How Crypto’s Mission Could Fail

Why inclusivity is the key to mainstream success.

Blockchain is at a critical juncture. More people are hearing about it — yes, in some cases sensationally, but they’re hearing about it nonetheless. As opportunity grows, it’s important to not only think of the easy opportunities, but the necessary ones.

Earlier this week, Coinbase announced a toll-free phone line for customer service. What’s so fascinating was how crypto watchers viewed the move as a surprisingly big deal, because this should be seen as an obvious choice. Coinbase is one of the most user-friendly crypto-apps in the world, continuously showing a commitment to thinking about the newly initiated user. After all, buying your first bitcoin or ether isn’t so scary if you can call a human at any point. Crypto needs a more friendly, or at least more intuitive, face to introduce itself to the masses. Coinbase can’t be the only one to do so, and before you protest that Kik is a mainstream company using crypto, remember that its ICO was in service of its developer base and community, not its everyday user.

Crypto-converts the world over praise the blockchain’s ability to make every industry and service transparent, accountable, and egalitarian, and at Civil we too believe in blockchain’s capacity to do just that. However, are we within the crypto community asking the right questions and making the right choices to ensure our space is not only egalitarian but also inclusive?

Blockchain’s promise of both anonymity and transparency may make it read as a cloak and dagger operation rather than the truly human operation it seeks to be. Something as simple as a phone line creates the needed human touch to convince people that the blockchain community means what it says. We cannot only build community for people who “just get it.” We have to make obvious the pathways for others and push ourselves to think about what it truly means to spread the message and promise of blockchain far and wide. What are the simple product touches that engender trust? What are the emotional beats and narratives that both technical and non-technical individuals can unite behind?

Few things have inspired as much devotion and ire as the crypto space, and with good reason. Promising sweeping changes, a complete re-writing of current systems and a crusade-like commitment to total transparency, it can strike the kind of hyperbolic tone that typically breeds an us vs. them tribalism.

There is so much available to us in this new space. As such, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that this transformative technology isn’t only visible to those who have always had access to transformative technologies. We must think of the simple and empathetic ways to make this a space more accessible to everyone, because that is where the power, potential and mission behind blockchain truly lies.

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Lillian Ruiz leads marketing and partnerships at Civil. She studied history at Wesleyan University before beginning her career in the digital marketing space, where she has served startup media companies and non-profits alike. Lillian comes to Civil energized by its paradigm shifting vision of a fully autonomous media landscape, and is eager to share its story with new audiences.

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Our team

Stephanie Soussloff leads research and development at Civil. After studying geography, economics and social entrepreneurship at Middlebury College, she dove headfirst into the New York startup scene as a customer-centric analyst. She is excited about Civil’s potential to strengthen and empower communities globally.

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Matthew Iles is CEO of Civil, leading strategy, product and team-building. He studied journalism at Duke University before an 8-year career in digital marketing and startup entrepreneurship. He believes journalism is core to a healthy society, but that legacy business models are holding it back. He started Civil to energize journalism for the 21st century by rewiring how it works using emerging social technologies. For more, read “What if the news were run by the people?” and “Why Civil?

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A decentralized newsmaking platform using blockchain technology, open governance and cryptoeconomics.

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