This past weekend I attended my first Gencon gaming convention. It is the largest tabletop-game convention in North America (70,000+ people). I normally have Ethereum and other blockchain related things consume my life, but a few days a week I meet with friends and play tabletop-RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons (5e), 7th Sea, Deadlands, and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. This blog entry primarily describes the things I’ve learned from the folks at the One Shot Podcast Network and how I plan to apply that to what I’m doing. It also describes a way that blockchain technology can help content creators who utilize traditional crowdfunding platforms.
One Shot Podcast Network
During the convention, my group attended a number of panels run by members of the One Shot Podcast Network. It is hard to pin down a single sentence definition of what the network is because it’s collection of shows are fairly diverse. Some of the podcasts are traditional podcast style where there is a group of people talking about a topic and others are “actual play” where the participants play a tabletop-RPG and lead the listeners through their story. The One Shot Podcast Network supports a variety of nerdy podcasts such as:
- One Shot - Every month a rotating group of players are led on a “one shot adventure” where a new, short role playing game is tried. The games vary widely, but my favorite episodes are the comedic ones such as Inspectres.
- Campaign - Campaign focuses on long-form or “campaign” gaming with a team of improvisers. It is currently set in the Star Wars universe, and uses the Edge of the Empire gaming system. It has a good mix of comedy and drama elements that shows how character-driven storytelling can create a compelling and entertaining narrative.
- Never Tell Me The Pods - This podcast focuses on discussing Star Wars fandom and lore with guests from around the Star Wars universe. This demonstrates one of the podcasts One Shot produces that focuses on a specific topic that panelists deep-dive into.
- Adventure - This is an actual play podcast that brings your favorite stories and characters to life, combining fanfiction and tabletop games. Some of the types of fanfiction covered include Pokémon, Harry Potter, and The Magic School Bus.
What I experienced at Gencon
I want to jump straight to the point. The ecosystem that the One Shot Podcast Network built is incredible. The hosts of the podcasts participated in a variety of panels covering topics including how to podcast an actual play game and an in-depth discussion of comedy vs drama in RPGs. The days of smaller panels culminated into the annual One Shot network panel where most of the One Shot Network hosts discussed their accomplishments and goofed off. In every panel I saw how at ease the One Shot hosts were to each other and fans. They hosted a meetup where over 75 people showed up to talk to their favorite podcast hosts and meet others in their niche community. Many of the people who contribute their time to host and create these podcasts have full time jobs and do this in their free time. They clearly loved what they were doing and showed legitimate appreciation for their fans. Their accomplishments, including about adding new shows and being able to start regularly paying the hosts, showed growth and success.
How I am applying things I’ve experienced to my blockchain life
I did not expect to be able to take things from Gencon and apply them to the blockchain related parts of my life. I frequent the Ethereum subreddit and other channels to help in community building and communication. The Ethereum blockchain community is very tech dense and there is often a lack of good communication between the creators of the software and applications and the consumers of the software. Getting a glimpse of how a podcast network community functions gave me ideas on how to disintermediate the services that these types of businesses rely on and how the Ethereum community can be improved.
Kindness and availability
I am incredibly biased, but I feel that Ethereum is one of the easier blockchain communities to join. However, this quality of inclusion is declining. It is in part due to the community growing faster than anticipated. A gap exists between those early Ethereum adopters and newcomers. The early Ethereum people are working on distributed apps (Dapps) and the protocol so they no longer have the time to on-board the new Ethereum users. Even if people haven’t changed their personalities there is less of that community oriented feeling because the popularity of Ethereum is keeping many early adopters busy (including myself). The One Shot panels reminded me of the early Ethereum days because they still have time to talk to every fan that comes up and all of the hosts had a solid perception on “the real world”. In Ethereum many of the early adopters have come into a lot of money, drowned themselves in work until they burned out, or put themselves on a pedestal. At the core of all of this is a need for kindness and availability. Someone who wonders into the Ethereum community should be treated with kindness and patience even if they know next to nothing about blockchain. We need to build tools to facilitate the non-technical processes involved in on-boarding and welcoming people to our community. It is hard to get back to how things were when Ethereum was smaller, but effort can be made to make processes and tools to facilitate newcomers and give them some availability in our busy schedules. We have some tools, like Ethereum StackExchange, that need love and can help with newcomer technical questions.
