DNotes founder Alan Yong was recently interviewed by The CoinTelegraph about the history, purpose and direction of DNotes. In this interview he made a profound statement about a pervasive culture that has taken root within the fledgling cryptocurrency industry. I quote:
In addition to business, I also have a background in behavioral science and it did not take me long to conclude that the industry has already developed a culture of its own. It is a culture of self-destruction, high stress, and blatant disrespect for other’s properties and human emotion. I had never seen any business that had a chance of survival in that kind of hostile environment. No wonder the male population has dominated it by a ratio of 95 to 5, male to female.
While I’m not entirely certain why this “culture of self-destruction, high stress, and blatant disrespect for other’s properties and human emotion” would be a direct cause of a disproportionate male to female ratio–I don’t know any men who enjoy that kind of work environment any more than women do–I can tell you that I have observed and experienced what Yong is talking about over the course of my nearly three years’ journey within the cryptosphere. This “culture” is unfortunate and has already played no small role in the death of many otherwise promising altcoins even before they got off the ground.
This article is my open letter to anyone in the cryptosphere who is about to make his or her great idea a reality–either in the form of a new cryptocoin, or an innovative business venture within the industry. It is my guide, garnered from many months of experience in this industry, on how to not self-destruct, or how to not doom your project before it even gets off the ground.
1. Lose the pinups On more than one occasion I’ve read through threads on Bitcoin Talk about an altcoin in which I was already invested or was seriously considering it and suddenly was assaulted with some picture of an inappropriately dressed woman in a revealing pose. What does a picture of a sexualized woman have to do with an alt coin? I’ve even been personally sent such pictures, like I’m supposed to take that as a compliment? Because my forum handle “wiser” is gender neutral, and 95 percent of the people involved in the cryptosphere are men, it is certainly logical to assume that I’m male. I don’t have a problem with that, per se, nor do I feel any need to correct that assumption in most cases, but since when have all men been into porn?
Nothing screams unprofessional louder than pornography, even so called “soft porn.” Nothing shouts “I have nothing interesting or beneficial to offer” than a website decorated with such pictures. Nothing screams “Get outa here and never come back!” more effectively than a barrage of chick pics. That effect is only magnified if the person on the receiving end of such a barrage happens to be a homeschooling mom or dad with innocent children who might accidentally see something they should have never seen. Is that the message you want to put on your project’s bill board?
I am not here to delve into the moral aspects of pornography–that’s for a different article. But I will say that it should have no place in any kind of professional business environment. Think about your altcoin losing ten percent of its market cap with each soft porn image on its forum thread and then go ahead and post that chick pic along with a suicide note for your project.
2. Answer questions So you’re updating your thread about all the wonderful exciting things in store for your hot new altcoin, and some newbie asks a dumb question like “What’s a block chain anyway?” You have better things to do than hold newbies’ hands so you let loose with some kind of condescending lecture about how they should do their homework before posting such infantile questions. Or maybe someone joined your thread somewhere between page 86 and 87 and asked a question about your project that got thoroughly answered on page 45 and they get a similar lecture about how they really should read through the thread so as to not ask questions that have already been answered.
Do you have that project suicide note ready? Not only did you just alienate the person asking the question, who could be anyone from a down and outer with a computer all the way up to a potential large investor in your project. You also alienated many other people who happened to be reading your thread at the time and who now know better than to ask a question of their own.
Skip the lecture and the mocking or condescending tone and just answer the question, no matter how dumb it may seem to you and no matter how many times it’s been answered before. This doesn’t mean you have to write out an original answer each time it comes up though that certainly does add a personal touch. You can post a link to the message where you did cover it along with a gracious invitation to read it. Even better, every time you are asked a question, copy your answer to an FAQ page you create. Throw in a few basic Q and A’s about cryptocoins in general and then post the page often, and refer inquirers to the appropriate section.
Even if the questioner is not a newbie, even if the question is coming from someone you believe should know better, just answer the question. Keep in mind that people reading the interaction are not going to be aware of all the history between you and that person. All they are going to see is that you just made a snarky reply to what seemed like a reasonable question.
3. Avoid drama No one likes to be jerked around. No one likes to have been away from your updates for a few days and come back to learn that something happened which completely and suddenly changed the direction or even viability of your project. There are several kinds of drama that affect altcoins, all of which should be avoided.
- Sudden shifts in direction Think your project through from beginning to at least several years down the road before you launch it. Make sure you have enough resources to do what you have planned to do. Be sure you know what it takes to get from point A to point B every step of the way. This isn’t to say that you can totally avoid the unexpected, but even then, plan for how you will deal with the unexpected. At the very least, have your vision and direction mapped out so that you can keep it consistent. If what you are launching is a hosted mining operation, then stick to that. Don’t start off as a hosted mining operation and then scrap that and launch a hastily put together altcoin instead.
- Bad coding resulting in numerous urgent mandatory wallet updates Give yourself plenty of time to do a good job with the technical aspects of your project. Thoroughly test your wallet before releasing it so as to minimize the number of mandatory updates. Nobody likes to have their wallet quit working on them or find themselves mining on a fork. Some of this is going to happen anyway, but it is up to you to do all you can to minimize this by writing good code and then getting other competent people to proofread and test it.
