This post was originally published in April 2022 through Content Guild on Tally's blog.
A discussion of specific points in time that all individuals experience on their path to active meaningful contribution in DAOs.
Active contributors are the lifeblood of DAOs. Without them, DAOs don’t scale. All DAO contributors share a set of specific experiences that happen along their journey. In this piece, I describe those experiences as micro moments. I shine a light on three specific micro moments that are crucial to developing successful DAO contributors.
What are micro moments?
Moments can be measured by myriad metrics — time, space, experience, emotion, etc. Some moments are more concrete, others more abstract. Micro moments fall into the concrete bucket. They are marked by specific points in time. The moments you can point to, call out in real-time, and collectively and objectively agree upon.
By way of illustration, think of your favorite song. Recall a time listening to it and what surrounded the experience — what you felt, where you were, who you were with, etc. These aggregate attributes compose an experiential moment. Now think of a specific point that you love in the song. Maybe it’s the very first note. Or when the vocals come in on the second verse. Or the initial drop. These are micro moments.
Why micro moments matter in DAOs
“We’re in the early days of DAOs,” is quickly becoming a trope in the web3 space. It’s only a matter of time before the phrase becomes a meme. But like all good memes, it points to the truth.
DAO practitioners can’t agree upon exactly what DAOs are and what they aren’t. We struggle to come up with commonly accepted standards for terms like decentralized and autonomous. We’re experimenting with governance models and organizational frameworks, debating which are most effective. We have different opinions on what makes sense to run on-chain versus off-chain. Disagreements abound. And yet, common ground does exist.
If nothing else, DAO practitioners agree that DAOs are little without the communities behind them. DAO success, in these early days especially, hinges upon communities of individuals who are aligned toward a common goal and, in order to achieve it, make meaningful contributions that add value to what a DAO is building — be that community, content, products, services, investments, experiences, ideas, or dank memes.
Behind each meaningful contribution are individuals who decide of their own volition to engage with the DAO. Decisions to do so are informed by the individuals’ experiences with the DAO community. And these decisions often manifest at specific moments in time consistent across unique individual experiences.
At the risk of sounding like some pop poser philosopher relying on platitudes, the individual experience in DAOs (like life) is in large part a summation of micro moments. Individual decisions inform micro moments and micro moments in aggregate inform individual experience. Similarly, individual experiences in aggregate inform the shape a DAO takes. In this way, micro moments are the building blocks upon which DAOs are built.
Micro moments are often overlooked or dismissed because they’re commonplace. In doing so, however, DAO practitioners do themselves and the DAO community a disservice. To this end, the more attention and awareness that can be built around micro moments, the more efficiently and effectively individuals and DAO communities can find resonant value alignment such that the individual chooses to become an active meaningful DAO contributor.
Three micro moments that deserve your attention
Below we identify and discuss three micro moments that are crucial on this journey. These are moments that every individual experiences on their way to active meaningful contribution. Given the extent to which DAO activity takes place over Discord today, the micro moments are illuminated through the lens of an individual’s experience engaging with a DAO in which the majority of collaboration and communication takes place over Discord. However, the micro moments can certainly be generalized and applied outside of that.
The Enter Moment
You’ve just joined a DAO’s Discord server. You read and agree to the server rules then reach into the depths of your creative and critical thinking skills to accurately identify all squares containing a motorcycle in some low-resolution image. Success! You did it. With this feat, you’ve proven your humanity and have server access. Maybe you peruse the channels to see what’s going on. Maybe you lurk for a while to get a sense of vibes. Or maybe you jump right in. At some point you decide to engage.
Enter the Enter Moment. Welcome.
The Enter Moment occurs precisely when you hit enter on your keyboard to share your first message with the community. This could be as simple as a “gm” or as in-depth as a “here’s my name, why I love the project, how I heard about it, why I want to get involved, how I can help, what my skills and experience are, all my socials (including security number), the name of my first grade teacher, and what I do on the weekends when it’s not raining” message. (Yes, wild intros like that do exist.)
The Enter Moment is usually your first engagement with a DAO community. It’s a signal that says, “hey, I’m new here and interested in what you all are building.” It’s an expression of interest, an invitation for interaction and, sometimes, an explicit offering of your services and skills. The Enter Moment is also the first time individuals within the community experience you.
An Enter Moment’s quality (e.g., its relevance, authenticity, detail) and the community’s response to it is a predictor of future engagement and contribution. For example, imagine for your Enter Moment you drop a thoughtful message in the #introductions channel, listing relevant skills, experience, and specific projects to which you can bring value. You’re showing initiative, excitement, and understanding. You’re eager to contribute. But your enthusiasm isn’t reciprocated. No one acknowledges your message — no replies, no DMs, not even a fire emoji. How does that experience affect your likelihood to return and contribute?
An individual’s experience around their Enter Moment is tightly tied to their willingness to return and, in turn, their likelihood to offer meaningful contributions to a DAO.
