Otherhoods: Some Thoughts After the Meta Ring

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.


Excellent! Some thoughts.

I’ve always preferred to call us a non-organization rather than a dis-organization. Councils, Rings, and so on need to be self-organized, but there is no overarching organization with an established membership.

I wouldn’t say that our Vision is vague. I think our Principles are clear, but open.

I agree that the original notion of three short yearly meetings shouldered on other major events has already outgrown its purpose of easily attracting new Magicians. I had no idea that we would grow so large so quickly.

I’d suggest that we have a single, yearly Council, a week in length, and do other work online and in other meetings organized as smaller groups see fit. I think a face-to-face meeting of the Fellowship as a whole is necessary to maintain community cohesion. That would need to be coupled with a single online category on this website as a place to reach consensus on issues affecting the Magicians as a whole, including the Principles themselves.

I’ve tended to think of reserving Guilds as a term for groups of RIngs when we get too many of those to deal with. But we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

And I don’t see that Fellowship is a bad enough name to warrant a change at this point. “Fellow” is sometimes gendered, (unfortunately) but not in formal contexts, and I think Fellowship is generally not.

But Ethereum Technologists" might be a useful alternative just for use in funding requests, expense reports, and such :wink:


Here are my comments on your great post, guys!
I believe I have some (partial) solutions to the problems you have mentioned.

I would avoid central funds management so much as possible. Central funds management will cause power centralization for sure.

In order to avoid the centralization, I have proposed a solution Donations to the un-organisations which I would like to implement at least in Ring of Architects. So I believe we don’t need an organization or central management to accept donations. Would like to see any feedback to the topic.

What we can do against, we can create a short and standard “pubic disclaimer” that should act as a “creed” in public. Any Magician presenting himself as the part of the Fellowship should start his (public) speech with the “creed”. It may act a little bit religious, but it is not about religion. It is about self-determination in public and how the public perception works. If anyone will start his speech with the “creed” like “Nobody can act on behalf of Fellowship” it will become damn difficult for someone to collect money in name of Magicians.

In order to create the “creed”, we should enlist biggest misuses we try to avoid. A malicious actor collecting funds in the name of Magicians is a good example, but it is not only that one. Hereafter we could try to create a should and standard “disclaimer” preventing this.

I am very strong supporter of the freedom of speech, but there is no right to be heard. Human attention is scarce and anyone should have right to focus it as he like. What we should do, we should give people an ability and tools to setup meaningful information filters and workflow processes.

I am working here on some workflow system for similar case and would appreciate any help and feedback.

I would make the next step and create a name and rules for Un-Organisations, which are opposite to DAO. It could be something like DAU / DANO / DAUN :wink: , but we need a name for Un-Organisations.

We are already have some properties for Un-Organisation:

  • it has a brand
  • should be able to accept donations made to the UnOrgs
  • it refuse any governance and centralization as much as possible but be able to use brand and donation for good.

As I mentioned above I have proposed some kind of token (or NFT) solving some of problems, but it may need deeper discussions before it get implemented.

I doubt it will be possible to group Rings into meaningful Guilds. At least I don’t see any process or suitable systematic. I believe, we should spend or efforts on interoperability between Rings, and probably propose re-organization for similar rings (strictly voluntary), instead trying to press them into some artificial scheme.

If we are thinking about alternative names, I would prefer “Ethereum Engineers” as somebody who more focused on applied aspects of the Ethereum Technology. We already have “Ethereum Scientists” at https://ethresear.ch and I find this distinction between science and engineering very useful.

We need a category for meta-magicians topics.
The “site feedback” I have used before is just not suitable for broader conversations about magicians as un-organization.

I’ll create a new topic to gather those together who are interested in working on meta / un-organizational matters :slight_smile: A ring needs to be formally formed around this.

Also, we need to process the notes from the Meta Magicians session at the Council of Prague. A lot of insight about how to self-organize and how to manage resources such as finances, domain names, and even the term “Fellowship of Ethereum Magicians” came up.

