Creating the Messari of DotSama

> Readers note: This post comes with a small trigger warning, it may not make everyone happy but it is born of frustration about the current echo chamber nature of conversations within the ecosystem. It is not a rant (though it is certainly written with passion) as it aims to present potential solutions to the oft stated, but generically framed issues of adoption, awareness and real world impact.

Developing the Messari of DotSama

On the state of Dotsama post @shawntabrizi followed up with a comment:

> Sidenote: I’m guessing the report will have cost $50k at least - can anyone from Parity/W3F clarify?

So what is Messari?

Messari brings transparency to the cryptoeconomy. We want to help investors, regulators, and the public make sense of this revolutionary new asset class, and are building data tools that will drive informed decision making and investment. We believe that crypto will democratize access to information, break down data silos, and ultimately give everyone the tools to build wealth.

Why do we need our own Messari?

Messari a for profit company, without a token (yet) - aims to be as objective and independent as possible, but it is an observer - its analysts may hold assets that they declare, but it not an integrated part of any ecosystem - as a result, its insights and usefulness will always be detached from the internal workings of what are aimed to be sovereign digital networks.

In Polkadot’s example - where on-chain organisation, debate and resolution are core, objective analysis is integral to its existence, persistence and growth.

Ultimately if we want regulators, referees and objective (and critical) reporting, we need to figure out a way for these entities and processes to be structured as public goods/services/collectives within the ecosystem, aligned with the long term incentives of Substrate’s emerging public domains…

The Messari report is great, and full of useful insights, but it is a paid report, delivered by analysts observing the ecosystem, not researching, setting strategy, fostering collaboration and mining core insights that can expand the paraverse…

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance - Alan Watts

You cannot explain on-chain governed networks. You need to get inside them. You need to experience them. Be beaten up by them. Realise how little you know. How little the designers do.

Only then, in the harsh light of actual community interaction and receipt of cold hard :moneybag::moneybag::moneybag: do you appreciate the basic magic of on-chain governance and the ability to propose and receive funding for creative contributions in a system outside of the existing financial system.

This is the red pill. The selective attention test. The dumb super-power everyone glosses over in the hunt for the sexy new derivatives, scarcity games or expansion of Polkadot’s ability to process quadrillions of transactions - almost always, because marketing requires complexity - marketing requires obfuscation, marketing succeeds by elevating soap to a revolutionary cultural force.

Look around crypto - ask yourself - does the best tech win? Or the best marketing?

DotSama is young, it is messy and more than that, with on-chain governance it is (fiendishly) complex - not just technically, but economically and culturally.

With the addition of Gov2, there is the hope (and the accompanying fear) of a proliferation of proposals / referendums, which will further exacerbate the complexity for newcomers, making it even harder to see the wood for the trees.

Things are not going to get easier - they are going to get much, much harder.

Therefore we need less complexity not more.

We need to reduce, not expand. Work with what we’ve got not build more shit no one needs or demands - other than investors and retail demanding some novel gimmick and flipping opportunity.

Creativity loves constraints…

I’ve heard it mentioned, that there shouldn’t be concern about too much going on in DotSama governance for people to keep up. This is a little naive.

Solo chain projects that have one shared state, are able to build permissionlessly, within a relatively simple ecology, rallying around simple (unregulated) fundraising primitives (ICOs, NFTs etc) that are themselves marketed to unwitting newcomers, unaware that yes you are early!

But also far far too late.

This approach is marketed and scaled on established social networks using existing growth tactics - influencers, paid media and a whole heap of speculative games. It works (if NGU is your measure of success) - but in the process perverts, corrupts and degrades the founding principles of the projects.

For these L1 chains and projects, there is explicitly no full stack and interoperable coordinating function.

DotSama is different

It rejects this approach totally.

