Note — Feb 20, 2022

Why You Can’t Rebuild Wikipedia with Crypto

Casey Newton, who bills himself an “open-minded sceptic” about crypto, interviews Molly White, creator of Web3 Is Going Just Great (that’s an ironic title if you didn’t know). Beyond the snark of some of her writing, I think her view of crypto, Web3, and DAOs is quite sharp and well-thought-out. Especially worth a look because the part about Wikipedia (White is a longtime Wikipedia contributor) points at something important; many of the people behind these new projects are either simply trying to make money or trying to fix things they don’t know about (like guiding a community), or that they don’t know enough about (like copyright law).

While it’s on an entirely different ‘lives are dependant on this’ level, there’s a strong parallel, in my view, with international aid, which too often helicopters in help with no knowledge of the situation on the ground. A lot of the stupid mistakes with crypto, Web3, and DAO projects can be looked at in this way; just naively jumping into something they know nothing about. Add to that, of course, the grifters and scammers who know precisely what they are doing, and also add projects with prior knowledge and good intentions, I’m sure there are some. (Reply and tell me!)

When I watch DAOs spring into existence and encounter a lot of the same difficulties we’ve seen over and over again, I often find myself wondering how many members have ever been involved in community-run projects in the past. I think a lot of people are dipping their toes in for the first time, and learning a lot of things the hard way, with very high stakes. […]

It’s also a deeply complicated subject, and I doubt there are any people who have a deep understanding of all of the topics that web3 projects often have to consider: the technology, sure, but also security, economics, sociology, politics, law… So everyone is operating with various levels of knowledge in some subset of those things, and it’s easy for considerations to be missed. […]

I am hoping that even if web3 turns out to be a disaster, and I do think it will, some of those people stick around, and keep going with open source software and community-driven projects without all of the blockchain bullshit. That could be very powerful.