November 4, 2019
If a large part of the cryptographer’s job is to communicate securely in the presence of adversaries, then the 21st-century writer, in many ways, must also be a cryptographer. They compete against the usual adversaries––clickbait, click farms, keyword stuffing, misinformation, plagiarism––and must prepare for emerging threats: cloud failure, censorship, deepfake, bots.
In the cryptosphere, the state of content is especially precarious. Instant liquidity has signaled huge opportunity for both shillers and scammers alike. Most of the projects in the blockchain graveyard didn’t suffer smart contract or wallet breaches, but content breaches: fake websites, fake white papers, redirected DNS, spearphishing emails.
In the Ethereum ecosystem, open source initiatives like EthHub and Ethereum Research have helped crowdsource and curate quality content, and MetaMask’s phishing detector prevents users from visiting a list of known malicious sites. Projects like Civil, Kauri, and Steemit are even using the innovation of blockchain itself to revamp the infrastructure and incentives around content management. Writers like Andreas Antonopoulus and Gavin Wood have taught us to consume information carefully, rigorously. “Not all blockchains are created equal,” they write in Mastering Ethereum. “When someone tells you that something is a blockchain, you have not received an answer; rather, you need to start asking a lot of questions.” Our ecosystem now is asking more questions, better questions––about technical specifications, compatibility, decentralization, and trust.
Yet we are all still bound to Web2––its ranking algorithms, its content mods, its ad-driven attention economy, its cloud services. The irony: Web3 evangelists need Web2 to get our message out there.
“Fiction’s abyss is silence … nonfiction’s abyss is Total Noise.”
–David Foster Wallace
Since ConsenSys formed in 2014, we have made it our mission to create and distribute content that goes beyond market movements and explores the role of blockchain technology in emerging megatrends. Recently, we have focused on providing developers with the technical content they need to keep building, disruptors with the entrepreneurial resources they need to bring products to market, and enterprises with the real-world case studies they need to inspire their own blockchain discovery and deployment.
Today, we are beginning our blog migration from Medium to consensys.net. This is a small but important transition because it highlights one of our core convictions that protocols and platforms matter. Over the years, Medium has been incredibly handy to us––as it has for many Web3 projects––and we will continue to use it when appropriate to grow and engage our audience. But in the spirit of flexibility, security, accountability, and disintermediation, it’s time for us to own our content.
To initiate this transition, our team wanted to lay down some content principles to guide us, our ecosystem, and hopefully the broader Web toward a better content future. We hope this post serves as a resource for other Web3 projects who are trying to get their message out there and who are motivated to create responsible and inspired content experiences.
We will own our content.
Several startups and publications such as Gitcoin and Hackernoon have recently migrated from Medium to self-hosted blogs to protect SEO equity, increase customization, unlock analytics, and secure ownership of their content in the case that Medium is sold, hacked, or changes their Terms of Service. Medium is still a powerful platform for distributing content and engaging the community, and we’ll continue to be active on it. Here’s a simple formula for using your internal blog and Medium in tandem:
- Publish a post on your internal blog first.
- Use Medium’s import tool or canonical link option to tell search engines that your original version should receive full credit and rank higher than the copy on Medium.
- On Medium, change the post title and copy and paste the first two paragraphs from your original post. Add a CTA at the bottom that directs readers toward the original post on your internal blog. For example, “To read the full story, visit [linked post title].”
For now, we must still play by Google’s rules to get our content discovered. Web3 content strategy is currently a balancing act between staying true to decentralized media and harnessing centralized media to get the news about decentralization out there. We also still rely on Web2 service providers such as Cloudflare and Digital Ocean, at least until more robust, decentralized options emerge. In the meanwhile, we will republish our technical content on Kauri, which stores data on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) and a relevant IPFS hash on the Ethereum blockchain, to ensure it sticks around.
We will learn about our audiences responsibly.
We take data privacy seriously. We take opt-in email seriously. We take reader fatigue seriously. We will never ask for private keys or seed phrases. We will analyze our audiences’ behaviors with full disclosure, not to spam them or exploit their attention but to deliver the content and experiences that they’re looking for.
We will write for audiences across the globe.
We admire the Ethereum Foundation’s recent initiative to translate its website and other resources for the global community. In the spirit of internationalizing the story of blockchain technology, we will soon publish case studies and other content in non-English languages, as well as localize our website for different regions around the world.
We will prioritize clarity.
The global economy is decentralizing, independent of blockchain technology. We will minimize jargon, acronyms, compound terms, and neologisms whenever possible. We will continue to update and expand our blockchain glossary. We anticipate that one day, dapps will just be called apps and everyone will return to just talking about databases, but with underlying blockchain protocols.
We will prioritize clarity, but we will not minimize complexity when it’s due. We will stay close to the machine. We will write about blockchains and their componentry and not about “blockchain” as a monolithic, mystical machine. We will cite and analyze on-chain data. We will call on technical experts, enterprise experts, entrepreneurial experts, design experts, and others from across ConsenSys and the ecosystem to write with depth and precision.
We will write about the people behind the machine.
We will write user stories and behind-the-scenes stories and origin stories. We will highlight hackathon winners and grant winners and developer lock-ins and the Ethereum community on the ground. We will write about the blockchain space as a convergence of disciplines. We will not forget the builders and visionaries who got us here: Lovelace, Turing, Chaum, Nakamoto, Gibson, Berners-Lee, and so many more.
We will prize interoperability.
2019 has been the year of compatibility. Between Hyperledger and Ethereum. Between private chains and public chains. Between Eth2 clients. We will learn the lessons from the early Internet and avoid balkanization, in both our code and our content. We will not abandon the vision of interoperability in the race to promise immediate functionality and market-readiness. We will continue to research how to best measure the decentralization of a network.
We will keep crypto weird.
Weird meaning different, good, remarkable––worth remarking about, like Satoshi’s Bitcoin white paper, which many of us shared with one another years ago, saying “Hey, pay attention to this.” We shared the paper because it was clear, humble, radical.
Talented people across the ecosystem have been working feverishly to improve Web3 UX and onboarding, but for many, content will be the onramp to the blockchain space. Joe Lubin, a co-founder of Ethereum and the founder of ConsenSys, started his Web3 journey by reading Vitalik Buterin’s writing in Bitcoin Magazine. What enchants many of us about this space is that, as Joe often says, it’s more than a market––it’s a movement, of incredible spirit and scale.
And so, we will keep the original crypto spirit alive in our content. We will make more zines. We will be honest about our discontent. We will tweetstorm. We will celebrate, too, with narwhals and dancing foxes. We will remember that the Web3 journey is a quest. We will communicate the message about decentralization loud and clear in the presence of adversaries. We will be a signal in the noise.