It has been said that Polkadot is the biggest bet yet on multi-chain maximalism, but it is also unquestionably the biggest bet yet on the power to change and the ability to direct - to coordinate not just on-chain orgs, but a whole armada of chains… with the arrival of parathreads able to spin up and down, we also have another dimension of change to think about - transitory projects,

For the multi-chain vision of relays, parachains and XCM to succeed, it demands active and sustained creative collaboration across chains, communities and contributors, in a manner that is far harder to coordinate that anything yet attempted in any other ecosystem.

And what is more, it needs to ensure this coordination ensures primacy of the founding aims of Web3 - of the mission over the market cap…

This is DotSama’s greatest strength, and weakness…

If Bitcoin is a slab of rock, and Ethereum a giant container ship changing direction once every few years, then DotSama aims to be…

We need to solve our own problems, with our own technology and begin to see Polkadot’s latent potential as an entirely new species, rather than a derivation of Bitcoin or Ethereum.

> side note: If I had the requisite skills I would develop a TG/discord bot/tipjar that fined, booted or publicly shamed anyone using keywords such as wen listing, wen marketing, wen airdrop, evm, ethereum or some other ecosystem’s products unless you are actually working on a ETH>DOT bridge which is probably about 15 people. We’ve normalised the clusterfuck that is working in ‘community projects’ when really that just means the ability for anyone to show up, contribute nothing and scream at you for not making them rich today.

We now return to our original programming:

To successfully coordinate DotSama collaboration is to manifest the flock. This is the goal.

And this begins with establishing on-chain organisations focused on addressing our own problems - from the ground up…

Wag Media is attempting to disseminate media about networks, and the Polkadot Fellowship aims to create a ranked organisation to maintain the core protocol, but there is no yet an organisation (or indeed organisation, of organisations) focused on a holistic, constant, and evolving research and analysis of the ecosystem many moving parts - aka a DotSama Messari

Why does this matter?

Everyone wants ‘adoption’, ‘marketing’, ‘users’, or for Parity to better market Polkadot’s brand.

There are only a few thousand active accounts on both Kusama and Polkadot in the last 7 days.

thanks for @danreecer sharing this really useful tool a perfect example of a useful tool, that no one knew existed.

There are endless groups across Substrate attempting to address collaboration and each individual, chain and community has small pieces of puzzle, but all are struggling in many of the same ways.

All end up falling back on pretty standard marketing techniques, which tend to forget the already awesome capabiltiies of the techology in terms of its organisational structures, delegation tools and funding.

Most end up spending a lot of time and effort being busy, but not being effective - primarily because the issues they seek to address, are symptoms of a much deeper malaise…

On chain R&D - an emerging social science?

In a previous post The state of DotSama, I outlined a current birdseye view of the ecosystem, including a breakdown of current issues as stated by project teams and an assessement of the current economic models - those of Free Market Parachains (FMPs) and Common Good Parachains (CGPs).

I followed with an initial attempt to break down the core incentive models and design decisions of these networks in Substrate Ecology - as a way for us to all understand the emerging lexicon of the paraverse… and to build some sort of shared and evolving network research resource - initially for my own understanding, but with the hope that it could develop further.

The post prompted a great response from @joepetrowski with his post Polkadot Protocol and Common Good Parachains

These assessments come from experience related to time spent actively sourcing, developing and coordinating proposals, figuring out on-chain governance processes, and trying to organise a fully decentralised network of holders within Substrate’s second oldest, and most chaotically governed mainnet Edgeware.

This resulted in the (composable) development of the Kabocha parachain from scratch, stitching it together via a range of linked on-chain proposals and launching it into Kusama.

It has been a griiiiiiiind.

As noted previously, on-chain governance it is (fiendishly) complex - not just technically, but economically and culturally.

Not only do you need to understand the technical processes, you need to figure out the tone of the proposal, the sentiment of a bunch of random people, and then deal with a binary yes/no vote.

Then your problems really begin. You need to manage your funds. They might go up, but more often they go down. You might have great liquidity, or you might have none.

Then maybe you need a topup - how does that work? Afterall, if the price has gone up, would you have returned the funds?