@wschwab does a good job in his post here to describe the spirit and content of what was discussed. It is not in order, but basically summarizes key points.

would you move all the related topics (and other related texts) into the new category or anyone can do it for his topics?

BTW, I like the name “Ring-13” :slight_smile:

The tag #meta-magicians can be used to collect things anywhere.

“Older” accounts have permissions to edit titles and add tags / re-categorize.

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Notes are here:

William, thank you for this extended write up!

I think somewhere in here, @gcolvin’s non-organization got transformed – we’ve used dis-organization to poke fun at ourselves, but non-organization is the term we should be holding up as an example.

Greg pointed me towards the Rainbow Family as a non organization, and I posted about it here:

We are all non-members!

On decentralizing – yes, I think small groups can and should form and that’s how some of the noise is cut through – there are bridges between groups / rings etc and they bubble up to spaces that have more reach (but also noise), as perhaps this forum might.

Just to add this info here, I have attempted to document ownership of our “Infrastructure” on the Scrolls wiki.

It needs proper links to the various infrastructure, of course :slight_smile:

I think this is perhaps where we’ve ended up.

Is there even a brand to put in the public domain? There’s the UTF8 symbol of sparkles and … that’s it?

The most recognizable asset is the domain name, as owned / managed by @jpitts.

After having written this – @wschwab, I think this is pretty much where we are at today!

One thing is, we haven’t had people run with the wand and actually DO other things. We have some signs that a smaller group will create an event, and creating an event template may spur further action.

I still see not a lot of consistent doing, and not a lot of consistent “this needs to be done”. That is, I think, a side effect of a forum for long form discussion.

As I mentioned in this post on processing video – I believe these true “doing” items need to move to Github.

I’m most interested in this as well – a summer meeting that has a couple of days of everyone in plenary – and then time after for further doing in smaller groups – maybe with one more day at the end to summarize for everyone.

One week is a BIG ask and won’t be accessible to most people unless their day job funds them to do that.

To be clear, I wasn’t saying we should change our name, just a suggestion of an alternative name to use in some contexts where Magicians might not fly. We already have, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and seven uses of “technical” in our Principles. Engineering pe se is mentioned nowhere.

TaIking about the name for non-Orgs I do not mean to change the name of FEM (it is another topic).
I mean, we should find a good name for non-Orgs because it looks like some standard case for many other cases (like DAO is not only TheDAO) and it will make sense to describe it properly and implement processes around it.

A little Googling finds precedent for the use of both with similar meanings. E.g. the Rainbow Family and the International Academy of Nurse Editors call themselves nonorganizations, the process of unorganization is currently popular in management consulting, and Opus Dei calls itself an “organized unorganization.”

Our comments have gotten mixed up, sorry. I was talking about our founding name “The Fellowship of Ethereum Magicians” versus the many abbreviations and alternatives we use tend to use also–FEM, Magicians, Magi, etc. I suggested “Ethereum Technogists” might be good for expense reports and such, and more inclusive than “Ethereum Engineers.”

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As one can see, the trend (and the demand) is going to short names and abbreviations. People are looking for it. I am fine with “Ethereum Technologists”, but it is a long name. What could be the short name for “Ethereum Technogists”?

So would you consider Unorganisation as the good name and the UnOrg as a good abbreviation?
I am just thinking about disambiguation to UN.org

It’s a big ask, but really a small amount of time to get a lot of work done. IETF meets for a week three times a year. Standard C meets for a week twice a year. And so on. For those with no other support, some sort of charity fund could be started? And the fact that not all can be there is why we have streaming and a principle of finalizing most consensus online, not at meetings.

(For me it’s too small an ask. It’s hardly worth the airfare to get so little done, and airfare is by far the biggest expense.)

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Hmm. Which has worse English connotations, “disorganized”, “unorganized”, or “nonorganized”?

In the community, “Magicians” or “Magi” seems to have stuck as meaning us, and I’m fine with that. Were I filling in an expense report for a meeting, “Ethereum Magicians” would raise eyebrows, whereas “Ethereum Technologists” would not. Just plain “Technologists” would raise the question, “which technologists.” But mostly a personal choice, I guess.