In this topic I would like to talk about some of the areas in which Dfinity’s adoption is suffering and discuss proposals to improve.
- The examples I will give are meant as examples and should be taken as broad guidelines. Please focus on the broader picture and the general direction of customer/developer relationship I am advocating for.
- I have over 15 years of experience in the tech-strategic-marketing field and am offering this advice for free to support this project, so please don’t treat this as FUD.
So let’s get this started: Why is Dfinity’s adoption suffering and how could things be done better?
The main big issue at the moment is the way the project engages in what some might call “corporate-overpromissing-Marketing”. This is the type of marketing most companies still use, which is why it is such a great opportunity for Dfinity to set itself apart and do better.
To understand this better: Dfinity creates content from the same perspective as one would create advertisements: The content is intended to paint over the bad parts, oversells the good stuff and avoids talking about sensitive issues.
This is all good for webpage-frontpage slogans or adds, but it does not work for community management, neither for gaining trust and least of all for gaining loyal users who do the most important part: spreading the news mouth-to-mouth (or click-by-click, same thing). This type of content ends up sounding like most advertisements out there:
“look how great, amazing and trustworthy this product is, and you should believe us because we are saying so”.
People have learned to be distrustful of this type of messaging and not believe in what companies promise. At every corner people are bombarded with messages trying to sell them products that, most often then not, end up underperforming.
Nowadays, it is not enough to simply say “we are great and we can be trusted”, a company has to put more effort into it and back it up with hard-evidence. And that evidence comes from real user reviews and word of mouth, not advertisments.
You might disagree, and believe this type of effort can bring some good results. However, because this approach copies the type of messaging that “evil” corporations use, it also positions Dfinity an old, slow, corporate and a bit evil. This is not the image a project like Dfinity should be aiming for. It should instead aim for a similar image as a startup: young, agile, trustworthy, caring about its users, and not focused solely on the money.
Why is this important?
- This type of corporate image that promises much, but never connects-to or answers its users tends to be associated to big companies like Facebook/Amazon, famous for not caring for their users or even employees, for being focussed on making money, and for not caring about their users. And in the crypto space it is even worse: on every corner users see projects overpromising or, even worse, scamming their users.
- It would be much better for Dfinity to position itself as a company that cares about their users, that stands for innovation and transparency, that cares about people and not money. As a non-profit, Dfinity should already stand for that, but that is not the image that is being projected at the moment.
So enough of me stating what is lacking. The important part is:
How can all this be fixed and create a better image for Dinfity?
I will go over the requirements by dividing this effort into 3 main topics:
- and activity.
Dfinity doesn’t give users enough reason to trust the project. This company has so many advantages over other crypto projects when it comes to transparency, and very few are being used to set the project apart from others in the space. Examples of what could be done:
- Show photos of the offices - So many projects don’t even have an office, and Dfinity isn’t showing the many offices they have. Why not?
- Show people working. Dfinity has a huge team, why not display it regularly in an instagram feed or similar? Include people in the pictures of the offices and make it look like a living-breathing place. The latest office picture I saw was a computer-generated 3D model of a new office. For the skeptical viewer this just screams “fake”, so put some life into things!
- Be transparent about the network and tokens: give users tools to access the blockchain and see how many coins are being minted and to which wallets those coins are going and for what (early investors, network-hosts, staking rewards, how much and % is going to each etc).
- And for Canisters: Don’t just display the total canisters created, but also how many of those are active, how many are being actively developed/worked on, how many are inactive/abandoned. Since the network can’t be hosted by anyone, at least put some effort into making it look like more than just some script to auto-generate empty canisters just to inflate numbers. This is to remove any doubt and show investors and developers that adoption is really happening.
- Show users how to check for themselves that the foundation really exists, really is a non-profit and what is registered under that company. Where can this data be found and how to verify it? Can that be accessed on a government webpage? Display whatever else you have that can help put people on the other side of the world at ease about this company being serious and legit.
- Be transparent about expenses. Isn’t Dfinity a non-profit? So why not use this to your advantage? Display expenses openly, use it prove to users nothing shady is going on. If possible, display a government issued tax-expenses report.
You might think that some of this info can be found if the user puts some effort into research. But why make the users go through that trouble? Make it easy and remove space for doubts, especially to attract more app-developers.
If you want loyal investors and developers to use ICP, you need to give your users a voice.
People who come to support projects like ICP are people that are sick and tiered of large corporations ignoring the requests of their users. Dfinity has to work harder on making sure their users feel listened to.
However, since it is impossible to answer to each and every comment, this is hard (impossible) to do when using broken forum tools like Redit or Discourse (this forum is built using discourse).