There is a longer thread from @shawntabrizi about how to improve the treasury process, but this is just one key part of a much much bigger picture.

We are the users we seek

The people who understand DotSama best - not the theory, but the practical challenges, issues and opportunities of starting, maintaining and organising on-chain governed communities - in a larger network of on-chain communities, are those who contribute every day.

For anyone who has actively engaged in substrate governance, managed to login with an ID, commented on proposals, used the forums, successfully defeated the extrinsics tab, figured out how to propose a treasury spend, found the 5% bond, moved it through a Council motion and then onto a SimpleMajority referendum… all whilst dodging the slings and arrows of holders, I salute you.

And now with Gov2, there are gonna be thousands of these? And they happen across three phases? For real?

When a referendum is initially created, it is immediately votable by anyone in the community. However, it is not in a state where it can end, or otherwise have its votes counted, be approved and summarily enacted. Instead, referenda must fulfil a number of criteria before they are moved into a state known as Deciding. Until they are in this state, they remain undecided. - Gov2

That far away look you see in Raul’s eyes… that’s what on-chain governance PTSD looks like.

You want the council devolved… you will miss it when it is gone.

What would Messari look like if it were born and raised on DotSama?

Harnessing and scaling this untapped collective intelligence is key to advancing the ecosystem.

This is about establishing and persisting sovereignity - not just of data, but of narrative.

It is a template for creating productive on-chain organisations who can collectively bring DotSama’s story to life - in our own words, on our own terms, maintaining incentive alignment over the long term, dogfooding the very technology we want adopted in the process, and driving the flywheel of adoption.

If funding doesn’t scale, or sustain, or remain aligned over the long term then neither does the system. You see if you fix funding for project teams, you don’t need to monetise. You build at your own pace, you grow together, you exit the rat race, the speculators and the noise…

Our Messari would start as one on-chain org, but it would expand to a whole network of connected groups, each researching, expanding, educating and illuminating the paraverse - not for the Twitterati, but for ourselves.

There is an opportunity to use basic organisational structures such as Optimistic Orgs (as pioneered by Shokunin Network) which leverage time delayed proxies.

We could very quickly develop a whole team of researchers, on-chain analysts, developers, designers and artists, to bring DotSama to life - primarily for our own shared benefit, but also, as a way of telling our own story, on our own terms, leveraging the very tools, we want people to adopt.

We can build simple onboarding interfaces into these collectives - starting them with creating an on-chain identity that evolves based on their contributions using Kabocha Seeds - a project we aim to develop into a new hybrid kind of common good chain (more on that in another post).

We can do this intially using wallet-less onboarding, since there will just be a non-transferable token representing a new contributors blank slate identity.

As they assess the various ways they can contribute, they can then put forward proposals to the proxy and only need one of the existing org to queue the transaction.

They then upgrade their account to a full on-chain address / keys.

Pretty soon, we’ll end up with a front page of DotSama not being the protocols, but the creative projects you can contribute to… a veritable smorgasbord of inspiring organisations, whose exploits, challenges and advances we can report on, through, you’ve guessed it another independently funded optimistic org.

This is what (network) public service media begins to look and feel like…

Next steps

We’ll be pushing forward a number of proposals into Kusama (and then Polkadot) governance in the next few weeks and months, focused on tapping the treasury and indeed the underlying tools, to start to organise dynamic teams, with diverse skill sets, interests and approaches, that can establish and scale on-chain collectives and very easy to understand creative projects.

here’s a sample - the Auto Fabrica creator collective

These proposals will also aim to reframe the core economic relationship between a relay, parachain and importantly its on-chain orgs/contributors - elevating creators, from merely recipients of grants, to a core part of the economic engine of the ecosystem, diversifying DotSama’s current core reliance on crowdloans and auctions to drive attention to the ecosystem, accrue value to relays and support security.

The core strategic idea

Transition Web2 followers, into Web3 contributors by solving the sustainable funding of creative contribution.

