping these parameters will foster a different tone from the “warfare” we sometimes see in today’s social media.
Fostering Collective Effort
Another change Srinivasan wants to make from today’s mainstream social media is a shift from an individual “scoreboard” to more of a collaborative effort. With Twitter, we tally up the number of individual likes and followers. Srinivasan likened it to an all-star basketball game where players just try to maximize their own points because the cumulative scoreboard is not shown.
Instead, he wants to encourage people to work together towards collective goals, much like a sales force that needs to hit a shared revenue goal in order for everyone on the team to earn a bonus. “Something that’s totally lacking from the UX of Twitter is any form of collective effort that’s quantifiable, measurable, and that shows you’re actually maximizing something of value to the community,” he said.
But what would friendly competition to achieve a collective goal look like it in the digital community? One idea to try out, Srinivasan says, would be a Bitcoin dashboard where users compete to see how many Nakamotoans they can recruit who are new Bitcoin holders. The users would receive a nominal fee, perhaps $10 for each new recruit, and the competition would help build a new community. “That would be a quantifiable and undeniable thing. It would be a real person who did this. Then if that works, that’s an evangelism dashboard we can scale out to the Stacks community.”
Mob Mentality v. the Wisdom of Crowds
Twitter at its worst is an example of mob mentality, Srinivasan says. But the opposite of that is the wisdom of crowds — people working collaboratively to author a Google doc or Wikipedia page, or mathematicians setting up blogs to organize taking turns chiseling away at unsolved problems. According to Srinivasan, we’re at the very beginning of collaborative work on the internet. It can work on a small scale the way it does now, with a few people contributing to a Google doc. But why, he asked, can’t Elon Musk enlist his 30 million Twitter followers to help us get to Mars faster? When it comes to working within online communities to tackle problems jointly, the sky’s not the limit — the entire universe is.