Issue #75: Hey...Do You Know Who I Am!?
I started writing this issue a month ago and hit a wall. Sometimes you need to give your brain a few days, or a few weeks, to figure something out for you. Anyway, I’m taking another crack at it.
Web 3 has created a new organizational function called community management. Today, the community management function for DAOs and other decentralized projects feels like a combination of investor relations and user support. Because these communities congregate on social platforms like Discord, Twitter and Telegram, community management also blends into and gets confused with social media management too.
What community management should be is more like Human Resources - identifying talent and supporting contributors. We’ll get there, but for that to happen we need better social tools.
Right now we’re trying to squeeze Web 3 community dynamics (square peg) into Web 2 social platforms (round hole). It’s awkward and disorganized, and it stems from the way our online reputations are managed.
Let’s zoom in…
We’ll start with the current paradigm - our online identity/reputation exists at the application layer. Here’s an example to illustrate:
Imagine you start using three new social media applications today. On Day 1, you have zero reputation. You’re a nobody. You may be accomplished in real life - a prolific writer, serial entrepreneur, professor - but none of that gets recognized. You start from scratch.
Assuming you regularly engage on all three applications each day, you will slowly build a distinct reputation on each application that get’s recognized by whatever metrics the platform incentivizes - followers, subscribers, karma points, etc.
As it relates to your online reputation, each application is a silo. The application owns your data and stacks their own reputation model on top. Application A doesn’t consider your reputation on Applications B and C, and vice versa. At the data and reputation level, you are three separate people. This is the case across Twitter, Discord, Telegram and Discourse - the four major applications Web 3 communities use to engage.
Even though Web 3 communities transcend the social tools they rely on, they are beholden to these silo’d reputation models.
Replace “You” in the diagram with any Web 3 project (DeFi protocol, NFT project, decentralized web service) and the same problem exists. Just like your real-world reputation transcends each application, but isn’t natively recognized, your reputation in Web 3 projects transcends each application, but isn’t natively recognized.
Herein lies the problem.
Web 3 projects have to use Web 2 social applications to communicate and coordinate without the benefit of a shared reputation system. Sounds trivial, but it makes community management a nightmare. If Person A comments on a proposal or responds to a thread, how do I know how much weight to assign to their opinion?
One of the biggest shifts in Web 3 is the extraction of your identity/reputation out of the application layer into the user layer.
I re-read the last sentence and it struck me just how backwards social reputation is online today. Of course our online reputations should live at the user layer! That’s how it is in real life. But they never have.
If we’re going to make this transition, we need social applications that recognize reputation, not create it. If you’re wondering what this new user experience feels like, look no further than DeFi.
We hop from one DeFi application to another, dragging our tokens with us in a wallet that we control. Now replace the DeFi applications with social applications, and the tokens with NFTs representing our status and reputation in a particular Web 3 community.
I can move seamlessly from one application to another without losing my reputation. This will have a big impact on the community management function.
The Future is Token Gated
A by-product of this shift is the Internet becomes increasingly token-gated, and we’re seeing this play out in every corner of Web 3.
To mint an NFT, you need a ticket
To gain early access to Gallery.so, you needed an NFT pass
To access the Nouns discord channel, you need to hold a Noun
You need to hold a minimum number of tokens before you can submit a governance proposal
To access your newsletter, I need at least 500 tokens
To comment on this thread, I need to have a certain status in the community
From a pure community management and governance standpoint, I’m a fan. Token-gating, if elegantly implemented, can minimize noise, elevate the conversation and dramatically improve efficiency.
Sorry, but not all voices have equal weight.
Now, in a hyper-financialized Internet where every NFT has a market price, one unintended side effect of pervasive token-gating is it disproportionately rewards those with more capital. The more capital you have, the more reputation you can acquire. Put this trend on a long enough timeline and you have just recreated the online equivalence of the class systems and wealth gap that plague our real-world societies.
This is why it’s so important to scale the earned reputation component of your communities. If merit replaces capital as the gating item to reputation, Web 3 communities will thrive.
Do we need a reputation protocol? Is anyone working on this?
Thanks for reading,
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One thing I've been struggling with is how to combine portability of reputation with the notion that reputation is contextual, i.e. can't be disconnected from the context (community, app, ecosystem, platform, ...) in which you've earned that reputation. Also, reputation if often recognised and rewarded based on peer-level interaction, hence reputation is also linked to the context-specific social graph. It's a reflection of any individual having multiple 'yous' and 'yours': yous being the different personas and affinities one exhibits across work, life and play; yours being the different social networks (and graphs) one has connections to and interacts with. Depending on the yous and yours, people tend to have different skin-in-the-game, from passive to active to leading ...
There is definitely value in being able to aggregate reputation across your different 'yous and yours', as long as the source context is not lost ...
See also: https://medium.com/design-bootcamp/web3-building-trust-in-trustless-communities-fe1abd6bb1e4
We do - the question is if reputation should be transferable / buyable at all. In web2 you don't just buy a uni degree or a drivers license.
Extremely excited about this topic and have been looking into it for a while. Here are two i've identified:
Anyway, would love to chat about this and get your thoughts on how this should be built.