The great opportunity for DotSama, its resources, design and evolving governance structures is to actively coordinate creative employment across any and every domain imaginable.

This is what DotSama education looks like from a very real, practical, and pragmatic perspective.

This is what DotSama ‘marketing’ looks like, at every scale imaginable.

Productive on-chain organisations maintaining absolute sovereignity over their emerging narratives.

Composing those same narratives into expansive story worlds through cross-chain collaboration and XCM and Ink!, all built around very clear and specific creative projects with focused goals and exciting opportunities to contribute.

Let’s make crypto humane again.

The use case is money - always has been, always will be.

Bitcoin was born at the tail end of an economic expansion that has been NGU since the end of WWII and the creation of the great neoliberal experiment.

Quantitative easing and zero interest rate policy has created vast credit and debt bubbles.

Until 2020-21 the party raged on, but the times they are a changin’.

The next bull market in crypto will see a distinct separation - between the casinos (and the civil society dumpster fire it will further accelerate) and the networks, projects and teams focused on building stuff that actually fires people’s imaginations that there are other ways out of this mess than buying ape shaped lottery tickets in another rigged system.

We need a dedicated move towards making the lead narrative the ability to earn KSM/EDG/DOT and then giving them ways to spend those tokens - not on roulette, but within real economies, for real people, focused on addressing real needs.

Stop imagining your ideal user as some token flipper and start stretching your imaginations.

  • What does crypto adoption look like to some recently unemployed but talented metal worker?

  • How do we onboard people who don’t spend 80 hours a week on reddit?

  • How do we onboard people who think crypto is a scam?

  • Or those burned by its undelivered promises?

Final thoughts

If crypto has been a failure, it has been a failure of awareness, of imagination and of storytelling, rooted in an inability to expand our horizons beyond simply designing systems that are in effect hyper-individualist crypto based parodies of established institutions the technology aimed to replace.

  • This isn’t gold, it’s digital gold!
  • This isn’t a dollar, its a digital dollar!
  • This isn’t a company, it’s a digital autonomous organisation!

Bitcoin’s fixed supply and corresponding digital gold narrative was never a core part of Satoshi’s vision, in fact the 21m was as educated guess as he stated in this email to Mike Hearn:

My choice for the number of coins and distribution schedule was an educated guess. It was a difficult choice, because once the network is going it’s locked in and we’re stuck with it. I wanted to pick something that would make prices similar to existing currencies, but without knowing the future, that’s very hard. I ended up picking something in the middle.

In his post In Praise of Bitcoin, Ben Hunt comes closest to nailing the end result of the narrative gravity of the incumbent power structures:

…the artistic Bitcoin identity I admire and value has been subverted by the neutering machine of Wall Street and the regulatory panopticon of the US Treasury Dept.

what made Bitcoin special in the first place is nearly lost, and what remains is a false and constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.

The inevitable consequence of this broken system is the continued expansion of the US dollar as the ‘free world’s’ digital reserve currency, in direct contravention of the founding ideals of Bitcoin which sought to mediate the power of central banks.

  • We should not high five the emergence of 10,000 strong PFPs and the assocatiated fixed supply scarcity games, we should ask ourselves why this dumb trick is still tolerated.

  • We should not celebrate the arrival of USDT in Polkadot, we should be ashamed that it is still needed.

  • We should not celebrate the creation of vast treasuries magicked into existence, we should race to dissolve them - as they engineer unbounded opportunity into a finite bucket, whose relative value rises and falls at the whim of the market, playing havoc with the psychological disposition and social dynamics of those who propose, approve and manage spending.


This is a nice topic to touch upon, and what you’re discussing here is a grand vision that I think will take a lot of time and resources to realize. At SubWallet research team (which will be branded dotinsights hereafter), we’re taking it one step at a time, first with the release of Polkadot Deep Dive Report, the first Polkadot comprehensive quarterly report. The first issue on H1 2022 was published in August, and the second on Q3 2022 is coming soon on this month.

