How Can We Onboard Newcomers to Ethereum Better?

William Schwab
Mar 18 · 6 min read

We asked this question at EthCC, and here are some of our findings

The Cat Herders have been looking for ways to improve the Ethereum onboarding process since it was recommended as something we might look at. At EthCC Tim Beiko, Helena Flack, and myself moderated an open forum looking for ideas, pain points, experiences, and volunteers. We asked this question at EthCC, and here are some of our findings. There was some really good conversation around these topics, some of which I’d like to explore here.

You can see Tim’s totally awesome slides here.

The Onboarding Process

The First Thing They See: Perhaps there is a perception that ethereum.org is the first stop for those looking for information about Ethereum, but we discovered (from our admittedly small group) that this is not the norm. Many participants had never even been to the site at all. This means that even though ethereum.org revamped beautifully, we need to work on directing interesting parties to it, and work on the material placed close to the first place newcomers or interested parties are going to look.

Reddit: Many participants found Ethereum via Reddit and/or use it to keep up with the pulse of Ethereum. Evan van Ness also mentioned in his EthCC talk that r/ethereum seems to be recovering from a bit of a content quality low, and perhaps these two phenomena have what to do with each other. Importantly, Evan and others have also mentioned that it feels like there is less quality answering and commenting on Reddit and other forums (such as detailed technical responses or explanations). The Cat Herders had not focused on Reddit up until now and may look to do so in the future. Something you can do, though, is try to change this trend. You could try to give a detailed and friendly response/comment once a day, and this could turn around!

Also, there was a lot of talk about how we could surface niches on the Internet where people are wondering about Ethereum and get their questions answered by either ECH or other community members.

What Can I Contribute?

We often hear that people are looking to contribute to the community, but don’t know what they can do. We saw during the session that this can be especially poignant for non-technical people who are trying to figure out what they can offer. You can always drop by our Gitter and ask, if this is a problem, but here’s a list of interesting ideas that were brought up during the session:

  • There are some Ethereum glossaries, but they usually assume a certain amount of knowledge. A basic glossary of terms with definitions that are suitable to the complete newcomer, and preferably even to people who are non-technical, would be a great asset. EthHub has a good list of acronyms that may be a good starting point. That page also links to this glossary from MyCrypto, which is also a good starting resource, though their glossary is specific to their platform. A few participants mentioned trying to start their own when they joined the space, but it would be more valuable if their efforts went to improve already-popular glossaries. We should think of ways to make this easier.
  • Similarly, providing, or even aggregating and linking to, ELI5 guides to Ethereum topics would be a great resource.
  • Someone managing a page of trending topics, maybe by using Evan van Ness’s most clicked Tweets.
  • Helping existing projects with SEO would be huge. DuckDuckGo and Google both give ethereum.org as the top hit when searching ‘ethereum’, but lots of projects can use better visibility.
  • A dedicated question-and-answer forum would be huge, especially one that provides a forum for non-technical newcomers. Gamifying or even giving a bounty for quality answers would help incentivize participation by more experienced members of the community. Some of this need might be captured by the Ethereum StackExchange, but there is likely still a need for a more general forum of this style.
  • There may even be ample cause for creating an onboarding app to provide better UI/UX, again, especially for non-technical newcomers.
  • An encyclopedia/directory of figures in the Ethereum space would also be useful. This can help give context to conversations or Crypto Twitter, and much more. This is a bit tricky to do in an unbiased and apolitical way, but if anyone thinks they can pull it off, then go for it!
  • Speaking of Crypto Twitter, lists of who to follow are great, but the question can be how to put them together (again, especially if you’d like to do it neutrally and apolitically). One idea was to automatically aggregate anyone who gave a talk at a major Ethereum conference within the last year. (Maybe DevCon, EthCC, and EdCon?) Another way of collating a list may be a list of anyone who has participated in a Core Devs (ACD, Eth2, Eth1.X, EIPIP, etc.) in the last 3 months. (Later note: During editing, Hudson Jameson pointed out that Hive has a list based on their own algorithm — check it out!)
  • There was a lot of talk about creating grassroots meetups, so they’re going to get their own section.

Meetups

Evan also talked about the importance (and decline) of small, grassroots Ethereum meetups. The ethereum.org website has a list of meetups in its Community section, so check to see if there’s something in your area, or add a meetup you know about that’s not on the list.

There seem to be people who emerge as focal points for meetups in a particular region. We had one participant who sort of became the person for a good chunk of a continent that people would get in touch with when they wanted to start something, since he had the connections to find them corporate support, and knew the ropes for what they’d need to do. Over time, corporations looking to sponsor would contact him, looking for help breaking into places they didn’t know any way in to. If you are one of these people, please get in touch with us on our Gitter; we’d love to talk with you, and we’d love to know who to point people in your region towards. There is definitely an opportunity to help new meetup organizers get started and provide them with better resources.

Some of the Bitcoin community have been experimenting with VR meetups. This may be a good forum for anyone in the community who lacks a real-world Ethereum forum. What I’ve gathered is that these meetups are best for smaller, more intimate groups. We heard that MetaCartel is working on tech that allows VR to be integrated into Zoom calls, though I haven’t confirmed this or spoken with them, though if you’re interested, you should get in touch. (Later note: MetaCartel has since confirmed that they are not working on any such project.)

The Frontier

There are a number of regions that Ethereum is relatively underrepresented. These can be regions where inherent volatility (political and/or financial) or oppression may be ample cause for more adoption, not less. Also, in addition to the gains a population sees from having censorship resistance more readily available, the network also benefits from geographic diversity. How do we reach out to these regions?

If you have an idea, please drop by the Gitter and tell us. One small starting point may be a prioritization for translating meetup resources into the native languages of regions that we think Ethereum could help, or are interested in seeing more adoption in.

If you live in one of these regions, giving talks by related venues, such as meetups or conferences on the distributed web, finance, or the like may be a good entry point. Feel free to drop by the Gitter; we’d love to talk with you about it.

Conclusion

I hope this has been an interesting read for you, and I hope you’ve gotten some good out of it! Feel free to reach out with any ideas. Let’s try an summarize a bit:

  • We need to understand where people are finding out about Ethereum, and make sure that there is a good welcoming presence.
  • We need to work to improve onboarding experiences such as grassroots meetups or even just good quality answers and comments online
  • There are a number of helpful projects up for the taking to do this
  • We need to think of ways to reach out to new frontiers and communities

I also want to give a big shout out to Tim Beiko and Helena Flack for running the session and contributing to this writeup (and for the awesome work on the slides by Tim). Extra thanks to Hudson Jameson and Pooja Ranjan for editing help. You can also find the Ethereum Cat Herders on Twitter here, and this is where I’ve been hanging out on Twitter myself.

William Schwab

Written by

Blockchain Engineer

Ethereum Cat Herders

Ethereum community-led project management

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