10 Tactics for Being an Information Archeologist in the Open-Source Age
Web3 Research Unpacked
Article by Samantha Marin
Research looks different when all the information you could possibly want is ungated and permissionless.
Will you need a billion subscriptions to everything from the Wall Street Journal to JStor to the Pew Research Center to access information, like you needed as a Web2 writer? Thankfully, no. Does that mean that information is easier to find? Well…..also no.
Actually finding information in Web3 is harder than it looks. This is because we lack the information aggregators and archeologists we’re used to relying on in the traditional world. Instead, you must be your own aggregator and archeologist. You get to do more than be a writer — you get to be an on-chain ontologist, a Discord-server deep-diver, and a Medium-article miner.
It takes practice, certainly. But start with these ten tools I use to dig up the information gold that’s buried out there.
1. Dune Analytics
2. Cold DMs on Discord and joining servers
3. Advanced Twitter search
4. Forum posts and comments
5. Coin explorers
6. The crypto philosophers of our time
7. The crypto-native publications we have now
8. Podcasts that broaden your ideas
9 . Absurdly-specific, keyword-filled google searches
10. Block explorers
1. Dune Analytics
Dune Analytics is the closest thing we Web3 writers have on this earth to a gift from a divine power, in my opinion. Anyone can create queries that run forever. Because this might be my most-used source of information gathering, I’m going to take my sweet time to explain it. (Strap in.)
Dune Analytics is free and open-source, just how I like it :) Image from Dune Analytics.
Reason 1. People get very creative with their dashboards, which means lots of cool new info to include in your articles.
Reason 2. You can learn SQL and make your own dashboards. #advanced
If you’re willing to put in the work, learn some SQL (Full disclosure — I have yet to be willing to put in the work) and make your own dashboards. The great thing about Dune is you don’t need to rely on anyone else to get your necessary info — Web3 archeology 101.
Reason 3. Because Dune is crowdsourced, people update these way faster than traditional analytics services
One thing I love about Dune is that contributors get on there to update things at lightning speeds. Even crypto-native-yet-still-sorta-centralized analytics services see some lag time. I was recently writing an article on OpenDAO and was happy to see that Dune contributors started making queries nearly the same day the DAO spun up.
Reason 4. You can search the person who created the dashboard and make some interesting conclusions based on the information they chose to include and exclude. (Tread lightly here.)
If the person who created the dashboards has some stake in the token or the DAO’s success, then you can draw a few conclusions about why they may have included certain dashboards and left others out. But be careful here, because you don’t want to get too crazy with the conclusions you draw. It’s just an interesting exercise to do some wallet searching (see tactic #3) and twitter stalking (see tactic #10) on whoever made the dashboard, then think critically about why they made it how they did.
Reason 5. You can become friends with creators and ask them to make specific dashboards for you. (Becoming friends often means sending some tokens along. But hey, that’s alright!)
If you’re looking for a specific piece of data, just ask for it. Really, it’s that simple. I recommend reaching out to your favorite dashboard creator and, in exchange for creating the dashboards you need, sending them some tokens of their choice. Remember, analytics experts are trying to make a buck, too. Learning SQL might’ve been cheaper, but I bet making a dashboard-creator-friend is much more fun.
Yep, use Dune. It’s amazing. Moving on.
2. Cold DMing People on Discord and Asking Their Opinions (Bonus Points if You Join Their Server)
Did you know that crypto people love to talk about themselves? Shocker, I know. (Also guilty of loving to talk about myself.) But a cold DM really is one of the best ways to get information, especially if it’s about something that is too early to find reliable information on. (We’re still early, right?)
You’d be amazed at how verbose contributors are when you ask interesting questions. Interviewing people over Discord chat is much less intimidating, too, since both interviewer and interviewee have time to think about their responses and really craft their words.
Joining the Discord server itself is another great way to do research. Cruise around like the DAO lurker you are (or the lurker you’ve always wanted to be) and see what’s going on. Listen in on meetings (I recommend listening to larger community-call or amphitheater-style meetings, since small meetings will likely require you to introduce yourself) and see what people are talking about.
I wouldn’t use direct quotes from anyone in a casual meeting, but if someone is giving a prepared presentation, maybe get your notebook out. Be courteous and don’t get too quote-happy in these scenarios — I wouldn’t be pleased if someone quoted me in a random meeting in which I didn’t know I was being quoted. Remember, this is the office and the stage at the same time. But do take in the vibes, learn about the DAO, and start finding contacts to interview.
