A crash guide!
But Status is also more than a product, it is an experiment in organization.
Welcome to #lifeatstatus. It’s going to be a wild ride.
None of us truly knows how our future will look
It’s easy to overlook in all the flurry of productivity that what we are trying to do has never been done. We are operating in pretty much unchartered territory, trying to:
- Create a Public Good that has not been made before
- Transition our governance model to being decentralised and autonomous, and
- Build a community around a movement.
We're still figuring out how we balance these things, but as at the time of writing we've now got a clearer idea of how the Status Network (DAO) and GmbH 2.0 will look, operate, and interact with one another and the ecosystem.
You are confused, so is everyone else, we are all confused together.
Status is a world of smart and purpose-driven people, experimenting with ideas and concepts that are revolutionary. You may quietly feel like you, and you alone, are the sole confused one in the room, but don’t worry, we are all muddling through this. Don’t be afraid to say that you… just simply don’t get it. We’re here to help you make sense of this chaos.
"It's not you, it's everyone!" - Don't assume that everyone else has the answer, it's a hard problem space and most people are also trying to figure things out, that's OK.
About This Guide
What this is:
- A lightning-speed tour of some contextual things that will help you get started on your journey with Status as a core contributor to the GmbH.
- A living doc.
What this isn’t:
- A detailed manual with comprehensive info; but don’t worry, there will be hyperlinks galore for you to read up on things in more detail.
- We also have our People Ops site, that has lots of logistical guidance on contributing to Status GmbH.
Ultimately, anything written about the Status core contributor experience is likely to not come even close to capturing the full picture in all its complex and confusing glory, and anything that does get committed to print may soon become outdated, so the living breathing oracles of Status that are your co-contributors are a great resource for finding your way round:
Take time to orientate yourself, don't rush, and spend time in your first few weeks really connecting with the people you're working with, as they are the best and most up-to-date sources of information and help that exist.
Why was Status created?
- To ease the transition to a more open mobile internet.
- To help anyone, anywhere, interact with Ethereum, requiring no more than a phone.
- To foster links with the wider Ethereum DApp community and showcase what the ecosystem has to offer.
[July 2019 update] - we're moving towards more of a research, protocol, and infrastructure focus. Read more here.
Today, when you are first exposed to Status, you might see an instant messenger and wonder, "What's the big deal? After all it’s just another instant messenger right? What makes Status different and more importantly why should I bother working on it?"
If I had to answer in one word, I would say Decentralization.
Now, that word might not have much meaning to you - it might even sound like a buzz word - but in our context, Decentralization has the potential fundamentally to change the way we organize socially and to rebuild the Internet as it was originally imagined - a commons for innovation. By decentralizing all the things, we are changing the very foundation of civilization, providing a new infrastructural base that impacts everything else above, from our greatest institutions to our daily social interactions.
(From our first ever attempt at documentation, the Wiki).
We’re building a community around Status, and are keen to involve anyone who wants to learn about, or contribute to, our efforts. This starts with a mindset shift from core contributors as “internal” to Status, and all others as “external”, to anyone being part of the network as they choose. Our ways of working should as far as possible be structured to be inclusive, open, and inviting. This hasn’t always been the case in the past, we’ve looked a lot like a closed company and haven’t always lived up to our aspirations there, but we’re slowly making changes bit by bit, e.g.:
- Moving from Slack to Status Desktop for secure, private, open messaging
- Creating new pathways into Status for people interested in contributing (e.g. Ambassador program, creating technical docs, getting advice on how to improve dev onramps, etc.)
We’re currently exploring the next phase of opening the floodgates to permissionless participation (the DAO), and there’s a bunch of deliberate thought and planning going into that.
For the time being, channels or content that are seen as communication channels from Status official, should be accessible only by trusted parties. Decisions about the direction of these ‘official’ channels should be done in consensus by the teams responsible.
The Status Network is our next project to bring us closer to being a DAO. Prior to November 2018, we were slowly experimenting with tools, governance structures, and ideas to get us there, but now work is kicking off in earnest to move this forward, starting with Liquid Funding to allocate tokens within the Network. The first iteration will be Assemble, our implementation of Liquid Funding.