Decentralizing Patreon and Kickstarter
Networks like One Shot primarily receive funding from the following sources:
- merchandise sales
Podcast networks are not really money making ventures. They are done for the love of it. One of the major ways to generate recurring revenue for podcasts is through crowdfunding. The gist of both Kickstarter and Patreon is to raise money for a product or service. In the case of One Shot, they have ran a Kickstarter Project to fund “Dungeon Dome”, a new podcast show on the network where the Kickstarter participants help craft the characters and antics on the show. Patreon is a site where users get access to exclusive content and other perks for monthly donation subscriptions. Both Kickstarter and Patreon take a sizeable percentage from the content/product creators and there are fees associated with using PayPal, credit cards, or other traditional payment rails. Blockchain technology can help alleviate some of the inefficiencies associated with traditional crowdfunding platforms.
Why should Kickstarter/Patreon users use blockchain?
Blockchain technologies such as Ethereum offer a cheaper, more personalized crowdfunding experience. Recently ICOs have been the craze in the cryptocurrency space. This is when businesses raise money in an unregulated fashion using cryptocurrency and software like Ethereum to generate custom “tokens” that represent an asset or utility in their system. For example, Golem had a crowdsale to buy GNT tokens that could be used to rent part of the Golem supercomputer processing power after it launches. Users will have to pay GNT tokens to reserve computing power to run their graphics processing programs. Their crowdsale raised about $9 million USD in 20 minutes. Other recent crowdsale have raised $100 million and even $200 million USD. I think that most of these projects are irresponsible for raising money in this way because it is risky from a regulatory perspective and having that much money only complicates things when the project is small.
How to do it
Despite everything I said above I think the token crowdsale model can be adjusted for groups like the One Shot Podcast Network to raise a reasonable amount of money and get their fan base hyped up. I don’t want to expand on all the details in this blog, but here is the summary of what a podcast network could do:
- A crowdfund would happen to generate “POD” tokens
- The POD tokens can be purchased by exchanging cryptocurrency (there would be work done to make this frictionless to the average podcast listener).
- The tokens would have an equivalent USD value, such as 1 POD token being equal to $1 USD.
- Fans of the show can exchange USD (through the form of a cryptocurrency, once again seamlessly exchanged) for PODs and then use the PODs for perks such as premium content, t-shirts, raffles, etc.
This scenario creates a few perks:
- No more Patreon/Kickstarter fees
- Content creators can customize the token and what perks the token can grant
- Fans can easily transfer the tokens between each other if they are a part of a forum or community that can “tip” each other. This concept is similar to Reddit Gold.
- Using a bleeding edge technology such as Ethereum earns press and opens your community to a new class of users who would not have stumbled across the podcast otherwise.
I am aware that this sounds exactly like how Kickstarter and Patreon work today, but the major difference is that you are cutting out the middle-man. Using this model you no longer have to pay fees to Patreon or Kickstarter. Additionally, the tokens can be used as a way to build social reputation amongst community members who help fund your project. For the user tokens can be a cheaper way (compared to PayPal) to send donation funds or gift those funds to friends in the form of tokens.
I bet that someone is already working on decentralizing Patreon/Kickstarter and if you know about them leave a comment so I can amend this blog post. Blockchain technology enables peer-to-peer payments and ways for content creators to cultivate close knit communities. I hope that content creators start to utilize this technology and ultimately make platforms like Patreon obsolete. It should be noted that the scenario I described above may have legal and regulatory risks and I am not a lawyer or even play one on TV. I want to thank the One Shot Podcast Network and all of the people I met this weekend involved in it. It is really cool to see how other communities operate. A lot of the time people in blockchain communities get so entrenched in the technology that they never leave their rooms and experience new people and new things. That is a bad thing and people should discover new experiences so they can craft new perspectives and bring them back to their communities.