Scott: We’ve both seen some of our smartest friends jump into the world of DAOs, some of whom are even leaving their jobs to build DAOs. I'm curious if you have thoughts on why?
Chance: DAOs are attracting interesting and diverse people - people across disciplines, backgrounds, and mindsets. While building a community at Balaji’s 1729 project, I got to spend time with such a wide range of folks - those interested in education, crypto, longevity, cities, nomadism. People you wouldn’t normally meet. I just like that. I love finding ways to bring these people together and giving them social context. Whether it’s building a network or just learning from people. Identities people and those combinations are fascinating - you might be really into crypto and also into real estate. DAOs and these online communities are making it easier to meet the people who are fascinated by the same things you are and have those same niche interests.
On why now - there's a mix of things like, for one people are tired of institutions. They like the idea of having more autonomy and being able to choose and to build things without sort of traditional structures. There’s a lack of trust in traditional structures to a certain extent.
Scott: The point about institutions is right on, I would also add the ownership aspect is pretty big, a DAO feels like you are all in it together, not working for someone. A really valuable contributor at CityDAO turned down a fancy job being a general counsel where he could have made way more money, but he didn’t want to have a boring corporate job and a boss.
Chance: Another aspect is there is a sense you can just jump in, try something new, learn a ton about crypto, real estate, and meet experts. Or if you are an expert in something already, you can just come in and share knowledge. Whereas a startup like you have to go through the large hiring process, onboarding, it's very serious, which can have benefits for sure, but you kind of miss out on those people just stopping by to just to contribute their expertise casually.
Scott: Right now the default is having a full time job with high commitment - DAOs are this option something more casual, you can be intellectually free to explore, try things.
Chance Yes! As one example, I’m doing a contract for Balaji right now and there can be so many arbitrary barriers to employment, whether its regulations in different countries or prohibitions on working on multiple projects with different employers.
Scott: Interesting. My subsequent questions are more focused around community building, because honestly, when you first came into CityDAO I didn’t comprehend the importance of community in DAOs until you started working your magic and connecting people, making people feel welcome, and placemaking. It started to click, I thought this makes sense, this is important work. I'm wondering if you have a kind of a thesis on why community is so essential for DAOs? In a traditional company, you might have team hangouts, but it’s not the same.
Chance: It seems fairly novel to this space, because whether someone feels welcomed or bumps into the right other person can really change the course of a DAO. DAOs are bottoms-up, it’s all about people connecting and doing things. In some DAOs, a community itself is the product. It’s all about how do you get like long term contributors? How do you maintain strong contributors over time? It’s often not compensation in DAOs, most contributors can go to many different places. One way to think of it is asking how do people feel at a specific place? Do they feel welcomed and valued? We tend to go to places where we feel good.
Scott: Yeah, that makes sense. I observed some of the things you were doing when it came to community building, for example greeting every person who posted an introduction and connecting them to people in the DAO and I'm curious, what are your goals when community building? What does success look like? Is it that people stick around longer people, end up meeting and becoming friends and meet up in real life?
Chance: That's a fair question. It depends on the exact goal of the project is, but baseline, my larger thesis is, visualize a network of the people in your organization in your mind. How many connections are there? How strong are they?. Look at what kind of clustering is there. Maybe some teams are tightly connected but isolated. Increasing the strength of ties, and the number of those ties is pretty powerful.
Scott: I love the network visualization. Do you think there's something about retention here where if people know at least one or two other people in the DAO, they're more likely to stick around and contribute?
Chance: Yeah, actually, there's a conversation that another CityDAO contributor Greg and I had where I invited him to check out a couple DAOs. People are joining DAOs because someone brings them in and onboards you, giving you a sense of welcome in an unfamiliar environment. For example, in CityDAO, Tarkan and Stardust have a fairly strong relationship - a completely random relationship - one person is an architect from Australia, another from Istanbul, they are very different. And they have a strong connection. Sometimes they troll each other in a friendly way, but then he’ll stick up for her. But that's an example of a strong relationship where even if things went south, those two would still be around. The more you have these kinds of strong connections, the more they'll be around and like helping each other, encouraging each other.
Scott: It’s really fascinating how two strangers on the other side of the world can form a connection and get a deep level of context. The community is the product. People assume that since DAOs are autonomous you don't need humans. But at the end of the day, it's humans voting, humans working together, it's humans all the way down. Community all the way down.
Chance: From a community perspective, I’m constantly thinking about how we can create contexts for these interactions to deepen their relationships. In the example above with Tarkan and Stardust they largely built that up in the history channel. They both really like history, they are constantly talking about history together, niches of history. And then you see those relationships carry over to elsewhere, you know, like supporting each other on forums, proposals, asking “hey there’s a meeting later, are you going to be there?”
Scott Do you have other essential ways that you feel like you make people feel more connected?
Chance: The intros channel is great, my goal is to take note of people surfacing characteristics about themselves. People joke that I'm the intro czar because I really want people using the template, but it’s for a reason! The template was designed for a reason, since if you have information, you can start threading people together in different ways, hosting events, understanding people’s interests.
Some of these connections can end up being profound, and it's basically a numbers game, creating all these social contexts, another way to think is creating surface area for these interactions to happen. So it could be off-topic channels, casual hangouts in an audio channel. There's a lot of different ways you can do it. But I think the core is like creating the context for people to come together.
