Here is my conversation with Nadia Asparouhova about the second-order effects of wealth booms in tech/crypto, different perspectives on public goods, and peer production in open-source and in crypto.
Nadia Asparouhova is an independent researcher. She previously wrote about her research on open-source communities in "Working in Public", and more recently, has been researching the history of and approaches to philanthropy - which she defines with this phrase “if venture capital is risk capital for private goods, philanthropy is risk capital for public goods”.
In this conversation, we talked about public goods from this broader perspective. We talked about how previous generations have thought about this question, and how the tech ecosystem outside of crypto are grappling with this today. We talked about the second-order effects of wealth booms which have happened in both tech and crypto, how peer production happens, and the role that intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards might play in the development of crypto protocols.
2:01 working as an independent researcher
6:09 understanding wealth booms in tech and crypto
13:01 the unique perspectives of each successive community
25:46 the right (and wrong) question to ask
34:41 the landscape of public goods provisioning
39:22 innovative philanthropic funding models
45:35 the first wave of open source communities and crypto
54:42 different classes of stakeholders
1:05:00 research methodology and tools for thought
[00:00:00] Sina: Hey everyone. This is Sina with another episode of Into the Bytecode. Today. I had a conversation with Nadia Asparouhova. Nadia as an independent researcher, she previously went deep on open source communities and wrote about her research in a book titled Working in Public, which was published by Stripe Press in 2020, and which I've been a big fan of. More recently, she's been doing research into the history and the different approaches to philanthropy. Which she defines with this phrase “if venture capital is risk capital for private goods, philanthropy is risk capital for public goods.”
So in this conversation, we talked about public goods from this broader perspective.
We, we talked about how previous generations have thought about the question of public goods in philanthropy
and how the tech ecosystem outside of crypto is grappling with this today. We talked about what happens when there are wealth booms, which have happened in both tech and in crypto and what might happen after these.
We also went back. to some of Nadia as research around open source and talked about how that perspective can be applied to crypto today. Specifically around how peer production happens and the role that intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards might play.
At the end of the conversation. I also managed to sneak in a couple of questions about Nadia, his personal process as a researcher.
And we kicked out a bit about note taking and tools for thought.
With all that said, I hope you enjoy. So how, how do you define like independent researcher?
[00:02:03] Nadia: Yeah. I mean, it's sort of this weird, you know, like someone asks me at a cocktail party, like what do I do for work? And it's just like, I try to keep it simple. So I'll just be like, oh, I'm like a writer researcher. And, and then they'll say, you know, what university do you work for? And I'm just like, well, I just sort of independently funded.
And then I start to realize that, like, this is not a concept that people like are, it is just kind of like a weird made up concept. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I just think that like, I person believe like, like anyone can do research, like why do you have to like work at a university or something, or have some sort of like institutional support in order to be considered like a quote unquote, like real researcher.
And yeah, I mean, I've definitely cycled between working at companies. And, and then like diving back into my own writing and research. And right now I definitely, yeah. I feel like I, I, I felt like I had a topic in this case. Yeah. I was working at sack until last summer. And then I felt like this topic around philanthropy kind of just had been sitting in my brain for a really long time.
And I feel like when I get to that point where there's just like something that is tu at my brain for a while, and I like, can't get it out. I just need to like, kind of drop everything and focus on it. So so yeah, I just, I feel like I'm very like led by my own intuition, but one thing I do think I've noticed among other friends that are independent researchers, is we all kind of seem to share this interest in like bringing, like staying close to like the quote unquote, like real world or like real world applications.
And like. So, like, I think one of my fears that if I were working in an academic institution is like, I would get sort of like divorced from the populations that I wanna work with or the people I wanna understand. Whereas being independent allows me to just sort of be like embedded wherever I wanna be.
And then think about how to translate the work I'm doing. Like, you know, publishing on my blog versus publishing in a journal is just like, it feels like I can reach more of the people that I wanna reach than if it's sort of locked behind a pay wall.
[00:03:55] Sina: Yeah. I mean, I guess thinking through what an academic institution provides at some level it's, well, one it's funding, so you can focus on what you're doing, but in today's worlds, like one, I mean, as you've written in your book, you can, you can source that from your audience themselves. Or you can find organizations that are aligned with whatever research you're doing and who are happy to fund fund, like a deeper kind of study of it in some dimension.
And then I guess academic institutions also provide kind of a network of potential thought partners to plug into and bounce ideas off of each other and evolve what you're thinking through together. But even that is like not really confined to the walls of an academic institution anymore. Right.
It's like, we're all connected in these group chats and on Twitter. And like everyone kind of like knows, and you're, you're like one degree away from anyone you might wanna talk to anyway. Yeah. And then like, where you publish is also like kind of better if you do it on a blog and it can reach a wider audience instead of putting it inside the PDF that people have to go like download somewhere.
So it, it really makes sense.
[00:05:10] Nadia: Yeah. It feels like I mean, there are definitely certain. Types of research that you can only really do. I think in academic institutions, especially if you have, you know, really high materials costs or you, you know, want to have a lab I can see why you would need some institutional support. And then there are some fields I think that are that academic really just like excels at.
And like, it makes sense to, to work with one, but in my case, I feel like you have to kind of start with like, what is the impact you wanna have on the world? And then like, where is the best place to do it? And in my case, I felt like I just haven't felt the need to, to affiliate with yeah, with a formal institution.
Cuz like even when I was doing like open source research, like worked with plenty of academics as well. It's not like there's some dividing line where I'm not allowed to talk to people just cuz they're they're and vice versa.
[00:05:58] Sina: It's like the entrepreneurial analog of like what it looks like in the research world.
[00:06:04] Nadia: Exactly. That's the, the favorable interpretation we'll go with.
[00:06:08] Sina: yeah. Is, is it fair to say that, like the topic that you're interested in right now and your you've been really kind of going deep on, is this topic of philanthropy, right? That's the current research interest that you have
[00:06:20] Nadia: Yeah. Although as I've been going deeper into it, I feel like it's even broadening I'm, I'm starting to realize like how the term philanthropy evokes a lot of different topics in people's brains or like different associations that I don't always have. And so I'd say even more broadly, I'm just interested in looking at the recent wealth booms in both tech and crypto and trying to understand like what their public legacy will, will look like.
Which to me means philanthropy, but yeah, to other people might mean something else, but,
[00:06:50] Sina: and why, why is that interesting? Like, what about that compels you.
[00:06:55] Nadia: Yeah, I think there's like, I've been interested in this topic broadly, so I can answer that as like, why do I find this topic interesting at all? And then also, like, why is it interesting right now? More broadly, I think, like, we talk a lot about cultural production as this like bottom up endeavors.
So we'll talk about like trends. We talk about social movements and so we think about sort of like this massive people that kind of move in different ways and then like shape and influence what our society looks like. But then I feel like we don't talk as much about sort of like the top down version of cultural production which is shaped sort of like behind the scenes, by private individuals.
And this is maybe like the, the elite concept of, of cultural production. And so you look at a lot of the public institutions right now that we take for granted. Maybe the more obvious ones are things like funding of the arts or of parks and other public spaces, but then. There's things like public libraries the state of American higher education, like our public school system scientific research.
So much of this stuff has been historically funded by private individuals that just like wanted to see something happen in the world. And that may not have happened. Otherwise if a large private funder didn't step in. So I'm really interested in philanthropy as this risk capital for, for public goods is a term that people use sometimes where I, I just see these sort of parallels between like, you know, venture capital is risk capital for private goods.
Like, why don't we talk? And especially in tech why don't we talk more about the, the same version of that, but for, for public goods. So I, I just feel like it's really like under discuss and then like maybe misunderstood topic. Because as, as I, I sort of mentioned when I say philanthropy, I've noticed that people will immediately kind of go to like charities or non-profits, or like kinda like direct direct services to help people that are less fortunate than them.