That is why companies that wish to give their users a voice usually use tools that allow users to vote on each-other’s ideas, bug-reports and requests, so that the company can focus their effort into replying to the top-voted contributions. That is the purpose of a forum: to direct the company’s attention to the most-requested features. Check Spotify’s forum in comparison and see for yourself: Ideas - The Spotify Community
So be sure to replace the current forum with a tool like Spotofy uses or, if you want something cheap and easy to setup like Discourse, check out the tool Talkyard (very cheap and free if self-hosted). Forums need to be a place where users feel they can contribute and help steer the direction of the project. Your forum does not have upvote-capabilities and doesn’t allow posts to be sorted by most-voted, which means users are unable to support ideas/issues/bugs they care for. You need to give users these tools so that they feel part of the project and feel like they have a voice. Young people do not care to follow corporations that ignore them. Why should a developer build his app on a tool that does not allow him to report bugs and vote on the bugs that need most attention? If the forum has voting features, people know that the company can’t afford to ignore issues that are upvoted in masses. And that is what the type of user that is running from traditional corporations like facebook/google/amazon is looking for.
Discourse is broken in that regard, since it only tracks replies to topics, and not votes/likes. It is also lacking the feature to have comments sorted in nested format, which makes it harder to have productive conversations in which the best comments can easily be found in long conversations.
Talkyard does it similar to Reddit, but without the same issues (reddit is timeline oriented, which ruins any forum, since ideas posted ‘yesterday’ would end up being hidden and forgotten about ‘tomorrow’).
By putting more effort into giving users a voice, Dfiniy will gain trust and loyal users who spread the word through mouth-to-mouth. It will also attract more developers who will feel confident that the most reported issues are paid attention to and aren’t forgotten in a long feed of comments.
This is the part that most people understand as traditional-marketing. However, as mentioned before, all of the current activity is focused on content that is very corporate and could very well be faked. The materials Dfinity currently posts are good, but are not the main area a project like this should be focussing on.
The type of content users are looking for is content that can’t be faked or produced to make things look better than they are. Since the competition are crypto-projects and corporations that lie to their users, Dfinity has to position itself as a human, real, and caring project.
- Post weekly updates of what the team has worked on. What has the dev-team been up to? No need for fancy pictures or over-the top design-work, just post short, real news in approachable-human language that show real people are really working on things, that the project is alive and IC is being worked on. The average user does not understand or have the patience to go through pages of Github logs. Don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid to say things like “this week we didn’t get anything done”. Being transparent about small setbacks makes people gain more trust when you post news about accomplishments. A company that hides all the bad things doesn’t feel trustworthy when it publishes the good things.
- App-developers: none of the developers that gained the funds to create apps on the IC is posting any news. All the projects feel dead. If you are giving people money for free to develop on the IC, you need to demand in return that they also post these types weekly development news.
- Dfinity can take those news and re-post them in the Dfinity blog under a new category so that people can see all the activity from all the apps that are being built on the IC. This not only generates trust in Dfinity, but also in the apps themselves. And as a bonus, this periodic reporting makes sure these projects also keep organized and on track, helping them succeed succeed in the long run.
- While you are at it, also ask those apps to use a forum tool like Talkyard, so that users can give feedback on those tools as well.
- Create a new blog area for the “employee of the week”, in which each week you introduce someone from the team. What they do, what previous experiences they have, where they come from, what they have been working on… Give people reasons to trust your company. Doesn’t Dfinity supposedly have some very accomplished team members? So why not show them off to the community? Why is it so hard to find any real info.
Dfinity can’t stand there claiming to be an innovative company, while still doing marketing in a way that feels like a 100 years old corporation. If Dfinity wants to succeed, it needs to present itself as a forward-thinking company that respects its users.
This is the fastest path forward for Dfinity.
If any of this resonates with you, please leave a comment and let the Dfinity team know your thoughts. I truly believe this is a good way forward, and I would love to see the IC reach true adoption before ETH2.0 comes out.
Extra Points: About the apps being developed on the IC
We should also talk about the apps receiving grants to be developed on the IC. What is the point in making a ‘clone’ of LinkedIn, a clone of Reddit, a clone of WhatsApp? It is not enough to use new technology, it is also important to reinvent how things are done and present NEW solutions to users.
To most end-users it does not make much of a difference if they their app is hosted on AWS or on the IC, if both apps do exactly the same thing. These apps need to have things that set them apart from other products out there. It is not enough to be “the same thing, with similar features, but on the Blockchain, so your data is secure".
So to take the Reddit-clone DSCVR (https://dscvr.one)as an example: it is nice that it runs on the IC, but like Reddit, it allows for communities to be centrally owned by users that created them. This means communities like #cryptocurrency can end up being managed by a handful of people that can sell-out and/or censor content to satisfy their views/needs. A decentralized forum running on the IC should, for example, differentiate between general-public communities (like #cryptocurrency) and privately owned ones (like a company or project), so users know where they can go for true unbiased opinions.
In short → Decentralized communities for a decentralized network.
The point is: decentralized apps need to have more than just a decentralized backbone, but also a decentralized approach to how things work and how it feel to users.
If any of the app developers want some feedback on their app, feel free to ask for feedback on this topic. And if you prefer to talk privately, get in touch and let’s work together.