It’s useful to map out how a community is set up at its inception. The documentation process clarifies the intention of the design while helping others gain inspiration to try out variations themselves.
Back in 2021, I wrote my first How-To article with Cabin. Specifically, I wrote my first article, here on Mirror, about how Cabin set-up their initial DAO. Unbeknownst to me, this article helped many other communities blossom. Moreover, this framework is the same one that has been used to design Folklore.
Unlike Cabin, Folklore is much smaller and limited in scope. While Cabin is building a decentralized city, Folklore is building a single-purpose discussion forum. At least initially. As a result, I wanted to share an updated how-to framework.
This guide is for the individual creators and curators who are looking to create cozy spaces with peers. It is an untested playbook which we can revisit together in 6-months to a year. I hope that many others that have built similar spaces also share what they’ve learned. Maybe we can even find a name for whatever this type of community becomes.
Folklore will be set-up in three phases: (1) Focus, (2) Form, and (3) Flow. Each phase builds on the previous to create a :: niche--content--experience ::
Social media today is obsessed with growth. What would it look like to design a space focused on leisure instead? That’s part of this experiment. For example:
The hope is that Folklore becomes an intimate social-media community, a naïve design in an imaginary world:
All in all, this looks more like the intersection of a book club and a group chat, although designed for a post-digital world; Folklore is online, async, and simply assumes perfect memory and composable access.
→ Like Facebook, the network is curated. But unlike Facebook, the network is built from interests, not “friends and family”.
→ Like Substack, members can connect to discuss. But unlike Substack, discussion is like a dinner table, and not limited to the footer of a post.
→ Like Twitter, content is shared in the town square. But unlike Twitter, content is dripped, and not fed forcefully or interrupted by advertisements or random bots.
→ Like Patreon, members have the option to support via payments. But unlike Patreon, the investment nurtures the content, and not channeled to the creator or community.
→ Like today’s DAOs, tokens are used for coordination. But unlike DAOs today, the value sustains the space, and isn’t speculative or stowed away in a treasury.
Yet, this content consumption is designed as an ephemeral experience. Flow in, flow out at your leisure. There is no design requirement for quorum or participation KPI.
What will this look like? As we’ll see, the first generation of this design for Folklore will look like a token-gated content “drip”, with funds being fully allocated to increasing the content quality through crowdsourced commissions.
Will it always look like this? Unlikely. The feed design may actually be a local maxima for content consumption. There may be other innovations that disrupt this ubiquitous social media architecture.
The initial reaction from tech-savvy folks might just be: “There is no way this is financially sustainable”. This logic makes sense. How do you maintain a space for connection without strong financial backing?
Well, not everything needs to be a business. Sometimes people just want to get together and talk about stuff they are passionate about. We don’t need to financialize everything. How about we bring back leisure and design spaces accordingly?
Note that this is not any sort of “retvrn to tradition” or cottagecore dream. This is a “Very Online” initiative that uses skeumorphic, unbothered, pragmatic tech to create a personal hobby space.
Now that we’ve described the theory, let’s dive into the practice. Here are the instructions to set-up your own token-gated drip.
PART 1: FOCUS
Hundreds of messages from Discord, Slack, Telegram. Constant pings from Whatsapp and Twitter. The fundamental design requirement for intimate social media is focus. Predictable and relaxed connection.
Select a Topic: There are a thousand interests to choose from. For myself, I’ve chosen the same topic I’ve been interested in for years: organization design. Today, this is expressed as long-form text about internet subcultures, web3, and community. For you, it might be a podcast channel (check out Rehash and We Do A Little Podcast), a photography style, or video shorts across multiple platforms.
Want some inspiration? Check out the featured channels of are.na:
Craft a Totem: Focus is not just about content, but about people participating in the space. How do you find them? How to you gather them? The simplest approach is to find a totem that represents the topic of interest. For Folklore, I asked potential community members to buy a token of a Writing NFT here on Mirror. The token became that identifier. However, as more on-chain data becomes available, you could simply find an intersection of activity and items that becomes a signal for coordination. Then you can airdrop an NFT to them, or add them to a badge minting approve list with Otterspace.
At the end of the day, membership totems should be composable with the community’s tools. Furthermore, the totem should be findable. If one member has a totem - they should be able to easily find others with the same totem (assuming they agree of course).
Build a Gate: Focus requires boundaries. These boundaries should be well defined for both the content (e.g. what the community permits within the space) and the people (e.g. who the community invites). Guild.XYZ provides a great toolkit to design gates for participants already. Soon, I am certain there will be products which will gate content based the content metadata itself (e.g. only include artwork by this approved list of artists or that Gallery or JPG curation).
PART 2: FORM
Once you have focus, then you can pair that with a pragmatic space. Use tools that are clean, direct, and ideally unconnected from other social media. Over time, I’d want a tech stack with no other discovery that would distract the community.
Start a Publication: Broadcasting messages to members is an absolute need for any community. A Mirror publication is ideal because it manages the community via wallet addresses, the same address containing the “totem” I described earlier. The publication should serve primarily as an announcement channel. For Folklore specifically, it will also be used to publish commissioned essays, like the Station Newsletter.
Turn on the Drip: The core of the Folklore experience is the content drip. In our case it’s a telegram broadcast channel where I am publishing 1-2 curated articles daily. Unlike a feed, it’s high-signal and human curated. No algorithmic funny stuff, shitposting (sorry!), or intrusive thoughts.
Head to the Forum: Discussion is set separately from the feed. Members can choose to have conversations and thread them together for additional context. Cultural norms at Folklore are set by example. Responses should be thoughtful and light. Ideally the forum emulates a sitting room space. Small talk? Sure thing.
PART 3: FLOW
The final part of Folklore’s design is about the community engagement process. How do members act?
Set a Rhythm: At Folklore, the content drips once or twice a day. Forum conversations will probably level out at a few comments per article. Commissions of new essays maybe once a month? Uncertain. The rhythm of the content changes the experience, so controlling “the drip tap” is an important design consideration.
Join a Race: Bureaucracy is the devil, why not enjoy it? At Folklore, governance should be content for the community and a genuine ritual of play. Rehash has done an excellent job of using governance as entertainment to choose podcast speakers. SeedClub does the same for their cohort selection. At Folklore, we won’t be voting - we’ll be racing essays and creating a honeypot for potential writers.
Start a Fund: Hobby clubs like Folklore will probably have some sort of petty cash for incidentals and whatever activities we come to imagine. For example, funds may come from a small crowdfund, membership sales, or even revenue from content the community creates.
However, given the small amount of people involved, it’s not unreasonable to just have the main creator manage the funds. That being said, Folklore does have a gnosis safe and a dedicated address. This will make sure all transactions are easily accounted for. Want an extra layer of trust? Put in a collective tribute and start a MolochDAO.
Exercise your voice: I personally think the world will be a better place if we all have more intimate gatherings, more conversations, and deeper relationships. If you end up building something similar to Folklore, make to share what you learn. I’m fairly certain a few more iterations and we can spend less time on public social media, and more time on intimate social media.
All earnings from collection of this post will be split 50-50 between the non-profit I support (Obras del País) and Folklore’s community treasury. Treasury funds will be fully utilized to commission new essays related to our new digital realms.