Growing Community in Blockchain with Everipedia

How does one build a community using Blockchain technology? Dr Larry Sanger and Theodor Forselius of Everipedia speak to Forestlyn about how to build the blockchain and crypto community and ways to incentivise consumers to create content in their online encyclopaedia.

Key Takeaways

  • Built a community that creates, and edits content via tokens to incentivise users, thereby using blockchain technology to quality control, moderate or administer.

  • To build a community quickly you need to recruit community managers in that country who then recruits the community members and content editors

  • UX and UI is important for mass adoption by non-technical people


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-Lucy Lin, Forestlyn

-Theodor Forseli, Everpedia

-Dr Larry Sanger, Everpedia

Link to the interview:

Abridged transcript of the intervieW

Lucy Lin: Hi, my name is Lucy Lin. Today I have two amazing guests, Larry, he is a founder of Wikipedia and also the CIO of Everpedia and I also have Theodor who is the CEO of Everpedia and we're here today to talk about what Everpedia is doing and also I think the synergies that we can see to get more people into this space. Specifically how to we get more of the community into the blockchain crypto space.

Theodor Forseli: So I actually started programming games when I was like 11, 12 years old so that's how I've been into coding. By the time I was 14 I had created this social network for gamers, kinda like a Facebook but for gamers and I thought this was such a great idea that I actually dropped out of high school first year to pursue that. But what happened was I ended up working, I got an internship at a tech company where I ended up working for three years instead so I kinda got my education through working at that company instead. And then three years later I quit my job there and I founded Everpedia in Los Angeles with a friend that went to UCLA. This was when I was 19 years old.

Theodor Forseli:cAnd our original vision with Everpedia was to build a more modern and inclusive version of Wikipedia,so both me and my friend Sam who I started with, we were editors on Wikipedia, we edited Wikipedia and we basically felt like Wikipedia was the only top five website in the world that hadn't been updated in almost two decades whereas with Facebook or Google or search engines, social networks, all these other aspects of the internet, there had been a bunch of competition throughout the years that had been driving innovation forward but with online encyclopedias, there had only been Wikipedia, nothing else, and they hadn't updated their design, their functionality, their community policies or anything like that in almost two decades. So that's where we came up with the idea to start Everpedia which was kind of an attempt to build a more modern version like I said but also an encyclopedia that covered a broader scope of content whereas Wikipedia has very strict so called notability standards and what can actually be accepted into the encyclopedia.

Theodor Forseli: So English Wikipedia has like 5 million articles and we were thinking why shouldn't it have like 50 million? Or 100 million? Because there's billions of people in the world with internet access and companies and organizations leaving behind a ton of information that's just scattered and unorganized across the internet. So that was kind of the original vision with Everpedia and why we decided to start it back then.

Dr Larry Sanger: My name is Larry Sanger. I am, my claim to fame is the co-founder of Wikipedia and I actually am trained as a philosopher so I have a PhD in philosophy. Worked on a pretty long string of websites and a few of them were pretty successful besides Wikipedia. Directory of educational videos called Watch, Know, Learn- a website for teaching kids to read which is something I did with my two boys when they were one. So I sort of digitized the method of doing that on and I've worked on a number of other projects.. The focus has always been knowledge, either reference or education and organizing knowledge, especially using collaborative communities which is one of the reasons why I was initially interested in what the guys were doing here. They gave me a call a few months after they started working on it when they had something to show and I made an account, I think in 2015.

Theodor Forseli: 2015, yeah. Early 2016 maybe.

Dr Larry Sanger: I had this notion that the best way to improve on Wikipedia, because I'm long gone from Wikipedia, is to collect all the articles, all the encyclopedia articles in the world and make them available in a database and rate them and also store metadata about the people doing the rating so that you can slice and dice the article ranking data based on items of identity like nationality or politics or gender or expertise, even communities of interest like professional organizations or university faculty or who knows what.

Dr Larry Sanger:And no project like that exists. But blockchain is absolutely perfect for that project. So we aren't working on that yet, that's phase two. Right now we're very happy to be able to say that as of August we have been on the blockchain.

Lucy Lin: I think technology needs to be updated quite frequently and innovation needs to drive forward and it's great to see that. Wikipedia being so popular, and so widely used, I think definitely the next step is to move it to putting it on the blockchain. By putting it on the blockchain, what would be the biggest difference between Everpedia and say Wikipedia in your opinion?

Dr Larry Sanger: The original sort of basic differences are we have an updated design which Ted here is responsible for. It just looks a lot better. And we also have no notability policy which means anyone can write an article about anything, you can even write an article about yourself, about your business, about your products, about your class at a school or university, really anything. And we think that's how it should be. It makes the project more open but in addition now we are the first major encyclopedia on the blockchain and that is a huge difference. As you say, I'm not going to go into the technical reasons why, suffice it to say that what the blockchain does is it decentralizes how we interact with each other just like the internet itself. It's an internet protocol that allows us to interact with each other, in this case creating encyclopedia articles, editing encyclopedia articles, approving them, rating them, all without being beholden to an editorial staff and also without benefiting anyone other than the actual people who have earned tokens by contributing or who have purchased tokens.

Theodor Forseli: One of the cool things about using blockchain technology with an encyclopedia is the way the token economics works and the way we're using it is that in order to create or edit an article you have to stake a small amount of tokens as collateral and then other editors that have a stake in the network through a pretty easy process has to either approve or dismiss the edits that are made by people. If it's dismissed your collateral that you put in is essentially burnt. If it's approved you get your collateral back plus some more as a reward to incentivize you to create more content. So what this does is we're using blockchain technology as an automatic quality mechanism that makes traditional moderation and administration tools a little bit obsolete or it's an attempt to make the process more automated with financial incentives.