And I just feel like that's a very, like. Overly simplified. And in some cases, even sort of like an accurate model of everything that philanthropy could be. I see philanthropy as much more of like a type of freedom of expression where it's, it's like the ability for private citizens to experiment with things that benefit society without asking permission for, from the government to do it.
Which I think is like a really cool thing that we should be exercising more. So that's why I'm kinda like broadly interested in it. And then.
[00:09:12] Sina: So, Well, one, one part of what you said is that like government and kind of centralized planning can be good for taking something that's working and scaling it and sustaining it and putting more firepower behind it. But that a lot of the innovation around like these institutions that we rely on historically has like come from individuals, right.
Being like, Hey, I wanna start like the first I don't know, the like Benjamin Franklin doing first, like firefighting. I forget like he did a
[00:09:47] Nadia: Yeah, volunteer association.
[00:09:49] Sina: right. And, and the second part of what you said, which is interesting is that these like wealth booms can be a time for this to happen.
And I guess the reason that that's the case is that like, if you've already made some money, then you are maybe. Decoupled from the needs to like, whatever you do, having to also like generate money and you can explore this like wider space of what positive impact do I wanna have on the world?
Whether or not that can fit within the context of a, like for profit business.
[00:10:29] Nadia: Yeah, definitely. I think there's well, so it's interesting. Cause I think people, when, when. Talk about individual acts of philanthropy. It's, it's often analyzed through this like very personal lens where right. Like someone has made a lot of money and then they have this like second act of their careers where they wanna think about what is the legacy I wanna leave behind.
And a lot of, sort of like either media analysis or academic research I've seen really talks about like the role of the individual on that. But I think something that gets sort of under discussed is how these cohorts of wealth kind of like move and move in groups. So what's interesting to me about right now, is that like a ton of people in startups sort of in like the tra tech kind of sphere separately from crypto, like a lot of them have made a ton of money in the last five to 10 years.
And I think people don't even quite like realize just how. Like the sheer magnitude of wealth that has been created. And so you have all these people that made their money by betting on something that was maybe unconventional or not obvious at the time. I dunno if you've read Carla Perez's technological, but she talks about these sort of like how you have these like technological innovations that then drive changes in the financial market where suddenly tons of people are making money off of a new innovation.
And then, and then there's sort of this reckoning where, you know, suddenly that, that innovation becomes mainstreamed and then like, there's this frenzy period where everyone is trying to do the same thing, and then there's an inevitable crash, but then there's sort of this point where like that new paradigm becomes solidified is like the mainstream paradigm.
And then the cycle begins again. And I think like the place we're at in the startup cycle in sort of like the tra tech world is that we've had that sort of frenzy period. We've had the backlash that we've seen. Starting in sort of like 2016, there's been a backlash against tech. And so now they're kind of in this moment of like, how do we actually define our place in society?
Startups are no longer a counterculture they're like entering the mainstream. And I think crypto is still further behind in that moment. But it, it feels sort of inevitable that they will get there, there as well. So I think like it's not just that an individual sort of has this personal motivation to say, I need to figure out what I wanna do or how I wanna leave my mark.
But it's almost even like this like defensive mechanism where it's like everyone else has noticed that you've amassed quite a bit of power and wealth, and now you need to defend that or figure out what your role is like as a steward of society, I guess.
[00:12:59] Sina: Hm. So it's like part of it is that people or the broader kind of tech community is being thrust into this position almost like despite its, its will or to some extent.
[00:13:14] Nadia: Definitely. Yeah. I think like if the tech backlash had not happened, although it was sort of inevitable, but if there hadn't been that sort of backlash, then tech wouldn't have to stop to say, oh, right. Like what are we all about? Like how do we present ourselves to the government, the media. And, and I think that sort of forced self reflection makes has naturally made people in tech wanna say, okay, like how do we actually create cultural institutions that reflect who we are?
Like, what does all this stand for? Basically?
[00:13:42] Sina: Yeah. And kind of a big question, but what do you think the answer to that looks like? Like how are people thinking about that today?
[00:13:51] Nadia: Yeah. I mean, it's still I feel like we're still like, sort of looking at some emerging behavior now, so maybe my answers will be different in the next few years. But I think there are, I I've been trying to kind of go back and reexamine, like yeah. What, what were those sort of unique insights that tech had that the existing paradigm didn't have?
Like, I think the, the predecessors to tech wealth were probably like wall street wealth and sort of like the Dabo cohort that is very focused on this like globalist worldview. Whereas I think like people in tech, like things that make tech wealth unique, and again, I'm sort of like crypto is like maybe like a third phase after that, that I find even even more distinct.
But within sort of like tra tech, I feel like. There was this trope of like the young founder that we kind of take for granted now, but was very unusual at the time of you have these people coming in with no real world experience. There are college students that are starting companies and disrupting major industries like Airbnb or Uber.
That was very counterintuitive. Right. And so I think like one of the learnings that came out of that was this idea that like a strong belief in meritocracy and this belief that, you know, if you just find the best talent and you point them towards a problem you can overturn these decades old or centuries old industries.
And then thinking about like, how does that play out philanthropically? Right. And, and you can see in some of the newer initiatives, there's. Big focus on finding top talent, bringing top talent to America sort of like how do we aggregate all the best people into one place and in some ways that can play out really, really well.
Cuz it's like, you know, they're trying to find like interesting people and, and empower individual people to like do interesting things. But then you can also imagine like the flip side, somewhere down the line where people are gonna say, all right, you're spending all this time, you know, supporting top talent.
What about the rest of the world? So you can kind of see, but like that's a very like
[00:15:49] Sina: it, can be, it can be almost exclusive in it's in its focus on super talented people.
[00:15:56] Nadia: right. But then it could be, yeah. Exclusionary.
[00:15:59] Sina: let me just try to piece this together. So what you're saying is that each, larger narrative of success or you know, progress that happens in history, whether that. Wall street or, you know, tech in the valley, like through the two thousands, or if it's like crypto right now, they, the, the people building these companies and projects and, you know, within their, their relationships with each other, they embody certain kind of unique insights and ways of looking at the world.
And in the case of tech, this was like, A belief that I can, you know, I can do it. Like, just because someone else has, has like been doing this for like 40 years, doesn't mean that they're smarter than I am. And I can like figure it out. And like this focus on talent. And then as one of these waves kind of reaches each its peak has some level of success.
Then these groups start like reckoning with like, how do we wanna engage with the world in a more intentional way? And these values and points of view, find their way into how they even think about that problem.
[00:17:12] Nadia: yes, definitely that. Yeah. Cuz you think about like the, the Davos cohort, that's like the predecessor to. And think about like the gates foundation, for example, which I would put in that, in that cohort this focus on global public health for example, is like also sort of a weird defining trait of people from that cohort of wealth.
And it's like, why did they care so much about fixing global poverty or addressing global public health? It comes from this sort of worldview that is around the, the, the sort of like McKinsey consulting mindset of like, okay, given a set of parameters, how do we find the most interesting problem in the world that we need to solve?
And we're sort of like divorced from any sort of locality. We just wanna find like the, the like quantitatively best opportunity to pursue. And that feels like a really defining feature from. Whereas like in tech, it's almost like much more locally focused. So you see people talking about the importance of like immigration in America and like bringing all the best people here is actually like completely inverted from like the previous generation of, of philanthropy.
And then, yeah, I don't even know. I mean, I'm curious what, what you think about sort of like the, the next generation of crypto, but like some of the things I notice are like they're not so obsessed with breaking down institutions in the way that I notice in tra tech where it's like, you know, the da, I feel like the, the people in tra tech have this obsession with like the David and Goliath model of like one person that's gonna like disrupt an entire industry are disrupt an entire institution.
