Hello all. I wanted to share some thoughts I had after attending the Meta Magicians ring in Prague. Many of the ideas were expressed by participants then and there, so some of this is review, and some of this is my own extrapolation. I wasn’t sure which category to classify this under, so I just put in Council Sessions, since it’s an outgrowth from the Council of Prague.
There’s a tl;dr at the end.
One of the sort-of existential conversations the Magicians seem to be having is a question of self-identity. What does it mean to be a Magicican? What kinds of organization are necessary for the Magicians, and how should they affect/interact with the rest of the Magicians? I wanted to offer an opinion.
The core tenet of the Magicians seems to be a dedication to creating an empowering ecosystem around Ethereum. This vision is deliberately vague, and therefore exists along a multitude of fronts. I would argue that any group with a goal this vague faces the challenge of how much to calcify its tenets and centralize, and how much to embrace the chaos. Let me try to elaborate.
The trend certainly seems to be in favor of more people participating in/with Magicians as time goes on. With no formal acceptance process, ‘joining’ is essentially zero-friction, and there isn’t really a concept of leaving the Magicians, so the number seems to really only go up. As the numbers go up, there will be an increasing amount of noise. Using this Discourse as an example, there will be more threads started per day, threads will get longer on average, and at a faster pace. It will be increasingly difficult to find relevancy when looking for a specific topic, or when seeking to develop a relationship with a set group of actors in the space. At Councils, there will be more rings, each Ring will be larger, meaning it will be harder to cover ground, and with less of a chance for each individual to express themselves. This is not inherently bad. It does, however, provide an incentive for centralization. Centralization often acts as a filtering mechanism which allows actors to tone down to manageable levels of noise. Coucils could limit participation, could put a rank system in place which would cause certain members to be heard more, etc. In some ways, this would facilitate a subset of conversation.
I would like to argue in the opposite direction, though. I think the Magicians should embrace the chaos.
I believe the idea at originally branding the Magicians as a disorganization sought to capture the commitment to frictionless participation. This belief that anyone should be able to participate, to me, is worth preserving. The spirit of Ethereum is decentralization, after all. How can the Magicians stay disorganized at scale?
Let’s look at the challenges again. We mentioned (social) scale as a threat, but there are also other elements to be considered. Who owns this Discourse? Anyone following the Bitcoin space knows of the controversies surrounding bitcoin.com and bitcoin.org. These are websites that are owned by individuals (or, in other words, centralized). Is this okay? What about donations? Who is in charge of managing those funds? Let’s refer to this category of problem as assets.
I would like to argue that Bitcoin has the right idea as far as assets go. I think I remember Cobra having a very cogent Tweetstorm about this. If I remember right, the gist was that if Bitcoin is truly decentralized, no one can stop him or anyone else from owning a website and putting whatever he wants on it. The idea would be that the Magicians are more of a concept than an entity (I want to get back to this and use a different terminology later, but I’ll stick with concept for now). If so, any individual is free to interpret however they wish. The Discourse may be privately owned and hosted, but the Magicians remain a concept greater than any of its owned assets. This may be extreme, but I would argue the same in terms of funds. I believe there should be a central address for donations, managed by whoever, and that it should be clearly branded that while the fund is meant for the Magicians, that it is privately managed, and in no way represents the Magicians Foundation or anything of the sort, because no such thing exists. This means that the financial facet of the Magicians would be completely centralized, but the Magicians would not be. Perhaps multiple funds would spring up. After all no one person would have the monopoly on raising funds for the Magicians.
This would mean putting the brand Magicians completely in the public domain.
A very legitimate concern was raised in the Council. If the brand is completely in the public domain, nothing stops malicious actors from using it to defraud people. Malicious actors could make an event, call it a Council, shill their garbage while saying that they’re Magicians and the full weight of the Magicians says that this is Satoshi’s True Vision., and will Moon with Lambos imminently. While anyone in the know would know this is a scam, it seems to be a fact that there are always those not in the know waiting to be rekt. This is a serious issue. I do not have a good answer to it. I’m arguing in favor of decentralization because I think the alternative has other tradeoffs that I don’t want to see, but, then again, I’m posting all this here because I’m interested in the community’s opinion about the tradeoffs.
As for social scale, Boris and others expressed an interest by the Council of moving off the original vision of having Councils a few times a year based on the major conferences. I think this is critical. I think we need to move to a model where not everyone knows everyone, but rather socially scale by creating smaller settings. I think a critical part of Magicians is the ability for each member to speak and be heard in a small, comfy setting. This can only be done at scale by breaking into smaller groups. I heard the idea of regional meetups, which I think is a great idea, but I would like to contribute a bit more about how I think such a thing might look.
While regional meetups would allow smaller groups in person, and there is rough consensus that in person is a very necessary thing, the disadvantage of smaller IRL groups is lack of expertise. As groups get smaller, the chances of finding an expert in what you want to discuss goes down. I’m a big believer in the education part of the Magicians, so I propose a second layer of scale. I think there should also be an online decentralization and scale. Any group of Magicians with a common interest should band together and brand together (so others can find them). Perhaps we could resurrect the Guilds term for this, though I don’t think that there should only be one by topic. Nor do I think they should be restricted to one platform or website. Make a Discord, a Riot, a Telegram, or, if you must, a Slack. (I hate Slack.) While a directory of such Guilds might be nice, I’m not sure it would be feasible, and would probably either be incomplete or too noisy to figure out.
I think the big conference Council model probably should stick around, but might slide to being more Meta, or perhaps more smaller Guilds, Rings, Chapters or whatnot coming and meeting.
To return to terminology, right now the term describing the (dis)organization is a Fellowship. What I’m proposing mildly reminds me of something more like a Brotherhood. I don’t know much about Freemasons, but I suspect that 1) They don’t all know each other, and 2) They immediately feel camaraderie when meeting another Mason, or feel at home in chapter away from home. To a certain degree I feel this as a religious Jew when I meet fellow coreligionists away from home. Brotherhood is a gendered term, and I don’t mean to impose it. I propose, in the habit of creating new words and terms, to brand as an Otherhood. I feel like it captures the idea of loose organization, being bound together by common goals even without knowing everyone else under the umbrella, and a commitment to a more family-like attitude towards each other.
Tl;dr: I propose keeping all individual assets in the hands of individuals, and branding them as not representing the totality of the Magicians, putting the Magicians brand in the public domain, creating regional Chapters of the Magicians, creating more small-group online Guilds of Magicians with like interests, and rebranding as an Otherhood.