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Less is more: why information curation is key to web3 onboarding
What I've been thinking about during SheFi cohort 5.
From crypto confused to crypto consumed
The thing that struck me most when I was first starting out in web3 was how many avenues there were for learning and consuming information. Take my first time on crypto Twitter — I spent my first 5 minutes on the app scrolling through my feed, frantically bookmarking thread after thread that linked to essential resources for beginners, recommended reading, and countless tips and tricks for evaluating NFT projects. At the time, it felt like knowing everything was essential. If I wasn’t simultaneously reading whitepapers, researching protocols, and learning a little Solidity on the side, what was I even doing? I remember distinctly feeling like if I just buckled down and powered through all of the information I was seeing, I’d go from crypto confused to crypto confident in no time.
Well, things didn’t exactly work out like that. As I found more resources and tried to figure out how I wanted to approach things, I quickly discovered I had more questions than answers. Was I interested in development? DeFi? Did I have enough basic knowledge of crypto to even start on more advanced topics? I was totally overwhelmed.
At the beginning of this year, I decided I needed to take a different approach to my web3 onboarding experience. Instead of wading through an endless pool of resources, I planned to focus my learning on one or two things that interested me the most. I knew this would come with some tradeoffs. I’d have to give up many topics I was interested in, at least for the time being.
Around the same time, I was serendipitously introduced to SheFi, an educational community focused on onboarding women into web3. I was really intrigued. The program was far more structured than anything else I’d seen in the space, and the vibes of the community felt very purposeful and intentional. Still, I was hesitant to put myself out there, and I didn’t apply until the very last day — I decided to just go for it and wrote my answers on the fly that afternoon. In retrospect, this actually helped me not overthink things and speak more authentically about my experience and motivations.
When I received an email letting me know I had been accepted to SheFi’s 5th cohort, I was thrilled.
There are many educational web3 communities that focus on onboarding as many people as possible through independent, low commitment, and asynchronous learning experiences. I don’t want to discount their value, but I also think that synchronous, seeing-other-faces education is critical for successfully onboarding people into web3, especially for those who are underrepresented. I think that the more you can curate the initial roadmap for learning, the more effective the experience is for everyone.
If we want to successfully onboard the next one million people into web3, then I believe we need to develop more opinionated curriculums, scope down the resources we deem necessary for newbies, and better understand who is curious about this space and what obstacles they face.
This is my case for information curation, and why less is more when it comes to crypto onboarding.
web3 moves fast
If you’re coming into web3 from a traditional or web2 background, it probably feels like the space is moving faster than you can comprehend. That’s been my experience so far — initiatives I’ve worked on have rolled out comparatively slower than what I’ve seen in web3. In web2, a larger portion of the industry is made up of well established, public companies with thousands of employees. As a result, decisions go up the chain of command, codified processes are followed, and the sheer amount of people that work together means you have a lot of stakeholders and opinions to consider throughout the development lifecycle.
I don’t view this as a universally negative trait of working in big tech (it definitely depends on the company). I see it more as a reflection of just how fast web3 moves and why we desperately need curated educational content in this space. web3 doesn’t have consensus on how things should be done, and without curation, it’s easy to get lost in the many options available.
A few weeks ago, I had a great coffee chat with a fellow SheFier where we discussed our backgrounds and how we got into crypto. Coincidentally, we both come from web2 product management, and although we both are crypto curious, one of the obstacles we faced coming into web3 was feeling like we couldn’t keep up. Our backgrounds probably exacerbated this — as an aspiring web2 PM, I have never felt the need to get on Twitter and immerse myself in the 24 hour tech news cycle to stay on top of big changes in product trends. On the other hand, with web3, it sometimes feels like there’s something new I need to be aware of every minute, whether that’s a protocol, DAO, NFT project, wallet app, or contract exploit.
Learning with purpose
Based on conversations I’ve had with friends and online discourse I’ve seen, one of the key reasons people aren’t interested in web3 is they don’t understand why they should care about it. Crypto, in non-crypto circles, has a reputation for being harmful to the environment, play money for the uber-wealthy, and riddled with scams and false advertising.
Part of the problem is that web3 as a whole doesn’t value marketers and community managers as much as they value developers, which means that thinking about messaging and accessibility has come much later than building out blockchains and protocols. For non-crypto natives, there are very few clearly communicated reasons to buy crypto beyond speculation, let alone engage with DeFi protocols. The learning curve here is steep, and dedicated efforts to change the narrative about crypto for people unfamiliar with it are few and far between.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that NFTs have such mass appeal — successful projects have entered pop culture and optimized their messaging to convert existing fanbases — think of Jimmy Fallon’s Bored Ape and Dapper Labs’s NBA Top Shot. Among the various subgroups of web3, the NFT space is probably the most successful in onboarding people completely unfamiliar with crypto. But I don’t think this kind of approach can only be used for NFTs.
One aspect of SheFi that I think is really crucial to its success is their focus on Decentralized Finance. With the slogan “Financial freedom is feminine,” much of the program is getting people to understand the basics of DeFi in order to feel more comfortable using a wallet, investing, and ultimately achieving greater economic mobility. As I’ve worked my way through weekly lectures and TA sessions, it’s abundantly clear that Maggie, Porter, and the rest of the SheFi team have created a curriculum that focuses on making crypto immediately accessible and useful. This focus is a key differentiator for SheFi.
Many of the educational initiatives I’ve seen are focused on teaching the technical basics in order to increase the number of web3 engineers. People are encouraged to participate in hackathons and write smart contracts as a part of their web3 onboarding experience. These educational opportunities are great for people wanting to transition full-time into web3 roles. But, for the vast majority of the general public, without clear and immediate utility, crypto will continue to be a hard sell.
The future is curation
I love the word curation. Curating content isn’t about adding or limiting information, it’s about thinking deeply about the whys instead of the whats. When we curate, we have to consider who is going to be consuming our content and why it will be valuable to them.
Teaching someone something new means ruthlessly prioritizing knowledge you believe is absolutely necessary, giving them enough to fill in the gaps later. It’s about managing expectations while still empowering people, so they can keep up and feel like they belong. I am really excited about web3, and I truly believe that investing in curated onboarding initiatives is key to paving the way for a better, more inclusive crypto community.
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