3. Advanced Twitter Search
If you haven’t tried this yet, it’s pretty dang fun. You can unearth some super weird, interesting, informative, and downright wild stuff by searching properly through the beast that is Crypto Twitter. That noisy place sometimes feels like searching for a teeny tiny fish in a big wide ocean: what you’re looking for might be deep. An advanced twitter search is your gold mining device. (Admittedly, I don’t know what people actually mine gold with.)
Bookmark this URL now before you forget to do it: https://twitter.com/search-advanced?lang=en
When you click on it, this dialogue box appears at the center of your screen:
Your second reminder to bookmark this URL and your image source all in one: https://twitter.com/search-advanced?lang=en
I typically fill out the boxes under “all of these words” and/or “any of these words.” I’m usually looking for some specific event or topic that people were tweeting about, and I want to see what the most popular tweets were.
An advanced twitter search is a great way to gather a general sentiment on an idea. For example, I recently wrote a piece on the MakerDAO/SocGen collaboration. I wanted to see what people on Twitter were saying right after the initial announcement, so, using commas to separate search terms, I typed:
All of these words: Maker, DAO, SocGen
Any of these words: OFH, tokenized bonds, SG-Forge, DAI, dai
Through this search, I found:
General feelings on the collaboration.
Twitter accounts of people involved in the collaboration, which easily led to more info (and potential interview sources).
The rough time frame in which people were talking about this collaboration.
You can also change the language at the bottom, which is helpful for reporting on DAOs and protocols that operate in multiple languages, or finding the sentiment in another part of the world and amidst a different group of people. (Worldly though I may sound, I am not proficient in any other languages and have yet to use that feature.)
If you’re starting a piece and don’t know where to go, I recommend doing an advanced Twitter search. You’ll have tons of interesting hot takes and ideas afterwards.
4. Forum Posts and Comments
Forums are where the high-signal-low-noise DAO conversations happen. (Okay, sometimes there’s high noise.) These are Reddit-style open posting platforms where DAOs make governance decisions before ratifying them on-chain. Think of them as digital town-squares where thought-leaders and key members of the DAO share ideas and gather consensus for anything from a new project to a protocol collaboration to a governance idea.
Forums are essential places for Web3 writers to spend time in. If you’re writing about a DAO and aren’t deep in their forums, are you really writing about the DAO?
You can find DAO Forums by:
Going to the DAO’s website and checking the footer for something that says “governance,” “forums,” “community,” or “conversation.” Example: MakerDAO’s footer has a Governance section. If the website you’re on has only icons and no words in the footer (bad UX, but whatever), look for a speech bubble icon.
Going to the DAO’s Twitter account and seeing what their bio link is. Sometimes you’re lucky and it’s a Linktree that helps you find Forums. If it’s Discord, you probably won’t be able to join unless you hold the required number of tokens. So, DM the DAO twitter account or a contributor and ask where their forums are. Or compose a tweet and tag them. You’ll likely get a response. DAOs love publicity!
Typing into a search engine [DAO NAME] + [Forums] or [DAO NAME] + [Discourse]. Google doesn’t like our Web3 content (yet), but sometimes it pulls right up.
CoinGecko! (Yes, really. Read tactic #5.)
Some DAOs have full website pages dedicated to governance, making forums easy to find. Others will be harder to dig up. Image from MakerDAO.com.
5. CoinGecko and CoinHall
These two token explorers are classic additions to the Web3 writer’s toolbox. This is where you can get details on just about any token you’re looking for. I always start with CoinGecko (great for blue-chip stuff, has nearly everything you could want), and if I can’t find the token there, I migrate to CoinHall. Both should be bookmarked on your browser of choice.
I like using token explorers to find:
Coin market cap fluctuations.
Supply: circulating, total, and maximum.
Forums and other links I’m trying to dig up. (If you jumped here from tactic #4: CoinGecko really does have Forum links on there!)
Using ATOM as an example, here’s what you see when you search for a coin on CoinGecko. Image taken January 10 from CoinGecko.
