I don’t recall exactly when Ryan Bubinski started berating me about migrating to Discord. Most likely his Discord blitz began during one of our many-times-a-day Zoom meetings around three months ago.
Now I live out my days hearing the sonar beep of Discord notifications every few minutes. And then I go to sleep and hear it in my bad dreams.
Thanks a lot, Bubinski.
Bubinski is our CTO and the person with whom I formulated the idea for Decrypt in early 2018. While we always knew we wanted to make it a Web 3 site that covered the advent of Web 3, we had no idea what exactly that meant. We figured we’d start by bolting dapps to our site—stuff like prediction markets and token-curated registries. But god, that sounded dreary and inelegant.
Luckily, DeFi started racing through the ecosystem, and Ryan started galloping after it, and I and the rest of the staff tottered along behind him. And then right behind DeFi came DAOs. And suddenly the evolution of decentralized autonomous organizations began to give us a more compelling glimpse into our own path.
We decided to spearhead the building of a DAO that, in turn, could create a new kind of launchpad for people to publish stuff. The idea was to unbundle all the services publishers need—freelance writing, editing, advertising, legal, marketing, PR—and offer these a la carte via independent, DAO-funded “guilds” to publishing brands. The lion’s share of value, i.e. money, would flow to the people who do those things—not the publishing platform.
The more we talked about it, the more Decrypt’s path to DAO became obvious. And since virtually every DAO lives on Discord, building our media DAO meant we needed to live on Discord.
“You need to get the whole team on Discord,” Ryan told me one day.
“We need to get the whole team on Discord,” I told our editor-in-chief Dan Roberts.
“You all need to get on Discord,” Roberts told the editorial team.
Their collective reply: crickets. Angry crickets. Migrating our diligently assembled Slack channels to a new platform was the last thing anyone on our beleaguered editorial team wanted to do. And that’s pretty much how it sat for a while.
Oh, Decrypt had a Discord server—it was set up a year ago to handle support for our mobile app and experimental reader token. It has some 6,000 members, but most of us ignore it since the interactions tend toward “wen token moon?”
For editorial workflow, we used Slack. If Slack was good enough for us and our fathers, and our fathers’ fathers, well dammit, Slack was our home. Decrypt’s team of 18 people are scattered across California, Connecticut, Colorado, Texas, New York, London, Berlin, Paris, and sometimes Tel Aviv. (Also Rome, if you count Ben Munster, which we try not to.) Slack is the closest thing to our headquarters.
But Bubinski persisted.
If you’ve ever used Discord, you know that it’s categorically not designed to accommodate a corporate team. Launched in 2015 as a VoIP service for gamers, Discord is built to easily allow anyone in the world to join and have fun. People tend to use pseudonyms rather than their real names, and it’s super easy to spoof a user’s identity.
One look around that cacophonous hellscape was more than enough for me. The thing is organized around “servers” which are the equivalent of Slack workspaces. Servers are split into channels, which can be subdivided into discussions and subthreads. That’s not so different from Slack in concept but in actuality it’s far harder to organize and sort through what’s important, let alone what’s urgent. It made me wonder why it’s so popular with DAOs.
I couldn’t find anyone who knew why Discord became the de facto crypto water cooler. I asked Discord PR but their comms guy, like their janky user interface, was pretty useless. (The PR dude, who seemed to work for an outsourced PR agency, said it would take the better part of a week to find out, if he could even find someone who knew, which didn’t sound likely.)
I posed the question to one of our media DAO advisors, Lauren Garcia, who is a crypto OG. She said Discord’s dominance as the social network of choice for crypto is relatively recent.
“I don't remember Discord being a thing in the 2017 bull run—it was all about Telegram back then,” she said. “Somehow it flipped to Discord because it has more features,” she guessed, including the ease of setting user permissions and roles, thousands of utility bots, and moderation tools. It’s also free (unlike Slack), or pretty cheap depending on your tribe’s level of usage.
Amid the edit staff’s caterwauling, we began our migration by killing a few of our less-crucial but popular Slack channels and recreating them in our new DAO Discord server. But almost immediately, Ryan said we fusty old journalists weren’t doing Discord correctly. For such a noisy, chaotic platform, there are so many rules!
For instance, when I replied to someone’s comment with my own comment, Ryan told me to delete it and repost it as a thread. When Dan Roberts suggested a new process for inviting people to the Discord server, Ryan told him he had to post the suggestion as a proposal on Discourse, a separate governance site.
And immediately we began to get spam DMs from people hawking new NFT collections and shitcoins. I’m still waiting to get my new Rabid Rabbit Punk NFT that cost me 6 ETH. (Kidding! It was only 3 ETH, and the dude said he would mail it to my home address.)
In the end, we’ve settled into a cadence where the editorial folks pop up in the Discord a few times a day to use the chat channels we’ve put there. Dan Roberts held a “Discord Stage” audio thing this week that was a huge success. (35 whole listeners, including two who asked to speak, and then didn’t say a word!) Slowly, we are adjusting to Discord.
Still, I have a hard time imagining we will ever move our critical workflow channels there. And I’m not alone in my frustrations with Discord: even Neeraj from Coin Center, practically the patron saint of Crypto Twitter, a man who revels in the chaos of crypto commentators and viral memes all day, tweeted on Monday: “Can’t stay on top of discord at all. I need to be put out to pasture. The ride was fun but it’s over.”
cant stay on top of discord at all. i need to be put out to pasture. the ride was fun but its over
— Neeraj K. Agrawal (@NeerajKA) October 18, 2021
Ryan’s take: ngmi.
My response: wagmi.
But I feel Neeraj’s pain.