Read up on how DAOs function and get familiar with things like skin in the game, idea meritocracy, our voting DApp, cryptoeconomics, and multisig wallets. The #status-dao channel is where you can follow along and chat.
It is now the time to essentially split the organisation in two.
We will continue to implement the Status Network as planned, in where we recontextualise Status’ operations within the greater Ethereum community. A true Decentralised Autonomous Organisation. The heart of which will be capital allocation, using Liquid Funding. This is by far the most emotionally engaging and interesting direction for me, I am writing another post describing the intention and how it will work, but essentially we can make Procurement and Supply-chain Management of Software central to Status’ operations, people who are closer to the decentralisation spirit that is driving the innovation will feel very comfortable in this environment, and we’ll provide a safe upgrade path into this environment.
So where does this leave the GmbH? Given the lack of innovation, the unwillingness to participate in the community and the rejection of decentralised organisation practices, it seems best to limit the GmbH’s access to funds (otherwise we will not have funds to sustain ourselves in future), and make it far more efficient and effective in achieving narrower, focused goals. I’ll be introducing more structure, create more accountability and timelines, creating budgets and turn it into a service provider for the Status Network. By participating in the Network, the GmbH, while being a preferred provider, will be forced to be competitive with other servicing entities.
The Status Network will be essentially providing an ecosystem and creating competition for the GmbH.
This will mean that each element of the application will be viewed as an individual product (although still within the same applications) and teams will be held accountable to their plans, and I’ll be enforcing a stricter methodology making stronger financial decisions and removing dead weight. The intention is to give a well structured environment to those who thrive in such an organisation and provide an upgrade path to those who are more inline with Status’ future.
Ultimately I hope to see the GmbH dissolve, spinning out smaller service-orientated organisations that operate independently and service the Status Network and other entities within the ecosystem directly.
Folks who are salaried employees, or longer-term contractors holding services agreements with Status GmbH, are core contributors. We tend not to use the term employees as this reinforces a barrier to inclusivity that we want to break down in making Status truly an open source project (plus it's not technically accurate as only a small number of people actually have employment contracts).
Anyone providing services to the DAO as a Network organisation, is a network contributor (terminology still TBD).
Folks in the community who are involved with Status in any way are contributors.
“Company” tends to evoke legacy entity structures, so we use organisation as an umbrella term to describe our dispersed group of Status GmbH core contributors (though it is true that we do still indeed have company entities in the traditional sense in Switzerland, Singapore, and Germany, and we use these to interface with legacy institutions, e.g. banking).
Think of a DAO as not an organisation and more of a collection of smart contracts between individuals. It is not the on-chain equivalent of an organisation.
[October 2019 update] - another key bit of terminology is
The Status Network, which is the term for the ecosystem we're building that's more than just the core app. SNT utility and Principles are overarching concepts across the whole ecosystem:
Myth v fact
Status went through an ICO
As SNT is a utility token, not a security, the 2017 event was not an ICO, but rather a token distribution.
How Status is funded
We’re lucky to have some reserves behind us, but we have a long way to go in fulfilling our aims, and we want to be careful and resourceful in how we use funds to get there. The price of ETH heavily influences our runway.
Jarrad’s letter to Status is a great read on how we aspire to better channel our funds into paid user acquisition.
[November 2019 update - still in financial battle mode, we've secured runway until June 2020 at least].
I need to know everything there is to know about the cryptocurrencies and the blockchain to fit in at Status
It helps, but we’re all on a continuum, from evangelist right through taking our first timid steps into the crypto pool. What matters is that wherever you’re at, you’re up for expanding your horizons every day. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to learn along the way (Tech Talks, Hackathons, sharing articles and studies in #watercooler). As a general principle, we try only to hire folks with existing experience in crypto, or those who are keen to learn more.
Read all the books on the reading list + Swarm-wise! Have one on one video calls with people as often as possible. Spend a good chunk of time everyday learning, without a direct boss or someone telling you what to do the first thing is learning how and where to be of value. That takes knowing the organisation and the people inside it very well.
Contributing to Status
Jump in, be curious and ask questions :)
Go and get the information, don't expect it to come to you, and set-up a couple of 1-on-1 to get you started.