6. The Heavy-Hitters: Vitalik, Balajee, Chris Dixon at A16z, and Writer Wednesday/Thought Thursday from Bankless
When you’re not mining for specific information, but are looking for more general, think-piecey ideas, I’d go to the Heavy Hitters. These include:
But seriously, finding really good “think pieces” by a crypto audience for a crypto audience isn’t easy. Bookmark these gems and you’ll come back to them to help form your ideas and mold your writing again and again.
Vitalik’s website is always a good place to land and get lost in for days…and days…. Image from Vitalik.ca.
7. Crypto-Native Publications: Messari, The Defiant, Decrypt, CoinTelegraph, and CoinDesk
The good thing about the speed at which Web3 moves is that the information aggregators move fast, too: we’re just beginning to have some pop up. But, the problem about the speed at which Web3 moves is that these guys can barely keep up. Add these into your information diet, but sometimes they tend to be very price-focused, placing major emphasis on ETH and BTC. That’s great if you’re writing on ETH and BTC….not so great for anything else.
8. Podcasts: Uncommon Core, Bankless, Collectively Intelligent, On the Other Side, Citizen Cosmos, The Defiant, Crypto Sapiens, and Terra Bites
I love podcasts, but I don’t always use them as research methods because most Web3 podcasts are so. Dang. Long.
Having a healthy diet of a variety of Web3 podcasts is good for molding your own opinions and theses, which will inform your writing. What they’re not good for is finding a specific piece of information. Instead, use these to challenge your beliefs, form your ideas, and, hey, maybe learn something!
My recommendations to include in your rotation for a well-rounded and downright educational podcasting diet:
Uncommon Core: good for technical concepts and first principles.
UpOnly: good for funny, unique conversation with crypto thought-leaders.
Bankless: good for interviews with crypto thought-leaders and people in or adjacent to Capitol Hill.
Collectively Intelligent: good for DAO and Web3 organizational-focused discussions.
On the Other Side: good for DAO-focused conversations about how Web3 affects people on the day-to-day.
Citizen Cosmos: good for interviews with people in the Cosmos ecosystem (who are notoriously hard to pin down).
The Defiant: good for interviews with people who have one foot in the legacy world and one foot in Web3, offering some perspective.
Crypto Sapiens: good for interviews with founders of interesting protocols, mostly in the Ethereum and Ethereum-adjacent spaces.
Terra Bites: good for Terra ecosystem updates and technical concepts.
9. Very Specific, Gibberish-Sounding Google Searches Because Google Sucks at Indexing Crypto Content
Examples of things I’ve searched simply to find one Medium article: “How Superfluid Staking Works Sunny Aggarwal Cosmos Osmosis Medium” and “Lyn Alden Bitcoin Theories 2019 to 2021 Portfolio Percentage.”
You might’ve noticed that sometimes when you search a topic that’s firmly planted in Web3, you get a bunch of Forbes and New York Times and WikiHow articles that are very far off the mark of what you were actually looking for. This is a symptom of our industry being so new and Google algorithms having a hard time keeping up. So, to circumvent getting what the algorithm thinks you want, you need to literally tell it exactly what you want in order to find certain articles on platforms where many people have access to publish, like Medium, Notion, and Reddit.
Get very good at using keywords. Lots of them. Pretty soon, you’ll be pulling up Notion pages in Google search. (Really! It’s possible!) That’s all the advice I can give for googling crypto stuff. Good luck.
10. Block Explorers (I Find These Kinda Boring)
I find that block explorers really don’t do much for you unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. Honestly, I just use these if I have a transaction stuck somewhere and am having that typical panic attack of wondering if I sent my money to the wrong address. But, since block explorers are a unique feature used for gathering on-chain data, I figured I’d include them.
ApeBoard (I’m not sure if this counts as a block explorer, but I’ve found it useful and didn’t know where else to include it.)
Isn’t ApeBoard adorable? See, I had to include it. Image from apeboard.finance.
Now that you’re equipped with all those gold mining devices (still didn’t look up what they use to mine real gold, sorry!) you’re ready to go digging! Best of luck on your journey into becoming a true Web3 writer — whatever being a true Web3 writer means — and, as always, be safe out there!
Samantha is a publishing coordinator, writer, and editor for BanklessDAO. She loves thinking about the big questions of the human experience and finding out how Web3 fits in.
BanklessDAO is an education and media engine dedicated to helping individuals achieve financial independence.