I'm Salim Virani. I used to design peer learning programs, and these days I'm having fun building stuff.

Making sense of DAOs
Jan 12, 2022

Over the holidays, I wanted to understand the big new paradigms that blockchains offer. Sure, there’s a lot of hype, but having glimpsed the epicenter of a few new paradigms before, I figured there’s probably something truly new and useful happening… so how to see passed my current lens to understand that?

I read a stack of whitepapers and thought leaders (Vitalik Buterin, Other Internet, Olympus…), and lessons learned shared which coordination practices actually work (MakerDAO, Uniswap, Moloch). After reading these original thinkers and makers, rather than the hypey content machine, a lot got clearer.

But it was still confusing so to clarify my thinking, I started writing summaries. That turned into something useful to share: https://daoistry.com

It’s still work in progress, and lots is missing, but writing it helps me understand more clearly. This process has made it easier to spot charlatan “thought leaders” who misundersand what’s happening here, either by over-hyping or making strawman arguments. Honestly, a big part of that is realising that terminology is so different. You can’t compare a DAO to an NGO even though they’re both called “organisations” and you can compare Uniswap to HTTP even though they’re both called “protocols.”

For those who recognise paradigm shifts, we know we can’t understand the new paradigms in the terms of the old ones. So, hopefully this helps shed some light and at the same time, keeps us realistic.

I recommend starting with the mindsets section, in particular, Blockchains as coordination systems based on Laura Lotti’s academic paper on economic affordances, which really blew my mind.

What am I up to these days?

I’m working on a communication tool for loose community groups and unconference-style interactions. It focuses on individual autonomy rather than top-down coordination.

I recently became a Kernel fellow, where I was exploring models for self-directing communities of care, the history of economic cultural norms, and the connection between mimicry, memes and our sense of belonging.

I did a few advisory gigs too - for Polygon, Limechain and Bankless on education and support programs.

In the past, I designed peer learning programs for Oxford, UCL, Techstars, Microsoft Ventures and The Royal Academy Of Engineering. I also played a role in creating the Lean Startup methodology, and the European startup ecosystem. You can read about this here.

Projects

  • Cuppa - decentralised collaboration protocol (WIP)
  • Nonfungo - completely on-chain NFT sale notification bot for Discord. (Look ma! No Opensea API!)
  • Powerplays - real-time token launches

Books

  • Peer Learning Is - a broad look at peer learning around the world, and how to design peer learning to outperform traditional education
  • Mentor Impact - researched the practices used by the startup mentors that really make a difference

Collected practices

  • Source Institute - skunkworks I founded with open peer learning formats and ops guides, and our internal guide on decentralised teams
  • DAOistry - practices and mindsets that work in blockchain communities
  • Decision Hacks - early-stage startup decisions distilled