Whereas I seem to notice in crypto, it's much more about like doing lots and lots of different experiments or enabling like this sort of like plural, like yeah, pluralistic, like multitude of, of ideas to flourish. They're not aiming for any sort of like one monopoly. They're giving people the tools to like, Do things themselves, rather than trying to like seek out the very best person and like drag them into, into an institution.
And I still think again, like it's still too early to really know what crypto's like public legacy is gonna look like. But it seems they're already some differences that are very, yeah,
[00:19:18] Sina: Yeah, that's a super interesting point of like, I feel like what you said about the crypto mindset, not being as much about, I wanna like grow from being David to being Goliath and like dominate and like then change, like how things are done that might be like downstream of the fact that all of these protocols are, you know, kind of small, modular on chain, you know, smart contracts that are designed to interface with other things.
as a corollary of that is that they're designed to be composable with the rest of the ecosystem. So I think there's much more of a notion of like, how do I, how do I build this thing in a way that it, that it lives in harmony with everything else?
and, Yeah, it's, it's super interesting. And then like, I mean, even organizationally, these organizations don't have very well defined boundaries, right? They're much more permeable where like there's a core team. They look more like open source communities like you've written about. And I bet that influences the, the mindset of like, how do you really rally you know, a force behind a particular idea is the best mode to go and like recruit everyone into an in-house team or is it better to, you know, do some of that, but then try to, you know, build, build this like broader belief and like narrative about why this is something worthwhile that we should all go after.
I don't know. I'm just kind of spit balling here.
[00:20:47] Nadia: Yeah, no, I think that's right. That's that's, that's, that's sort of what I've been noticing as well. It feels. so much is gonna change in the next, you know, two years, five it's like, I feel like anyone even pretending to know what the future's gonna look like is just wrong. But from sort of the vantage point, we're in, we're in now it feels like tech is sort of like actively grappling with the sort of legacy institutions that have been built over the last century or whatever.
Whereas crypto is just like building a parallel universe entirely and sort of doing it all from scratch. And it has the benefit of this like blank slate, but but doesn't seem as interested in yeah, like capturing or it's not. Yeah, they're not trying to build the next Facebook. They want like, a dozen different Facebooks to exist or something.
I don't know.
[00:21:29] Sina: Yeah. How do you find people? Like whether it's in tech or of the previous eras, like how do people approach this question of what legacy do I wanna have or what impacts do I wanna have on the world? why, or how is that different from what someone asks themselves at the beginning prior to like even building their company.
Right. Of like, the subst founder talking about, I don't know, like I, I forget the origin story there, but I, I, I listened, I recently listened to his interview on Joe Rogan, which was pretty cool. but he was talking about like, things we're all familiar with a journalist, not being able to express themselves fully in these legacy institutions, realizing that there can be more of a direct connection with your audience and kind of the confluence of all these things and realizing that, yes, this thing will be good for the world, with the view that I hold.
And it can also make money at the same time and become this like self propagating for profit entity. Like how, how has that like second kind of come to reckoning moments different than, than the first.
[00:22:33] Nadia: It's a really important question. And I, I wish more people would ask it because to me, this is, this is why I don't think philanthropy can be defined as like an interest in doing good, whatever that really means anyway. and, and part of why I'm intrigued by the topic of philanthropy within a tech context in particular is that I just notice among my peers and I'm sure you've noticed among your peers as well, that it's, it's not.
Okay. We have a few observations. Like one tech people are not very active philanthropically in the classical sense of like donating or whatever doing this sort of like public charity events and galas and things like that. They just like, don't do very much of it. But then like the second observation is that tech people really, really care about making an impact on the world.
So it's like, it's not that they don't, they're not just sort of like sitting on their wealth and actively disinterested in shaping the world. It seems more like they see their daily work as, as, as the best manifestation of that. And so I think like the, the distinction that I would identify comes back to these sort of wealth cycles again.
And how people think about like, okay, you wanna, everyone wants to sort of like shape or influence the world. And then like, what are the vehicles that you're using to do that? And if you look at sort of like the, the trajectory of this is true for the industrial revolution as well, and the auto revolution, and then also for, this most recent wave of startups where.
Like your business is sort of like yeah, it's like your, your like day job manifestation of like you having an influence in the world, but like, you're, you're still sort of like counterculture when you're like really early on in this cycle. So you're kind of like the underdogs you're like, and I think tech people are still trying to transition out of this mindset where they see themselves as the, the underdogs, the counter elite were like, weren't, we're not like those people, we're just over here, we're doing like the real work out of our garages.
Right. and I think the moment in which they need to think outside of like, you know, business is a way that I can manifest those, those desires into the world is when there is that sort of like backlash moment where it's like, okay, like turns out, like I can't just use startups to change the world.
Why? Because now, you know, the government in the media is like hostile . And and if I continue to just sort of put all my eggs in like the startup basket I'm gonna get out regulated or I'm gonna be like vilified or whatever. And so. I see sort of like this, and maybe it's like a darker interpretation of what philanthropy is or something that, but like, I really see like a huge part of it is about,
[00:24:56] Sina: It's like optics it's somehow like curing, like, a positive. Positive reputation points through doing something like
[00:25:04] Nadia: Yeah. And then like maybe in a lighter fashion, it's like, you are no longer the counterculture you are now, the mainstream you are now like sort of like the prevailing elite and the way that you become truly quote unquote elite is that you start to influence like, The public sector and you influence these multiple branches of like government or academia or media.
And yeah, it's like, you're not just like a business person that is like running a company. You have to be sort of like spread throughout, like all these other different sort of sectors. So yeah, it's, it feels like it's just like this necessary shift from like, I change the world through the company I build to like, I change the world through like all the things that I'm doing.
[00:25:44] Sina: That's that's interesting. I do feel like, I mean, coming back to crypto also, I do feel like there is a bit of that, of, you know I don't like it is, it is possible to talk about caring about, you know, the second, second order effects of what you're doing and, and like public goods and these things in more of a, reputation gathering, kind of, sort of a way.
But I also feel like, maybe it's a newer, generation of founders or, maybe it's just the very early idealism of crypto where I do feel like there are people who have some intrinsic motivation for asking this question cuz not every problem can be tackled with a for-profit.
Model, with subs stack, like if your audience doesn't have an ability to pay for the contents themselves, and you can't find some other, you know multi-party marketplace model for someone else to pay for it. at some point there's there isn't like a business model to make this equation square off.
And certain things like that, just like, I feel like fall within the category of public goods where they can't be serviced any other way. Right. Like if it's like providing, education to underprivileged kids or whatever, like malaria nets in Africa, like effective altruism people talk about like, how do you.
How do you build like a for-profit thing around that? So a way that I've been approaching it is like, what are, what are the sorts of problems that can uniquely be approached through this lens? And you can't even get at them through the for-profit lens.
[00:27:31] Nadia: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like when people talk about, yeah, I think that right distinction is what you said of the like it's like public versus private goods is the way I would sort of. break apart, these sort of like two categories of areas to focus on. Whereas I feel like people often talk about for-profit versus non-profit entities with philanthropy, which I think is actually, like, I think we spend way too much time talking about when something should be a for-profit or non-profit I, because like, I mean, even in, in philanthropy right now, there's this trend away from using five one C three S for your philanthropic initiatives, there are a lot of this started with tech.
It started with the Chan Zuckerberg initiative structuring itself as an LLC. But then like, since then, so many other funds have done the same LLC, or just any other sort of like for-profit entity. So I mean, you have all these sort, like philanthropic initiatives now that are not even legally non-profits and that's fine.
