Dear Web3, You Don’t Have A Community, You Have A Cultby@tprstly
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Dear Web3, You Don’t Have A Community, You Have A Cult

by Theo PriestleySeptember 11th, 2022
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The next big thing web3 startups need to focus on is creating a “minimum viable community*” and it just triggered me the wrong way. Many investors have fallen foul of this community phenomenon by using it as a yard for the quality project project. But you could argue that the conditioning you’ve experienced is nothing less than cult-like. You are just a customer with a habit you didn’t ask for. You’re not part of a community.

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Someone commented on LinkedIn that the next big thing web3 startups need to focus on is creating a “minimum viable community” and it just triggered me the wrong way.

I keep seeing people using this word like a child uttering a swear word for the first time and the parents hastily trying to stop it. Only their behavior delights the sprog and so they repeat it over and over, getting louder and louder, all the while everyone around them standing laughing as the parents crawl into a hole and die.


the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.


a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.


the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture.


a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society.

I covered some of this before in Chapter 3 but it’s clear it needs fucking repeating.

Definition — Community: a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. Or if you want to break it down, “a group of people living in the same place [echo chamber] or having a particular characteristic in common [being completely fucking gullible]”.

I don’t understand posts that claim community, collaboration and co-opetition didn’t exist before web3. They have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with strategy and people.

They existed, they always have.

You are a customer of Starbucks. You don’t belong to a community. You don’t care about anyone else in that store when you order a latte.

You are a customer of Mcdonald’s. You don’t belong to a community. You don’t care about anyone else in that restaurant when you order that burger.

You can’t even call yourselves fans.

Consumers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.” — David Ogilvy

In these examples, there’s a killer point that I don’t think a lot appreciate — habit. Habits drive a lot more behavior than people realize. When they see others form a habit it encourages a network effect.

There’s also one more — blanket coverage. McDonald's and Starbucks are everywhere. There are hundreds of variations of Colgate toothpaste that are all the same just with different packaging and it’s a tactic to shut out other brands from being front of mind.

You’re therefore being conditioned to form a habit around a choice you no longer have the freedom to make. You are just a customer with a habit you didn’t ask for. You’re not part of a community. You’re not part of a fandom. But you could argue that the conditioning you’ve experienced is nothing less than cult-like.

Sounds a lot like the fever surrounding Bored Apes and Axie Infinity to me.

Steve Jobs didn’t famously say “start with the community and work backward to the technology” for example and for good reason which I’ll explain below. So many investors have fallen foul of this community phenomenon by using it as a yardstick for the quality of the project. Morons.

Let me regale you a tale of yore, precisely 20 years ago in fact.

I owned a slightly modded Subaru Impreza Turbo. They were great cars, and it was in Sonic Blue, the same color as the UK P1 variant. I joined Scoobynet, a BBS forum for owners of all things Subaru, and set about learning everything I could about the cars, modifications, etc.

I spent hours talking to people from all over the world. I bought secondhand parts from some to modify the car further. I posted about spotting other Scooby’s on the road so I could connect to them and say ‘hi’. We flashed our headlights at each other when we passed one another.

We met up in groups and, well, just talked and had fun.

Even when I had surgery for a back problem I loaned the car out to one of them whom I’d never met in real life to basically keep the car running tip-top instead of seizing up on the driveway.

Yes, it all sounds incredibly sad but this is community. This is what a group of passionately random people do when they congregate over something they share a love for.

We’ve existed for some time, odd that.

Even in the games industry, as toxic as it can get, there are players who form genuine communities and bonds to the point they become lifelong friends.

Harley Davidson is another such example where you don’t just own a product, you become part of one of the planet’s biggest communities much in the same way I did with my Subaru.

And when one of them dies they mourn. And they all mourn collectively.

You should be lucky to experience hundreds of Harleys thundering down the street to pay their last respects, tens of modified Subarus with that exhaust burble, or hundreds of players who log on and all travel to one location in the game to share their memories of a friend.

They all make the headlines.

Now let’s turn our attention to what Web3 is about and all this bullshit about community. Because it’s not community. It’s a cult.

It’s easy to confuse the two, you’re sharing common interests but at the moment the difference is pretty obvious — web3 and everything it brings to the table is just fashionable for a lot of people without any real connection.

You can tell instantly who is really a part of a community or just part of a cult every time to log into a Discord server. The talk is never about sharing personal stories or genuinely being interested in what’s going on with others — it’s about when the next NFT drop is, how best to pump the token, or how to create a pyramid scheme to make money from the next poor sap who can’t afford the buy-in.

Owning a Discord server or a bunch of Twitter bots does not equate to a community, and yet so many naive investors fall for this trick. A community actively adds value to whatever it’s attached to, like a community of developers working on an open-source project to improve the software.

How many so-called communities are actually just filled with passive lurkers who live vicariously through the actions of others? They cheer from the sidelines but never actively take part or have even bought into the service or project they’re fervently passionate about.

Again, how many investors so desperate to have a windfall in Web3 have fallen for this as proof of market validation?

How many hodlers will turn up at the funeral of Ape#34574.5 I wonder…fuck all is the most likely answer. Who’s going to care if Moonbird #2342 fell off her bike and broke her back?

“Hey everyone, doctors think I’ll never walk again.”


People in Web3 are almost like a new segmentation, they sit between being a customer and being the product. They are a byproduct of being part of a cult with the delusion of being a community.

It’s not the minimum viable community you’re creating, it’s a minimum viable cult.

And you can buy them cheap because a community will stick by you, cults just migrate from one fashionable lure to another for the promise of something better than the last.

I’m being harsh of course but for good reason. You can’t even claim to be part of fandom for example because you pump and dump so fast you don’t even care whether a project lives or dies, or care enough to still be a fan years later and admit it.

How many of us are still fans of defunct TV shows that passed into shadow long ago but we still talk about them, defend them, and yearn for just one more season or a reboot? (yeah, I’m talking about Firefly lol)

How many of you will still talk about Mfers or some other shitty PFP project in 5 years time when it inevitably goes tits up and is worthless?

“In 1.0, your community is IRL and based on things like where you were born, where you went to school, what sports team you supported, etc.

In 2.0, your community was a URL, where you joined interest-based online groups across Facebook, Reddit, Discord, etc.

In 3.0, the community is all about ownership. Being part of a community means you’re providing funding to run the community and gaining transparency and voting power.”

Do you hear yourselves when you say this out loud?

Do you think Starbucks is going to invite you to the next investors' call and ask your opinion just because you joined their new NFT rewards program?

And do you finally recognize that Web2 brands using pseudo-web3 principles and technologies are still Web2?!

Or are you all part of a cult that’s brainwashed you into thinking you’re really part of a community only to abandon you as soon as the grass turns a different shade of green on that next plot of land in The Sandbox?

Also published here.