Creating Culture Within Communities
How Bounties Can be Used to Incentivize the Growth of Culture in a Broad and Diverse Manner
Two weeks ago at Devcon 5, I was lucky enough to deliver a talk about a thesis which had been gestating for quite a while. The talk told the story of Bitcoin’s rise to global digital asset dominance, and explained the importance of culture for having gotten it there. I showed how many of the disparate actors and stages within the ecosystem, from Satoshi’s original paper, to BitcoinTalk forums, to the Silk Road, had led to the formation of an ever-evolving and fragmenting culture. Most importantly, I described how critical cultures are for bringing people into communities and keeping them there. I also hinted at some ideas about how cultures can be successfully built.
For more on the importance of culture, see the talk in its entirety:
Building a Culture From Thin Air
One of the important aspects of building cultures is that it’s difficult to accomplish in an intentional or directed way — the second you start trying to shape what’s “cool” within a community, an awkwardness washes over the endeavour. This is the same feeling that we experience when we see grown adults trying to mimic youth culture: you’re trying too hard.
In light of this, how does a community — with its own set of goals and values — begin to create its own culture? While we aren’t experts in this field, we have seen various organizations using bounties to successfully create a culture by leveraging the power of incentives to organize action.
Many Views of the Same Focal Points
One of the ideas I discuss in my talk is the notion of a focal point: an object, a word, an event, a person, any thing, which acts as a manifestation of the community in the real world. Good focal points give communities critical fulcrums around which they may revolve. I also note the importance leaving focal points as vaguely defined as possible, so that there’s enough freedom for individuals to see whatever they please within them. The Ethereum diamond is a great focal point, since it can be interpreted with so many stylistic angles that it can easily express the universal nature of the technology it’s meant to represent.
This past year, the ETHNewYork hackathon organizing team decided that their primary focal point (their mascot and logo) would be the Pizza Rat. However, instead of putting it on themselves to create visual representations of the Pizza Rat, they left it to their community using a bounty.
Pizza Rat Design Challenge
🗽 The official mascot for ETHNewYork is Lady Liberty, but secretly, we all know her cute and plucky counterpart steals…
The team experimented with our competition format for the bounty, so that anyone could freely create their own designs for the Pizza Rat, without having to ask for permission. Then, once submissions had been collected, organizers turned to their community on Twitter, to let the public vote on which images were the best.
What resulted was a beautiful myriad of images of the Pizza Rat, running around doing all the things that pizza rats do. The winning image was selected for being the best representation of the goals & values of ETHNY:
“Everyone Deserves a Piece”.
This bounty showed a great example of how communities can crowdsource media to create new interpretations of their focal points. This is powerful because it opens up the creation of focal points to the many rather than the few: anyone could freely submit an image, and anyone could vote on which ones were the best. In this way, it wasn’t the organizers who created the focal point (beyond seeding the initial idea), it was the community creating their focal points together.
Creating Spaces For Culture to Form Itself
Another aspect of forming culture that we know well is the importance of events, through the creation of new connections between the nodes within a given community. Events allow new members to meet other like-minded individuals, and create spaces for ideas to move much faster than they might otherwise, using online forums.
Again, we see a number of examples of teams using bounties to help them run events, whether it’s explicitly paying people to run meetups, or using bounties to incentivize referrals to discover the best individuals in new areas who can run them:
Refer a friend to Maker's Community Meetup Grants program
Grassroots meetups are a powerful and fun tool for interacting with your local community. They're also a great way to…
In this way, community organizers can scale their event-planning activities by having other people run the events, rather than trying to do all of the organizing themselves. This is incredibly important for teams which desire to have a global presence, but don’t have team members in all markets, and need to avoid the high travel costs of flying team members across the world. We strongly believe that bounties can be powerful for helping communities reach a global scale, by helping them run events in a cost efficient and scalable manner.
Bringing In Fresh Faces
One of the key elements of the thesis on the importance of culture is the way that it brings in new people to an ecosystem. Communities which are able to successfully bring in lots of new members will have an easier time getting discovered by new contributors, funders, and users.
Once more, we see that bounties can be powerful tools for pulling people into communities, when companies choose to spend their user acquisition costs more wisely by giving the funds to new users, rather than spending it on advertising.
There are a plethora of on-boarding bounties which have accomplished this successfully, one of which includes Opera’s recent bounty:
Experience Web 3, get your first bounty with Opera 💸
Opera is the first browser to come included with a built-in wallet, allowing you to sign in to websites, do payments…
By incentivizing users to on-board, you can help them get past the mental fatigue of joining your new platform or community, and have them join for long enough to realize it’s real value to them.
These are only just a few examples of how cultures can be built using incentivized tasks, but hopefully this post can begin to paint a picture about how it is indeed possible to create a culture from thin air, if you’re brave enough to experiment with how you disburse your tokens to new users. This is only the beginning though, and we’re excited about how communities will continue exploring how bounties can be used to create and grow their cultures.
Finally, many who encounter bounties for cultural tasks might balk at the idea of paying people to do tasks which “loyal community members should already do on their own, based on intrinsic motivations”. However, it’s important to remember that many of the people who are joining our web3 communities are focussed on more pressing issues of paying their rents and getting food on their tables. Using tokenized incentives for these types of tasks is a great way of showing consciousness about the disparity between the abundance many have achieved within our ecosystem, and the status quo for so many in the world. 🌎🌍🌏