Possible alternative SCRF forum and flow

Some thoughts on SCRF

SCRF’s goal:

  • Connect the thinkers of crypto with the builders of crypto

To achieve this SCRF needs:

  • Thinkers engaging with SCRF products
  • Builders engaging with SCRF products
  • A product that connects engaged builders with the appropriate thinkers or relevant research, and also serves as something that the thinker and builder and show to one another

To be interested in engaging, thinkers need:

  • Recognition of their work
  • Engagement with their work
  • Communication of their work
  • Dispersion of their work

To be interested in engaging, builders need:

  • Talent to brainstorm with
  • Access to relevant research
  • Community to draw from
  • Knowledge of the space

A connection product needs:

  • Simple and rapid access
  • To give the thinker something to show a builder and the builder something to think about
  • To be easily consumed

The primary resource to fulfill all the needs of both thinkers and builders seems to be an open, active, vibrant, engaging community. Something like bitcointalk where ANN posts (early non-academic research) and discussions used to take place.


SCRF already fulfills many of these needs. I hope to communicate a flow on how this fulfillment might be achieved more efficiently and effectively. In the end, I think it is important to remember that community growth is necessary for this to succeed. Growing the community is a different discussion altogether.

Essentially, the flow boils down to two actors from outside of SCRF:

  • Researcher - Thought about some stuff. Wants to show those thoughts to engineers and other people.
  • Engineer - Built or wants to build some stuff. Wants to show those thoughts and products to, or get input from researchers and other people.

and three key players within SCRF:

  • Communicators relay technical information to non-technical people. They drive excitement behind a publication. They answer “what if” and “why do I care” in engaging ways. Audio/visuals/podcasts are great formats for communicators.
  • Conversationalists are the liquidity providers. Unbiased, without an opinion, but with an agenda: support discussion.
  • Curators elevate quality discussion to the eye level of researchers and engineers. People who don’t live on the forum – researchers, engineers, etc – will read primarily curated discussions tied to the relevant piece of research.

and three key sections of the forum:

  • Research - Writable by only researchers and engineers. Readable by all.
  • Curated - Writable by researchers, engineers, communicators, and curators. Readable by all.
  • Discussion - Open to everyone.

The flow might be like so:

A researcher posts research or an engineer posts a “call for research”(CFR) in the research section of the forum.

A communicator summarizes a quality piece of research or CFR in the curated section. They then create a discussion thread for that summary in the discussion section. The post in the curated section references both the post in the research section and the post in the discussion section. The post in the discussion section references the posts in the research and curated section.

A conversationalist engages the community in discussion on the discussion thread.

A curator summarizes quality discussion they think the original author of the research or CFR would want to see. They post these summaries and bullet points on the relevant thread in the curated section.

A researcher or engineer engages with the curated thread (or the discussion thread if they want, though I imagine that this would be rare).

A researcher or engineer adds highly relevant comments, edits, or notes to their own research thread, where they can also engage with interested counterparties.

A researcher walks away with their self-curated research thread and a streamlined discussion and summary of and around their work via the curation thread. They can show these products to engineers. An engineer walks away with the same threads they can show to researchers. They also have a discussion thread they can use to show public interest in their work.

Researchers and engineers engage with one another on relevant research or CFR threads.

Meanwhile, the community is encouraged to be free in the discussion section. They do not need to think about flooding a post or whether a researcher is going to read their post. They can simply say say “great research!” or “this research is pointless”, both valuable inputs to a discussion thread. They can also be friendly with one another and develop as a community by integrating themselves into their posts, all while discussing a research summary from the curated section.

Ultimately, this format enables creation of high level research discussion products while simultaneously fostering an open, growing, “bitcointalk”-esque community.

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Most of these things are already in place and have been formalized in some form. The issue is having a single source of truth from which everyone can have the same “flow” or concept framework from which to draw. I know there are efforts in place to formalize the different flows within SCRF, as there isn’t a single flow chart that would work for every person coming into the organization. It might be helpful to actually visualize the flow so the relationships between parties (or lack thereof) becomes more clear from a 10,000 foot view. I have been using “gloomaps” as a tool that makes it fairly easy to collaborate on a map with multiple parties: https://www.gloomaps.com/

I am not against anything posted; the issue is that a lot of these things have already been addressed and are being worked on. This becomes an issue of institutional memory and access to that memory. For a person that hasn’t been present from early on, all of the issues you raised look like legitimate problems that need to be addressed. On the other hand, as someone who has been here since early on; I can say these concerns and potential solutions have been raised and are in active development or have been formalized in some way.

