When you’re building something, it’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing or what they say to you. When you’re building something that utilizes new technologies or which try to reformat ingrained infrastructures of cooperation it’s even harder to focus on building. There’s always a danger of veering off track and getting caught up in discussions that actually don’t help you build. Take a ship’s captain, who keeps their eyes on the horizon even when it storms but also when the weather is great. It’s their job to stay focused on the true north, or true south, which is that end goal of achieving an overall mission. Of course, we’re quite used to thinking about this captain as a single person, often a man, who a general public considers a genius - at least until they show their fallibility. Slowly but surely, however, this ‘great man theory’ slips out of our view. In its place, we see a more distributed leadership with a shared goal of achieving a mission. Let’s look at three very different examples and I’ll try to show how a focus on building is more important than anything else if you want to change the world.
Water & Music
The industry problem
Consolidation of major trade publications has led to a journalistic field with few independent voices.
What Water & Music is
A paid newsletter transitioning into a research DAO
Focus on building
The kind of collaborative research that Water & Music is normalizing doesn’t quite exist anywhere else. In their recent Season 1 report more than 40 people worked together to create a survey, do interviews, write articles, and more. How do you organize collaboration while remaining an independent voice? DAO governance has the tools to do this, but it starts with people. A Water & Music community already existed and this allowed a quite organic growth of the collaborative research squad. Now, it’s time for next steps and more people will get involved, or at least want to get involved. There’s scope for distraction from the inside as new people require onboarding. Similarly, there’s scope for distraction from the outside as news cycles change by the hour. In both cases, the aim for the builders should be to keep their sight set on that horizon and make decisions based on how to best navigate there.
The industry problem
In a recorded music industry dominated by streaming the maximization of streams paradigm has whittled all music down to a single type of ‘music’.
What Audius is
A decentralized, community-owned music-sharing protocol
Focus on building
Audius gets some tough press every now and then, mostly related to piracy. In most of these stories Audius gets put into the same bracket as other streaming platforms. However, they do not want to be a platform but instead they’re building a protocol. Through this protocol artists and fans find an invitation to help create a new layer for music streaming. The team at Audius do not engage too much with the press about piracy issues. Instead, they’re building. This week, they’ve launched a new feature where $AUDIO, the token connected to Audius, gets distributed to both artists and fans based on their interactivity on the service. Both sets of users thus find themselves as active participants in the Audius platforms and get rewarded for their input. Currently, this isn’t about monetization. What it is, is a step towards that with a view towards things like micropayments and rewarding interactions. The point on the horizon that Audius moves towards is the fulfilment of their protocol. In doing so, they create a new mantle for artists and fans to connect outside of an economy driven by streaming rates. In other words, the protocol that powers the platform is the focus and while other elements - piracy for example - are significant, they are also a form of noise if they take up too much energy. In the end, a healthy artist-fan led environment won’t be a place where either of those sets of people benefit from pirated work.