Observations on the state of crypto and the long journey ahead
I first heard about bitcoin in 2013, back then it was a very nerdy thing and, I must confess, it took me a few meetups, many YouTube hours and Andreas Antonopoulos’ UNIC MOOC — Introduction to Digital Currencies — to really get it.
I fell in love with the community way before I really understood bitcoin, and here’s why: back then, they were a bunch of idealists who really felt the urge to go about changing the world.
As the bitcoin price rose, Ethereum launched and “blockchain” became the next “cloud”, a different crowd started to pop in on the back of few crypto millionaire stories, they attend the meetups wide-eyed, dreaming of lambos and private island retreats.
The truth is, the growth requires adoption. There’s no formula, secret or otherwise, to go about developing it. We have to pick a problem and work at it.
Creating a new financial system, whilst trying to tackle wealth inequality to give the unbanked means to join the worldwide economy, is no easy task.
I often find myself wondering about these issues and how to best contribute in a meaningful way. Below are some of my musings around a few different topics.
Evolved communities are built on education and this is one of the main reasons why I welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural DFFDAO board.
It is also the reason why I gladly and freely give my time and resources to organise meetups and events aiming to teach anyone who wants to learn about cryptocurrencies. There is only one goal: to help the community grow.
Big conferences must find a way of discussing the big problems in way that inspire attendees to tackle the ones that need urgent solving. Money is great, and yes, organising conferences is a business, but let’s not just focus on the revenue.
Content is really important. Getting the right people in a room to bounce ideas is also vital.
For that to happen, startups and entrepreneurs need to be able to attend these conferences, which means ticket prices must not be prohibitive for startups.
We need material focused on the basics. We need more ‘newbies’ to teach those basics to, because their difficulties and new ideas will help clearly identify problems and where to focus our efforts in terms of usability (next point).
We also need to start teaching kids about money systems and finance. Financial literacy (or lack thereof) is an issue that affects developed countries too. A quick look a debt per household reports shows us that the problem is not just alarming, it is pervasive to all economies.
The journey down the bitcoin/crypto rabbit hole often sees people through the process of learning economics (at least the basics) and how the banking system is built to lock people this cycle of financial dependency, designed to keep the masses under the rule of governments and the 1% that holds most of the world’s wealth.
Now that there’s an option, it is important to produce content that informs on the differences to help people make smarter decisions.
I have been ‘bitcoining’ since 2014, I’ve used different exchanges and online services to pay bills with bitcoin and, although the usability has vastly improved, we have a long road ahead of us.
Throw in the mix the new blockchains, the myriad of tokens and new decentralized exchanges, crypto is nowhere near being ready for mass adoption.
When I think about usability, I don’t think only about what needs improvement in terms of UX/UI, I also ponder about how to make blockchain/DLT tech work as a whole.
Projects need to talk to each other and build for collaboration. Building silos with pockets of development and turning communities against each other will not help advance the creation of this new financial world.
In order for mass adoption to occur, crypto must be easy to use. Just like the internet is now.
Imagine if instead of having HTTP as an internet standard, we had a dozen different protocols, each needing an specific browser to work. The internet would not be this ubiquitous, amazing tool we have today.
Developing tools and libraries that can be used by any project will be a game changer. The crypto ecosystem needs to be engineered for usability and collaboration (see below), not just for the end-users, but especially, for the developers.
There are a lot of silos in crypto. However, to build a truly decentralised ecosystem it is important to share. The wins, the losses, but most importantly, the lessons and the resources.
As with usability, developing an ecosystem where blockchains are interoperable and end-users don’t have to worry about how to move their coins from point A to point B.
Projects, especially those developing their own chains, must collaborate to design the standards that will build the foundation of this new intersection of internet and finance.
The Web3 Foundation is leading the way with a few interesting projects, aiming to develop tools to facilitate interoperability.
It is important that we, as a community, get behind these efforts, but also use our own time and expertise to think of solutions that facilitate adoption.
People get motivated by the opportunity of being a part of something that can really play a part in changing the world. Therefore, it is important to give those voices a chance to shout how great a project is.
Whether in person or online, there’s a lot of resources to help build new communities and engage with those interested in collaborating either with work or simple feedback.
Being on top of communications is one of the most critical aspects of community building and the key is attracting enthusiasts that love an idea and want to be a part of getting it off the ground.
Ad hoc comms are fine, but effective communication needs a strategy, a plan and great execution.
Finding the right people to run comms strategy and implementation can improve reach, broader any project’s horizon and help advance the blockchain ecosystem.
Last, but not least, I have to ‘include’ inclusion ;)
I am a ‘woman in blockchain’. I have been since my first meetup in early 2014, when I was the only woman in the room.
I was the first female vice-president of Blockchain Australia — back then it was called Bitcoin Association of Australia.
Being part of a minority, always make you think about ways of inviting minorities in. I’m not just talking about women, everyone can play a part.
It’s not about gender or ethnic diversity only, it’s about financial inclusion.
Most of the ‘unbanked’ people that crypto is meant to help don’t live in Australia, Europe or North America. They live in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
We need to pull people in from all corners of the world, as they should be a part of helping develop products that will truly improve and enrich their lives.
That’s the revolution I’ve signed up for. A more equal world.
We are fast approaching the 10th anniversary of bitcoin’s genesis block and we have come a long way, through an ardous, winding road, full of lessons and stories (good and bad ones!).
More than ever, it is time to educate, design, collaborate, communicate and include.
Let’s bring everyone in.
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Also, if you’re working in crypto, I’d love to hear from you, as I’m always seeking to chat to interesting people for my new podcast.
Lastly, this article is published on Medium, LinkedIn, Steemit and the Decentralised Future Fund website.
Disclaimer: no affiliate links were used in this post.