March 26, 2023
4 mins

Encoding Culture in Crypto Communities

Deepa Chaudhary is a leading light, or rather prime mover, in the Web3-enabled Social Impact space. I met her last year when I joined a DAO she had set up (Impact DAO Media) to conduct a definitive study of Impact DAOs.

Deepa is one of those people who are idealistic as well as tough and resourceful. It is people like this who will build whatever the next phase of the web3 movement turns out to be.

I heartily recommend the full conversation, where Deepa shares the journey that led her to the ImpactDAO space. We also discussed some of the learnings from Deepa’s work with DAOs.

Elyptik · Encoding Culture in Crypto Communities (feat. Deepa)

Below, I’ve put a summary of the main points.

Culture is rooted in values

The aim of the discussion was to probe the role of culture and writing in creating healthy crypto communities. To do this, we had to start with the basic question - what is culture?

The answer - according to Deepa - is that any culture is ultimately built on values, specifically the values of the founders and the original team.

The word ‘values’ has become debased through overuse and probably elicited an involuntary eye roll when you read it just now. In the context of a multi-national corporation, it may well have limited meaning. But for a small group of individuals who only know each other over the internet, it is absolutely crucial, particularly in the early days.

Blockchain (only partially) fixes everything

One of the original dreams of blockchain utopians was that cryptography could completely replace the need for systems based on trust and human leadership.

This is true of a payment system like Bitcoin, or a decentralized exchange like Uniswap with a deterministic structure (if X then Y). It may even work for groups of people with a relatively straightforward goal, like Collector DAOs (should we invest in X: Yes or No).

However, for organizations with complex, multi-faceted, and evolving goals, which require non-trivial amounts of human input (e.g. design), there is a limit to what you can put in the smart contract.

Complex goals demand stronger culture

As an organization moves away from narrow goals and takes on more complex objectives, the importance of culture increases, serving as a complement to the code that underlies it.

Which brings us back to the importance of values. Deepa was approached by various DAOs who wanted to join forces, but had to decline as they were, to use her words, ‘mission-aligned but not value-aligned’.

The values Deepa and the original Impact DAO Media team wanted to pursue - centered around making knowledge accessible to everyone - are not necessarily typical of the crypto space, where a lot of the attention is tied up in token launches and subsequent price movements.

The original values list - Impact DAO Media

How tokens can help

Introducing financial tokens (while it has worked for some successful social impact DAOs such as Gitcoin) can be risky if it attracts non-aligned individuals or enables them to buy voting power.

The potential of non-financial tokens such as SBTs (Soul-Bound Tokens) to act as a ‘store of reputation’ not only benefits good actors and punishes bad ones, but also makes it possible to gauge cultural fit (a process that can otherwise take months).

The role of words in coding culture

Zooming out, human culture is passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes it is taught explicitly (‘What do you say, Johnny? Thank you.’) and sometimes by observation.

In an internet context, people’s first experience of an organization will be on a Discord chat, where they can read the values explicitly codified in a Google Doc, but can also observe the behavior of members in the chat, infer the culture, and decide if it is right for them.

One of the insights of the ImpactDAO study is that while “bosses” are typically absent in DAO structures, leaders are crucial in setting, living, and enforcing cultural values. Especially in the initial months, before the culture develops its own immune system and becomes self-perpetuating.

Why writers need to catch up

It’s fast becoming a truism that if programming is how you code technology, writing is how you code culture.

The past few years have seen an explosion of pioneering developers coding whole shadow industries, such as DeFi, Music3, DePIN, and more that we haven’t heard about yet but will soon.

But what happens if the technical dimension of blockchain outpaces the cultural dimension? Well, we actually kind of have a sense of what happens.

(I would insert a 2022 montage here but I would need to keep updating it, so I’m just going to assume you read the news).

Everyone would agree that web3 needs Builders, now more than ever.

But while it may be true that:

(1) Builders = Coders

It is also true that:

(2) Coders = Programmers + Writers

After speaking with Deepa, I believe that the writing component of coding may turn out to be the critical factor in the success of one chain or project over another.

Or in other words (and you knew this was coming) the pen may be mightier than the protocol.

"The depth of both his understanding of the fundamentals of the space and his ability to intelligently research was very clear in how well he was able to incorporate  the cutting edge concepts we are implementing - and without need of significant revisions from his first draft!"

- Head of Strategy

"Matthew is an incisive writer with the intelligence to delve deep into understanding the essence of complex topics, and the flexibility in his writing style to be able to engage any audience. Matthew is a pleasure to work with."

- Futurist & Commentator

"Unlike many of our writers, we don’t need to spend any time editing his work. He also gets the work in quickly and offers a high level of insight instead of just regurgitating news. We look forward to working with Matthew more in the future."

- Journal Editor

"I had the privilege of collaborating with Matthew on a book - a long project that took many different twists and turns. Matthew was the epitome of patience but also provided good guidance and direction as we worked together. The result was better than I could have hoped for. The reviews for readers were very encouraging, and confirmed that it was worth all the effort! I'm very appreciative of Matthew for his wisdom, insight and tenacity."

- Advice Firm Owner

"Matthew is not only an exceptional writer but is also a fantastic collaborator. Matthew understands the assignment but then goes deeper to ensure he understands the context most important for the audience to receive."

- Consultant

"His meticulous research ensures that every piece he produces is not only factual, but also credible. Working with Matthew has been an absolute pleasure thanks to his unwavering professionalism and commitment to excellence."

- Wealth Content Manager

Take a browse

The Marketer's Dilemma

Nov 9, 2023
4 mins

Is creating standout content worth the effort? It depends on what you get out of it. Which is (happily) within your control.

Tokenizing Time

Aug 1, 2023
4 mins

Tokenizing time as an immutable on-chain asset aims to enhance labor market liquidity and fairness, though its efficacy remains to be proven.

The Role of AI in Writing (Original) Content

Feb 1, 2023
12 mins

We know that “AI + Human” is a better paradigm than “AI or Human”. But where does the boundary lie, and how can use technology to create content that is better (not just faster or cheaper)?

Have a project in mind?

Matthew Jackson, Founder 10 6679 3720
Fantastic. Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.