How NOT to onboard people to the decentralized world

(And make them feel bad about themselves at the same time)

I’m having an angry day.

With all the ETHBerlin mess, we’re still trying to wrap up our efforts, as this hackathon had many verticals that need to be properly analyzed, clear & detailed reports written, and we would like to connect ambitious projects to like-minded institutions to ensure their future.

The projects arising from the hackathon completely exceeded our expectations. A new cross chain PoA testnet — faucet included? Transactions signed with an Estonian Government Issued ID? Private smart contracts via fully homomorphic encryption? in 36 hours? Yes, that happened. More projects here, and a recap “when it’s ready”.

Our onboarding experiment was not as large as expected but it had some positive impact. Again, as we are asking for user reports, and there are some dApps wrapping up their ETHBerlin ops, it might take some weeks till we have a comprehensive report on the matter.

But this article is not about that. This article is about the issues I have found on (failed) onboarding attempts, that are making “nocoiners” — gosh, I hate that term — frustrated, wary of decentralization, and even worse, feeling inferior by our bullishness and our treatment towards them.

Our echo chamber is (quoting a friend) an utter crescendo of wank. We shouldn't look down on people for having Facebook, or not using crypto. WE ALL PAY RENT IN FIAT (remember Dan — from the John Oliver vid? you are becoming Dan).

During the ETHBerlin organization process, we had people from all backgrounds to come help us, and I received complaints of non-blockchain people being insecure because they were insisted repeatedly to install metamask, get an airdrop of tokens — mind you, Sir, they won’t be able to do anything besides testing a platform for the platform’s benefit because you are not airdropping ETH for them to pay for transactions. I heard from people being looked down at because they wanted to get paid in FIAT. Berlin is a cash-based city, it has always been that way — could you possibly be more tone-deaf?

I get paid in FIAT. I choose what to buy on ETH or MPToken after I paid my expenses. I don’t want to go to Kraken every single time I need cash. I need cash because I like to buy stuff — I am a person living in this capitalized world.

I heard reports on non-blockchain people that were bombarded with information, and got incomprehensible docs while being told to “figure it out”. Is that how you want to onboard people? not only asking them to do your job for you but with bad documentation and no follow up at all? Follow up! If you care about your platform, make sure people understand ALL documentation, don’t bail out on them, NEVER LEAVE YOUR USER ALONE.

“I convinced the café I like to co-work from to start taking crypto payments” well, good for you, you must be so comfy now, just using your phone to pay for your croissant. Have you also informed him/her of the regulatory uncertainty, price volatility, and the real use of the x currency you onboarded him/her on to? Oh, no? Well done, Sherlock.

We need to educate people on why their privacy and data are important. We need to explain to them why institutions have disappointed us and tell them that we are building a better world, and you can help them discover it. They don’t need you to come at their doorstep like a fake perfume salesman that won’t leave them alone.

We are past the stage where a user would get curious, dig in, and discover a wonderful world of financial freedom — the curious ones have already done this. We need to cater our future audience — the world.

Be responsible, never leave your user alone, find out about their background, see how their city operates and what is the country and city’s rate of crypto adoption. Check in case you don’t know about regulations against crypto. But never leave your user alone. At this critical stage, they are helping you, not the other way round. We need users, not vice-versa. Mass adoption won’t happen via airdrops with mediocre manuals and documentation, or by downloading Metamask. Get off the high horse and grow some empathy.