Pre- day 1
Once you’ve agreed an offer with People Ops, you’ll receive a draft contract within 1-2 days. If it looks good to you, it’ll be deployed via Hellosign for your signature. Once you and Status have signed, you’ll receive your login details to our BambooHR, our HR platform. You’ll see an onboarding checklist in BambooHR signposting you to various guides, and prompting you to set up your access to different tools and accounts.
A weird first day (perhaps!) if your previous experience has been in co-located workplaces. There is no office tour, just you on your own with your laptop (which can feel a bit surreal!) Rajanie or Ceri from People Ops will ping you for an orientation chat, but feel free to jump in whenever you’re ready and start pinging your teammates. If you don’t know who your teammates are, People Ops can make some introductions, so don’t worry!
Plan to spent this time learning, reading, getting acquainted, chatting, and finding your feet. We don’t expect much productivity from you in this time. You may find some tension between wanting to learn, but feeling like you should be productive (after all, everyone starts Status on trial), but do try to leave enough time and space for learning. If you're not sure how to strike a good balance here, feel free to ask your team mates or People Ops.
Everyone joining Status has a trial period (the length really varies, so ask People Ops if you’re not sure about the plan for yours). You’ll be asked to share the names of people you’ve worked closely with, and People Ops will gather some mid-trial feedback for you to help you identify areas for improvement, and celebrate wins!
By now you’ll maybe be figuring out the lay of the land, building your network, and starting to find places where you can contribute and add value, but may not yet feel settled. It’s perfectly normal to take some time to settle in as there’s lots to learn, and many new concepts to get your head around.
The end of your trial, there will be another feedback round and POps will send out a feedback form. They will share a feedback summary with you, and let you know if you’ve passed your trial. We really hope it works out! We expect you to take forward any constructive feedback you receive and make a plan for self-improvement.
Connecting with the wider ecosystem is a great way to add context to what you do at Status. Check out local Ethereum events, or try to attend a conference/meetup.
We can’t tell you how you’ll feel at the end of your first three months, but perhaps you’ll know enough to be productive, and still curious and asking questions. Challenge anything you see that doesn’t make sense, and don’t be afraid to share your voice. Everyone brings with them a new and valuable perspective.
About you - our valued Core Contributor
Think of core contributors as the trusted maintainers of the open source project that is Status, and Status GmbH as the service organisation to The Status Network.
Most important to us is that Core Contributors understand what we’re trying to achieve, care about and model our principles, and are kind to one another. We hope that everyone will recognise each others’ achievements, but also own their own failures (e.g. the Wall of Shame) so we can make them a learning moment for everyone.
Pathways to contribution
We’re always on the lookout for amazing contributors, and people can get involved in different ways:
- Hiring - we're recruiting very deliberately and carefully to find only people who are aligned with our values and objectives. If you think you know of someone, feel free to chat to the People Ops - there's a referral bonus.
- Ambassador program
- Open source contribution
What’s the operating model?
We've been trying a few things out :)
- We had people leads, then
- We moved (May 2018) to flat hierarchy, removing people leads in an effort called Project Flatten, which aimed to reduce arbitrary hierarchy and centralisation.
- In the new GmbH 2.0 world (November 2018 onwards), people leads made a return for swarms and teams. People leads are responsible for a team's headcount, budget, expense approvals, and deliverables.
How does career progression here work?
In the absence of upwards promotions, we think of career progression as lateral skills and experiences gained. We're open to organising and investing in training and resources that contributors feel would be worthwhile, so do let People Ops know what you would like to see.
As visibility is very important, be sure to share your work often & participate in relevant discussions - including non-Status-owned platforms
We haven’t had any formal performance management system in place in the past, and are still experimenting with how this looks.
We want contributors to get high quality, timely feedback, but we also don’t want to fall back to leaning on team leads to do that. Another relevance of performance management is as a data point to make more objective compensation decisions. Currently we make use of feedback rounds.
We want to nurture a culture of idea meritocracy here, and we feel an obligation to spend Status’s funds wisely (with our single biggest expense being salaries). If a core contributor is consistently underperforming (measured by low reputation/credibility) we’ll move to end the formal working relationship (but they are very much welcome to contribute to Status through bounties or community activities).
