tldr: at least read the How section, as it contains organisational changes that will impact you.
So it’s been a week after the festivities - our #cryptolife hackathon, EthMagicians, offsite and of course Devcon4. Since then I’ve been mostly reflecting on the organisation, the conversations I’ve had and thinking about our future.
I hope everyone else has done similar soul-searching of why they’re working on Status.
At our offsite we discussed and attempted answer the following:
What we’re building?
Who we’re building it for?
How we’re going to do it?
In this document and I wanted recap my interpretation of the events and introduce some paths forward.
Who we’re building Status for?
To answer what we’re building, we first needed to answer who we’re building it for?
After about 2 hours of open discussion we settled on 3 targets, thanks for everyone who participated!
While we have a larger goal of reaching mass-adoption, and it was great to see recognition that Blockchain can fundamentally change the social fabric in which we build our societies, even more so recognition that it’s going to take several years, if not decades to get to that point, our experience (education) and the technology’s immaturity (scalability, developer tooling ) are key blockers here we need to work on.
So while targeting everyone is the goal, it is not meaningful to think in these terms when setting priorities, instead we should find timescales in which we can have a high degree of impact for people.
There’s also another issue with targeting Everyone, this means we would have to find global minima, which is really hard to do with so many new concepts that differ from established UX patterns.
The conversation took a turn instead on the other end of the spectrum, we should be building for ourselves. There were many justifications of this, some of us live in environments where there are real social issues where this technology can provide real world benefits, some live principled ideological lives, some just want to help make this world a better place and sadly, some who are here just for money.
Behind these different perspectives, I see that when we talk about ourselves, we’re not just talking about serving the immediate Ethereum/Crypto community, we’re describing our intrinsic motivation for participating.
Each of us have a responsibility to really feel our reasons for working on Status and let that be a daily reminder for our drive to push this technology forward.
Between Ourselves and Everyone, we ultimately identified what is currently be referred to as the dispossessed. While the term may change we identified Journalists, Whistleblowers, Marginalized Groups, Separatists, Refugees, Slums/Squatters and participants of the Informal Economy.
All of which deserve their own posts in understanding their perspectives. These are essentially personas who are not serviced well by their society. This is important to recognise, because the software doesn’t have to be perfect in contrast to having no solutions at all, but it also allows us to design systems from first principles. A position in which we put human rights first.
In contrast we can design for people who are serviced well by their society, but they live in and depend on existing legal infrastructures with coercion are their basis. They have existing UX expectations and quite frankly have ‘better’ solutions they can employ in everything we offer, their trade off is relying on intermediaries and reliance on the centralization of power. Convenience vs Security.
While we of course want to support this use-case, designing for this environment will lead to us making concessions on how we design and build these systems which will ultimately create the potential to enslave humans, in the very least open Status to being coerced.
What we’re building
"Status strives to be a secure communication tool that upholds human rights. We enable community money, community law and through privacy, preserve culture."
What we’re building is largely guided by our Principles. The more we can evolve this to be more emotionally compelling while retaining the essence, the better.
So let’s break down this mission statement.
Secure Communication Tool
Communication is at the heart of all of our coordination, it’s important to view this as foundational, as transacting with money is a form of communication, and instant messaging is another form of communication. This is why we’re not a secure messenger, but a tool that enables secure communication of different forms.
Without upholding this it is near-impossible to uphold Human Rights in software. By extension it also forces us to look in the way of open hardware.
From communication we can build human protocols, rules to which we adhere (law), from which we can build means of exchange (money).
Community Money is a type of complementary currency that is used by groups with a common bond, like members of a locality, or association, and designed to meet their needs. Bitcoin, Ethereum and Status Network Tokens are examples of these.
But Ethereum is much more than community money, it is programmable money. Sure, you can simply view Smart Contracts simply as stored procedures in a database capable of thriving in an a hostile environment. But to do so misses some of the far reaching, transformative social implications of such a technology.
It is worth re-reading Nick Szabo’s original texts on the subject:
"Smart Contracts: Building Blocks for Digital Markets" highlights the "meeting of the minds" as a prerequisite to a Contract, a set of promises agreed to in formalizing a relationship. By this notion "a meeting of minds" cannot happen without communication. Money can not happen without a formal relationship, without a meeting of minds.
Ergo Communication gives rise to Contracts which gives rise to Money.
Our cultural evolution has given rise to common law, and by the way of stored procedures in a hostile database, we can give rise to community law.
This may be as simple as the rules that govern how you split your restaurant bill, a friendly wager over a game, a means of allocating scarce resources ("Merry-go-round" micro-finance) or even a child deploying a new means of socially organising via Smart Contracts that changes the courses of Nations.
By community law, I mean the set of formalized relationships a community adheres to.
These technologies create a potential future in where coercive powers will have diminished results when attempting the practice of ‘book burning’, their inability to fundamentally intercept & alter the means, content and preservation of communication will allow people to have a stronger grip on their cultural identities, and allow people to fully participate in their grand narratives, shaping their collective future.
How we’re going to do it?
Now the ideas above are quite provocative, it is understood that if we’re successful it is certainly going to ruffle some feathers, as such Status should operate in jurisdictions where it’s goals are not only legal but encouraged.
Status is ultimately an organisation of the future and while it has its start in the existing jurisdiction’s of the world, it views public programmable blockchains as a new, virtual jurisdiction whose borders are limited by the network and not bound to physical boundaries.
As such the organisation aims to ascend entirely into the blockchain, allowing it to behave in an environment whose inhabitants are much more aligned with Status.
Which leads to a secondary reason, a split in culture.
