Taylor Monahan talks long term vision for MyCrypto, the challenges of onboarding new users in the blockchain space, and the need for proactive communication in the Ethereum community (Part 2)
This is a continuation of our two part interview with Taylor. See here for Part one. Taylor’s blockchain journey took off with the launch of Ethereum when there was a clear need for an easy-to-use interface to see, store, and manage your Ethereum. She began building, and eventually headed up the popular wallet interface, MyEtherWallet. In the beginning of 2018 she founded MyCrypto, where she strives to remove fear and confusion from the equation and help empower people to manage and control their own crypto assets.
User experience seems to be a huge priority to you. Why is this especially important in the blockchain space?
In traditional industries the user flow is universal– you log-in to a website with your username and password and a centralized service stores it. In the blockchain space, if your private key is compromised or a hacker gets into your account, they can steal all of your money and there’s really nothing that you can do about it. For all these reasons, blockchain apps have to be really secure, and individual users don’t necessarily understand that when they first step into the space. Another difference is that there are more hackers than attackers in this industry than anywhere else because there’s this magical internet money. There’s a direct ROI where if a hacker gets your private key they can just steal your money and cash out into fiat.
Because of these differences the onboarding process is much harder. For most sites, the onboarding process is 1% of effort, and 90% of the effort goes into how the user interacts with the product and proving to the user that the product is valuable to them. In this space it’s almost the opposite, because we have to say things like “here’s how you create the new account, here’s how back it up, and here’s what you need to do to prevent yourself from being phished” and once the user does that (if they are able to do it successfully), then you can start talking about the product itself. We need to get better education and better at onboarding, because right now it’s overwhelming to be a new person in the space.
How does MyCrypto deal with onboarding challenges?
We were very reactionary. We created this onboarding modal that the user has to step through, which answers questions like “Why is MyCrypto different than your bank?” and “How can we prevent phishing?” We really focus on progressive disclosure–spreading out the education process– rather than doing it all upfront. One thing that we’re experimenting with is specialized contextual and personal feedback for users. For example, if a user is using a private key to manage thousands of dollars, at that point we would strongly encourage them to get a hardware wallet. Honestly, it’s a constant struggle and it’s something that we’re always working on improving.
Where does user feedback come from?
A lot of our feedback comes from support tickets. I think it’s really important that people who are working on products are very involved on the support side, because when it was just me building our product the support tickets made it obvious what people were struggling with. People don’t necessarily come out and say what needs to be changed, but you’ll get thousands of support tickets that say “I didn’t save my private key” or “I invested in this ICO, but I don’t see the token”, so with that type of input it’s really easy to make changes to the website.
What is one of the changes to the platform you’ve made based on user feedback?
Originally users would struggle if a node was super slow or offline, since they would have to manually take an action to switch to a node that was online and responding quickly. We built this feature that would switch for a user automatically. If a node is unresponsive it doesn’t matter, it just switches to a node that is responsive. This improvement was made directly from trying to cut down on the number of support tickets, which goes hand in hand with trying to eliminate problems people are frequently having.
What’s the long term vision for MyCrypto? Especially since you believe that wallets won’t be a big part of blockchain in the future?
We had two distinct paths we could go down. One is creating that invisible interaction that allows users to interact with a Dapp, sort of similar to what Metamask is doing. I wasn’t confident that we could do it better than Metamask, and there are a number of really remarkable people already working on solving this interaction.
The path we want to take is being the first stop for people as they are getting into the space. Part of that is onboarding from Fiat, but part of that is figuring out what people can and want to do on the blockchain. Instead of just being a wallet where you can see and hold money, we want to encourage people to start exploring the ecosystem. One of the most interesting things that we can do is become “your crypto hub”, where you go check on the status of all your assets combined with a notification center informing people about things within the ecosystem. We want to turn ourselves into this place where we work with blockchain products, companies, and governance systems to be a one stop jumping board that encourages people to take actions to interact with the blockchain based on things that they hold.
What kinds of things will the notification center be used to inform users about?
One example comes to mind. A lot of these tokens have governance processes. For example, if you hold Aragon tokens and you’re interested in how Aragon progresses, then you should be voting with your tokens on the decisions they are making. However, currently less than 5% of token holders are voting. The only way to know to vote is to staying up-to-date on Aragon as an individual company. Our platform would ideally notify Aragon token holders about voting times.
What’s the biggest challenge the blockchain space faces with new users?
We didn’t necessarily take advantage of the 2017 bull run. We had this huge influx of new users, but we weren’t able to turn these brand-new speculator, get-rich-quick users into active participants who were interested in the blockchain or interested in the tokens they invested in. I want to see if we can instill values in new users in order to help them understand the underlying value of the blockchain, whether that’s for individual tokens or for the network as a whole. As Ethereum governance changes and staking starts, these are all things that users need to form decisions about.
