I’ve fielded a lot of questions about our plans for the Chaincode residency. While an in-person program isn’t a great fit for the times, we have no plans to move it online because we felt we’d lose too many essential components that made the program special.
Why do the residency?
The 2019 residency’s goals were to prove that we could quickly bootstrap new contributors enough to secure them funding to continue to work in open-source. On the whole, we accomplished that, but it was expensive both financially and in terms of the time invested in mentorship and organization.
The 2020 residency was planned to be shorter in duration but with similar goals. That meant that we needed to rely more on online pre-work and rapport building so that attendees were up to speed before they arrived in NYC. To that end, we invested in cleaning up and formalizing the pre-work we had done with the 2019 cohort.
Online < In-person but online > doing it alone
I think the study group material is pretty good. However, good material isn’t all that much of a value add. If you are looking for an exhaustive list of resources, there are others that had already done this better than we could. Our curriculum is different because a) it’s focused specifically on protocol development, and b) it’s designed to be a group activity.
For most people, studying with others is better. It creates accountability. Provides a tribe to connect with. It creates social pressure to slog through the hard parts. So we thought about designing these materials to be used as a book club. Read for 2-4 hours a week as your schedule allows. In the meantime, you have a lobby to chat with others and bounce ideas off of until the scheduled time when you come together to discuss it synchronously.
When online education doesn’t work
We created this curriculum for the 2019 residency, and it worked pretty well. It wasn’t flawless, but the residents engaged in the material and engaged with each other.
With the residency canceled, we ran three pilots this fall but couldn’t replicate the results. Ultimately, this was a good lesson that this only works if participants do the work. That might seem obvious, but there were many instances of people showing up to the meeting without preparing. I found that confusing. Why come if you haven’t done the work? There are no grades for attendance. The result was that these turned into lectures rather than discussions. Not ideal.
I still believe there is a lot of upside in making these work. We are starting another cohort next week. Caralie has done an excellent job pulling together a high powered group and creating an active lobby. We’ve added a Bitcoin fizz-buzz-esque exercise for candidates to demonstrate their commitment. The material has been ported to Canvas. We’ve also added discussion preparation meetings where participants are paired off with assigned discussion questions and meeting out-of-band before the weekly group meeting.
Online Bitcoin education has great potential, and eventually, I’d like to see these study groups arise organically like any book club. We haven’t nailed the mechanics of how to do this right, but when we do, I’d like to try an experiment for the masses, ala the taproot review.
I believe the 2019 residency demonstrably proved the program’s efficacy, which is what we sent out to do. However, that meant that it had to be exclusive because we were focused on the results and trying not to break the bank (pun!). We can do better and offer this to more people. We just need to figure out how to do this right first. If you are interested in participating in something like this or have ideas on improving it, please reach out.