Meet Griff: The Hopeless Optimist – MetaCartel DAO
Within the Ethereum community, there are select individuals who truly personify the innovation, compassion and dedication that web3 looks to exemplify.
In this week’s interview, we wanted to give a spotlight to one of those innovatorsGriff Green — who has long since made a name for himself by building one of the most genuine networks I’ve seen to date.
For those who know Griff, it’s hard to miss out on the positivity and high spirits that he carries everywhere he goes. This mindset garners the attention of just about everyone at conferences and hackathons and has quickly allowed him to blossom an extremely pure community with his latest endeavour — The Commons Stack.
In tandem with running experiments on how to realign incentives surrounding public goods, Griff has been a strong supporter of MetaCartel and DAOs at large, dating back to The DAO of 2016.
In this discussion, we took a trip through time back to the early days of The DAO and Ethereum as we explored how culture has evolved, and what we as a community can do to move the needle forward in a positive manner.
We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s get right into it!
Tell us a bit about your background in Ethereum and beyond?
I guess my first official project was The DAO, where I worked closely with the Slock.it team on the inner workings and economic structure.
There was this growing idea that with blockchain technology, we can create economies. The power of that notion was amazing and I felt like there had never been an opportunity to do something like this.
Bitcoin is amazing and I remember looking at those early projects like Bitshares, Mastercoin/Omni, NXT, etc and being amazed at the idea of being able to create independent autonomous economic systems.
Ethereum itself is its own evolving economy and seeing as I’ve had problems with the way legacy economic systems of today work, this community was a perfect fit for me. I’ve long since resented participating in the war machine that is the US government so when I saw an opportunity to build an entirely digital replacement, I embraced it.
With The DAO, I went into it with the thought of — What if we designed systems that fit the needs of a local economy?
I was finishing my master’s degree in digital currencies and had written a whitepaper on the creation of a bike-sharing economy. To get my foot in the door, I emailed it to the guys at Slock.it and told them I’d work for free, ultimately aiming to do whatever I could to help them create decentralized solutions to the sharing economy.
I even remember the early days of these discussions, mainly when Bitshares was popularizing the same notions under a different name — Digital Autonomous Corporations (DACs).
One of the beautiful things about that time, back in 2013–2015, you could literally read every single post on DAOs. I was merely a volunteer with Slock.it but I was quickly able to get caught up to speed on everything and make an impact thanks to the nascent nature of the space.
What were some of the key takeaways from working on The DAO?
Community is really important. There’s a lot to be said for shared values and I feel like some DAOs and a lot of the ICOs that followed didn’t really make space to hear the people that came to their community.
That’s why I like what Metacartel has done. You get a few people and the curation is intentional. It’s somewhat of a walled garden but that allows for a strong social layer to emerge. If someone really wants to be in MetaCartel (or any Moloch DAO) they can call up any member and figure out how to get onboarded.
There’s a large emphasis on the human element, far more so than actually giving or earning money. I’ve seen a lot of success come from those who approach it with the mindset of “I wanna get in so I’m gonna do this free work”.
In the case of Moloch and MetaCartel, it’s risk-free to a degree because members can easily rage quit if they don’t like the way things are going. Yet, there is a lot of social upside! There isn’t any economic upside yet for contributing funds, but that will change.
What can we be doing better at MetaCartel?
To me, MetaCartel is a donation — There’s no expectation of profit. I love what’s going on which is why I doubled up. As long as you keep the standard quo, I’m happy.
While there are lots of creative people with corporate jobs, they have family and kids. They need to pay rent. With this, Metacartel kinda spins that notion on its head and says hey — Let’s do these cool things, even if we don’t know if it’ll work.
It’s very similar to the way I view Ethereum. It’s a magical experiment where everyone contributes and does their little piece. Every extra thing adds something to the swiss army knife which makes the whole ecosystem stronger.
For example, projects like Sablier are awesome. The fact that I can stream money is incredible and the stuff that can be built off of this is going to be incredible.
That’s why the marketing around these MetaCartel projects is also super valuable. It’ll spread the word about these different building blocks and enable cooler innovations — the tide raises all boats as they say.
What were some of the biggest problems with The DAO?
Well obviously… the biggest issue was the bug in the code, but there were other problems too. We weren’t aware of Elinor Ostrom’s work when we were building the DAO. Honestly, I could just go 1 by 1 on her 8 principles of governing the Commons and explain how the DAO could have improved.
