Web3 Onboarding Toolkit Part 1: Knowledge to get you started
This tool kit will be of three parts—knowledge, mentors, and tools. Part 1 will focus on an overview of concepts and ideas about web3.
I find it helpful to think of web3 knowledge in four buckets:
Existential knowledge on why web3 has become so popular
Trendy knowledge to help you fit in with the web3 cult and crowd
Useful knowledge on different use cases of web3
Opportunistic knowledge on known web3 knowledge to spot opportunities
Examples and links to references will be provided for each!
M2W3 - Mental Models for Web3
Existential knowledge: Why web3 and how to think about it
Web3 has become a huge wave because it’s managed to hit the right notes in multiple angles as a philosophy, as technology, and as a (lucrative) business. It’s easier to remember this by associating these angles in three seemingly similar terms: web3, blockchain, and crypto.
Web3 as a philosophy
The last decade of the internet has been defined by monolithic organisations like Facebook, Google, and Apple. Traditionally, huge banks and corporations dictated how we enjoy our assets. We’ve exchanged control over our time, attention, and money for access and convenience.
“Web3” is a movement that tries to take back control. It tries to push decentralisation, transparency, and self-custody of assets. You’ll find that most web3 products tries really hard to make sure apps don’t control any funds nor ingest any information from the user. Users keep custody of all that in their browsers, in a usb stick, and secured behind a passphrase. Whether or not that’s a ‘superior’ solution is debatable, in my opinion. But the point is the difference in philosophies on how things should work online.
People new to web3 will find it helpful to be aware of this philosophy so you aren’t shocked when how things work in web3 are not intuitive. For example, there is no ‘forgot my password’ in web3. If someone loses access to their funds, that’s it! No take backs; There is no reset button; No one can help them. (For the most part at least!)
Blockchain as technology
Personally, I found the tech most interesting in web3. Imagine a world where everyone agreed to take notes in the same exact way. Or for the finance and accounting people, imagine where everyone around the world adopted a single accounting standard for transactions. That’s what blockchain did for digital transactions.
How exactly this technology works is less important for an overview. I’ll share links below if you want to know more about how the tech works. Rather, the problem this tech solves is more consequential—trust and removing middlemen. With blockchain, you don’t need a bank or escrow services to make sure your money is wired from country A to country B. It’s quick, cheap, and you can independently confirm it’s been transferred.
With this trust, other creative stuff can happen online like digital asset ownership!
Crypto as a business
Next is money! A lot of people made a lot of money in crypto. A lot of corporations have also poured in a lot of money into crypto. Finally, and probably most importantly, a lot of people, especially the developers, have been building a career in crypto. As long as there’s opportunity and money to be made, the industry will continue to be busy.
Crypto opened doors to new business models. An example is funding. Businesses and individuals can now do Kickstarter campaigns at scale by selling tokens and NFTs (digital objects) to raise funds for their project. A concrete example is a record artist. Just a few years ago, their only way to be funded was through a record label—usually a very disadvantageous deal for the creator. Today, they can use crypto to get funds directly from fans. Rather than a record label ‘owning’ the artist, fans can directly share in the success of their idol.
Other examples of new business models from crypto are here:
Trendy Knowledge: Jargon and concepts to help you fit it with the crowd
Empathy is important in market. If you want to sell something to an audience, it’ll be easier if you understand them well. This is where ‘trendy knowledge’ comes in. To at least get started withy empathy, here’s a simple model:
Talk like them
Dress like them
Think like them
TALK LIKE THEM
Crypto speak. A simple way to fit in is to at least start talking the same language. Like any subculture, web3 and all its different niches have created their own lingo. I’ve picked out a few common ones and put links to more comprehensive lists.
NGMI, GMI, and WAGMI
Links to larger glossaries here: Binance Academy, Time.com
Web3 channels. As you start talking like a crypto bro or girl, you need to know the appropriate channels for chatter. Today, there are a few main ones where all the action is.
Twitter - most crypto influencers and major personalities hangout in ‘crypto Twitter’. Depending on the subgroup you want to keep a pulse on (general crypto, NFTs, DAOs, etc), you’ll have to follow different handles. Here’s a few lists to get you started: [insert Twitter lists]
Discord - this is project specific. If you want to know more about a project, interact with their team, or be part of their activities, Discord is currently the channel used.
Telegram - instead of Discord, some projects prefer to use Telegram for general engagement. You’ll have to check the project you’re interested in.
Blogs - some projects use Medium, their own blog, or mirror.xyz which is a web3 native blog app. Again, you’ll have to check your specific project.