They're still doing a lot of like, philanthropic work. So I'm like, I, I feel like we just spend way too much time talking about like shits on. Yeah. That, that part seems like,
[00:28:36] Sina: it's like a broken part of the discourse. It's not pointing at the right. Right, right.
[00:28:40] Nadia: basically I would start with the question of like, are you working on a private goods or a public goods problem?
And then just like, you know, there are plenty of public goods, like broads or schools that are not just purely funded by the government. Like they're funded through public private partnerships or they're privately funded. Like we have private schools, right. Even though education is a public good. So you can then ask the question of like, okay, like I wanna create this thing in the world.
I want it to exist. And then, you know, ask yourself, how do you, like how what's the best way to fund it in order to like, have the impact that you wanna see in the world. And then also like who funds it beyond you? I think is like always an open question philanthropy, because if philanthropy is sort of meant as this like early stage experimental funding the pipeline is often either commercialization or it becomes a government program at least historically that's what's happened.
So I think there's always this question of like, Philanthropy. So is trying to understand, like, what is sort of the long term impact or the long term sustainability of any program that I fund. I can dedicate, you know, three years of funding to this, but then who takes over after that? And I think that's a really tough question with public goods that crypto actually can like help solve probably a lot better than in other places.
But, not the, the common failure mode in philanthropy right now. And I think why so many people in tech and crypto are turned off by traditional philanthropy, let's call it is because people aren't like, I don't feel like there's enough asking the question of like, does this really need to exist?
What kind of goods problem is this? Is it public or private did. And then like, what is the impact that I wanna have beyond funding this thing for X number of years?
[00:30:14] Sina: So, so the real, yeah, I totally agree with what you're saying about. For profit versus nonprofit not being the right, the right distinction. And it's interesting that some of these kind of philanthropic organizations are incorporated as LLCs now, like you were saying, cuz there's roads is a great example cuz that's a public good That can have like a model, a sustainable scalable model around it. as, as someone who's like studying this question broadly, what do you, what do you make of like crypto's emphasis on public goods and how it's talked about in this fear?
Like what's, what's unique about it? What catches your mind about it?
[00:31:00] Nadia: Well, any sort of like funding models for public goods at all is makes it automatically sort like distinct from, from let's say like tra tech in tra tech as well, there's like plenty of public goods, like open source, everything, open source infrastructure that these companies rely on in order to be able to do any sort of like commercial products.
Like they're all built on top of public infrastructure, but I feel like. That's not often discussed in, in tra tech or, I mean, at least my experience with it was it's like, yeah, you have to really like convince people of that to even think about the public good side of it. Whereas I feel like in crypto it's much more native where people understand that we need to, like, I think because they're maybe like closer to it, now they can see the importance of public goods as a way to enable other commercial opportunities to be built on top of it.
So I think it's really cool that there are sort of like native public goods funding models that are coming out of, out of crypto. There is a part of my brain that wonders, like when I zoom out even further beyond public goods. again, just thinking about sort of like the cycles of like how these, the cycle of like wealth creation and aggregation to sort of like discharging back into public society.
I kind of wonder whether crypto's efforts around public goods funding is gonna be the end point or whether it's still just the beginning in the same way that, you know, there's a period where. Tech people saw startups as, as like, this is how we change the world. This is how, I mean, in many cases, some of these startups were replacing, public industries or public sectors like Uber competes, not just with taxis, but also with public transportation.
but they see sort of like, you know, startups are a way to like, do government better essentially. Right? So in that way, it's almost not so different from the public goods provisioning question that crypto was dealing with just tackled in a different way with like a different vehicle. And so for tech people, I feel like the vehicle was just like startups and right now I guess it's attempting for me to first say that like, what we see in crypto is encouraging because it feels like, you know, public goods funding is sort like baked in from the very beginning.
But I kind of wonder if it's the same shape of thing where it's like, we are using crypto to solve public goods problems in the, in the same store we're using the tool that we've created in order to like, solve these problems. But I wonder in five or 10 years, like, will there be an expansion of those efforts in terms of like, Crypto public legacy efforts, I don't really know what the right term is, where they're gonna think beyond just using crypto as, the tool to, to realize those efforts.
[00:33:30] Sina: Hmm, like public goods as a, as a focus in its own, right? Like almost, almost like a movement around public goods being born out of crypto and then kind of taking a life of its own independence of like how it uses crypto as a substrate.
[00:33:46] Nadia: Yeah, it's hard to know how much of the stuff that people are experimenting with now. Cause I feel like a lot of the public goods funding efforts are still largely directed towards funding. like protocols basically they're, you know, directly useful to crypto. And we start to see some of these, like, you know, Bitcoin is experimented with some of the stuff like in cause areas that are sort of like outside of that.
And so, and I think like that's sort of like vitals vision, as I understand it of, we're inventing new mechanisms for funding public goods, and we're gonna use those mechanisms to fund other types of public goods. Like as this sort of grows, that's one trajectory I can see, but then it could also see another trajectory where it's like crypto ends up in the same situation that startup people are in right now where it's like.
We actually just need to engage with like the, the O other public sectors in ways that are not crypto native in order to sort of like build our own public legacy. And those two things will probably happen in parallel. I dunno.
[00:34:38] Sina: Yeah. the public goods kind of movement growing out of, out of being very crypto centric to touching more of the world. Is the version of it that I get more excited about. And I feel like in a lot of ways, like at least the way I think about the crypto, there's like crypto as a kind of technology and maybe a set of values and, and ways of thinking about things.
And then there's like crypto, the current instantiation of the community and the ecosystem. And the latter is almost like the perfect test bed for running these experiments, because it's just a bunch of early adopters. They all know how to use these tools. The stakes are lower. Ultimately, even if it's like millions or hundreds of millions of dollars, it's still like not the world, you know?
And yeah, the way I think about it is that we're kind of running all of these experiments in parallel with the hope that someday they can. Grow to touch the rest of the world in positive ways. that's hopefully the case with public goods. That's hopefully the case with like a bunch of the governance experiments that are happening, or I don't know, privacy, like tech, like ZK stuff that's happening.
Like a lot of those things are being prototyped and first like implemented around crypto use cases, but hopefully they'll go much beyond that.
[00:36:08] Nadia: I really hope so too, because it's definitely, I mean, it's super intellectually stimulating. And it feels like outside of crypto there's, there's like this clear dividing line of like, how do people think about public good provisioning and outside of crypto, it's like, I don't feel like there's as much, nearly as much innovation happening.
And so it's just really refreshing to see all the, all these new initiatives and, and I hope that those two sides like integrate more over time.
[00:36:32] Sina: Yeah. How, how do you think of like the public goods provisioning landscape? Like I think I probably have a very crypto centric lens on it, but I I'm very curious about learning about what other, like thoughtful people are doing out there. can you point at points to like distinct kind of ideologies or methodologies that are, that are alive in this space right now?
[00:36:55] Nadia: you know, broadly, just when I think about it, I think about these two sectors of philanthropy and government and how they interact with each other philanthropy being sort of like the place to, yeah. Experiment with, with new ideas and then government sort of like adopts and scales them.
If those early experiments prove successful, the immense potential that I see in crypto is this is something I touched on in, in working in public where like one of the problems with, having a central entity to manage an open source project is you run into the limits of like physical jurisdictions where like, if like government is the center of like, when we think about who, who funds and supports public goods, it usually start with government.
Right. But because so many of these projects in crypto and, and, and an open source more broadly, span across different governments, different jurisdictions, there's no, there's really, there's no, bene.
[00:37:49] Sina: Clear owner for it.
[00:37:50] Nadia: yeah. Like who do you even go to? There's no one. And I think that's where like crypto has to sort of like, come up with is, is forced to invent like entirely new models.