Scott: Yeah, I love the idea that a lot of shared contacts and connections are not necessarily built around day to day governance activities, but instead around like, the history channel, the urbanism channel, like kind of these other outlets. And because DAOs are so online, often strangers coming together, we have to be extra intentional to build these communities, it can’t just be doing work together, all business, all the time.
Chance: Yeah, exactly. Another thing is just being super friendly and creating a super friendly environment where people feel more comfortable because people are strangers, they have no context in a text environment, right? The opposite of this would be Stack Overflow, people joke, you get harassed, destroyed just for asking a simple question, right? You want the opposite where your people can be more comfortable to go out on a limb.
Jumping in can feel scary, intimidating, but you want to pull people in, make them feel like they're celebrated, for even the tiniest little things. You want to make them feel like they can be more comfortable and like myself and jump in more.
Scott: One thing I love you made is the shout-outs channel that celebrates people. In a DAO people have to work together, even if they're not all best friends, and there might not be a boss to solve all the problems. I'm curious if you have any other thoughts on like, how to create a healthy culture. You did a really awesome job turning someone who was a troll, in our server into, you know, into like, a kind of passionate, valuable contributor. How do you think about that?
Chance: I think there's a few parts of that. For the general environment, try to keep that as positive as possible - moderating, deleting spam, banning people, basic moderation is a baseline. But the key is listening to people, that’s big, showing empathy, listening, making people feel heard.
I think giving people an outlet is important, because you don’t want someone coming into every channel bringing down the vibe, so one thing we implemented was a ticketing system. In that way, you are isolating situations, moving negative energy into like a ticket, or if you can, into DMs, I got to know the person, how the person felt, the person was upset at first because they didn't feel like they're being heard, like, hearing them, and like being really serious around that, and building it up from there. In that particular person's case, that person couldn't afford an NFT, so I just sent something, not a huge amount, it's kind of like a random act of kindness. It’s really hard for them to think you're a bad person if you just selflessly did something. So that's like one example. But you're kind of adapting constantly for these edge cases.
Scott: What advice would you give other DAO community builders, for someone starting a DAO community tomorrow? Things that they should avoid, or things that they should do early on to set a good foundation?
Chance: It depends on what your starting point is - at any given time you have an inflow or outflow of energy. You think of energy as like new people coming in, activity, that sort of thing. But let's say you're starting fresh, brand new, and you have like a small trickle, we don't have your infamous tweet that brought in a lot of people and energy. When you have that, it's a great position to be in because there's an innate energy already there and you're just shaping it in a positive way. And it’s really fun from a community builder’s perspective.
But if you don't have that, I have literally created it from scratch, you will have to focus on building a great foundation. What I would recommend in either case is welcoming everyone. Make your onboarding flow clear, asking folks to introduce themselves. If they don’t introduce themselves, send them a DM with a template message asking them to do so that’s designed to celebrate them with energy, for example mention “you're doing ABC and you might be interested in XYZ activity that's happening in the community.” I'm surfacing what’s going on while building a relationship with them. If you have not that many people at the start, you build relationships with a bunch of different people and this builds the foundation and they have an incentive to hang around. Then the next people that join see how engaged people are, and they stick around too. So that's what I would recommend right off the bat.
Scott: How do you make a DAO or feel cozy? I feel like sometimes these are just massive, crazy Discord servers.
Chance: The first thing is super positive messages. I could just jump around and I'll look at messages and I'll be replying to them and tagging relevant people. And I'll just say something positive about what they said. If someone shared a link I’ll read it and connect them with people who might be thinking similarly. Also I’ll thank them. “Thank you so much for sharing.” I might do things like that in a single session, say for an hour. I might do like 30 to 40 of these little different things, all around the server all around, just like, pure positivity, celebrating people. Encouraging people to share ideas, post interesting resources, and feel comfortable. They're already here, already interested in the thing, the mission. I just want to make them feel at home..
Scott: I'm curious if you have thoughts on the role of bringing people together in real life. These communities can feel like random strangers talking over text, should we be spending time in person?
Chance: It's huge. When you're in person you just talk about like real life stuff, it’s hard to be mean or hide behind a keyboard. Things come up that wouldn’t ever come out in text. There's just sort of like context building, that's super important.
Scott: Anything else that you would think is missing from the conversation?
Chance: One large principle that I didn’t mention explicitly is lowering friction. That's where having empathy when people are scared to post or join calls comes in. Joining a DAO can be like walking into someone's house, if it’s your first time in the house, you're not gonna go to the fridge. That’s what it’s like posting a channel. It can be high friction. If you're designing a funnel for signups or something, you get lower signups if there’s friction. You can lower friction by welcoming people, tagging people to introduce them, they're not going to connect likely otherwise. But if you’re a community builder you have much more context, you're in there, you know most of the people and can connect the dots more easily. For example “Welcome Vitalik please meet Satoshi, you should connect because X, Y, and Z.” That really lowers friction, just saying, “you two should meet and here's why.” If the friction is not lowered, they're not going to meet.
Scott: I love that insight, it’s unlikely the two strangers are going to just message each other and start talking. But as a community builder, you have asymmetric information where you know a lot about other people and what they're interested in and their backgrounds. And so you have this unique superpower to connect people.
Chance Exactly. Connect people and also connect them to projects, if they have the skillset for a certain role.
Scott: Is there anything else you think is missing?
Chance: The last thing I’ll leave you with is this article, written by a DAO founder of an education DAO called Invisible College. IT talks about folks in your community who are adders, multipliers, subtractors, etc. If you spot an adder, reach out to them, nurture the relationship, try to bring them in!
Scott: Thank you so much, Chance.