Ecosystem map and data platform are also in the works. The main issue we’re trying to solve here is to make Polkadot’s growth and activities as digestible as possible so that whenever someone thinks “I wonder what Polkadot looks like right now” they can jump right in and have the numbers readily available and easily readable. Are they actually decentralized? How are they spending the treasury and other grants? What is the TVL in DeFi projects? How are NFTs looking? Which wallet should I use? These are basic questions that they can find answers to. You can say that we’re heading towards what you’re terming as “The Messari of DotSama.”

Interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this and how we can collaborate to push it further.


Yess 100%, SubWallet is already taking action in this direction!

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Hey thanks for reply - sorry for slow response.

The site is great - however what I think is currently missing, is perhaps not an exact ‘Messari’ copy (that was a grabby headline for the post) - but one that is focused on the on-chain governance, funding and employment / organisation aspect of the ecosystem… or perhaps more explicitly, a part of the ecosystem that is not currently represented other than with some things like @ChrawnnaCorp’s ‘Attempts at governance’ show.

I think what I’m presenting is something a little more on-chain native in its funding / organisation and focus… with a skew towards a specialisation in governance / proposals / funding.

Out of interest how is dotinsights currently funded / organised?

I think this is great to do - having metrics based stuff, but we miss the other side of the coin - bringing alive the stories / narratives that are not really about numbers - i’m aware im critiquing my own presentation of ‘messari’, but I guess the point is we don’t know what metrics are valuable in Polkadot yet… that’s at least my guiding assumption, and so in that way, maybe TVL etc are not really that useful / or are perhaps only one part of the story…


Ain’t clear exactly what you propose…

A dotsama Messari that discusses only parachain projects? It’d make some sense. We’re maybe too small though, so what would they actually do? It’s likely some fraud protection work already makes sense I guess.

At a high level, Messari is “wrong” in that they come from a financial mindset, so they work from a buisness-buzzword notion of “decentralization”. In reality, there is never anything trustless or permissionless or decentralized. At a formal level, there are only security assumptions, how well software, incentives, and community achieve them, and how well this translates into security goals. Also how well those security goals and assumptions hold up under more extreme but realistic scenarios, including the debate about what’s realistic.

We’re much less wrong than Messari since we fixated upon the security assumptions and goals. Yet, there are embedded mistakes from the financial perspective of the entire space. We never really asked ourselves seriously if DOTs should even be transferable, for example. It’s intellectually tricky to correct Messari if we only want to correct them partially.

At the same time, I do think Messari themselves would be more amenable to our current smaller corrections, than if we say discovered some really radical anti-financial idea served security goals better. We do work towards this end give some advise to academics who write papers around these topics. Aka we reform Messari one PhD thesis at a time.

As for Jackson Palmer, we’ll never win over crypto-currency critics or their listeners by building financial tools, giving money to economists, talking about decentralization, etc. We win that fight by “doing real things” like on-chain investments in physical businesses that generate real SEPA payments in EUR and solve real social problems, primarily meaning wind and solar, but especially agrivoltaics in southern europe.

Research reports should be written by “independent” or “objective” observers / analysts (I understand this is not the case in so many instances). The closer the tie between the research report to the subject entity, the more I would consider it marketing materials rather than research report.

We should certainly strive to furnish and provide as much data and metrics to the public as possible (in easily digestible form). This is super important as this data can be leveraged in independent research reports that objectively try to compare and contrast various projects and ecosystems in the crypto sphere and are not tied to or biased toward particular project.

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Concretely, using native substrate tools, resources and talent to build both internally relevant and externally valuable R&D functions - innovation labs, that start small, but ultimately are able to draw in multidisciplinary talent, on foundations that enable more fluid exploration due to the emerging potential we have for more liquid forms of funding, democracy and organisation.

We’re not there yet, but we can get there see Root - our in discussion approach to on-chain decision-making, talent recruitment and collective formation which is born of the kind of on-chain experimentation I’m suggesting we need more of.