They can't just fall back on like, oh, we'll just, you know, work with government. Cause it's like, which government are you supposed to be working with here? And so it's like, it's both like frustrating in open source, but it's also this sort of like elegant, I don't know, like, that kind of limitation is gonna just force innovation and maybe force us to even rethink like, what are those jurisdictions?
And like, okay. Maybe it's not any of our sort of like nation state governments, but like I find sort of like the network state kind of feed us to be very compelling because it might force us to say, okay, well someone needs to provision these public goods. Like who is it? Oh, well maybe the natural, next question is, are there new governments that we would form or new?
Yes, like owners or entities that would be able to like help steward these public goods. And I think, yeah, crypto's gonna have to grapple with that much more quickly than the rest of us in the real.
[00:38:47] Sina: Hmm. Interesting. So like network states being these like long running, Collections of people who care about a particular thing or like hold holds like some sort of a cohesive set of beliefs and they can be an ongoing funder of pub, certain types of public goods that transcend like national board borders.
[00:39:09] Nadia: Yeah, right. Like when the network becomes the state, What, what is their role in sort of government's role in the rest of the world has been around provisioning public goods. So the network state might have some sort of parallel role there.
[00:39:21] Sina: Yeah. even on a more tactical level? Like what are people doing on the more kind of like outside of the crypto world to fund public goods, to kind of mobilize around these issues that you find interesting. one of them that like it rhymes with certain things happening in crypto is like this idea of the regranting programs where, I mean, I'll let you describe it, but I'm curious, like, are there things like that that you feel like are just interesting seeds of models that should be explored more?
[00:39:51] Nadia: yeah, I mean, in the end, I think they all still fit into this structure of like it's philanthropic funding. Right. And, but that's also why philanthropic funding is really interesting cuz it can seed some of these new experiments. So yeah, like regranting programs and scout programs are, are one interesting model here that we're seeing.
Some of it sort of came out of, effective altruism and S kind of community. But I feel like it's starting to spill over a little bit into science funding. But it's where instead of sort of like the foundation going out and finding a bunch of opportunities to fund, they create this network of Scouts.
Scouts are like people that are deeply embedded in these different communities that they wanna impact. And they give the scout a budget of, let's say $200,000 and they say, go off and like make these grants to whoever you want. And so it's really cool because it's, you're seeing sort of like, it's kinda like a decentralization of foundations themselves.
Historically foundations have program officers and you know, most foundations still still have this model, but it's like, you know, full-time staff that is working at a foundation and spending a lot of time trying to uncover these opportunities. Program officers are basically. Like investors at work at a, at a VC firm, same concept.
But instead of, so yeah, instead of having just like the VC do it, and you know, we see this, that some VC firms that do have Scouts instead of like, yeah, the in-house investor doing it, they can kind of like, you know, give, give a budget to people that might be able to find those opportunities more quickly and uncover them more quickly and just have like a better sense of taste.
I feel like a lot of these programs are still, yeah, they're still limited and they're still constrained by one, like real world laws around philanthropic giving, because they're still pretty small experience. Like it's hard to imagine. Could you have a scout program that dispersed billions of dollars?
Like that seems less likely to me
[00:41:37] Sina: It just can't happen in, in the, in the, like outside of the crypto paradigm, because who's gonna fund it again, right? Like is a government gonna interface with like a weird network of Scouts where they're not credentialed in ways. Yeah.
[00:41:52] Nadia: yeah, because I, and yeah, that's sort of the, the open question I have for a lot of these new experiences, you know, if, if, if they're successful, how will they end up influencing government? And you can see, I mean, yeah, some of the innovations that are happening around rapid grant style programs where it's just like dispersing funding more quickly fast grants kind of being like the, the biggest example of this, but there have been a bunch of like rapid grant style programs that have emerged from there.
And you can imagine that sort of like positively influencing government programs, if it, if it can lead some of these government funders to think about how do we disperse our funds more quickly and, and use some of the processes that these programs are using in order to like, move faster. So there's like indirect ways in which I think philanthropy can influence government funding.
[00:42:38] Nadia: yeah. In addition to just like literally copying the models.
[00:42:42] Sina: Yeah. Both of those. I feel like our areas, both the regranting programs with the Scouts and, and like fast grants type things are. Both. I feel like that crypto, that people in crypto could explore a lot more and we're not currently cause like the, we have like, you know, with Bitcoin grants, we have this model of each individual, you know, voting with their own, you know, with their own donations.
What they think is a, good that should receive funding. I mean that, in some ways that's maybe like the most extreme version of this regranting idea where each individual is a scout, but the, the amount of leverage they have is somehow limited. Also limited by their own funds.
But I feel like building. Maybe it's like a more delegated version of, of like Bitcoin grants or like quadratic funding where people like delegate their voting power to specific individuals who are like embedded in different communities and have a point of view about like how X, Y, Z public goods should be funded.
And then those people have like much more leverage. Yeah, there's a lot of interesting stuff to explore. It's fully, it feels like it's fully within the realm of products and protocols that can be and should be built with crypto.
[00:44:06] Nadia: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It's interesting to think about. Again, kind of going back to these differences in generational world views of like how tech has implemented them versus how crypto might implement them differently. As you were talking about quadratic voting. I was just thinking about this. So like one of the things I noticed with both rapid grant programs and with scout programs is it's a, a lot of it is really about like high trust in like one individual.
So you're trusting the G to say like, you know, technically their, their budget recommendations are non-binding, but like the foundation is trying to not get in the way and just say like, fund what you think is best. It's like a very high trust kind of model with the rapid grant programs, a bunch of the ones I've talked to use this like champion process instead of like a consensus review pro process where, you know, you have a group of reviewers and you're not trying to reach like perfect a perfect majority vote among these reviewers.
But you're just trying to find like, is, does one of the reviewers really wanna champion this opportunity? And then like, Let them kinda like lead the round, so to speak. it feels like, again, that kind of, that, that rhymes with this sort of like top talent thing I was talking about where it's like, we just believe in the power of like one person who's really competent, just like figure it out.
whereas when I think of crypto, at least I think of more of these, like how do we sort of like prevent any one person from, from gaining too much power, how to sort of like decentralize and, and diffuse the power. And I wonder like how they might adapt those models, differently based on yeah. Based on those views.
[00:45:34] Sina: Yeah, Well, okay. So I thought maybe, maybe we could shift gears at this point and move to a second topic, which is I read your book. Which was really good. And I, I was reading it with the, you know, purely thinking about open source and as I was reading it, I was like, wow, this is it's like, you're talking about crypto as I'm , as I'm reading this.
Right. And one of the one of the themes you talked about and you revisited it multiple times, but it was this idea that at the beginning, in the nineties, when open source was first starting to get some real traction, people had this dream that it would look like you know, Truly like many to many peer production of code, right.
It was gonna be this like fully decentralized process where these communities are working on and evolving these open source projects together. But then what happened naturally over time was that it skewed from this collaborative model to more of like a solo developer at the center of it, or maybe a core team at the center of it.
And then a loose network of people maybe contributing would pull requests and, you know, oftentimes even like creating issues for the core team, because they're, you know, they're just like bombarding them with requests and they can't handle these like maintenance requests and whatnot. And I was just kind of thinking about how in crypto, we have at least some, some, you know, segments of the community have hold this view that these protocols are gonna be built.
By collectives by like decentralized, you know, networks of individuals and like companies and, you know, entities. And, to some extent that's working, right? Like we take, let's take the example of like Ethereum itself, like Ethereum, in some ways it's still like a protocol. and it is being developed in a more decentralized context.
there are, you know, many for developers across like different organizations and whatnot, but I feel like, that's maybe an example of, of that side, but then there's also many, many examples of just seeing, you know, Dows and kind of dysfunction they have in their ability to like actually move things forward.
