Team Insights James, Witnet’s Community Lead

Today we’re interviewing James, the latest team member to join Witnet! You can also read other Team Insights we’ve published: Adán, Daniele, Johann, María, Anler, Mario and Tomás.

Hi James and welcome to the team. It’s great to have you on board! Could you start by telling us a bit about you and your career background?

Hello Witnesses! I am really excited to be here with the rest of the Witnet Foundation! I come here by way of working at MetaMask. There I was head of community and product support and worked to bridge the knowledge and experience gap between users and developers interested in using MetaMask with Dapps and the Web3 world. Additionally, at the parent company of ConsenSys, I was involved with helping shape how blockchain products with end user consumers could more effectively interact with communities at scale and make sure that everyone feels involved and supported. Previous to MetaMask/ConsenSys, I worked at the enterprise Ethereum company BlockApps and was involved with educating enterprise businesses on the challenges and opportunities of using blockchain technology in existing and emerging markets. In my past life before going deep down the blockchain rabbit hole, I worked in consumer brand marketing for a variety of software and ad-tech businesses.

In your time at Metamask, your team grew a community from 40,000 to more than 1 million people. What did you learn from that experience?

For me, it was important to be empathetic to the end users as much as the core developers who were building MetaMask. Being on the “front lines” of adoption and exponential growth at MetaMask, I had the privilege and responsibility to interact with every single user who ever had a question about the product or how it interacted with Dapps. I was able to glean a lot of obvious and subtle insights into how the product could be better or serve users better, like how user sign-up flow was, to understanding how phishing scams were operating and even to how people could potentially lose access to their funds though a lapse in judgement. All of these insights enabled me to give direct feedback to the product and engineering teams on how MetaMask was being experienced in real world scenarios and by creating and open and constant feedback loop, we were able to make the experience safer, more enjoyable and more performant consistently.

Something really tactical I learned in being part of the hyper-growth experience of MetaMask was that how and where a community or support person interacts with end-users is quite important. We see a lot of “best practices” emerge from the blockchain space and unfortunately, ICO’s. With this, care is often not given to which channels and mediums content and information is shared and exchanged with communities. I personally found that limiting official, mission critical and product support to an email ticketing based system I set up enabled me to more systematically respond to issues in a timely manner, but also categorize issues, notice patterns in questions and issues that arise and convey those insights to the product and engineering teams. Lastly, the care that blockchain and cryptocurrency related businesses must take in how they interact with consumers is paramount to keeping users and their funds safe. We saw a huge rise in occurrences of high profile scams and phishing attempts to vulnerable users and this is something I did, and still do, take extremely personally.

You’re now Witnet’s Community Lead. What are some things you’re looking forward to doing?

Where to start? First off, I am very much looking forward to becoming familiar with the existing community members and understanding how we can serve them better , keep them involved in the development process leading up to our product milestones and shed light on opportunities to get involved with our mission . I am especially interested in having lots of conversations with developers who are interested in how oracles will affect their existing and future projects and how Witnet can enable them moving forward. I am currently curating a list of the most interesting conferences, hackathons and meetups for Witnet to attend, sponsor and present at. If you have any outstanding events in your area you’d like to invite us to, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly!

There are some great projects working on inspiring missions. What attracted you to Witnet and what would you say is the potential of the project?

Indeed there are a few projects in the blockchain space that would captivate the hearts and minds of anyone who is passionate about how this technology is going to affect us in our day to day lives. However, one of the most limiting factors to what we’ve seen with so many blockchain projects achieving true adoption is their inability to get data from the outside world in a decentralized manner. With the trust layer of smart contract platforms being able to execute as programmed, it is essential that Dapp developers be able to ensure the data being fed to these contracts is ultimately true and fair and can be scaled beyond manual human moderation. Witnet’s protocol will be able to connect the outside world and its occurrences to any smart contract on any blockchain and will be an accelerant to the overall development and adoption of this critically important technology .

Community wise, what do you think are the biggest challenges the crypto space is facing, and how should we deal with them?

Incentivization is hard! From both a technical and programming perspective, as well as from an interpersonal perspective, figuring out ways to design, enforce and support systems that encourage community participation for desired outcomes certainly is a big challenge. Add on top of that, many people in the blockchain space have different types of interests and reasons why they’re here. The more newcomers we have, the more diverse of interests we’ll need to understand and work with.

To wrap up, what are some things that you like to do outside of your work life?

My big hobby is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve been training since 2012 and have a blue belt. I also love to cook and be outside with my wife and son whenever possible. Gardening also brings me a lot of joy and tranquility!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, James!

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