One thing Ostrom missed though was incentive alignment, which was another thing that could be improved. Right before the hack, Slock.it’s primary objective was to create a proposal framework to help align incentives.
I continued that work with Giveth to help with transparency and accountability for proposals. The Giveth DApp was designed to be an interoperable proposal framework which would allow anyone, individuals or DAOs to send money to a proposal.
The thought was to create milestone-based proposals where $10k would sit there and the proposer could get $3k to get started, $3k after completing a milestone and the rest once the project had been delivered.
What’s the ideal proposal structure look like?
I like escrows to make sure incentives are aligned. I really appreciate milestones, specifically so the proposer can hold themselves accountable to their own proposal.
It’s also great when people include their background track record of their past success. They should be able to answer — Who is the person doing the work? Why are they the best person to accomplish this? What have they succeeded at in the past?
Similarly, what is the proposal going to benefit? Is this going to improve Ethereum or is there an alternative that I should be working with instead?
Lastly, I love when people design with composability in mind. It’s great to see proposals in which a project is using another project as a base; using other legos to create their new lego piece. The more we can encourage composability, the further this ecosystem will go.
Let’s talk about the culture of Ethereum — How has it changed over the years?
The most important decision the Ethereum Community ever made was to make an r/ethereum and an r/ethtrader subreddit. Crypto reddit was (and still is) an annoying cesspool of number go up, number go down bs. It was toxic.
By segmenting the two discussions, and maintaining the position that the number go up discussions stay in r/ethtrader, we created a safe space for people to talk about innovation and value.
Value is not number go up — it’s qualitative value for society.
This really helped both sections of the communities as it raised the value in the price chats while allowing more value-focused discussions to have a central place to live.
I think that the creation of this safe space attracted the prosocial crypto community and has had a dramatic impact on the quality of people that we have in the Ethereum space.
What about meetups — Can you share some of your thoughts on them?
I rarely go to the events which have a money-oriented focus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge part of the equation but it’s just not for me.
Instead, I love events like ETHGlobal where people are hacking and building. That’s where the true value is and you can really just feel the difference of vibes. The amount of value these events are bringing to the space is immeasurable.
Where do you point new users in the space?
Twitter and Telegram are the best places for good information flow. From there, they can go to Medium if they’re really interested in doing a deep dive.
To me, the Dai Savings Rate is the best new way for people to get onboarded with Ethereum. 4–10% savings account is not something that exists in the default world.
I wish the “making the world a better place” vibe was more attractive, but people are largely self-interested. They also might be worried about social issues but at the end of the day, all the tech is there to solve problems.
If you want to onboard someone you need to solve their problem.
That’s why the DSR is awesome — it solves a problem that basically everyone has. Most people are storing money and it’s evaporating because of the federal reserve inflation. Things like the DSR help solve that for them personally.
It starts to get really interesting when someone has a problem that’s not monetary. To be frank, money just sucks. It puts everyone in a fight or flight scarcity mindset.
That’s the interesting thing about value — it’s a story, not an object. Our consciousness is controlled by stories and money is a story that can be greatly improved.
If you have a mango tree in your backyard that’s doing really well, and you have mango abundance. Most people are gonna say hey, I have too many mangoes so I’m gonna give them away.
On the other hand, If you had a money tree in your backyard that’s doing really well — you would put a fence around it. In fact, if you were crazy and started giving money away, some people might not react well to it.
Money is something you can’t ever have enough of. People are billionaires and still see money as something they need more of. If you had a billion mangos, you would stop growing mangos! In fact, the mangos have a carrying cost… they would start to rot and smell bad, you need to get rid of them!
That’s why I love this ecosystem. We have an opportunity in Ethereum to create new stories around money.
A perfect example of this is Commons Stack and Trustlines. If I hold Commons tokens, that currency has a different story. I choose to build with that story.
Let’s talk about the Commons Stack — How can you best explain it to people?
With Commons Stack, we’re addressing the problems that nonprofits — or really any community which wants to see a change in the world — face.
Instead of creating an organization which relies on a business model — forcing you to find customers — Commons Stacks provides tools to create economic models which are great at providing public goods.
For example, if you help a homeless person, you can’t charge them, or the people that get to enjoy a better neighborhood with less homeless people. Public goods are a safety net and we hope to work with organizations that help people who fall into poverty by solving their problems of value distribution and contribution.