Right. And it's a bunch of people with like no context commenting on things. It's yeah. I mean, so there's a, there's a less charitable view of like, You know, what's happening also. And, and obviously it's like the truth is somewhere in between and, and there's, there's cases of both, well, why did this happen in the open source world?
And is there any reason to believe that it might be different in crypto?
[00:48:23] Nadia: yeah, gosh, I mean like why it happened in, in, so I think just like the simplest answer is just pure volume of adoption. It's a lot easier to talk about. When there were just fewer open source projects and open source was not the default. It was just like this counterculture thing again, that, you know, some people are doing, you have a smaller group of of people that are even interested in it.
Not as many people that are consuming or using open source. and so, you know, any anyone that was involved, like if you ask the question you're expected to at least try to solve your own problem, it was very like roll up your sleeves and get involved. No one is a passive contributor like you, or, sorry, no one is a passive consumer.
You should always be like contributing, but then just, you know, sheer scale at some point where source essentially just became like free code that anyone can use to be like totally blunt about it. Now you have like millions of people that are using these projects and and there, there are also, like, there are so many projects now thanks in part to GitHub, but just sort of like broadly, like more people are just like putting their stuff on the internet.
And so you have, you know, a developer who's uploading a project that they didn't really expect to get that traction. Suddenly they have tons of traction. They have like. You know, some random company has like picked up their project and like put it into their code and now they want support and they're just expecting help.
There's sort of like this lost context where instead of having like a couple of huge, like monolithic open source projects where everyone kind of knows each other, you have this like strong contributor community, you now have this sort of like, it's the same that happened on the internet more broadly, just like contacts, collapse everywhere.
And yeah, I mean, there's no reason to think that wouldn't happen with, with crypto to some extent. And again, we, as you've pointed out, we kinda see it happening now. Like at least. Yeah. I mean, you see, in, in Dallas it's either like they can be like really like spammy and noisy because so many people are just kinda like flooding your projects.
I've also seen just sort of like lack of willingness of Dow leaders to want to step up and like run the Dow because like, I think a failure mode I've noticed a lot in crypto is, people just sort of being like, well, I want to, you know, embrace the decentralized ethos. So I'm just gonna. give it to the community and not do anything with it.
but like, if you look at sort of what happened in open source, even sort of like decentralized leadership type projects, they start out centralized, right? Like you start out having like the author of the project or the creator of the project and it kind of need to like lead the community and grow it and shepherd it a little bit until like gets to a place where they can kinda like step back.
You can't just sort of like start on day one with like literally no one in charge. It's like, that's much more rare. it's funny, like when I wrote working in public, I thought I was thinking about it a lot in the context of what open source has to say about social media and content creators, and sort of like how the world has evolved, but since publishing it, I'm rising.
It also just has like a lot to say about crypto today. And like a lot of the sort of challenges that I see in crypto, I think can just very directly parallel what, what happened in open source. But I guess like a bright spot of that, I, I will say, Is like, so in, in the book I kind of separate out the idea of like consuming an open source project versus producing an open source project.
And open source projects can continue to be open source in the sense of like, anyone can use it. Anyone can download it's free for anyone to like inspect the code and use the code. That's like a totally separate kind of behavior from like who should be producing or contributing to the code. And I think historically those two things kind of get intertwined where people think, oh, because I'm running an open source project, I have to let everyone contribute.
And then they get either like, totally overwhelmed by the number of contributors or like no one is contributing because, you know, kind of like free writer problem. But like, it's okay to say, like, I'm gonna continue to allow like anyone that uses or whatever, but I just wanna be a little bit more careful or like put up a little bit more of like gentle barriers to prevents or like newcomers from spamming my project.
It's okay to say like some contributors are extractive and I don't want them here, and continue to produce an open source project. So I don't I don't think open source is going anywhere. It's and I don't think crypto's going anywhere. I think it's just like, maybe being more realistic about like the laws of production are still subject to like basic human behavior.
but you, you don't have to fully embrace this, like completely open everything. And if you, if you don't do that, it doesn't make your project not open source or it doesn't make your project not freely accessible. You can find this sort of like in.
[00:52:28] Sina: Yeah. there's this like spirit of inclusiveness that is alive in crypto and like everyone wants to be, you know, come in, come contribute. And that I think is, is a beautiful thing and is an admirable thing. I'm hoping that it, it , I don't know there's different gradations of it that can work, but I think it's also like there is this tension between inclusiveness and exclusiveness and like actually like allowing people to come in further as they kind of demonstrate their, level of engagement, their competence, like their contributing worthwhile things and, that's like a harder thing to say.
You're kind of saying no to people and you're drawing boundaries around what you're doing, but I feel like it's a, it's kind of a natural direction that things need to go in. or maybe there's, maybe there's like mechanisms here to explore in a more fundamental way without, without the core group, like deciding who contributes and who doesn't that, allow everyone to contribute and like there's choice at another layer of the stack, you know?
That's, that's also happening, but.
[00:53:42] Nadia: Yeah. If you give people sort of like a hypothetical example, that's not about open source or not about crypto. Like, you know, you have a, a, a club or something, and it's like the same five people that are always in this club. And then one day some new person joins and you're like, cool.
We have another person in the club, but then that new person just starts talking about like, you know, changing the direction of everything or whatever. You'd kind of be like, whoa, like, you know, you just got here, like maybe, you know,
[00:54:07] Sina: Yeah,
[00:54:08] Nadia: figure out what's going on before you jump in with all your ideas. But then I feel like online, there's sort of like this hesitation or like, because of these strong social norms, which as you said are like a good thing at its core that people wanna be inclusive.
But there's like sort of fear of like, yeah, you don't wanna kick. It seems like against the ethos against the spirit of crypto to like, you know, kick the ball. It's like, that's just realistic. Like you would, you would do it in a smaller, real world context. Like why would you not do that for your project?
[00:54:33] Sina: right. Totally. Like if you're hosting a party and someone comes in and just starts like moving around the furniture and is like, no, the vibes are better this way. yeah.
[00:54:41] Nadia: I allowed to do that.
[00:54:42] Sina: Yeah, I think another, another interesting thing, like you are kind of distinguishing between consumers of open source versus like producers of open source and like.
In the context of these crypto protocols, those groups, like when it comes to the governance and like decision making around the project, those groups are like kind of con con conflated with each other, and there, there is something to, we want the platform to be governed by its users, the users are a real stakeholder, but they're not the developers. They're not like grappling with, you know, the technical design and like the parameters of like the, the project with, you know, that it's operating with. So that's another thing that's happening here is that there's just like different classes of stakeholders that all should have some say into the future evolution of a project.
But I don't think there is a clean way to do that yet.
[00:55:39] Nadia: Yeah. Yeah. And I feel like the questions get more tangled in crypto where sometimes users literally have like ownership in the project in a way that a user of an open of a, you know, non crypto open source project might not. So there's, there's probably even like room for like a mul another role there to describe that.
and yeah, it's like, it's not that like, users are not helpful to a project. They can still provide feedback. They can still, you know, answer other people's questions. They, you know, they, they find ways to like contribute or have sort of like a positive value, but there's a difference between them giving you feedback on something that's not working or, you know, filing a bug report is a different role from like yeah.
Making like technical decisions about the architecture of a project. Yeah, it's just like it's healthy. I think, to be able to, to draw those kinds of.
[00:56:28] Sina: Yeah. Have you thought about what it would be like to revisit the, the topic of this book? Like in the context of crypto, do you like
[00:56:37] Nadia: I thought about it. I can't tell it's a nightmare or fantasy but of like, yeah. Re yeah, there there's definitely room to, for like some kind of update on to, talk about it in the context of crypto. I'm not sure I'm gonna be the one to, to revisit that topic, but but at least I think a lot of like the general principles of open source project dynamics are still just, yeah.