Who’s responsible for the effort of ensuring new users turn into active participants?
I think everyone is responsible for this. MyCrypto is uniquely positioned because a lot of new users end up on our product. One of the things that a lot of Dapps are struggling with is the idea of daily active users. It’s quite pitiful right now. Dapps need users in order to understand what direction their product should go and whether their use case is actually valuable. If we want the entire blockchain/crypto concept to be successful, the things that are built using a blockchain have to be providing value to users. I think that right now, from a user standpoint, it’s very hard to be informed about what users can do with their Ether. Everything is very fragmented. For example, if you want to gain interest on your Ether there’s a number of ways to do that, whether it’s Compound or Dharma. But how does an individual user know to do that? MyCrypto is well-positioned to be the sort of trigger point or jumping board to encourage people to actually start interacting with the blockchain. If we’re successful in this and users start actively participating, the entire blockchain space is going to benefit.
What initially attracted you to blockchain technology and crypto seems to be the community. How do you think the community has changed? Do you still feel the initial optimism?
Back then the conversation was mostly on Reddit. The space was small, so you kind of knew everyone, and people seemed to have the same mindset and share the same values. Most were early adopters with a technical background who were really committed to Ethereum and the ecosystem. Now the composition of the space has changed, and so has the way that people communicate. We have speculators, traders, developers, and new types of people, and this isn’t a bad thing per se, but the conversations are different. Very recently on the Ethereum side there has been quite a bit of drama surrounding certain people and projects. And whether they are trolls, people who angrily disagree, or people with valid disagreements communicating respectfully, the community has been very divisive and tribalistic. Watching that hurts me, because the reason that I got into the space was because of how welcoming the community was and how honest people were. A part of me wishes the space was still like this, even though in all likelihood that would mean that only one type of person could be a part of the ecosystem. There are two sides of the coin– you want to have diversity, but it does come with growing pains regarding how to encourage the right type of behavior and how to ensure that disagreements stay respectful. At the end of the day we all have the same goal — it’s just that how we plan on accomplishing that goal can be very different.
What are some challenges of community governance? How do you resolve issues in the community?
It’s a very common thing on the internet where the tone of your voice comes through in the wrong way. This is what we’re seeing with Ethereum. One thing that I try to ask or even ask the person who I’m talking with is “what is the purpose of this comment?”. Are you just trying to get the person you’re talking to to change their viewpoint you or are you looking out for the larger ecosystem? We need people leading by example and constantly tempering the conversation, reminding people that the conversation should be about how we can make our ecosystem stronger. We need better methods for communication. Reddit is inherently polarizing with upvotes and downvotes, but it’s a lot easier to follow the conversation and read it than it is on Twitter. Twitter is the worst for any conversation both because of the limitation of characters, but also because the thread of replies is hard to track. We need to figure out how to communicate proactively, whether that’s by long-form discussions and debates, interviews, AMAs, or other mechanisms like coin voting where people can put their money where their mouth is on a specific issue.
It seems like active participation from the blockchain community is what you see driving all future growth in the space. Why is it important that women are a part of the space, and how can we onboard more women?
This conversation really applies to anyone who’s not a total early adopter tech enthusiastic. Right now the space is limited to people who have recently graduated technical universities with a computer science degree that are interested in building products in the blockchain space and understanding blockchain technology. That’s pretty limited, because firstly women are vastly underrepresented in that space, and secondly because if we want to give people access to financial services in places where financial services are insufficient, they have to be a part of the conversation and this ecosystem. MyEtherWallet was motivated by a problem that I had myself, which is why I think it was effective. I don’t think that I would be effective building a product for someone in Africa who has never had a bank account or looked at a mobile banking app. For all the unique use cases that we’re trying to build we should ensure that every single person is represented on the building and community side so that every single person in the world can effectively, efficiently, and productively use these products.
How do you encourage diversity in the space on a day to day basis?
I try to lead by example. I try to talk about how everyone can get their foot in the door. I get up on stage even when I’m scared. I post pictures of my baby on social media. I do all of these things so that hopefully at least one woman sees the picture, and thinks “hey, she’s doing this, I can do it too.” I also try to have a more proactive approach. I reach out to people that may have one foot in the door or engage with someone that has a good idea that isn’t gaining traction and give feedback and encouragement. People that are already interested in the space but don’t know how to get in, those are the people that I’m focusing on right now.
This is the second interview in a two part series. See here for more of our conversation with Taylor.
Write to Roshni Rawal at firstname.lastname@example.org. The she256: Fireside Chats are sponsored by Upscribe.