Pulling off a DAO event in Paris with 100+ participants with 3 workshops and 3 fishbowls was far beyond my expectations. Only one year before that I started co-organizing the Ethereum Dev Meetup in Barcelona, 6 months later I ran my first DAO Meetup in Barcelona with only 8 people, followed by some steady progress (ran 12+ events in 6 months). Ramping up to such scale in Paris was truly awesome, just before the virus got out of control and escaping to the Red Sea for a forced undetermined expatriation. Life works in funny ways sometimes.
The two main goals were (i) to make this event highly participative and (ii) to get participant to break out of the typical crypto echo chambers.
Highly Participative Events have so many advantages. By transforming attendees into participants, the experience also gets totally transformed. Attendee’s attention is kept very high, get everyone’s input on how the activity plays out. Think of it as Direct Democracy for events, if you find the event too boring then you are encouraged to be a more active contributor and make it more to your taste. The Solution I Chose: only have workshops and fishbowls, with the exception of a couple of extremely short presentations preceding the fishbowls.
Echo chambers prevent innovation and major breakthrough from happening. Allowing oneself to dare thinking differently, to dare challenging the status quo, is the first step towards building truly innovative DAO communities.
Breaking Out Of The Typical Crypto Echo Chambers is a trickier one. The Solution I Chose: (i) Fishbowls where anyone can participate, share her/his opinions and ideas; (ii) Decidology Workshop facilitated by professionals who focus totally on the human aspect of group decision-making (they are totally unrelated to the blockchain space and bring a refreshing experience to the table); (iii) Topics of Activities ranging from very basic DAO concepts to very advanced concepts.
Heads up: Rant
I believe that one of the issues we have in the space is that we always hear the same people express their opinions, we tap on each others back, telling each other how great we are; we end up with a lot of taboos and lack the criticism necessary to keep the ecosystem healthy. One conference to the next: the same people, the same ideology, the same projects. That’s why people get bored, creativity and excitement gets ruined too: more of the same. We always talk about decentralization, but what about decentralizing ideologies and stories/opinions we get to hear?
How about embracing the fact that although most of us are white and in their 30’s, we come from very different cultures and many (most?) of us totally disagree on many topics?
3 workshops & 3 fishbowls during this 4 hours long event.
What Didn’t Go So Well
Let’s start with the bad news. As expected, some things didn’t work out as expected.
Schedule got delayed as the program on France Blockchain Week web page was not up-to-date. I notified the guys in charge of that page far too late: my mistake. Timings were also quite problematic, having a timer displayed with the project probably would be a good solution to get everyone to stick with the planned timing for each activity. Finally, I printed out the schedule and taped it on the wall in different places but it was far too small — A3 or A2 format would have been much better.
FestDAO members present at EthCC provided almost no on-site help at all. Whether intentional or not, I find this was a big mistake as it was a major event.
Moderation was too weak during fishbowls, clearer rules and more discipline would have contributed to a higher quality of debate. More questions prepared for each fishbowl topic might have helped to keep the focus of the debates. Another suggestion was also made: to have all fishbowls start with a short presentation on the current problems and movements, then transition to an open discussion about potential solutions.
Microphones were missing which made it challenging hard for everyone to get heard. It also contributed to making the fishbowl moderation much more difficult.
Workshop turn out was lower than expected. And workshop participants arriving after the activity had started. Having most of the workshops downstairs probably affected the turn out.
What Went Well
Luckily most of the event went really well and the feedback was amazing.
The Venue & Logistic provided by The Garage was awesome: 2 rooms that could welcome about 60 each, 2 projectors, many chairs and tables, and more. Added to that, the collaboration with all the staff was super easy even though everything was organized remotely (I live in Barcelona), we never met before and did not even need a single phone call. I wish all the event spaces were that easy to work with!
Fishbowl conversation: think of it as an open panel where anyone in the audience can jump on the stage to take part in the debate. read more on wikipedia.
The Fishbowls received fantastic feedback. They allowed open debates, a safe space where opposite opinions could be expressed in a respectful way. Voices that rarely get the chance to be heard publicly and in person did get some air space and necessary attention. The public was engaged, learned a lot and had a lot of fun.