Theodor Forseli: The second thing like Larry mentioned is obviously censorship. When you host a knowledge base on a centralized server like Wikipedia does, there's a bunch of, it's obviously one of the most censored websites in the world. Censored in most of the foreign dictatorships and stuff like that around the world and that's because it is hosted on centralized servers so you can block one IP, one domain, one server, but if you host the entire knowledge base peer to peer which is what we're doing, then there's no way to censor all of those different servers actually hosting the content. And so this makes the knowledge based extremely censorship resistant in all those countries which is really exciting because countries like Turkey decided last year to completely censor, completely block Wikipedia and now Turkish people can actually access all of Wikipedia and Everpedia through our network on the blockchain.

Lucy Lin: That's really fascinating because I think censorship is an issue in a lot of global, in a lot of countries really. And so now access to this knowledge could be used for the first time you're saying in many of these countries. How are you going about building a community or getting your contributors to edit more, to build more content and to get them to really become part of your ecosystem?

Dr Larry Sanger: In the first few years we were just talking a lot. These guys did a fair few interviews and just tried to use SEO techniques to rope people in via popular topics and that's still going on. But as we move on to the blockchain and we've got literally hundreds of thousands of people who are IQ holders because we did an air drop last July, that means that basically we just deposited into the accounts of EOS holders corresponding amount of IQ which is our token. That means there's huge numbers of people just ready and with a built in incentive to contribute to Everpedia. We've essentially launched a network with 51% ownership of the network by EOS holders.

Dr Larry Sanger: So I think that's gonna be an interesting way to get things started but there are a lot of old lessons I think that we need to heed as we move forward and we've been talking about this internally. So there is one thing that we're going to be doing because we've got the back end, the technical details of the blockchain sort of initially nailed down. It's pretty solid, there's still a lot of work to do of course but what we need to do now is to make the registration process really simple and seamless and not so complex because if you're going to deal with any blockchain project for technical reasons it actually is pretty difficult to get involved a lot of times.

Theodor Forseli: I would say that the key thing to building a community fast is finding really good community members and community managers. We're trying to scale globally so what we're trying to do is find really good community managers in different countries that can represent those countries, Everpedia in those countries and build out the encyclopedia in those native languages because it's kind of a circle that starts with a community manager because if you have a good community manager that recruits a lot of other community members and editors then those people start creating a bunch of content on the platform and that content gets indexed on Google and search engines and gets shared on social media and so forth. And then by doing that you get more traffic to the site, more regular readers that are reading articles, and that's where we have the chance to convert more of that traffic to editors when they actually land on the site and bring up the incentives and all the stuff for why they should actually help edit and create content on the site. So it all goes back and starts with the community managers and them actually doing a good job.

Lucy Lin: I think community is quite an interesting one. I've build a community from 60 to about 127,000 in the crypto community as well. So that is one good way in terms of the marketing plan but once they come you'll definitely have to make sure that you listen to them well and you get their feedback and just make sure of that community management.It's not an easy task. There're ups and downs but from this perspective it being a community driven initiative, which is what Everpedia is, 100% you need to engage your community as much as possible.

Dr Larry Sanger: So one thing that I've noticed about a lot of blockchain projects, a lot of DAPS that tout their status as being decentralized but they're not really. All of the policy making is being decided in house, they don't talk to their users very much, and if you're creating an app that is really supposed to be decentralized and your whole narrative, the story you tell is all centered around the notion that you are organizing people, not selling a product, but you're organizing people who become co-owners of a network, then the very first thing that you need to do with those people, and they need to be involved every step of the way is to talk to them and make sure that they're totally on board, they're motivated, and change things that are stopping them from getting stuff done.

Lucy Lin: So that's the second part of what you're thinking as next steps What else is there besides you say community and building your ecosystem.Are there any other things that you're focused on from a company perspective?

Theodor Forseli: I think as Larry has mentioned before one of the things that we're going to focus on now in the next couple of months is the UX and UI because I think one of the main issues not just with the Everpedia network which is in its first phase but also blockchain technology in general, is that it's not user friendly enough for normal people that are not technical to actually properly use it. I think you see this with a lot of other blockchain products as well where you have a lot of people that are interested in crypto and are interested in tech kind of usage but normies have no idea why they should be using it instead of the centralized services.

Theodor Forseli: So what we've done with Everpedia now is that we've launched the first version of the Everpedia network and we've made sure that all the back end functionality which is listed in the white paper is actually properly in there and it actually works as intended and as described in the white paper, .I think a lot of projects also do the mistake of trying to make something look really pretty and then it doesn't actually function the way that you intended to work. So we made sure from the start that all the functionality is there and it works as intended and now we're trying to clean up the UI, UX so that you're not supposed to need a tutorial on how to get started using it. You should just be able to go to the site, sign up, and start creating articles and it should be seamless and really easy.

Dr Larry Sanger: We've also opened offices recently. We moved from L.A. and Westwood to Santa Monica and Ted has just opened an office in Stockholm.

Lucy Lin: It sounds like you've got quite a big roadmap in front of you, lots to do. We can't wait to see an easier way of updating an encyclopedia than Wikipedia. I think definitely one of the things that crypto and blockchain has been accused of is that it is too complex and it is too difficult, even just getting money inside wallets and the whole process,.It’s good to hear that you're really focused on the UX UI because this industry is not very good at that right now and especially getting mass adoption I think that needs to be fixed. Great to hear that you guys really focused on that.

Lucy Lin: Thank you so much for your time Larry and Ted and yeah, great to hear about this project and I hope it goes really well. Thank you.

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