Other social media channels like Instagram, Reddit, Youtube, and Tiktok have yet to become very popular in the web3 crowd. This will likely change as web3 companies and projects become more mature and professional. For example, LinkedIn is slowly gaining traction as web3 companies battle for talent.
Web3 activities. Compared to software companies of the last decade as well as traditional public companies, there are social activities that web3 communities have preferred to do. This is likely driven by the philosophies of decentralisation and transparency of web3.
AMAs (Ask-Me-Anything) and town halls - Project founders and team members would hop on a live thread in Reddit, or a like voice chat in Discord to answer question directly from the community. This also happens frequently (monthly, if not more often). Since crypto communities are also ‘token holders’, the direct engagement with core project members are often appreciate if not demanded by token holders.
Airdrops - Think of this like a giveaway. Projects would usually ‘airdrop’ tokens or NFTs to people’s crypto wallet as a marketing activity. For example, people who had the famous Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs at a certain date was ‘airdropped’ a portion of a second collection called Mutant Apes by the project owners. The marketing message is usually, ‘Hey looks it’s good to support our project because you’re surprised and delighted with free stuff.’
NFT drops - This is like a token sale where projects sell an NFT collection. It’s typically used to raise funds for a project.
Whitelists and allowlists - Think of this as a ‘guest list’ for a popular club or destination. Project owners usually create this whitelist for early supporters of a project to increase their chances of purchasing a token or NFT during a sale (assuming demand is higher than supply). Alternatively, this could also be a marketing activity to showcase high demand and create hype by showing an oversubscribed whitelist.
Snapshots - Think is this as a cut-off date and time for a list. An example is, “only users which signed up as of 12 July 2022 at 7:00 UTC will be eligible for the reward.” This is important for contests, reward programs, or whitelist activities in web3.
DRESS LIKE THEM
‘Dressing up’ like a web3 community member is another way to blend in. Most interactions happen online, so this is mostly dressing up your online persona.
PFPs (Profile Pictures) - Buy yourself an NFT or grab your favorite anime character and slap it on as your avatar in Twitter and other social media handles. It’s a quick and easy way to signal you’re knee-deep into web3, especially the NFT scene.
Famous PFPs - If you want to up the ante, get a PFP from a well-known NFT project like Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Doodles, Crypto Punks, etc. People with these avatars in their Twitter handle are either regarded as getting into crypto very early or rich. Whether that’s true or not can be discussed.
ENS address - This is like your web3 email. Rather than a long wallet address starting with `0x..`, you can buy an ENS address and get something like nigelee.eth. You can change your Twitter display name with this to showcase your ‘in’ :P
THINK LIKE THEM
Finally, it’s helpful to imagine yourself as a web3 token holder (of a web3 project) and think of the needs and expectations they’d have for a project that they’d put money into. This will relate closely to how a web3 user would behave and what they’ll actively demand.
Wen [insert feature here]; The answer is yesterday - Your community of token holders having direct access to your team through social media isn’t always a good thing. A vocal minority takes advantages of this and constantly pesters for feature updates. A clear and accessible public roadmap helps, but don’t expect everything to take the time to read it. The most troubling part is the thinking that a ‘new’ feature will solve their problems which could be distracting.
Power to the (decentralised) people and community first - As token holders, your community will expect their word to have significant sway in business decisions. Whether this is helpful or not is up for debate until the web3 success stories play out. In the meantime, be aware that individual token holders feel entitled to decision making while the reality is that majority of a project’s token holding is actually held by core team members, large corporations, and venture capitalists.
Token price down; Devs do something - Since tokens and NFTs are bought and sold in the open market, prices are dynamic and volatile. And since your community has ‘invested’ into your project, they expect prices to go up all the time and get ultimately get rich. If it goes the opposite direction, then it usually ‘the developers fault and they should do something about it’. Now whether this behaviour is reasonable or not doesn’t matter because you’ll always have this vocal group that always thinks this way.
Information and communication right now - Public companies are expected to share disclosures typically quarterly and yearly. When there’s an issue, the typically software company would circulate an email or note in a week or maybe a few days if they’re quick. None of that slowness in web3. Expect your token holder community to take it to Twitter and Discord, the minute a token transfer is detected or new code is deployed. If you usually think of yourself as ‘user-first’ or in tune with your customers, then be prepared to be on it 24/7 because that’s how web3 is right now.
Hopefully this trendy knowledge will help you start getting empathy for this wild set of web3 audiences!
‘Useful’ Knowledge: information on general use cases for web3 and blockchain technology
It might be helpful to think of this section as samples of different apps in web3 today. As we innovate more stuff in web3, this list will likely get bigger.