Now, imagine if instead of radio silence surrounding your Enter Moment, community members respond with thoughtful welcome replies, actionable suggestions for workstreams to plug into, and maybe even a DM from a community manager to set up an intro/onboarding call. How does that experience affect your likelihood to return and contribute?
Return Moments happen each and every time you come back to the server, type a message, and hit return.
Side note: For someone writing a piece to describe specific moments in time experienced by individuals in online-first communities that rely heavily on text-based collaboration, it’s a convenient coincidence that a single keyboard key can have different namesakes to describe two distinct moments.
Return Moments represent your deliberate reengagement with the community and reflect a positive initial experience. They are signals that amplify the expression of interest and invitation for interaction you expressed in the Enter Moment.
Return Moments are a DAO’s lifeblood. A DAO community’s Return Moments represent a summation of decisions made by individuals, most of whom have full-time jobs and are freely choosing to dedicate their free time to the project, who are motivated to meaningfully contribute to the DAO. Such instances should not be ignored. High quality Return Moments are an essential precursor for value emergence in DAOs.
Of course, limiting the Return Moment definition to the precise point in time in which someone hits return to send a message to a DAO community is an oversimplification. This definition incorrectly assumes meaningful reengagement is limited to text-based interactions.
Return Moments also happen when you join a community call, discuss a proposal, participate in a Twitter Space, etc. — basically any time that you deliberately decide to re-engage with the DAO and, in doing so, add value in some way, shape, or form. As individuals’ Return Moments increase in frequency and diversity of mediums (e.g., voice, video, platform), so too does the value they add.
Nevertheless, Return Moments do tend to start off as surface-level and text-based. Perhaps a daily gm or the occasional question in #support. Over time, as an individual’s experience grows in depth and quality, so too does the depth and quality of their Return Moments.
The more comfortable and capable they feel in the community, the more likely they are to meaningfully contribute. For example, you’ll see them replying to new joiners’ questions, commenting on a Google Doc, pushing a PR in Github, jamming on a Figma board, raising their hand to join a sub-committee, drafting a proposal, and/or participating in a town hall.
These high quality Return Moments are the ones from which value emerges. They signal that the individual is finding agency within the DAO, has sufficient context to identify value-add activities, and feels empowered to proactively participate.
Increases in high quality Return Moments represent a building momentum toward a crucial micro moment the individual experiences on their path to becoming an active meaningful contributor — the We Moment.
The We Moment is an inflection point in your DAO contributor experience. It signals identity, alignment, belonging, and ownership. It usually arises organically after a series of high quality Return Moments, meaningful contributions, regular interactions with community members, and recurring positive experiences with the DAO more generally.
How do you know when you’ve arrived at your We Moment?
The We Moment happens the first time you use the word We to describe the DAO community. It’s when you stop referring and thinking of the DAO and its products in terms of they, them, and theirs, and you start using we, us, and, ours.
We Moments mark a dissolution of separateness, an adoption of community, and a flip in identity orientation from the without to the within. Without We Moments, we wouldn’t have DAO communities. Without DAO communities, we wouldn’t have DAOs.
If you’ve spent time working in DAOs and hanging out in Discord servers, you’ve likely experienced a We Moment yourself or, at the very least, noticed others’ We Moments. If you have experienced such a moment, you know how powerful they are. We Moments’ power is derived from their relation to sense of ownership.
Once you start seeing yourself as a DAO community member you feel a strong sense of ownership. Your Return Moments grow in frequency and quality. You keep a pulse on the DAO’s needs and proactively seek out value-add opportunities. You actively engage in community events and raise your hand to help organize them. You seek out high potential contributors and partnerships. You participate in governance. You keep coming back because you see the fruits of your labor.
This interplay between a sense of ownership, community, and participation creates a positive feedback loop. The more you feel part of the DAO and what it’s making, the more you contribute, the more you can see your contributions’ impact, the stronger your sense of ownership and community, and so forth. DAO activity might even become part of your daily life.
We Moments don’t happen by accident. They are necessarily preceded by Enter and Return Moments. They are the culmination of your decisions to show up and engage. With awareness, they can be cultivated in service of finding focus and alignment so that you can more effectively gauge which DAOs to spend your precious time, attention, and effort on. A similar awareness around We Moments can serve DAO community members as they seek high potential active meaningful contributors.
DAOs and their communities are built, maintained, and improved upon by active meaningful contributors. An individual’s path to becoming an active meaningful contributor is preceded by specific points in time characterized by proactive and deliberate engagement. These points in time are called micro moments.
There are at least three key micro moments on this path: the Enter Moment, Return Moments, and the We Moment. The Enter Moment is the point when an individual deliberately engages with the DAO community for the first time, signaling their willingness to contribute. Return moments are recurring interactions that the individual has with the DAO community, signaling a trend toward meaningful contribution. The We Moment is when the individual self-identifies as part of the DAO community, signaling a sense of ownership that corresponds with active meaningful contribution.
The quality and circumstances of these micro moments deserve your attention because they serve as a signal for potential value creation and emergence within DAOs.