People can kind of translate that themselves as they read.
[00:57:00] Sina: Yeah. And it's, it's, it's kind of too soon. I feel like the dust hasn't settled yet.
[00:57:06] Nadia: That's the hard
[00:57:07] Sina: wanna wait another 10 years before you revisit that topic.
[00:57:10] Nadia: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. The, the hard part of like writing anything sort of like long form or more permanent about crypto right now, I feeling this even in just, you know, looking at like crypto wealth, it's just like, it feels way too early to really definitively say what's happening. Everything is changing so fast.
You don't wanna write a book about something that's gonna be Out of date in a year.
[00:57:29] Sina: Yeah. one other thing that caught my attention in the book was. This idea. I don't know. I don't know if this was a sensible takeaway to have, but you were citing Joha bler and he had talked about, commons based production where like a network, you know, is producing a work like, so he identifies intrinsic motivation as a requirement for like this model working, right?
Like the, the contributors intrinsically caring about moving this thing forward and that, extrinsic motivation coming into the equation here can actually like detract from how well it's working. and again, this made me think of crypto where, you know, there's a lot of extrinsic motivation, and I think the, The current you know, wave of protocols and like the foundations helping those protocols grow is to reward the developers who are contributing to it, integrating with it, like helping grow it. Right. And through, through grants, through, you know, airdrops through like various programs like that. And in, in some ways it feels like a positive cuz like you're, you're allowing someone to more sustainably, like with incentive, alignment, go, you know, go work on a particular direction.
But I, I wonder like if that triggers anything for you of like, how does that, how does that shift things? Like , the fact that financial value is like interwoven into this web of contributions.
[00:59:07] Nadia: Yeah, it's been really Funny to watch it's like this. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's a strange conundrum, right? Because I spent so much time talking to open source developers outside of crypto, who talk about, you know, they would love to be able to pay, be paid full time for their work. They don't understand why people don't financially value open source and then like crypto happened.
Right. And then, you would expect that they might be very excited about it because suddenly people are getting paid very well for a lot of their contributions. And there's a lot of money available, even just, you know, making grants to contributors, things like. but what I've perceived at least is there's like quite a bit of hostility towards, and maybe part of just comes from like, you know, you spend decades of your life thinking in this one way, and then suddenly someone comes up with this magical solution.
You're just inherently suspicious of it. But I've been kinda disappointed that like within the world of non crypto and source that there hasn't been more interest. And in some cases, outright hostility towards the idea of like people getting, you know, paid for their, their contributions. You think they'd be kind of intrigued with by like, you know, how do we, how do we do that for, for our projects?
But then the flip side being as you've kind of, kind of pointed out, I don't know, it raises this question of like, how, how good has it been to, get all this, you know, readily available funding? It seems like in some cases it has been a DET for contributions. and it's kind of like, I mean, it's kind of like watching just this like real time experiment play out again.
Like, I don't really know what the answer is, but I, it definitely. . Yeah, like, so the one thing I'd like, you know, have ECLA had said about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation was he was kind of operating under this assumption that, he was talking about like contributions to open source projects that are modular and granular.
So like they're, you know, easy to review. They don't require that much time to review there. There's sort of like, you can easily like pick up your Lego block and just like stick it in the project and, you know, and then kind of walk off and saying like these kinds of these kinds of contributions should be intrinsically motivated.
And what I think he failed to account for was that like maintenance is like not a modular, granular kind of contribution, right? Like maintaining a project or being sort of like a core developer, a project requires having this sort of like broader overview of what's going on. It requires like looking at lots of different people's contributions and figuring out how they all fit together.
So it's like a very different kind of role that is. Frankly, not that fun for a lot of people to do. And I think in some cases does require sort of extrinsic motivation, motivation, requires like, getting paid or some kind of reputation boost or something to keep people going. So I think there's always still a room for anything.
Crypto has a tremendous job in, in many ways of like helping pave a path for that type of work, to be funded. So I'd love to see like kind of more experience in that. then we see kinda like, yeah, the flip side of it, where like casual contributors can also just make a ton of money on a project that they basically know nothing about don't care about.
That feels like both Bankler. And I would probably say like, that's probably the wrong place to be financially rewarding people. But it is in some ways, really at odds with like, the crypto native model. Right. So I don't know what the right answer is. I like that we have sort of like these two extremes to look at and can kind of try to figure out how to, yeah.
How to move forward from, from there. But it, it definitely doesn't seem like, Financial rewards are not always a, a great motivator is what we're
[01:02:21] Sina: Yeah. we haven't approached a steady state in how protocols reward their contributors in crypto. So, Yeah, the, the numbers like the, the amplitude of how much the reward is, were probably like more closely approximates, the actual value created over time.
I feel. I wonder whether, the fact that a lot of open source projects converge on this, solo or like small core team that is overwhelmed with the reque requests of like a somewhat unhelpful, like contributor community, like that core group and like these other groups, not, not having the financial resources to really like properly dedicate their time and attention to this question, like over a long enough period of time.
again, kind of going to the Ethereum protocol. There are multiple organizations, who are all building clients. And they have a vested financial interest in this working out. And that kind of transitions them from, being like people who care about this and can kind of do this on the side of like another thing that they're doing full time to being like, Hey, this is what I'm gonna do.
I'm gonna actually hire people, like approach it more professionally. So I wonder if like there can be kind of a state's change, like a, a, a different like model of the whole thing, working out with financial value available in the system.
[01:03:51] Nadia: Yeah, I think it just needs to be like figured out as you say, cause. There's just, I, in thinking about, you know, what would the crypto version of working in public look like? There's like a section where I'm writing abouts for like the different roles in an open source project. And you have like the users and casual contributors and maintainers and stuff.
And I feel like crypto projects would have like a few other roles that you might throw in there. So like, what is the role of like an investor? You know, not, not every user or not every token holder is like the same necessarily in terms of like their motivations when they go in what are the motivations of like minors and in projects?
So there's like different types of roles that might not exist in like other types of open source projects. But if we can kinda like classify those kinds of roles and try to understand their motivations, then like, it's, it's easy to sort of be cynical about their role there where like they're just in it for the money, but like also they're in it for the money.
So maybe they actually like really care about a lot of things that we can sort of like design for, And then there's also just like different types of funding mechanisms. Like I was thinking about retroactive public goods funding, where it's like, you're, you're getting funding after the fact instead of sort of like upfront and like, you know, can that help sort of mitigate some of these get rich quick kind of kind of feelings.
[01:04:57] Sina: Totally. Yeah. I, I have like couple of questions that are more, just fun and like things I'm curious about. Do, do you mind, so I'm curious back to this being an independent researcher question. , I'm, I'm more curious about like, how you go about this. Like right now, when you're trying to build like this landscape of like, how to think about this, like big picture question.
I I'm curious about like what your process for that looks like, how do you spend your time? What do you read? Who do you talk to? And then I'm, I'm like to the extent that you wanna nerd out. So like, I'm curious how you keep notes, take notes. Like, do you use any of these different systems? You know, cause it's, it's like, I've always thought that taking on a massive research project or probably writing a book just requires leveling up on this dimension and like having a proper system for like, collecting all the relevant bits and pieces of information and all the quotes and like weaving them together in narratives. That makes sense. So, as someone who's doing this all day, I'm really curious what, how you do that.
[01:06:06] Nadia: Yeah. Oh gosh, this is all. Yeah, this is a whole time.
[01:06:09] Sina: we can, we can transition into the tools for thought portion of the evening.
