How one of the winning hacks beat the IPFS out of ETHBerlin… (and other hackathons)

Pinata Overlay’s world domination plans

Back in September, Santa made an early visit and gave us some awesome winning (and non winning) projects and we are only finally getting round to unwrapping them now. We couldn’t end the year without talking about one of the sick projects that came out of ETHBerlin because we are super proud of what they achieved in the 36 hours they hacked the shit out of Berlin. Also any excuse for us to shill the talent born out of our hackathon and also to keep in touch with our awesome hackers.

Sooooo the first team to update you on is The Pinata Overlay project! This team have legit been on a hackathon tour, because in this community there is nothing we love more than hacking away for two days straight in every corner of the world. How else are we going to decentralise the planet?! Anyway, these legends started their journey at ETHWaterloo, then ETHDenver, of course ETHBerlin and ETHSanFrancisco. These are the ETHGlobal events too.

We had a little chat with the team and asked them how they onboarded users, in order of how important they consider the factors to be. So here’s their wisdom for all you (budding) hackers out there, to start building a user base which is able to give good feedback and in turn, make sure you onboard as many users as possible for your next project.

Firstly, (and the very reason why ETHBerlin exists) their advice on the most important way to increase users is to compete at hackathons. Yup, just like ours. And they told us, “it is important that you actually compete at these things. Showing up as a sponsor with prizes and having a booth isn’t as cool as going to them to build and meet new friends. Like, it’s low-key (private key?) cool that Vlad Zamfir actually shows up and builds shit.”

Everyone knows that the amount of conferences this year was crazy in comparison to 2016 and 2017. So, after attending all of these they felt that the projects didn’t really stand out anymore in terms of the way they looked. Projects were not unique anymore, people were beginning to burn out of ideas. These guys decided they needed to get the UI on projects back to a good place so the UI on their hack was deliberate. “Projects in the Ethereum space are very dark and serious in their looks but don’t embody the spirit of the space. Pinata wants to be the counterculture to that. We want to have fun and we think that devs appreciate that.” And yes. Devs do appreciate some fun and finally creativity is slowly creeping into the space. Recognise.

Hackathons go back to the rawness of the tech, before the ICO craze and the lambros. They are great places to connect, share ideas and meet the community. “When we are at hackathons, we don’t wear Pinata t-shirts and we aren’t *trying* to get anyone to be a user. Even our sticker game is underground (off-chain?). We purposely don’t put our name on our stickers so people can just have a colorful Pinata sticker on their laptop. However, what we intentionally set out to do is spend a lot of time trying to meet new friends that are building cool stuff and learn from them.”

Taking advantage of the vibes at hackathons is one way to gain awareness of what people are building and what they are working on. Sometimes at 3am you learn more than ever, even just overhearing other people discuss their projects with fellow hackers. If they happen to need help with IPFS, then this team is always down to help (without shilling Pinata). From these experiences they hope that people will then recommend us when somebody asks them about IPFS.

The second tip from the team on how to onboard users is… Video calls. “It’s crazy how many video calls we’ve had with different projects just asking them how they use IPFS. Similar to how we approach hackathons, we don’t really go into the calls trying to get them to be a user. It’s more like two projects jamming out about what they’ve built and seeing if we can help each other.”

Last tip?! Medium posts. “Your Medium posts need to help people. Sharing updates and progress about your project is okay but shouldn’t be the majority of your posts.” So mix it up. Don’t just post your monthly updates, or opinion pieces, and only update the community when you have legit news. Switch your content to more practical education, for example, write tutorials, even if it directly shows people how you built your project. These posts are way more successful at gaining users than shill posts. “At Pinata, we *try* to abide by a 5-to-1 Tutorials-to-Shill post ratio. We believe that if you provide more to the community than you receive, you will get users.”

This all sounds amazing, but what is their main challenge now?! The team told ETHBerlin that for them, and also through feedback from the community, finding common architecture patterns with Ethereum dapps that use IPFS.

“First, do they care about centralization vs decentralization? Where are they on the scale and what does that even mean? We’ve seen some projects doing 5x replication of data across IPFS nodes and some only doing 1x. But, the 5x project was all on AWS and the 1x was hosted locally on the desktop. Which one is better? Should it be a mix? How important is going across cloud providers? What about geography? Does maximum decentralization mean one node at the device, one node on AWS in California, one node on DigitalOcean in Germany, and one node on a random server in my basement that may or may not be online? Additionally, we’ve seen projects that try to put nodes on the desktop and then offer replication in the cloud if the user wants it.”

So, they are really trying to figure out what projects are looking for when it comes to decentralization and build out a matrix that hits the sweet spot. The ecosystem is still brand spanking new and we have a lot to learn, so we should never stop asking questions.

So where now for our winning team?! As for next steps, they would love more video calls within the community! If there are devs or projects out there struggling with IPFS, these guys are here to help, so reach out and jump on a call. They want to learn more about how people are utilizing IPFS with their dapp. For the Pinata overlay, expect lots more progress. They are planning to continue adding features as they progress but the most important part is talking with devs building with Ethereum and IPFS.

Their last tip: “We don’t want to build something top down from our opinions. Ultimately, that’s the hardest way to gain users because you built something nobody wants.” PREACH GUYS!

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We will be reaching out to all our awesome projects… So stay tuned for more on them. And we will have more news to update you on some other stuff we’ve been planning and working on because we are just non stop over at DoD HQ.