So over Status’ history I’ve attempted to implement new organizational models, OpenBounty was the first, and was intended to be a funnel in which we could incentivize contribution for a community-driven project, with the ultimate goal of turning into a Git-DAO, and in the short-medium term act as a talent pool for HR to hire from, it was a challenge for anyone else to imagine this could be extended to support any role and wasn’t limited to developers.
Unfortunately our hiring processes and OpenBounty’s project leadership didn’t recognize this, and instead used it in inverse, as a means of running trials on people, completely nullifying the screening of intrinsic motivation and the spirit of open source development. All I can say is thank god for Gitcoin. OpenBounty has been our first project failure, and while it was always a precursor to a DAO, the direction it went is indicative of a much larger problem in the organisation.
But not all of this was our fault, sourcing people from within the movement is difficult, both because it is ultra-competitive due to the movements small size and because we needed certain skillsets that didn’t exist within the space.
As a result Status has been forced to essentially hire people from outside the movement, who are interested but hold predominant mental models of the world, and people from within the movement who see the future. We also provided no education or training materials that really helped switch minds to a new philosophy.
This has lead to a cultural bifurcation, one that many Ethereum organisations are now facing.
The next was to implement Swarms and Ideas, loosely based off Falkvinge’s Swarmwise and Ethereum Foundation’s Ethereum Improvement Proposals. These are decentralised organisational structures that allowed for the emergent behaviour of team formation with leadership. Swarms included leadership and required both requirements before starting and doing post mortems. The issue is that we were essentially running this on paper and the rules weren’t enforced, especially around individual’s time allocation. Swarms are conceptually difficult for our leadership to understand and enforce, and given certain time pressures defaulted to what they ‘know’.
As a result we implemented ‘Teams’, the issue with the implementation of Teams was that it was implemented from top-down way and sprung on people. It also did not define leadership or have any process of setting requirements, aside from setting OKR’s.
It’s safe to say that we have a half-culture that rejected decentralised notions of organising and also is inexperienced and unable to implement Teams.
We also have a culture that does not interact with the community. For example in the same building as our hackathon we hosted EthMagician’s with over 400 people creating working groups to solve problems highly relevant to Status, an incredible opportunity for Status to participate, however our attendance was dishearteningly low.
In addition we rarely interact with the EIP process and worse still rarely implement them.
So where does this leave us?
Essentially the mind of the Status collective is experiencing Cognitive Dissonance. It is now the time to essentially split the organisation in two.
We will continue to implement the Status Network as planned, in where we recontextualise Status’ operations within the greater Ethereum community. A true Decentralised Autonomous Organisation. The heart of which will be capital allocation, using Liquid Funding. This is by far the most emotionally engaging and interesting direction for me, I am writing another post describing the intention and how it will work, but essentially we can make Procurement and Supply-chain Management of Software central to Status’ operations, people who are closer to the decentralisation spirit that is driving the innovation will feel very comfortable in this environment, and we’ll provide a safe upgrade path into this environment.
So where does this leave the GmbH? Given the lack of innovation, the unwillingness to participate in the community and the rejection of decentralised organisation practices, it seems best to limit the GmbH’s access to funds (otherwise we will not have funds to sustain ourselves in future), and make it far more efficient and effective in achieving narrower, focused goals. I’ll be introducing more structure, create more accountability and timelines, creating budgets and turn it into a service provider for the Status Network. By participating in the Network, the GmbH, while being a preferred provider, will be forced to be competitive with other servicing entities.
The Status Network will be essentially providing an ecosystem and creating competition for the GmbH.
This will mean that each element of the application will be viewed as an individual product (although still within the same applications) and teams will be held accountable to their plans, and I’ll be enforcing a stricter methodology making stronger financial decisions and removing dead weight. The intention is to give a well structured environment to those who thrive in such an organisation and provide an upgrade path to those who are more inline with Status’ future.
Ultimately I hope to see the GmbH dissolve, spinning out smaller service-orientated organisations that operate independently and service the Status Network and other entities within the ecosystem directly.
I’ll be taking proposals for where you want to fit into the organisation, but ultimately these will be considered as suggestions. For example we can easily break the core application into
Core product, and therefore we can form Teams around each of these.
I will be asserting technical leadership to revive the innovative leadership Status once had (we have less features than a year ago, and they barely work better and I’ve let my involvement slip entirely), while still encouraging decision making at the edges where good decisions are being made. I will be requiring multiple phases for each Team that they must adhere to. All leadership must enforce and ensure timeline execution of each step.
Research, see what others are doing, look into Feature requests, check/contribute EIPs, identify what is high impact low hanging fruit.
Specification & Planning Identifying rough timeline based on guesstimated difficult, manpower and user experience impact. Before implementation a consensus of what should be done will be planned and reviewed. We will submit these to myself and the community (EthMagicians) for feedback.
Implementation / QA / Security Here is where rubber meets road and we implement the plan.
Postmortem & Communication Here we document lesson’s learned, this is important so we actually learn and evolve, we pass on our new features to marketing so they can fit it into their content pipelines.
2019 is ultimately the year where we get our shit together while simultaneously realising the grander dream of ascending entirely within the blockchain. The organisation will scale beyond our limits, the experience will be filled with high’s and low’s. But ultimately we’ll see a production grade full realisation of what I set out to do originally.
We’ll become more boots-on-the-ground driving real world adoption in areas where this technology is actually needed and is capable of fulfilling. I am looking forward to working with passionate, driven people who genuinely care about creating this public good, and am grateful for those who join me in helping make this a reality.
Would love feedback/suggestions