Five Learnings from ETHDenver 2020
@balserWalter Fernando Balser
Writer, Creator, Prof...on a mission for #radschools
Come gather ‘round B is for Bufficorn children!
ETHDenver 2020 began with circle time as Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, Colorado’s Governor Jarod Polis, and Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon held a reading of B is for Bufficorn to a group of children. They were joined on stage by none other than Bufficorn. It was a beautiful sight. Once the story was done, though, it was time to get the party started.
1. It was a year of convergence — new meets old
Perhaps it was appropriate that the conference kicked off with Ethereum’s chief architect sharing a stage with two governors. Indeed, this year featured many bounties focused on solving “real-world” problems — or better yet, finding ways to harness Web3 to solve state challenges. For example, we saw the DMV Demolishers propose a “trusted friend” protocol that would help us move our identities from centralized databases onto the chain. #buidl examples were joined by panel discussions along the same lines, most notably leaders from higher education sharing ideas on how to use blockchain to rethink academic transcripts or improve attribution for creators when sharing educational resources.
2. It was a year of divergence — new meets new
As with any technology or innovation, especially one rooted in shared governance, there will be divergent views among the community. Perhaps nowhere was this more evident this year than discussions had around building trustless bridges between chains, interoperability between platforms, and working with systems outside of Ethereum
. The terms “tribalism” and “playing with others” came up a few times. Consensys’ Joseph Lubin was understandably vague around intersystems cooperation, or as he put it focusing on “standards” or “protocols”. He noted that “there are some great Bitcoin to Ethererum projects,” but it appears his focus is still on producing one million developers
, as we were reminded by the hands-down winner of this year’s DAO meme competition.
Beyond divergent views in a technical sense, there was also some ambivalence around bounties and projects focusing on “the state” — or something like that. Whatever it was, the community seems to be at an inflection point on several fronts, a good sign of maturity of the ecosystem.
3. The year of the DAO
DAOifying the shit out of everything was bold and, predictably (in some ways purposefully
), messy. I for one was not able to vote on projects because I didn’t have “xp” in my buffidao account — in other words I had no community capital. (In all fairness there were MANY easy ways to earn capital, I just didn’t know until it was too late). Nonetheless, there were so many DAOs, dropdowns and hamburgers flying that it was hard to tell what was what without getting clarification on Discord, Keybase, Telegram or some other channel. Then again this is life in the decentralized dev world. That’s kind of the point — let’s see what works, doesn’t work, and try again. If you’re not on the right frequency ask and you’ll get there eventually. And communicate however and wherever you damn well please, just not on Facebook. I predict next year we’ll see a more focused DAO experience (or is that an oxymoron?). Which takes me to my next point….
4. UX Reigned
Where 2019 produced a lot of projects in the way of infrastructure and functions like dashboards, graphs, and new ways to verify proofs, 2020 brought an emphasis to the end-user experience. Without a doubt much of this had to do with the emergence of Fortmatic
as the wallet interface many were waiting for… dare I say, a Web3 killer app along the lines of Web2’s Square? Coz and Wolf Pack were examples of polished dapps with real world impact that took us there from end to end. Props to the Pepo
team for sponsoring the UX awards as well as the POAP
team, whose dapp provided “proof of attendance” for attendees. Again powered by Fortmatic, POAP seamlessly transformed my admission into a “staked” badge. This is a much-welcomed demonstrative take of what could be microcredentials on the chain. For those of us working on blockchain applications in education
this is exactly what we need to see — and touch.
Projects DMV Demolishers and Coz present at ETHDenver2020. QR code on badge connected a digital identity to a DAOfied experience including DAI for purchases, proof attendance badging, voting on DAOs, earning credit and more.
5. Culture eats code all day
In closing remarks, EthDenver’s co-founder John Paller
highlighted the incredible feeling of inclusivity he felt at this year’s event. I’d have to agree — emphatically. As someone who conducts research at EthDenver precisely for insights on organizational culture I left even more impressed this year in the diversity department. While hackers skew younger (what collective of people doesn’t skew somehow?) the Eth vibe, especially in regards to nurturing safe spaces, is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. From its ethos to it’s overt systems, there is a sense of belonging for everyone — and not in the trite Mayor Pete way (no offense), but in real, tangible ways. Symbolic signs of encouragement are joined by intentional supports like mentoring booths. The lack of judgement from peers transcends one’s ideas as much as one’s identity. Play, hack, sleep….it doesn’t matter. Come as you are.
ETHDenver 2020 project winners share the stage after a week of #buidling
As the book closes on Eth2020 (B is for Bufficorn, of course!), and the kids are fast asleep, it is time to dream about what tomorrow will bring. It’s all bufficorns and rainbows. The End.
PS If anything I reported is inaccurate please reach out to me on any channel @wbalser so I can correct :-)
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