[01:06:15] Nadia: The tools for thought. Well, I'm, I'm allowed to have other interests too, you know? yeah.
do we all? I feel like every project is different. Every topic is different. So even just sort of comparing my time, researching open source projects and my time researching philanthropy, it's been like totally different method methodologically, and it's been.
Interesting for me to have to kind of learn on, on the fly. In some ways, this process feels really familiar to me. In other ways it feels like some things are different just based on the specific topic I'm doing. So like, for example, like with open source, I felt like there just wasn't a lot of academic research or deeper research, I guess, on open source.
There were a lot of public artifacts, obviously because they're open source projects. So there was a lot of like available information for me to dig through. I got, you know, really great response rates from developers. I would reach out to cuz people just wanna talk about their projects and they're kind of like disposed towards like, you know, sharing public information.
and so it felt like a really Greenfield opportunity in that way. With philanthropy, like philanthropy is way older than open source. Like, you know even just even just modern philanthropy started in like, you know, the early, late, late 18 hundreds, early 19 hundreds. So there's a lot more to dig through.
And like, , it is already a very well established academic field. There's, you know, philanthropic advisors as an entire career field. So like there was a lot more to work with and, I had to spend a lot more time just like getting myself up to speed. So, so yeah, I mean, I think like broadly I have these periods where I kind of go like really deep heads down trying to like understand a topic and familiarize myself with it.
And then I might like write something to help myself sort of like compound or compress. Like what did I learn into, like, I need to like document this for myself and then I just publish it cuz you know, other people can read that, that as well. But yeah, there's often this sort of cycle of like spending a lot of time deeply researching and researching might mean reading historical stuff, reading stuff on the internet.
Talking to people when I need to like get to knowledge that is not publicly available which I have to do a lot more of with I think philanthropy than for obvious reasons than, than open source. So, yeah, it's, it's a lot of time, a lot of time alone, but yeah, for the, for this, this particular project, I think I had to spend probably like a good six months or so when I started just like getting up to speed with what was already out there.
Partly because like having that historical framework now has made it so much easier for me to interpret it and understand what's happening today. and then also, because I don't wanna like repeat things that have already been been said. And so I don't really know what my whole process is gonna look like until I'm done with it.
I feel like I'm still like in it. But so far it's been, yeah, I'd say there was like kind of a period of like getting myself up to speed and then, then it was from there. So like forming my own sort of like thesis or theories of like, what is happening here. And then now I feel like I'm trying to go and have a couple of sort of like different deep dives to understand.
Okay. I think I have this working model of what, what is happening like, is that really true? And so, like, I spent a bunch of time digging into science philanthropy. This summer I was working with Schmidt features to do sort of like a deeper science research project, which hopefully will publish soon.
And, and so like, you know, testing it against that specific model helped me sort of like understand, are these things I'm noticing true or not? And then I, I, you know, there's like sort of like other sort of deep dives that I plan on doing moving forward that are like similar sort of like, you know, go into a topic area and try to understand like, is, is this really true?
So it's yeah, I'd say a lot of it's really just motivated by like my own open questions and stuff. I do try to form like a group informally, just have like my own sort of. advisory panel or something. Not that I would officially call it that, but like people that I find myself going back to over and over again, where they have really useful insights I've had for the past few months just like a weekly sort like reading group with a few people that are also in, in these topics that we could just sort of like bounce ideas off of each other and try to understand, like, does this make sense?
And that's been like enormously helpful of just like getting feedback. So I feel like there's like a few different categories is like, you know, people I'm talking to in order to like, they're, they're the actual like subject quote unquote that I'm trying to understand. Those are that's one group of people I talk to then there's just sort of like other researchers or other people that are, have the same sort of shared context on this topic that I can go to regularly and like bounce ideas off of.
And then there was kind of like, I I'd say like another group that is just like, like other independent researcher types. Or doing things that are completely unrelated to what I'm doing, but it's just nice to know that they exist. I think the hard parts of research in general, and especially when you're independent is just like, it's very lonely.
It's very easy. You are literally in your head all day. So it's just nice to like, yeah, emotionally it's like, know that you're not the only one or just having questions on sort of like the meta can be really helpful. And then, yeah,
[01:11:11] Sina: do you have an ongoing writing practice and do you find that that's like an important part of the sense making process?
[01:11:19] Nadia: yeah, yeah. In terms of like my notes, I have, one of the most painful things I find about writing is not everything that I publish. Like, you know, I only publish such a small fraction of the things that I'm actually writing to myself to others, whatever. So like I'm sitting on these like huge piles of notes that like you hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages that like, I just.
May never see the light of day, but are kinda like part of the process. And I always wanna tell myself, like, you should just be more, you know, just publish your unfiltered notes, but it feels very like vulnerable. But yeah, so I use obsidian to manage my notes. So you're, you're deep in there.
yeah. well kind. I feel, I actually feel really low tech about like note keeping and stuff.
So for like the, for working in public, I wrote the whole thing in a Google doc, which was the worst idea. And like, I do not recommend because like I learned that once your Google doc gets long enough, like it starts being really slow and like crashing or computer, it was just like a bad, I did not organize very well at all.
And so this time I was like, do this write. And so I do most of my writing, like generally, like just personal blog posts and stuff. I do everything in the text editor. I just like having like very, very simple, like black background, white text and just like writing
[01:12:32] Sina: Like visual studio or something.
[01:12:34] Nadia: I just use sublime. It's just like really, really simple.
And so I wanted basically like that to, I was like, how do I just have that? Like, I don't like having too much of an interface, like notion is too heavy for me. Google doc is obviously too heavy for me. I was like, I just want like, basically all my markdown files, but like with the thinnest layer of UI, for me to be able to like organize and see them.
And so that's why I ended up using obsidian, but I feel like I have not really made full use of like all the things that obsidian can supposedly do for me. Yeah. But yeah, that's where I keep all my notes and I just, yeah. Reading notes notes to myself, and then it is helpful with obsidian. You can kind of like, yeah, you can do the bidirectional linking.
So if I have like a cluster of ideas that's happening, then I can kind of like link it to a similar related cluster. But yeah, I'd say I'm pretty low tech. I actually kind of like being low tech about writing because like the most important ideas are just gonna like naturally like continue
[01:13:27] Sina: Come.
[01:13:28] Nadia: For my brain. Right. Like I don't wanna force them to reenter my brain because then maybe they're not actually that important, but if they're important, not that I keep like obsessing over them and returning to them, then I just know I need to like write something about it or I need to like focus on it.
and then that's nice having all my notes in one place, but I, I kind of believe in sort of like the, the all natural filtering of your brain or something. Yeah, you need like a, I feel like I need like a natural wine kind of like
[01:13:52] Sina: analog for tools for thought.
[01:13:54] Nadia: yeah, exactly.
[01:13:55] Sina: there is. I mean, it's like the, the, the mind is doing its own space. Repetition of sorts. Just based on how often an idea comes up and like how much resonance you probably had with it the first time you encounter did, or like how much of a shock to the system. It was.
[01:14:13] Nadia: exactly. And I wanna be able to find all my notes on a related topic when I get to the point where I'm like, okay, I keep coming back to this open over. So I do like tagging things and whatever, but then I don't wanna like force myself to remember something that maybe is not actually that important at.
[01:14:25] Sina: Well I could probably talk, do another whole podcast on this topic, but I think we've come to the end of the time. So yeah. Thank you so much for taking the time. This was really fun.
[01:14:37] Nadia: Yeah, likewise. Thanks.
[01:14:39] Sina: Yeah. Hey, I'm going to make a small ask here. If you've been listening to these conversations and want to support what we're doing here, . I would really, really appreciate if you could leave a rating and review for the podcast, wherever you're listening to it. This might seem like a small thing, but it will really help other people also discover the show. Thank you. I'm grateful to be able to do this and look forward to being here together again soon.