The primary insight is that those contributing within the emerging polkadot ecology of interdependent and cooperative networks are in fact within an entirely new philosophical, social and therefore design domain, hence why projects pattern matching to Ethereum or other L1s is a losing hand.

In the same way, those looking to fund products via treasuries are appealing to a relatively general audience - voters who may hold stake, but who are naturally more comfortable approving practical and relatable concepts that are ‘proven out’. This is again why the trend is towards a lot of very similar ideas that make sense, but lack an experimental nature, since people focus on metrics that likely don’t matter since they are backwards looking - rooted in the systems we’re trying to replace.

  • How many views?
  • How many subscribers?
  • How active is your discord or twitter?

If we take the position we don’t know what the right metrics are, we begin to focus on exploration - being open minded to what we can compose, rather than getting stuck in endless circular debates about the amount of money and the results, we can free ourselves to find more novel areas and audiences.

I completely agree, but its an even bigger point than just the software and security side. Its philosophically, culturally and organisationally as well - e.g. if Messari were to become a collective within the ecosystem, and they brought their talent within that arena, and experienced the tech and the tools and the funding from the inside out, their experience and therefore output would be completely different.

To reassert the original point, the foundations of the ecosystem are in fact capable of bootstrapping entirely new and original media platforms, forms and narratives.

There are a range of interesting creative teams like RMRK, Joystream and Subsocial building the foundations of sovereign publishing operations whose output goes far beyond the capabilities of a group such as Messari.

These creative projects are the signal for onboarding more experimental creators, academics and technologists for whom price speculation is not the driving motivation. This powers a flywheel for delivering far more artistic projects that will likely interpret the tools in ways that more financially focused talent wouldn’t, since that starting point necessarily filters a world view through a purely economic lense.

This lateral approach is what effective polkadot education will look like - it’s creative contribution, cooperation and play, that unlocks new knowledge, creating foundations for creative output that will be far more interesting, inspiring and ultimately original, than the standard marketing approaches we currently see, and ultimately bootstraps use of the underlying tech in the process.

To achieve this we need to double down on multidisciplinary applied R&D orgs (collectives) that are upstream of the treasuries and therefore voters, that can enable way more experimentation - for example an on-chain media innovation lab - imagine if MIT media lab was born and raised onchain. This is where I’ve spent the majority of my career, and has been the primary focus of our experimentation in Edgeware - the projects funded / bootstrapped there are examples of weird stuff that likely wouldn’t be approved in KSM and DOT simply because it was unloved and deemed worthless due to its relatively low valuation and standing.

Ultimately this convo leads to why I kickstarted the following post - Ecosystem conventions around the funding of R&D by on-chain treasuries. Will respond to your comments there.

Completely agree - real world needs. Actual impact that people can see + feel. Imo, the simplest way is through direct funding - e.g. people earning, or receiving some benefit via local public services facilitated by the tech. If we start in local economies, this can remain experimental, but connect globally and scale from there - tagging @olanod who is developing tools + tech for this.

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You are right that we don’t yet know what metrics will are the most valuable, but we know there will be some table stakes (basic) metrics such as Active Addresses, Unique Addresses, and Transfers. One of the problems is that even these basic metrics differ in definition and thus result across data providers (subscan, moonscan, polkaholic, etc). This problem exists in all ecosystems, not just polkadot.

Exactly, I have a plan to make significant steps in this direction and would love community input to make sure we’re going the right direction and providing the most value to the ecosystem.

Display metrics sourced from multiple sources with clear descriptions and definitions. We should increase the metrics over time based on community input on what they want to see next. Like you said, we don’t yet know what metrics will be the most valuable.

I’ve taken the liberty of kicking off a community discussion with few metrics HERE. If there is interest I have a team ready to execute on this and submit a treasury proposal to bring it to being.

Note: This post isn’t intended to address all the thinking in this thread; rather, it’s addressing a single important problem with concrete next steps.

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