We haven’t had a consistent way of setting nor increasing compensation based on merit, which is something that we would like to change (in an ideal world). Compensation in the GmbH is still TBD whilst we're operating in battle mode and asking contributors to take a pay cut to weather the bad market conditions.
There’s no firm plan or decision made yet as to how a compensation framework will look in practice, but one example could be liquid pledging of a shared income pool between contributors as an idea that applies meritocratic and skin in the game principles. You can see our current compensation philosophy here.
In terms of regular salary/fee payments, we have entities allowing for employment contracts in Switzerland, Germany, and the UK. Core contributors outside those locations invoice us as independent contractors, and assume responsibility for their own compliance and taxation.
Ask questions, be involved in discussions, share your opinion, try to communicate as much as possible
Many of our contributors have worked remotely in previous jobs, but this may be your first remote gig. There’s plenty to say (#) about how best to be effective as a remote worker, but our best brief advice to you would be to:
- Share progress updates on your work early and often
- Over-communicate and make your thinking explicit
- Get familiar with how to handle a high volume of data to parse - have a system for what to skim, and what needs your attention
- Set your work boundaries and aim to create a healthy buffer between your work and personal time
- Build a network of trusted coworkers to mitigate against isolation
- Set yourself up with a productive workspace. If you need a coworking space to make this work, that’s fine too.
Office buildings, working hours, company holidays
We don’t have any - you create your own.
Deciding what to work on
You’re free to contribute to Status in any functional area, swarm, or capacity you see fit. If you think you can add value and help Status along in its mission, jump in and get involved. Everyone is welcome to submit proposals for funding to Assemble.
You’ll most likely have been hired under a specific functional role, and our expectation (initially, at least) is that you produce deliverables in that area. That said, your role can and and might evolve, and that’s fine too - we don’t want anyone to be stuck in a rigid role when they can have impact in other places.
When you first join, you’ll have a couple of initial projects scoped out for you by your team to get you going, but beyond that, you’re expected to define your work and hold yourself accountable to it. There’s a huge amount of autonomy involved, and no one will tell you what to do, nor give you granular detail about what’s expected of you. Ideally you’re the kind of person that finds that thrilling, and not too terrifying.
As you find your way around Status and get a feel for how you can best contribute, you may want to share your objectives with your co-contributors - this will help them support you on your journey, and anchor their feedback for you (whether that’s for the trial period, or during a peer review).
If you see a project or initiative you’d like to get involved in, drop into the channel, start chatting, and seek out the swarm lead and let them know you’re interested. They can help you get involved.
We sunsetted our own experiment with a bounty platform (Status Open Bounty) and are now posting our bounties to Gitcoin.
We encourage you to ask for feedback from other contributors you work with on an ongoing basis, so you can sense check if the work you’re doing is impactful.
Who does what?
For reasons mentioned above, roles are somewhat fluid, and people may work across a number of project teams. The closest approximation we have is a grouping of core contributors by swarm/team. You can find this in BambooHR under `Employees` then select `Group by` > `Department`.
Currently, our primary ways of communicating and collaborating are Status Desktop (instant messaging, short form discussion), Discord (richer IM), and Discuss (long-form, more permanent topics for referencing).
Blogging is a way to bring the wider community on the journey with us, and share our unfiltered thoughts, musings, and updates. Everyone is free to blog at our.status.im, and there are no editorial guidelines. You can get your writing reviewed by peers at #writing-review, and can submit your social media content via our WeKan board, where the marketing team will help you schedule and optimise your content.
You’d be forgiven, reading all of this, to look upon this experiment that is Status and have some concerns over the level of chaos involved. How do decisions get made when no one is in charge? Currently we have no single agreed-upon consensus standard, but we’ve been thinking about what that might look like during this interim period whilst we’re still operating an entity structure (decisions will get made on the basis of liquid funding in a DAO scenario).
