How do you create a community around a protocol?
That was the challenge Daniel Norman, developer advocate for IPFS, faced. Daniel was not new to the field. Before working for Protocol Labs, he was a developer advocate at Prisma and a Web3 engineer at Aragon. Prior to entering the P2P and distributed systems space, Daniel worked in SaSS and, therefore, was aware of the questions and challenges Web2 developers would face transitioning into Web3.
He needed to provide resources to developers so they could be successful. These resources had to be engaging and scalable, where developers could learn key concepts and achieve something. Maybe they spin up an app or install IPFS on their computer - whatever it is, they must walk away with a sense of accomplishment.
Building a Demo App
With this in mind, Daniel created a demo chat app that utilized libp2p. Libp2p provides the foundational networking infrastructure and protocols that enable IPFS nodes to communicate, discover each other, and form a decentralized and resilient network for sharing and distributing content. A chat demo is the perfect project for explaining how IPFS works when sending information to other nodes in the network.
The demo was beginner-friendly and implemented the most novel transport protocols at the time compared to other example apps. Libp2p is used in many ecosystems beyond IPFS, including Ethereum, Filecoin, Cosmos, and Polkadot, so developers who might have been familiar with another ecosystem were able to transition nicely into IPFS through this exercise. As a result, the demo was a successful tool for both Web2 and Web3 devs alike.
Today's IPFS ecosystem is vast, with hundreds of projects building on the protocol. And like any good ecosystem, it needs cultivating. Daniel views himself as a gardener in the IPFS ecosystem - there to keep it healthy and thriving. He does this through demos, as previously mentioned, and through shooting videos, hosting events, building relationships, and developing written resources.
One of those written resources is Awesome IPFS. Awesome IPFS is a community-generated collection of projects, tools, implementations, services, platforms, and more, all built on the IPFS protocol. Daniel is one of the key maintainers (another is Fission's CEO and Founder, Boris Mann!) and helps ensure that the repo is up-to-date.
Challenges in Cultivating a Community
While these resources are great for introducing developers to IPFS, they take time and energy to maintain. For example, inactive projects must be removed from the list and dependencies monitored so that the IPFS Awesome resource remains useful.
There need to be fair guidelines for platforming and showcasing projects so that both existing and new projects get fair and equal access to marketing opportunities.
Working with multiple companies, organizations, and people is also key, as diversity only strengthens the ecosystem. It's important that everyone feels heard and empowered to contribute.
If you're interested in building a community around your tech product, here are some key tips that Daniel has learned over the years:
- Be honest and transparent. Don't over-promise or mislead interested parties.
- Avoid too much technical jargon. People don't have the time or energy to sort through all of that when first being introduced to your project.
- Don't create a closed community. Ensure everyone feels welcome and make contributing and asking questions easy and enjoyable.
- Clearly communicate, especially in your writing. Most people are not native English speakers, so keep your writing concise and accessible.
Learn more about IPFS by joining the IPFS Discord community. Heading to Istanbul for LabWeek23 or Devconnect? Don't miss IPFS Connect, an all-day event filled with lightning talks, presentations, workshops, and more led by experienced builders.
And don't forget to follow Daniel for exciting resources and news from the IPFS ecosystem.