We design incentives to help communities create an economy so that when they create value by helping the homeless they are rewarded. We are going to start with developing open source code and open-source research first, but eventually we hope to create economies that create sustainable funding for all types of public goods.
Why should we care about creating new economies?
Instead of being stuck living in someone else’s economy, you can create your own economy that will align incentives for better value creation. If you can create real value, you can sustain a functioning economy around that value creation.
It’s only when you create an economy which does not create value that you’re wasting time. That’s a scam.
How do we not shit on people when they make mistakes?
There is not a single project in crypto besides maybe Bitcoin that is not in beta or alpha. We need to remember that — everything is an experiment.
Regarding expectations, I think people have too many. We’re building experimental products on top of an experimental protocol within an experimental ecosystem. Nothing will cease to be an experiment until after ETH2 has been solid for years, and who knows when ETH2 will launch.
Keep in mind that this is the first innovation in economic design that we’ve seen in a thousand years. Viewing it as a Cambrian explosion, it’s gonna stay experimental for 10–20 years and truthfully, there’s nothing wrong with that.
The expectations from web2 have set the bar incredibly high and I encourage people to understand that what we’re building is far more sophisticated than what we’re accustomed to.
One of the things I respect the most about you is your ability to remain agnostic within this space — Can you dive into this a bit?
It’s a really difficult situation. We all have tokens that cloud our judgement.
I’ll be honest, if I don’t have their token I barely pay attention to their project. That’s just reality. But, that’s why I hold well over a 100 different tokens! I figure if I buy a token, maybe I’ll start to care. That’s incentive design!
There’s an interesting thing called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Basically, the less you know about the topic, the more you think you know. If all you know about a project is one small criticism, you’ll think, no you will know that the whole project is shit. As more points come in, your confidence on the knowledge of the topic goes down and eventually you learn a lot and are actually very knowledgeable on the topic. That is when your confidence in your knowledge of the topic is the lowest!
Then, there comes an upswing in which your solid foundation allows your knowledge — and confidence — to grow!
This is Ethereum. It’s so damn big that you’re likely gonna be on the wrong end for every project except for the 3–4 that you follow closely.
In general, the entire web3 ecosystem has the right value — we’re all pushing things forward in the right direction.
The more we can recognize that there may be better ways of doing things than what we currently know, the better.
What are some areas that make web3 unique and somewhere it can still improve?
I really wish there were more value-aligned startup incubators. There’s not enough and there never will be simply because they’re a public good.
With that said, there’s truly something magical here with what we’re building. The word governance is directly tied to the notion of governments, and we’re all working to provide public goods.
We need governments to be a single customer to represent a community so that they can have their needs satisfied within the default market economy.
We’ve given up our faith in governments but we still want the community aspect along with how to make effective decisions. That’s a core common value that most people in Ethereum — specifically the ability to have a voice and give it to other people — to share.
This prosocial attitude is immensely powerful. It’s when people consistently overcome their own best interest for the community that we start to see true innovation arise.
Humans are rational actors that live in multiple plains beside the economic plane. If you were to only examine the economic plane, you’d be missing out on social recognition, loyalty, relationships, entertainment, and all the other things that motivate humans to act.
We are multidimensional — we have values that simply aren’t quantified in the economic realm. Sometimes, we need to focus on just making the world a better place and that’s what I like about this ecosystem. We do that!
Where can people keep up with you?
The best place to connect with me is on Twitter @thegrifft.
Anyone who’s reading this article is more than welcome to come to the Giveth house in Barcelona, if the Coronavirus ever lets us travel again!
I’d love to connect on Trustlines, Circles & brightID too — Let’s do some QR action!
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For those still with us, I hope this chat went to show why I was gassing Griff up in the intro!
Ethereum — and web3 in general — has introduced me to some of the most holistic, value-driven people I’ve ever met and I couldn’t be more excited to watch the many projects we drive forward as a whole.
If you’re looking for a way to help, please consider donating to The Commons Stack’s latest Gitcoin Grant!
As we spend the next few weeks in quarantine, use this time wisely to focus on new ideas.
In a world constantly begging for change, it’s times like these that will drastically alter the future of humanity as we know it!
Until then, be sure to keep up on all things MetaCartel to get a sneak peek into the future of community coordination!
-> Check out our virtual hackathon starting the 1st of April soon: hackathon.metacartel.org