Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) are quickly becoming a popular way for communities to manage projects and tasks online. What sets them apart from traditional, hierarchical organisations are:
- They are member-owned communities without a centralised leadership
- They provide an easier way to collaborate with people who share the same goal based on a ‘smart contract’ with a common treasury
- They are purpose-formed for a specific cause
“You can’t just have a DAO to be a DAO. You need a DAO to do something.”Vitalik Buterin, a co-creator of Ethereum
The backbone of a DAO consists of its smart contract and the community built around its purpose. There are now thousands of them created around the world for various reasons, most popular of which are around financial goals (e.g. acquiring a piece of art or NFT) but expanding to more parts of our lives like co-creating projects by freelancers or for charitable actions.
Whatever reason lies behind these DAOs, they all rely on communication and collaboration tools to function as they all need to achieve consensus among members to accomplish their missions. It is important that they choose the right tools for the right purpose.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the best communication tools for DAOs. We will also discuss how these tools can help improve productivity, transparency and help reach consensus within a DAO.
What makes a tool great for communication for DAOs?
The fact that a DAO has a smart contract doesn’t mean the human factor is completely eliminated. After all, DAOs are formed by human members and they need to communicate to discuss ‘proposals’ and reach an agreement. As Yuval Noah Harari puts it, ‘having a Bible didn’t solve the problem of how to agree on the subject!’
A great tool needs to address the following communication issues:
- There are no limitations on the size of the DAOs, nor there’s any central leadership by design to moderate the discussions. What happens if there are hundreds of people who need to participate in a proposal? Numerous research studies have been done on what the ideal size of a group should be to have a meaningful discussion, and they tend to agree that having 3 to 4, at most 5 people for a group discussion is ideal. If it’s more than that, in large, 10+ person groups, the communication is like a monologue and members are influenced most by the dominant speaker.
- Conversation derails easily in familiar, never ending feeds. Even though there’s a specific proposal in the agenda, there are always some people who drive the conversation into a tangent (who hasn’t seen a picture of a cute dog or a child who’s taken her first steps thrown into a chat room as her overexcited father couldn’t keep it to himself). The fact that all proposals tend to be discussed in the same feed, makes it even more confusing.
- There’s a need to analyse and explain what’s been discussed and agreed or not agreed. Meeting notes were not invented for fun but to summarise the content to the attendees in a sanitised way. Even detailed meeting notes are not enough in many cases, as it could be subjective (depending on the note taker’s level of attention or biases) and could be too long to digest for the members. Not being able to reach consensus is detrimental to the survival of a DAO. Think of a smart contract which requires supermajority on crucial proposals, what happens if they cannot reach that in each case? The DAO gets blocked and can’t serve its purpose.
- Members need incentives to participate in discussions. Depending on the purpose and activity level of the DAO, the volume of proposals and voting frequencies change. The ratio of members voting on proposals is low. So how do they keep members’ interest high in the decision making process? Incentives and gamification need to be built in to increase participation in discussions and eventually voting.
- Some DAOs need a dedicated place to grow their brand identity. Some DAOs begin to make a name for themselves. They need a dedicated space for their members for more structured, branded conversation mechanics. This may go as far as custom rules (e.g. different access levels for different discussions and functions) and a fully branded tool experience.
Top 5 communication tools for DAOs
Let’s look at the popular tools currently used by DAOs and review them according to their ability to solve the issues we discussed above.
Pros: It used to be the go-to platform for gamers which is now having a second life after the DAO boom. It’s preferred by many DAOs as it’s free to open servers on the platform. From a community building and keeping them engaged in ‘all community’ related conversations perspective, it’s quite successful. With memes, badges, points, integrated messaging system and multi-channel structure it’s grown into a fully-fledged platform.
Cons: However, it’s very confusing and rather hard to follow the conversations. Every server has at least 10 channels and there’s ongoing chatter everywhere which makes it impossible to detect what’s important and needs to be paid attention to. When large communities interact with each other on Discord, it’s almost impossible to discuss proposals and make decisions. Therefore many DAOs use other platforms (forums, DAO website, github etc) to have those crucial conversations using the good old forum UI. As a platform, it doesn’t help DAOs’ unique branding needs either.
Pros: It’s the second oldest of this group after Reddit, the ultimate broadcasting platform. Almost all DAOs have their Twitter accounts and use it for public announcements. The interaction is usually one to many: the DAO announces news and their members react with memes, retweets or shout outs.
Cons: The very public nature of the platform doesn’t allow ‘community feeling’ as anyone can jump on the conversation. Platform’s inherent issues with trolls, endless scrolling (same as Discord), chaotic structure is not conducive to having structured conversations or building consensus. It’s not a dedicated space for DAOs and doesn’t take into account any branding needs.
Pros: The youngest of all in this group and the only one which is built for this purpose. It is a white-label platform solution allowing DAOs to have their own community app with full branding. The DAO can open specific rooms dedicated to certain proposals that close once a decision is made. This makes it very easy to follow separate proposal discussions without getting lost in the feed. AI based moderation helps prevent offensive language, so eases the burden on the moderation team. It has a built in incentive and rewards system which can be converted into cash, gift cards etc. and in the future to cryptocurrencies. NLP based summaries of conversations are very helpful for DAO members to understand what was discussed, what was agreed (consensus), and what still needs to be deliberated.
Cons: The platform currently doesn’t offer a full fledged chat experience with delivered/read status, memes, gifs, etc, but it is on their roadmap. They also don’t have a wallet connection at the moment.
Pros: It’s the chat-only version of the group. Telegram has initially been (to this day) preferred by users who are privacy sensitive. For example, whilst WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption for all of its services, Telegram only does so when Secret Chats (the end-to-end encrypted mode in Telegram) are enabled. Once users enable Secret Chats, however, they are able to send ‘self-destructing’ messages and photos which can be set to disappear after a specific time period. Another innovative feature by Telegram is its self-installed bots, which facilitate app attributes like sending relevant information about the weather or useful news articles to users which could be helpful to the DAOs as well.
Cons: As the groups get larger, the main problem of following a conversation without derailing the subject becomes inevitable on Telegram as the chat feed doesn’t organise conversations at all. There’s also no branding for DAOs; they simply become one of the groups that a user is involved on the platform.
Pros: It’s a slightly more modernised version of forums, which we’re very familiar with from web1 days. DAOs could ‘own’ their brand experience on the site and the platform is 100% open source. ‘Summarise’ functionality could be quite useful for long, dense conversations.
Cons: Other than a few cosmetic, appearance related features, the tree-like forum structure is no different than earlier forum designs.
Pros: It’s the oldest of the group and it too is having a second (or third) life with the upcoming web3 era. It’s come back into the public’s radar lately with the GameStop incident where a group of Reddit users (r/WallStreetBets) came together and betted against prominent hedge funds who had shorted the GameStop stock. It’s a common destination for DAOs as well, as they create their own subreddits.
Cons: However the forum-like design of the platform with long, never ending topics without any summarisation or analysis is not useful for consensus building. r/WallStreetBets may not agree with this diagnosis and say ‘what more consensus do you ask for other than beating the Wall Street giants’. Our answer to that would be, ‘‘crowds’ agreeing to meet in the town centre at a certain time’ is not the only thing DAOs ask for. They need to constantly deliberate on topics to make crucial decisions in a structured manner. Not being able to reach consensus is and will continue to be the number one reason why most of the DAOs cannot survive.
Which tool you pick will be determined by what’s most important to your DAO. You must already have a good sense of what needs to be improved on your current setup, and we hope this article has summarised a few other considerations you should keep in mind.