- Scandal This boils down to being an ethical person. Say what you mean; mean what you say. Don’t take what isn’t yours and don’t cheat. Keep your personal life clean as well. Don’t cheat on your spouse or be the town drunk in real life. Treat the people in your life with respect and don’t neglect your real life obligations. Basically, don’t give anyone a reason to speak ill of you. If you have personal problems (and we all do) don’t air them on your project’s online public correspondence and never ever use them as an excuse for not delivering on your promises or in any other way lacking in professionalism. This doesn’t mean your life has to be perfect. Pretty much all of us have done things at one time or another that we regret. It does mean dealing with our mistakes and regrets honestly and always striving to improve ourselves so that we’re not mired in bad habits or vices which lead to scandal.
- Trolls in your thread This is one aspect of drama that we can’t fully control. However, there are ways to mitigate the damage it can cause. For starters, make sure you can control the content of your project’s thread. On Bitcoin Talk that means you start a self moderated thread. This allows you to delete truly unwanted and unnecessary posts. When you’ve identified a poster as a troll (and not someone who has legitimate concerns) minimize your engagement; do not get into endless arguments and never make personal attacks or give any credence to personal attacks directed against you. Do all you can to move the topic back to your project. Ban that person from posting further in your thread if you have already taken reasonable measures to address their concerns, and don’t let it get under your skin. Successful people know how to deal with that kind of adversity. Learn how they do it and emulate them. Don’t get sucked in to pointless and damaging toxic exchanges.
- Suffering material damage from malicious attackers Again, not something that can be fully controlled. However, there are reasonable precautions which can be taken to minimize the chances of this happening. For starters be sure that all your online assets are thoroughly secured, especially if they are sites on which people have accounts or keep funds. Do not cut corners in this regard. Website hacks leading to thefts happen all the time in the cryptosphere and many of them could have been prevented. Another kind of attack can be to your reputation. Again, take reasonable precautions, especially avoiding scandal and being professional at all times. If someone does say something that can injure your reputation, take reasonable measures to address the issue and restore your good name but don’t let that take you away from your focus or get you mired in an ugly verbal confrontation. Always be professional, gracious and polite no matter how unprofessional or vicious your adversary may be. Let your good character speak for itself. And it goes without saying that you must have good character to begin with.
4. Do not name bad guys Be open to working with everyone who shows interest in your project until they have proven themselves unworthy. Do not assume someone is your enemy based on their race, personality or even industry background. One common tendency in the cryptosphere is to lump all fiat financial institutions and their workers as being evil. Another tendency is to call anyone who dumped a large amount of your coin bad names. Resist that urge. Even if we concede that the banking industry has some severe ethical problems which have hurt others that does not translate into bank CEOs or tellers themselves being evil people. We also can never know the true circumstances behind some trader’s decision to sell a large number of coins. Both people and industries can evolve and grow; give them that chance. With that said, there may be certain niche industries you do not wish to work with. That’s fine. Treat any refusals to collaborate as a matter of such collaboration not being conducive to the direction you have for your project (you do have a plan and direction for your project, right?), not as a good vs. evil or us vs. them thing. In other words, don’t burn bridges. In all dealings with people try to find common ground, and if you don’t find it beneficial to continue the relationship, then at least part on good terms.
5. Do not publicly rebuke anyone Perhaps as your project has progressed people who promised to help you out in certain ways let you down. Perhaps you need to fire someone from your team. That sort of thing happens. Keep it private. All the public ever needs to know is that so and so is no longer a part of this project. If someone needs to be corrected concerning their actions (not just about something they said which wasn’t accurate), take it up with them privately. Definitely do not rebuke anyone on a public forum, no matter how much they might deserve it. Most readers will not know the backstory and all they’ll see is that you humiliated someone publicly and they’ll worry that they might be next.
6. Graciously welcome everyone Express genuine joy and excitement that they have stopped by and expressed interest in your project. Welcome them, welcome their questions, even welcome their concerns and challenges. Did they just repeat the same worn out objections that you tackled last month for the umpteenth time? Thank them for their insight and graciously address their concerns and challenges, even if briefly, and it’s OK to direct them to an FAQ page or the message where you thoroughly addressed those issues in the past.
7. Respect people’s humanity However technical your innovative project may be it’s never just about code and programming. You embarked on your project because you believed it would solve a human problem or improve human life. Know that every one on the other end of an online interaction concerning your project is a human being with human dreams, vulnerabilities and emotions and proceed accordingly. If you have something a bit difficult to say, before you hit send, visualize yourself speaking it out loud to the recipient in person. No matter what you say, always treat the other with respect and treat their human feelings with consideration. Even more so when the conversation is public. Never intentionally insult or poke fun at anyone (apologize promptly if you did so unintentionally), never use sarcasm, give straight answers and use good manners. Each and every person you interact with, no matter how annoying they may come across, is a unique and infinitely valuable human soul. Treat them with the utmost consideration and respect. Among other things it’s the essence of professionalism.
If you follow these basic principles of professionalism, I can bet that even if your idea and execution stink, your project will rise above the other better designed ones whose teams lack basic professionalism. Of course, you can improve your odds substantially by having a sound project. Just don’t ever assume your amazing idea will stand on its own without professionalism behind it. Professionalism matters. A great deal. Be professional… or begin composing your project’s suicide note.