- When proposing ideas, justify them with solid data for the most persuasive business case
- With teams working free of structure and hierarchy, it’s possible that we’ll overlap and duplicate work. This is not necessarily a bad thing - if our goal is to explore an issue thoroughly, or think creatively, duplication of efforts may produce better knowledge sharing and less silos
- Share your proposals publicly, make your decisions documented and accessible (e.g. on Discuss). Give people a clear timeframe and brief for how and by when you’d like them to respond on your proposal
- If you feel you’ve thought critically enough about your proposals, and they’re aligned with the Principles, then you should feel empowered to move ahead, keeping a public record of your actions by way of an update
- Ideally, you’d have at least two other contributors supporting your plans (a three-pirate rule of thumb) before moving ahead. Swarmwise explains this well:
If three activists agree that something is good for the organization, they have a green light to act in the organization’s name. It’s not that they don’t need to ask permission — it goes deeper than that. Rather, they should never ask permission if three activists agree that something is good.
Asking permission, after all, is asking somebody else to take responsibility for your actions – no, take accountability for your actions. But a swarm doesn’t work like that. Also, the person who would have given that permission would probably be in a worse situation to determine if this action would work in the context the original activists had in mind.
– Rick Falkvinge, Swarmwise
Our bi-weekly Town Halls are a place where rotating teams will give updates on their work, and Q&A is invited from anyone. Speakers dial in via Zoom, and everyone else via YouTube/Livepeer. These meetings have in the past felt like a broadcast, and we tried to include every team in each meeting, which led to no Q&A and a rushed vibe. We’re trying to make these more interactive (with a lighter agenda, and more speakers on video), watch this space!
[November 2019 update - we now encourage everyone to dial in via the Zoom, and we switch off the broadcast at the end to encourage people to chat, and ask questions in an informal way].
Our annual all-team get together is when we all meet and hang out in person; all core contributors are invited. The 2018 event was in Prague, and the 2019 event was in Istanbul. We'll probably meet next in June-August 2020. You can read about our travel guidelines here. TL:DR, expect to travel 1-2 weeks in a year for team and all-Status meetups.
Beyond scheduled and more formal meetings, we enjoy catching up with one another, and frequently you might see people coworking or meeting for coffee if passing through the same town.
We see people struggling with these so often, we thought they deserved their own heading. In no particular order, here are some of the most common concerns we hear from Status core contributors:
Impostor syndrome - “In an organisation full of smart people, I feel like a fraud here”
- We can understand why you feel this way, but rest assured, the people you are looking up to likely feel the same. We hear this from so many people - it’s not easy being surrounded by smart people, let alone smart people who frequently discuss topics that are so new and cutting edge. Don’t panic. Over time, peer recognition and feedback should bear out the impact of your contributions to Status and give you a more objective data point about how you’re really doing here (versus any self-doubt). Feel free to talk to any of your team mates or People Ops about your doubts or concerns, we're here to reassure you and help you!
Psychological safety - “I’m afraid to make mistakes, or speak up if I have any questions”
- No one wants to look incompetent, that’s totally natural. Mistakes will always happen. Some f*ckups are more epic than others. Regardless how bad it gets, just know that we have each other’s backs, and as long as we can make some positives out of a mistake (learn from them and not make them again), they’re not the disaster they may immediately seem when they happen. Post mortems ftw.
- On speaking up - many people report feeling scared to say they don’t understand something. Just know that we’re all here to help each other, and there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Chances are if you’re asking it, someone else is wondering about it too.
This is a moving target, but our latest core swarms look like this. Note that functional roles do not necessarily determine how teams are composed. Product teams get established as needs arise, and evolve as work gets done. Our biggest priority right now is delivering on whitepaper promises.
[November 2019 update - now very much focused on research into the infrastructure and technology underlying the core app!]
Take as much time off as you need, and work the schedule/hours that are most productive for you. We want you to be happy and empowered to make your own decisions over where, how, and when you work, so it’s not something that we’ll get actively involved in.
Do not hesitate to ask questions to anyone you meet about anything. It is the quickest way to get oriented once you start.
Be prepared to iterate; don't be afraid to experiment and fail. Recognize that every single one of us feels like everyone else is smarter or more productive than oneself. There are no dumb questions, we're all here to share our knowledge, to teach, to learn.
Things move fast here! This guide was last updated in November 2019 - it may very well be outdated by the time you read it - we'll do our best to keep it fresh, but please feel free to help us correct anything you see that no longer makes sense 💥