DeFi (Decentralised Finance) is an example of creating ‘trust’ through blockchain technology and removing the middleman. The ideal is to remove the concept of banks entirely. That is, why trust and pay for the services of a financial institution when you can use unmanned programs and code instead? Below are examples to make it concrete:
Sending money. In traditional finance (or TradFi), you need to trust a bank when you send money from country A to B. Send money to bank A, bank A talks to bank B, bank B clears money transfer in country B. This could take days and a hefty fee. All of which can be done online cheaply and quickly with blockchain tech.
AMM (Automated Market Makers). In traditional financial markets, you need someone to sell you stock if you want to buy one. A situation where someone doesn’t want to sell you stock is possible. With blockchain tech, it’s possible to remove this issue with automated programs. Here’s an explanation on how AMMs work: [link to AMM video]
NFTs is a use case for digital asset ownership. A few years ago, it would have been ridiculous to ‘own’ an online image or artwork. It was also very hard to automatically share royalty payments to artists and creators for their online work. Blockchain tech enables provable ownership online. Examples below:
PFPs (community membership). NFT profile pictures have recently become a popular way to prove membership into an exclusive club. If you have a community’s NFT, you get perks like airdrops, exclusive events, and access to like-minded people. Without NFTs, it would have been an endeavour to use jpeg images to prove you’re a legitimate member!
Gaming items. If you bought an in-game item like a treasure chest or ‘skin’, you don’t actually own it. You need to abide by the game creator’s rules. If they say you can’t resell the item, even though you paid $100 for it, then you can’t! Game items as NFTs changes the game (pun intended)!
DAOs are communities powered by blockchain tech and web3 philosophies. It’s an idea of a ‘new way of working’ where both ownership and decision making of an organization is decentralised across community members rather than concentrated on a select few (i.e. centralized organisations). I’m personally a bit dubious how this will work out. Time will tell.
Social decentralised apps are an interesting new experiment. The thinking is basically a web3 and decentralised version of social media apps where corporations down own your personal data. Instead, you personally secure your data and selectively allow access to social apps. Ideally, you’re able to choose your own social algorithms and front-end designs based on your preferences rather than being held hostage by the likes of Meta, Twitter, Tiktok, and LinkedIn.
There’s a lot of material to deep dive for each use case! Check them out and form your own opinions:
Opportunistic knowledge: current problems and potential opportunities in the space
Knowledge is only useful if you can make something out of it! Now that you have a bit of background on web3 foundations, find a problem below that you can solve and build:
Scaling solutions. There’s only a few million active wallets in web3 right now. To get to billions of users and mainstream appeal, there’s a lot work to be done starting with processing power. Ethereum, one of the most popular blockchain solutions today, won’t be able to process a thousand transactions per second even with its latest ‘merge’ upgrade. If you compare that with Visa or Mastercard which processes ~5,000 transactions per second, for example, that’s a bottleneck. It’s currently a race to see which blockchain scaling solution will win—side chains, optimistic rollups, zk-rollups, to name a few!
UX and UI problems. If you’ve tried a web3 app before, then you know that the experience is TERRIBLE. There’s a lot of friction and it’s quite clunky with technical concepts like wallets, layer 1, layer 2, etc. The next billion people in web3 won’t be willing to figure out all his new mumbo jumbo. The winning web3 companies will be able to introduce web3 tech with web2 sensibilities for user experience.
Legal and compliance. Is it actually legal and compliant to issue tokens and sell NFTs for a new project? It’s all grey at the moment. There’s already a ton of opportunity to both define and navigate the regulatory mess that is web3 and crypto.
Community as sales and marketing. Think web2 user generated content and influencers ala YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok. Now multiply that by 100x and you get web3 communities. Never before have individual consumers been enabled and incentivised to support their favorite projects like web3. Projects that master community building and harnessing the power of the crowd will be rocket ships to the moon.
And so much more! Problem spaces are just waiting to be solved like tokenomics, game economics, privacy, asset custody, and new business models like social algorithms for sale. Pick one you’re passionate about and build something.\
The article on web3 knowledge aimed at giving you enough of an overview for finding your way. Pick a topic you found interesting and follow the links. Beware—it’s a never ending rabbit hole. If that isn’t enough, below are a few more interesting articles to continue your learning journey.
In part 2 of this onboarding series, we’ll tackle Mentors and Sources of Insight. Use it to keep a pulse on the web3 scene because it just moves so fast!
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I also post web3 stuff (sometimes blockchain and crypto stuff) in Twitter: @nigelwtlee