A side note: I would slightly pull back on the notion that SCRF is specifically for “crypto”. Crypto is adjacent, but “Smart Contract Research” is the name of the organization, and not “Crypto Research”. That is an important distinction to make when establishing protocol as to not cater to “crypto” culture specifically.

“The Smart Contract Research Forum (SCRF) is a premier, open discourse hub dedicated to web3 advancement with tools in place to amplify the latest quality research, reward contributions, deliver insights, and facilitate industry connections. Composed of an active international community, SCRF connects academic researchers with blockchain innovators to collaborate on solutions.”

So, in that context it is not necessarily the correct goal to “connect thinkers of crypto with builders of crypto”. That is a small part of the scope of SCRF, but not the exclusive goal as the word “crypto” or “cryptography” or “cryptocurrency” is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the mission statement.

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I echo some of what @Larry_Bates mentioned, but with added emphasis that these institutional documents are a current priority and need some help being produced. Visualization will help with that significantly also.

I do have a follow up question with your section proposal.

One of the reasons there is an effort to produce and then publish templates for content types is to help those that are not internal to SCRF still post content if they are interested in doing so. With the proposal, it looks like you are advocating for certain types of content to only be produced by internal SCRF parties. There are certainly benefits there when it comes to potential quality control and credentials, but do you think we might be able to account for that without making it writable only by certain users? I think there is some value of providing templates that provide opportunities to contribute content to those we might not yet have identified. There are certainly risks, so I’m not wedded to writeable to all, but I did want to discussed your idea there some.

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Research Pulse is already an example of a content type that is “SCRF Exclusive” concerning parties who produce it. I am working on developing another pulse-type focused on case studies with @Twan that would fall into this category. This is where we’re already doing that, but it does need to be articulated and fenced off so-to-speak.

Sorry, but another pulse-type around case studies is not mission aligned. I must come out and clarify before more people read this.

Thanks @jringo for the unexpected but timely post. I’ll stop here on the case study topic to keep the conversation focused.

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As we had not cemented any specific process I did not mean to make it sound like there was a definite new pulse-type or anything like that. There was an internal discussion on how to coordinate reporting industry research analysis, and a case-study pulse had been discussed as a possibility but was not a “definite pulse type” yet. Again, this is where institutional memory becomes a part of the issue of understanding what has been discussed and when, and where things are in the discussion vs. application process.

Thanks for the additional context @Larry_Bates

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What’s the point of separating “researchers” and “engineers”?

I see the distinction being “people that need advice” v.s. “people that have experience/ideas/comments to share”

and,

crypto builders == “people that need advice” != industry
crypto thinkers == “people that have advice” != researchers

Researchers can seek advice too. So can industry people give advice.

What does this mean? Bottom line is to connect supply and demand (thinkers and builders), not two groups of people. They should be coming from the same pile.

To expand on a bit, it seems that in your design, the people that ask for advice are the “makers” (so they get privileged treatment), the curators “market makers” and the community “takers”. Is my understanding correct to what you are proposing?

So what happens if the right person with the advice from the community does not have the energy to be a taker? Suppose they are as busy as any other researcher or entrepreneur (which they should be, because they are also, researchers or entrepreneurs). How does this mechanism understand their problem?

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What types of content should people not internal to SCRF be posting?

The goal and outcome of this flow is to produce small, dense, research-based products that can be consumed by industry. Those products are:

  1. The research thread or CFR that is controlled entirely by the researcher or engineer.
  2. The curated thread that is a bullet point list and highly truncated summary of discussions all vetted by SCRF.

Letting the public into either of those would defeat the purpose, which is to make it easy for industry to find research and to give researchers a polished end product.

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I’m also impressed by the conciseness of the language to what we are trying to accomplish. Although people can be shy to label themselves as “crypto thinkers” or “crypto builders”, we indeed are here to connect folks and make web3 better.

Some open questions relevant to this way of putting our mission:

  • What is “crypto” under this context? A research idea? A protocol? A community?
  • Who are the crypto thinkers? Who are the crypto builders? (the demographics)
  • What makes a good thinker? What makes a good builder?
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I might use language differently here so let me define some things that have been brought up while I answer your question.

