Ethnography for SourceCred

Hi everyone,

Josh and @mzargham here with a proposal. Tl;dr: invite a few ethnographers into SourceCred’s Discord to document and understand the conversations and decision-making in the SourceCred community.

What we’d like to do:

So, @mzargham and I have recently been working with a group of digital ethnographers (Ellie Rennie, Primavera De Filippi, Kelsie Nabbens, and others) on a research project related to Discord and blockchain communities called “Metaethnography”. With the mods’ permission, a few of these researchers would love to join the community, listen, and try to understand the issues that the SC community is going through right now. We know that the community has been struggling with some decisions lately, e.g. this conversation around a new SourceCred DAO, and while we don’t want to influence any present conversations, we do hope that this ethnographic perspective (and any documentation or writing produced) will help the SourceCred community grow and evolve in the long-term.

How we plan to do this:

A couple of ethnographers affiliated with the Metaethnography project will join the SourceCred Discord to observe conversations and ask the occasional question. To deal with the ethics requirements of studying communities, we’ve also built an “ethical research bot” that helps manage consent—this allows us to ensure that no one will be quoted in the ethnographic research without their specific consent. The bot will also help facilitate communication with researchers, so that we can involve and support those already committed to supporting and understanding the SourceCred community.

Why we’re doing this:

We are academic researchers trying to understand how and why (online) communities make decisions and govern themselves. The fact that SourceCred is a tool for online governance makes this doubly-important. We are also interested in understanding how to improve the way we conduct digital ethnography today—thus “Metaethnography”.

Next step:

To get started, we will need an admin or mod to give us written consent (preferably in an email, though over Discord or Discourse is fine).

With :heart:,

Josh and Zargham


Some footnotes:

  • We’ve been working on this for a few months. I am personally a huge fan of both SourceCred tech and the community; we’ve had the SourceCred community in mind before the current issues became sticky.

  • The tools we’ve been building for engaging in Ethnography in Discord include mechanisms for people to consent. The community level consent we’re requesting now is not a substitute for individual level consent.

  • Thanks to Ellie, the methodology and tools we’ve developed for this research has gone through an Ethics Board.

One way I would recommend thinking about this is in terms of reflexivity and positionality. As an Ethnographer its important to remain aware of your position within and relationship to that which one is studying. I find these concepts incredibly helpful as well for participants within a community, especially in times of stress.

Much Love, -Z


I absolutely see no problem with this, with the current structure of the community and also with the kind of openness and transparency culture in SC as well as this being mindful of consent, I wholeheartedly support this, and I vouch for the metagov team, and would love to see this through! @Harold @AL0YSI0US @Jolie_Ze are some people who I think would be interested along with more I apologize if I didn’t mention


Adding this to the Core Meeting agenda today.


Oh good! I did too, lol. The link is there for reference :wink:

My response is simply to give my support and to say I really feel the love and support in this reach. Thank you both so much for this proposal!

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I’m curious about this and also feel like Metaethnography and folks a part of SourceCred currently have different ideas on what SourceCred is. In particular I’m curious about the SourceCred as governance piece.

The reason why things are sticky in the SC community is precisely because of a lack of a formal governance system, and the community has been working for many months with different visions of what governance should look like.

Which is to say, we’re not using the SourceCred product as a governance tool and it doesn’t have governance built into it.

I mention all of this because it seems important that y’all researchers and the sourceCred community are on the same page about what sourceCred actually is before trying to study it. At least, I would feel uncomfortable if we’re not on the same page.
As it’s being used now, SC is a tool for track contribution soley. Which isn’t governance. Although a quantification of contribution can certainly be used for governance.

Besides that, I love the idea of ethnographers creating research from SC. I’m excited to see anything that would come out of such an effort. <3 Yaz


At Metagov, we’re well aware the issues are about governing sourcecred the community and its efforts to build and maintain sourcecred the tool. Within Govbase it is listed twice actually once as the Organization building and maintaining SourceCred, and once as the tool SourceCred which is being built and maintained.

Our interest in SourceCred is in both of these aspects. It is important to understand that measurement is part of governance. You know the saying you get what you measure. That said, measurement is only part of governance and it becomes insufficient to have measurements without any sort of agreed upon decision making processes, especially organization grow in the scale of resources they control.

Honestly, I wish I had thought about this more back when I was an active contributor because one of the things I worked on was the Trust Levels concept. I was so concerned then about how the measurement SourceCred itself might be gamed and thus the rules around the measurement mechanism be hardened that I was not really thinking about how the broader community decision making process would also need to evolve through those changes.

Personally, I look to 1hive as an example of crypto-native governance and community rule for tools outside the crypto frame of reference. There is a lot of overlap between this community and 1hive, so I doubt I need to express more details. I’ve also been involved in 1hive since pretty early in its life. Much like with SourceCred, my participation was heaviest earlier in the projects life because I am a researcher, and algorithm designer, not a developer.

In any case, I hope this alleviates concerns that we lack an understanding of the circumstances. I wouldn’t deign to tell you what you should do, but I feel confident in our situational awareness; both with regard to SourceCred in specific and Community Organizations in general.


In the core meeting today (roam notes) we did a straw poll and most were in favor of this. But concern was expressed that many were just finding out about this now, or only a few hours ago. So we’re going to revisit during the next core meeting (which should be next week, as we also decided to switch from a bi-weekly to weekly cadence for core meetings until some issues are resolved).

Fwiw, I’ve always thought of SourceCred as both an input to informal governance (people have noted that just seeing the ranking of Cred scores on the instance affects their perceptions), as well as an inevitable input into formal governance, which other projects are already starting to do (e.g. @hz building a Cred-weighted voting Discord bot (which I still need to check out!!), SourceCred being used in calculating distribution of governance token airdrops (e.g. Agave), etc.).

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It’s not time sensitive on our end. Honestly, I was a bit surprised by how fast it got escalated to the core group. I totally understand that you need time to establish consensus. Just keep us informed; if there are questions we will try to answer them.


Hey there! You have consent from the core group (by way of consensus) to observe the sourcecred discord server :slight_smile:


Much thanks! Our ethnography working group has our regular calls on Thursday evenings. We’ll be coordinating our next steps there, and communicate with you here and in discord.

As a first step is there anything specific: forum posts and/or specific elements of the documentation that you think the participating researchers should read?

I was also thinking we could make a second thread in discourse where each of the researchers introduces themselves so the SourceCred community has visibility.

Thanks again, Z

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I think that’s a swell Idea.

You could Write a post that introduces what you aim to accomplish within the community, or goals/ intentions whatever you think would be helpful and then a bio or hello from each person. Having it all in one place sounds nice. You can put links in your post too if there’s stuff folx may find handy that you want to share.

Curious how folx would feel about a q&a with the Metaethnography project. (I’m interested and excited to have you all in the server)

Welcome folx!

@Ellie Kicked us off with an extensive introduction to the MetaEthnography project here:

More to come! We’re looking forward to learning with you!