Walkable Onchain Communities
Why Nouns may be our first example of budding modular infrastructure
what the world would look like if… 🌸
This week we got back to discourse, questioned concepts, and listened to pep talks that leaders across the tech landscape needed to hear.
Here’s a sampling of the hits:
These are all worth watching after reading this. Here I’ll give my reflections on them as well as commentary on the need for modular communities inspired by this video essay by Studio Leonardo, Our Loneliness Epidemic is Infrastructionalized.
Infrastructure for Modern Communities
Where should I build? What features does my product need? Which interfaces do I prefer? Why should this be added or removed?
The truth is, there are zero ideal community platforms fit for everyone in 2023 or any other time period for that matter. Of course, that’s a good thing, but why do I care?
The platform you build a community in is a great start but is far from the complete solution to gathering people. After that's decided, you get into community infrastructure, the topography and so forth. The modern problem often runs deeper than platform level, mostly in how we think about modularity and architecture.
We see this problem pop up for the creator when it comes to discovery and curation, we see it in the membership models where identity is secondary or tertiary, we see this in financial rails that prioritize value accrual above values accrual.
I'm not saying I have the answers but here is why I see this problem coming up:
Siloed onchain communities confined to gathering on centralized infrastructure are left stagnant with few exceptional spaces for meaningful decentralized action.
Thankfully, newly formed spaces like Gossip Protocol are opening up to these social problems.
It’s a really tough problem to solve, which is why there aren’t too many tackling it. The verdict remains yet I am optimistic for the future and evolution of the DAO.
Let me explain the infrastructure problem as I see it.
In her video essay about city architecture and loneliness, Rachel says there are six key elements every city map contains.
The city block, buildings, streets, public spaces, topography, and land use. These are all necessary for you to understand a city layout, and you can see the differences between these two major cities, LA and Copenhagen
The never-ending frustration of LA is heavy traffic with drivers spending 119 hours in traffic jams in 2018 alone. Cities often try solving this by adding more lanes. Communities often do this with a new collection or new channels that make little sense.
Cities where driving is the primary mode of transportation leave less time and space for greenery and public places easily traveled outside of city centers.
There’s tons of research on the benefits of walkable cities and their effect on mental well-being and physical health. They’re also ideal for engineering serendipity in person.
This type of city planning often leads to social isolation and disconnection within communities. When neighborhoods are segregated, public spaces are lacking, and car-dependent infrastructure prevails, it becomes difficult for vibrant, organic communities to develop and for people to form meaningful connections with each other. The infrastructure choices end up inhibiting social bonding and cultural vibrancy.
This physical loneliness mirrors the way we’ve built our onchain spaces. Segregated in multiple tools, public spaces are largely a single centralized social media platform and bridge-dependant financial structures.
Over the past two years I’ve spent in the ARENA 🤡 of “web3” communities, I’ve noticed language, culture, financial systems, and organizational models all rise and fall with such rapid succession it’s mindblowing.
Though it may feel like we’ve challenged the way we organize a collective, the interfaces haven’t really changed that much outside our bubble. We’ve been experimenting with the streets, topography, buildings, and public spaces of online and onchain communities.
But none have yet to really hit PMF (aside from Crypto Twitter ™️ ), nor have the plethora of DAO tools yet altered the ways humans gather as people instead of a pile of money that represents a person. Though permissionless, programmable layers are incredibly helpful!
The fact is, from all the conference panels and talks at crypto events over the past few months, that web3 is still figuring itself out. And most importantly, that it’s a good thing.
We failed, to a degree, to uphold the promise to creators that they’d be treated more equitably in this system despite a technology that enabled such things. The power that humans crave through social and financial capital ruled once more. Thankfully, that power is slowly coming back to the creator in experimental ways with protocol rewards and onchain media. The DAO is also maturing in marvelous ways.
It’s going to take a lot of work at the drawing board and a lot more experiments to get it right. I still believe we’re on the right track with communities, and when cryptography comes with those developments, we can do a lot more experimentation.
Modular Architecture of Modern Community
The onchain community of the future not only needs a Community Engineer, as Lizelle defines, but a Community Architect to ensure the space exists as a “walkable community” that is healthy, open, playful, and loving.
Just as physical cities need architects, mayors, city planners, and strategists, so do online communities, and if we’re creating communities and cultural movements as startups with fully-formed treasuries rivaling tech giants, we must treat these spaces similarly.
If Ethereum needs a Creative Director, then the Superchain needs a Council of Delulu 😜 (please)
Consider the convenience of taking your passport or driver’s license to the airport for a flight. Proof that you’re allowed temporary membership in a new city or permanent if you’re planning to stay.
You don’t have to pay to view the public channels in a community’s Discord, but you might have to pay a cover charge or permanent verifiable membership to look behind the scenes and get into all the clubs.
What if membership to a subDAO is a separate fee to cover the product being built within it? Whatever the solution for you, it must at all times compliment the architecture of a robust and holistic community space.
For a while now, we’ve imagined what it might be like if membership in a community could be valuable or not and if this is sustainable for long-term community health. Do we want that membership to be a jpeg, is it dynamic, is it customizable, do we care what it looks like?
In these communities, it pays to be early, and it pays to be wealthy or well-networked. How can we imagine that evolving?
There is hope in modular systems design. As Jacob and Kevin point out this week, modular DAOs, subDAOs, and forks are a few ways we can start to see communities at the edges take shape.
We saw this week the first Nouns Fork go live, and it’s the most fascinating community development I’ve seen in a long time. Any one of these blockchains, namely Allo/Gitcoin and Optimism, can already be forked and plugged into an existing community, complete with your own Gitcoin Passport or Disco credentials to go with it! Now the Nouns community has the ability to be forked with the push of a button. Modularity is literally built into the community of the future and it’s exciting!
The missing piece that these communities should consider is identity.
Modular membership, loyalty, and reward systems will bridge economic experiences that bring humans together wherever they are. Modularity offers multiple identity measures that provide sensible human experiences with privacy and sovereignty at the forefront.
Imagine going to a Nouns community page. You hold a membership token and are taken to a page with portals to all the forks you can join, a tally of all the times you’ve interacted on social media, your interface adjusts to preferences, you find a custom greeting and personalized, curated Props based on previous votes or people you follow on socials.
This enables modular community rewards that continue to proliferate a brand yet allow for expressiveness and culture to emerge. Creators could participate in multiple models throughout a brand or community’s lifecycle and take those merits with them wherever or whoever they choose to be.
This also allows for deeper collaborations when a subDAO partners with another or maybe a multiplier is built in when a Fork collaborates with the Original.
What do you think? I’d love to hear where you want to implement modular systems into your community!