Crypto = everything built on top of DLT. Everything Bitcoin and beyond is crypto. People call it web3… web5?.. now. Smart contracts, governance theory, NFT, SBT, NTT, ABC… it’s all crypto.
Thinkers = researchers
Builders = engineers = industry

I am not entirely sure I understand what you mean with makers, market makers, and takers, but would love to so please elaborate. Meanwhile, I’ll echo my response to Paul and detail the flow another way:

The goal is to give researchers and industry real products that they can use.

Flow for industry: If I am industry, I come to SCRF and look for a research thread related to my product. I can quickly read that thread and if I want more info I move on to the curated thread. Great. I’ve learned some things to help me innovate.

Now I post a CFR explaining my product and highlighting past research I’m building on. I detail any questions I might have that should be researched further. SCRF then curates the discussion around my CFR. The industry adds important points to their CFR. A researcher hoping to help a product then comes in and looks for CFRs in the research section. They find this product and read the curated thread. They decide if they can help or not. End of flow for industry.

Flow for researcher: If I have research I want to show to industry, I create a research thread. SCRF then curates a discussion around my research. I pick important points and add them to my research thread. I can then take my research thread and the curation thread and pitch them to industry leaders in an attempt to get my research implemented. At the same time, industry is scanning SCRF research threads for knowledge to use in their products. If they find mine useful, we interact. End of flow for researcher.

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I will point out that one of the biggest problems with this approach is becoming the “stamp of approval”. That centralizing element of branding is something that is effectively antithetical to a decentralized space. I would also caution against lumping things that don’t necessarily have “cryptography” under “crypto” as a term. For the sake of establishing a common lexicon, calling things that don’t have cryptography present “crypto” is not only misleading, it’s a culturally loaded term that brings unnecessary baggage when trying to establish a baseline description.

If you go to Europe, they do not use “crypto” to mean anything to do with cryptocurrency and tend to only associate “crypto” with explicit cryptography and not “cryptocurrency”. We can’t assume an American-based lexicon and not create problems that could easily be avoided by using more global and established frameworks. This is why I am specifically trying to move this conversation away from “crypto” being a focus, as that is not really a ubiquitous term globally.

I think one of the general cultural problems with “crypto” specifically is that the “crypto” culture wants everyone to operate on its terms, when in reality “crypto” should be moving to operate on more global terms and constructs if it really wants to reach more global audiences. “Crypto” products can be problematic in how they are marketed and become means of generating profit; and this starts to drift dangerously into a “research for-profit” model, which inherently starts to undermine the objectivity of the research. This is where it may be useful to differentiate between “tangible or actionable output” and a “product”.

Philosophically, it is actually very difficult to go beyond the Research Pulse - which alludes to relevant research being published and does not comment on perspective about the research- without becoming a centralizing authority filter.

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Thanks, @jringo for posting! This is very timely and appropriate as SCRF is actively creating new language around its Mission and Vision (work folks from the internal core team are doing).

I think this is a great suggestion for a larger conversation around SCRF’s Mission, Vision (= Culture & Value), and mid-term Strategy. Having a clear, concise, and aspirational MVS is how you create and align purpose and culture to make real results (like connecting industry and academia).

There is a world of research on the importance of MVS to create strong organizations. I am linking some of it here:

I am confident that questions and suggestions like the one @jringo brought up will be more easily conversed upon when we have a Mission, Vision, and Strategy. Why? Because:

  • Community members will know in what framework and guiding principles to evaluate new information on and make decisions with (the comments would look much different).
  • Suggestions, new ideas, and new opportunities can be placed in context, rather than having to frequently ask, is this aligned with our mission and what is the mission or change the mission, like we are doing right now.
  • Create a guiding light/lighthouse/north star for new and existing community members to create value around.
  • Other nice organizational and operational benefits (like retention, motivation, engagement, etc.).

Please let me know your thoughts!

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MVS is great, and as a communication nerd myself I’ll happily spend days on end narrowing language for anything, but I don’t see how this applies here. Please let me know how it does!

There are two glaring issues I see with SCRF.

  1. Limited product offerings
  2. Disoriented and limiting community growth direction

The goal of the post is to propose hard, tangible products that can be offered to academia and industry. The products leverage SCRF’s curation, communication, community, and networking services.

The products proposed are delivered in a way that removes the need for limiting community definitions. If SCRF offers academia and industry only the comments that they are looking for, mainly substantive and helpful critiques and additions to their work, then SCRF no longer need to worry about what type of community members it attracts. It can focus on PhD+ and public enthusiasm, both of which come with tremendous value.

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Hey @jringo, thanks for the thought-provoking post!