One of my aim with these discussions was to break out of that echo chamber we have in the space. I wanted tongues to loosen, to hear things that rarely get said publicly. I wanted to hear strong opinions, to see people totally disagree and still not be too offended or upset. I felt that it worked, it felt very refreshing and very educating for everyone present.
The Decidology Workshop was also intended to help the community get out of its comfort zone. DAOs are mostly facing huge human challenges: high tension, clashing personalities and ego trips often get in the way of the greater good/goal. I hope we can get such group of experts joining our DAO events more often.
The cadCAD and DaoCanvas Workshops are now becoming classics. They ran smoothly, as usual.
The Atmosphere was something several people mentioned. The friendliness, the conversations, the crowd. To be fair we had most of the crowd coming from EthCC which already has that sort of vibe, but it was still nice to get people who couldn’t pay/come to EthCC to get a taste of it for free.
What Did Not Go Well At All
Unfortunately all the most active members of DaoFest/FestDao were super busy at EthDenver so on the side I was the only organizer.
Somehow it all went very well except a key member with whom the collaboration was extremely disappointing. This added to some previous disappointments and misalignments. This unfortunately lead me to decide to quit DaoFest/FestDao.
I would rather not dig into details of the underlying issues in this public post, let’s say that DAOs are still very much about quality collaboration between humans and I felt that the way I was treated was very unfair and disrespectful. I had big hopes for this DAO, I was in the process of onboarding a few friends and potential sponsors on it, leaving it so abruptly is a strong reminder of how this young, experimental and unstable these DAOs can be.
Finally, the lack of help from DaoFest side did make me realize that I probably could have done this without being under the DaoFest umbrella. Time will tell if this is true if/when a similar opportunity presents itself again.
DAO Drama, nothing new under the sun…
I would have rather not covered this story in this article but only did because it gave a very bitter taste to this event. Is so transparent the right thing to do? I cannot know for sure, but it felt right when writing this piece.
What I did to make it happen
For blockchain event organizers and curious minds, here are some of the tasks I did to put this event together:
- Event Budget, Schedule & Program
- Create Event Online (meetup and eventbrite): Banner, Description, Regular Update, etc
- Marketing: reaching out to various blockchain communities
- Source Potential Sponsors & Succeed Getting MakerDAO as additional sponsor (else there wouldn’t have been any food)
- Liaise with the guys of Ethereum France to publish event on their website and find a venue
- Source Venue & Coordinate with Venue Staff
- Source Speakers and Facilitator + Coordinate with Speakers and Facilitators
- Source & Coordinate with Photograph
- Food Planning & Shopping
- Slides For Fishbowl on “Is DAO a misleading name of not?”
The budget was very small, mostly because there was so much I could do on my own and because FestDAO is still in its early days, lacking proper funding to allow us to delegate more of the work, reward its members more appropriately and provide more things (i.e. more food and drinks). It’s part of the journey and the event was awesome nevertheless.
Lead Organizer → 300 DAI, funded by FestDAO
Photograph→ 60 DAI, funded by FestDAO
Food & Drinks → 250€ (277 DAI) - funded by MakerDAO
I want to thank everyone for helping out, in no particular order:
- Philippe Honigman for the intro to the Ethereum France team and the inspiring Paris P2P Festival in January 2020
- Luuk Weber, helping out trying to find speakers+funding and doing marketing via daofest’s twitter
- Bettina Boon Falleur and Nathan Sexer of Ethereum France
- Jenny Finkelstein and everyone who helped of The Garage;
- Griff Green, for facilitating the cadCAD Workshop
- Duc Ha Duong and his team of the Open Opale Collective for facilitating the Decidology Workshop
- Edward Thompson, for facilitating a Fishbowl
- Julien Bouteloup, for facilitating the DeFi Fishbowl
- Charles St.Louis, for facilitating a Fishbowl
- Lenka and Maria, for coordinating and sponsoring
- Krris, Lauren and Moshe, for helping out with the food shopping and printing out necessary documents
- Lluis, our official photographer
- Anyone else who I may have forgotten
Various Tweets about the Event:
Projects Involved in the Event:
daofest.io and daofest.io/festdao