This is a very overdue status update on the forum and SCRF overall - apologies that it hasn’t come sooner. The last 6 months have been quite the journey and we’re working on a more focused approach going forward.
The tl;dr version is that after experiencing a few months of funding reductions, we lost our funding in mid-December 2022. As a result, we had to let everyone on the team go before the end of 2022 and we are now working on revitalizing the forum and our community as a volunteer-managed forum.
Main announcements going forward
- Transitioning the forum to being community managed - moderation, content generation, fundraising
- Ceasing all other projects besides the Public Goods Student Group
- Becoming a discussion layer for web3 research as a public good (across ecosystems, tech and solution agnostic, need to have novel components and be empirically rooted)
Let me explain these in a bit more detail
Volunteer Managed Community
Given that SCRF no longer has dedicated funding for moderation, content generation, operations, marketing, etc., we have to switch to a volunteer structure in order to advance our mission of getting more discussion around web3 research for the goal of catalyzing more application of that research. Since the beginning of SCRF, we have had the luxury of creating extrinsic motivation for those who were interested in our mission in the form of compensation, bounties, sourcecred, etc. Without that funding in place, we now have to re-orient ourselves to capitalizing on people’s intrinsic motivation.
In order to do so, we need to clearly outline the various activities that SCRF will be focused on and how that translates into tasks and activities that individuals can work on. The more we articulate our values and mission alongside tasks that people can take on, the more of a chance we have to find the people who are genuinely interested in and motivated to help us be the place for more research discussion.
The first task that we are working on clarifying is the moderation function. SCRF, at its core, is all about our forum and the conversations generated therein. Online forums are rife with unpleasant and uninformative interactions, so SCRF must maintain our focus on the importance of moderation as one of the primary value adds of what we are doing here. Without quality moderation, it would be tougher to differentiate SCRF from other spaces.
It is reasonable to point out that unless there is more content coming to the forum, what exactly would the moderation team moderate? We are definitely facing a ‘chicken or the egg’ problem in that sense. I think that we do have to put some effort into establishing moderation processes such as documentation for what is expected from moderators, what will get something moderated off of the forum, and where/how to contribute. Simultaneously, we will work on the content aspect, but if we have content start arriving before we know who is moderating and to what standard, that can create a different set of issues that could make relevant content producers lose interest in contributing to and spending time on SCRF.
Paul Zube, who was our Head of Engagement in our previous structure (still figuring out roles and titles in a volunteer-led environment), is leading the build out of the volunteer-based moderation team. If you have any questions, hop into our discord and either ask in our #community channel or message Paul directly.
Aside from moderation, the main thing we have to work out is content generation - where is the Smart Contract Research Forum is going to source new posts from? One thought is to stick with the same approach that we have had, namely getting primary authors to post a summary of their work. While that is a great approach and we have tremendously appreciated all of the primary authors who have been willing to contribute to the forum, that is a very time intensive approach that is much harder to justify in a resource constrained environment. That’s not to say we are never going to ask research authors to post summaries of their work. As we are able to, we still can source primary author summaries. However, we used to have 3 people dedicating 10-20 hours per week to get the Research Pulse put together and perform outreach to the authors from that list (when including the RP Newsletter and other supporting activities, we had closer to 6-7 people supporting in at least some capacity).
A more realistic structure going forward will start by choosing a few topics to focus on and finding the right content producers working on those topics who want to have more conversation around their work. The topics we are thinking of focusing on in the coming months are game theory, governance, mechanism design, and smart contract security. We are starting to put together a list of potential collaborators who we will be reaching out to in the coming weeks.
I am going to be leading the build out of the content generation team for now. If you have any thoughts or questions on our approach or want to collaborate, feel free to jump into our discord and either ask in our #community channel or message me directly.
As of right now, we are going to focus mainly on Moderation and Content Generation as the core teams to build right now. From here, we can add a Fundraising as/once appropriate. We can also add other teams as appropriate but it seems more distracting than necessary at the moment so the priority is getting the first two teams up and figuring out a general governance structure for decisions going forward.
The only project that SCRF is focused on outside of the forum itself is the Public Goods Student Association. The goal of this project is to bring together students from around the world who want to learn more about public goods but aren’t sure where to get started. We want to create a pathway for students to learn, get involved, and become the future leaders of web3. This project is supported by Gitcoin, Lobby3, and Public Nouns. After the session on March 22, 2023, the project team will start providing updates on the forum after each discussion.
Discussion Layer For Web3 Research
These new changes are forcing us to refine our focus at SCRF. As a result, our mission is slightly adjusting as well. Our bold mission, to date, has been to bring together researchers and builders to create groundbreaking web3 advancements through actionable research. The essence of that mission - bringing together researchers to help advance the space - is still part of the ethos that underlies SCRF. We are simply getting more focused on the discursive element of that mission. SCRF is intended to be an online forum and chat where those interested and knowledgeable in web3 research are able to discuss said research.
That is also at the core of the potential value add we are going to be proposing to external content producers and potential partners: a moderated discussion oriented space to delve into and help advance research. I see what we’re doing as a sort of discussion layer that can sit on top of any publication layer. Our goal is not to replace existing publishing channels as much as to add a space where people can congregate for tool/ecosystem agnostic conversation.
We still have a lot to figure out and this post is not meant to be an attempt to answer all of the open questions relating to SCRF as of today. Hopefully this provides at least some color on where things stand and where things are headed. Please feel free to jump into our discord if you have any questions or comments. Looking forward to where the rest of the year will take the community!