What is Blockchain and Why Does it Matter For Creators?

This is the second installment in an ongoing series breaking down innovations in Web3 for creators and why it matters to writers, course creators, coaches, consultants, and anyone looking to create value on the internet.

Today, I'd like to discuss one of the most fundamental concepts, and a buzzword that gets thrown around quite frequently: Blockchain.

My goal is that hopefully once you've read this article, you'll have a high-level grasp of the technical concepts (enough to sound reasonably intelligent to your peers), and you'll be able to start getting creative about what use cases might exist for you and your business in the future.

So without further adieu ...

What is a blockchain?

A blockchain is a distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently while providing transparency into its data. It's built upon cryptography so that only those who have access to the information can see what happens within the system. The first public blockchain was Bitcoin , which was released as open source software in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, many other blockchains have been created with varying degrees of success.

Other Examples include:

  • Ethereum, (the blockchain Mirror operates on, where I’m writing this article).
  • Solana (The Invisible College operates on this network)
  • Elrond Network (ENFT DAO operates on this network, which is an exciting new project I recently learned about with a tie-in to mindfulness and The Wakeup Community).

Blockchain technology has the potential to change how we do things online forever. We're already seeing the beginnings of this shift in the way people are using the web today.

If you think this is just a short-lived trend, it's also important to know that big name investors and large corporations are rapidly moving into this space, all eager to claim a stake in the future.

You don't have to take my word for it, here's four well-known initiatives currently underway that signal wider adoption of these technologies in the future across social media, e-commerce, business education, and music publishing:

Gary Vaynerchuk and Mark Cuban have both backed Third Web, a "no code" platform for developers to build, launch, and manage their Web3 projects.

Mark is also partnering with The Wharton School, one of of the top-ranked MBA programs, to accelerate and scale businesses in the blockchain space:

Back in December, NIKE acquired RTFKT, which is pioneering and redefining the boundaries between physical and digital value to help their broad community of creators reach new heights.

Steve Cooper of Warner Music Group recently told analysts, during the company’s earnings call that, “Web3 represents an exciting future for the music industry that will help our artists reach millions upon millions of new fans in interesting and innovative ways."

The list goes on and on.

These companies and institutions are investing heavily in this space because they recognize that there are real opportunities for disruption, as well as the potential to lose marketshare to new brands emerging in the space.

What does this mean for the little guy?

The good news is that by my calculation, we are still very early in this collective adventure, and the possibilities are endless.

But before we dive into all of that, let's take a look at how blockchain works, so you can begin to build some conversational language around this emerging technology.

4 Characteristics of a blockchain:

  1. Distributed - A blockchain is decentralized which means there are no central authorities or middlemen involved in recording transactions. Instead, all users participate in maintaining the database.
  2. Immutable - Once recorded, blockchains cannot be edited or changed.
  3. Public - Anyone with access to the network can view the records of transactions All actions are transparent to participants and transactions are logged publicly.
  4. Secure - Because the records are encrypted and stored across multiple "nodes", they are considered more secure from tampering.

There are two methods by which transactions are processed and verified on a blockchain:

  1. Proof of Work: In this method, miners compete against each other to solve complex math problems using their computers. When successful, they receive transaction fees and new coins as rewards. Miners also verify transactions and add them to the chain.
  2. Proof of Stake: In this method, nodes stake tokens (usually cryptocurrency) based on how many blocks they've contributed to the network. They then vote on which transactions get added to the next block. Nodes that contribute the most blocks earn more tokens. These tokens are used to incentivize participation.
Image Credit: DCX Learn
Image Credit: DCX Learn

Admittedly, this can all sound a bit dry if you aren’t into the tech, but I think it’s important to set some definition so you can be conversational on the topic.

Now that we know how blockchain works, let's talk about why this matters to creators.

Here's a running brainstorm list of where you might start to use blockchain technology within your business if you are a content creator, artist, consultant, or online business owner:

If you lead an online community, you could build your own crowdfunding platform and distribute equity among your community members, by forming a DAO (distributed autonomous organization). This is something I'm currently looking at with several of my partners. (example of a learning DAO)

If you have a blog or media publishing brand, you could offer micro-payments to your content contributors who publish with you. You could also incentivize and reward visitors to your site, as well as the sharing of content, by helping your audience become invested in what you are creating. (example of a video DAO for content creators)

If you are an artist or songwriter seeking to publish and sell your music online, you could allow your fans to donate directly to your project, consider sharing ownership of your music, and offer special events (virtual and in real life) to your backers. Theres a lot of potential here for artists who aren't interested in doing business with the traditional entertainment industry. (example of a music artist utilizing the Rally Network)

If you are writing a book or essay, you could publish it to the blockchain, and crowdsource the launch, offering partners revenue splits with smart contracts for helping to promote your work. (here is an example of an essay that was crowdfunded on Mirror platform)

If you are looking to build an audience, you can start looking at alternatives to the current social media platforms that are less likely to be manipulated by algorithmic changes, and could expose your work to a larger number of people in the future. (don’t know much about it yet, but this project looks interesting)

If you are creating an online course, instead of following the typical launch model, you could look at creating your content on the blockchain, and finding ways to invest your audience in not only the learning process, but the success of the learning platform itself.

I don't have all the answers here, and I myself am still in the early stages of investigating what it looks like to both launch new projects on the blockchain, as well as find a foothold for more established Web 2.0 brands while ensuring that we don't break what's already working well.

While not every project or client I’m involved with has an immediately actionable use case, I do believe that my attention is well-served to be focused in this area. I believe this is also true for many others who like me, up until a few short weeks ago, have continued to bury their heads in the sand and think "that's not for me right now, thats some future mumbo jumbo that I'll worry about later".

In closing, I believe that "later" is here.

Looking to explore this exciting world of blockchain and Web3 in a deeper way, but not quite sure where to start?

I highly recommend joining The Invisible College.  The Invisible College is a learning DAO that gives you the skills, network, and opportunities to make an impact.

The Invisible College is a school owned by the students where you can learn, build, and create in this exciting new world of Web3.

Joining this organization has been the best decision I've made this year so far for my growth and learning, and I'm excited to see how the organization evolves.

Want to read more articles like this? Subscribe to The Wizard’s Chest where I drop all the loot.

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