Overwhelmed by Catalyst - An opinionated approach

Since Fund2, Catalyst is on my personal short list of important projects I want to spend time on. It has some very interesting projects arising from it and, let’s face it, also a fair amount of junk to wade through.

One of my initial concerns was that some people would game the system and obtain funds that wouldn’t really benefit anyone but themselves. So I tried to prevent that by writing critical comments to some such proposals.
This, I realized later, was not a good use of my time because it creates negative attention and time spent on subjectively poor proposals cannot be spent on the ones that actually deserve it.

As a result, I changed my mission to quickly weed out the proposals I don’t want to spend time on in order to identify the ones I do care about.

So the question became: How to say no? It turns out that the list of my personal criteria is short. Other people will certainly have different criteria but I’m sharing mine anyway.

Proposals I tend to ignore and why

“We need a platform for xyz” - No, we probably don’t. If people do xyz already, chances are that there exists platform support for it that works well enough. If nobody does xyz then there is no need for a platform. In either case, re-creating someting from scratch does not solve any problem.

“We need to decentralise something” - Most probably decentralisation is not a goal in itself and doesn’t solve any real problem.

“We need to centralise something (create a hub, marketplace, one-stop shop etc for something)” - No, we don’t. You probably just have a business model that relies on you being some kind of middleman.

Unclear problem statement. In case it is impossible to make out a clear problem statement, I assume that the proposed project has no purpose.

Unclear deliverable. In some cases it remains a mystery what the scope of the project is. I ignore these too.

“I have a hammer and I see the world is full of nails” - In other words you have a solution to sell and are trying to make up a problem for it.

“We need a video / podcast / some other content. Please fund my equipment.” - You probably are doing it anyway, so why would we fund it?

No skin in the game. If your project is very ambitious but you don’t take any risk and seek 100% funding, I’m out. Go find a venture capital firm.

Socialise cost, privatise profit. No, because I believe projects funded by the public should also give back something to the public. If development is funded the result should be open sourced, for example.

Haven’t I seen you before? Trying again after failing to get approval is no disgrace. However, there probably is a good reason the proposal failed before.

Proposal is irrelevant for the challenge. This shows a lack of respekt and consideration.

I admit that after applying these filters, only few proposals remain. Some challenges barely have one proposal I would vote yes on and that’s ok. These are the ones I wanted to find in the first place.


You should publish this as a tweet thread.

Great points.

Would appreciate your thoughts on our F5 proposal - Introducing Empowa.

On this post, I feel you.

I appreciate someone making tangible, what I was thinking. Maybe I can explain how I came to terms with it:

I think your strategy will certainly increase the odds of delivery, but it will also knock out many less ambitious projects that could still increase the adoption of Cardano.

Just having the tweets, videos and links that some of these projects could create may be enough to warrant their investment. So, we have to accept that there will be some loss at this stage, but actually the people who’ve made it to Catalyst have already proved themselves capable of adapting rapidly to complexity and change, so who’s to say they wont deliver, even if they dont present in the conventional sense?

Who, in their right mind, can answer what is takes to successfully run and build a project with Return On Intent for a blockchain network? Who knows what it takes to set up a lawful financial entity in the fiat world to hire contractors or consultants. Maybe the act of setting up these projects drives more adoption than the project itself?

The standard will be low for a while, because not enough is known from any side. Maybe the problem is more that we are trying to make a diverse swarm of people collide and expecting them to deliver functioning teams and complex projects? IOHK of all people would understand the mechanics of this, so I could only conclude they know that this will be the result.

This is where we need to accept this problem, solve and move forwards. Relentlessly ever forwards.

A solution to build more complex projects:

In a proposal meritocracy, the problem is that proposals are conflated with more problems. The complexity and the nuanced dialog around what is proposed, what is needed is fragmented and incoherent.

If you want proposers to come to the table with a better proposal, then help them build the proposals from their ideas in the first place. From problems, ideas into solutions and finally into fully resourced, tangible proposals.

Adagov.org has been talking about atomising ideas and indexing them both for this and data processing reasons. Cataloguing ideas is important, so that we can collectively curate and let the best ideas rise to the top and evolve into proposals. Finding idea teams and turning them into project dream teams will happen naturally along the way.

We shouldn’t be building projects right now, we should be organising. However this is at odds with what the “market” consider to be a successful network. dApps do bring more people into the ecosystem and generate more value to a network than community governance systems. In the short term.

It’s as important to generate ideas as it is to collect them. We need to tag them and weight them as we go. Make problem sensing a sensor in our feedback loop so that ideas start from the work and ideas of others.

If you think IdeaScale presents a opportunity to engage, or learn from failed proposals, you’re mistaken. It should, but it doesn’t because its design limits users in what they can reasonably do there.

So the conclusions are then simple: make a social network to allow engagement, use it to teach the community what is expected from them, attract teachers, build course-ware and certify projects. But all these are a cost ineffective projects. It takes time, funding and people to commit to coordinate that. The end results are open source and can be freely copied. Time is not exchangeable for ADA easily.

From here, Adagov.org intends to build an academic and social network to form peer review of ideas, provide inspiration and coordinate teams and even qualify proposals.

But wait… Where are the resources for this? Content is extremely time and cost intensive to produce, especially if you want it clear and precise. A volunteer is not as reliable or consistent as a contract developer. Building a legal entity with the correct structure in the real world isn’t cheap. And most of all, the certainty that funding provides is (presently) missing.

Lets be clear, a serious project team wouldn’t accept the risk profile of a Project Catalyst project with the funding available, even if the amount in whole challenges were able to be distributed to one proposal.

Open up the gates, but make the proposal criteria more onerous. Be rigid about what you want. If you want timelines, be explicity and ask and provide a box where timelines should go. But don’t expect a fully fledged business model, especially a profitable one, we’re a long way from even knowing what that entails.

Tl;dr: Maybe this is the current type of project Project Catalyst wants at this stage. As the funds open up and get more sizeable it should get better. We should probably learn from our bad proposals as well as our good, and train people to be better.