To me, the “curated threads as a product” are the most important part of the flow you’ve described. Threads can often go on tangents and to a visiting thinker or builder with limited time, having access to a curated, concise version of a long thread could provide quicker, more useful information.

I’m not really sure about the need to separate research and discussion sections. Could you elaborate on why you see this as needed? It feels a bit like researchers and engineers are being treated as ‘first-class’ and allowed to talk to one another, while all others are treated as second and not allowed to speak to them.

If it’s to keep research threads clean, I could see this instead being a subset of curated threads. For example, a researcher could create a curated thread where they share their research and an accompanying discussion thread. Then, return to the curated thread with key discussion summaries.

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I could absolutely see just the curated and discussion threads working as you describe so long as there are curators still populating the curated thread with discussion summaries.

I was thinking about a few reasons for the research thread.

As an overview, my understanding is that academia and industry are intended to be ‘first-class’. The goal as I understand it is to get them to SCRF to interact with products – forums, interviews, podcasts, other things – so they can use each other in the development of technology to help make the world a better place. If this is not the case, color me very confused, in which case @valeriespina’s post on making a more clear MVS makes a lot more sense to me = ).

I am hoping that the flow I describe enables a SCRF that can grow academia and industry membership but also focuses on general community, which I strongly believe will attract more academia and industry than anything else. That said, I’m not going to ignore reality which is:

  1. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I do not think a lot of professionals enjoy the act of foruming. They enjoy the distilled outcome of forums – good ideas and criticism – but not all the tangents and community interaction etc. They want to improve their work or otherwise find something useful. Operating with this assumption, we can say that industry and academia is not often going to interact in a discussion thread. We can also say that they might interact with the distilled outcome, but not if the discussion is under threat of being derailed again. Lastly, they will certainly interact with someone who wants to use their work or interact on a professional-peer level.

    A research thread presents an additional service from SCRF: direct professional-peer connection and discussion based on community distillation of their ideas, curated by SCRF, and highlighted by the original poster themselves.

    The poster is welcome to interact directly on the discussion thread if they want, but this flow gives them a streamlined path for interaction without the noise.

    This could still be the case with what you propose if the curated thread is populated by the original poster + curators.

    To support this, here is Ethereum’s announcement post and Bitcoin’s genesis discussion. The founders are basically gone by the third page of Ethereum, despite some good questions and comments still rolling in. Even Satoshi gets noticeably irritated by the emails and forums after a while. I think my favorite quote, if I’m remembering right, is to Dan Larimer (maybe) and along the lines of “I don’t have time to explain it if you don’t understand it. I’m right. Just watch.”

  2. A research thread gives the poster a product that is entirely their own. They can have a highly focused discussion between someone interested in using their work, save it, print it, and show it to someone else. The discussion would be be readable by everyone, so conversationalists would hopefully bring any changes and additions to the original post into the discussion thread.

    Think about hosting a table at an event. Hundreds of people come up to discuss your product, but you’re only really interested in a few of those conversations. The research thread lets the researcher highlight those discussions and continue them in a public venue where more people might see them and provide additional fruitful responses.

    I’m wondering now if it would be possible to let a researcher/engineer give or revoke permissions to post to their research thread. Might be neat to watch them elevate community members.

  3. Easily accessible history of product development. Again, look at the Ethereum ANN post. That is the history of Ethereum’s first breath. A research thread linked to curated and discussion threads gives the space a very distilled version of development thought connected to the longer forms if that’s what someone is looking for.

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Just popping in to point out that I am currently attempting to find research summaries the fulfill some criteria and this would be so much easier if there was a central, uncluttered area where I could see all research summaries, then when I click on a summary there is the summary and a few brief bullet points that summarize significant contributions from the discussion.

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There is an internal team document that tracks potential articles and completed summaries, but I am not sure the document is in a position to be made accessible to the public.

I completely agree with you on that there should be some conversation summaries that help people catch up on where a discussion is and also give some direction of where it might go. This would then also indicate if additional tags should be applied to the post. There have been some prior attempts at this, but it certainly is a practice that needs reviving. One of the current efforts is to help connect content into a web using some headers and manually cultivated suggestions from the moderation team. If that is something you would also like to be contributing to @jringo, we should definitely connect soon.

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When I made the Information Module the goal was to unclutter the interface so that someone looking for a specific type of information/literature could go directly to that content type. It is not restricted to summaries, but there is a dedicated link to summaries within the module. It was created with the understanding that multiple users will have different goals, so isolating the specific content type to make it more accessible is definitely something that is on the radar.

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