New Year’s Eve is probably my most favorite holiday. You don’t have to worship a certain deity, be in love with someone, live in a certain country, or have a certain title, status or age. It’s a day where everyone around the world (or at least those who follow the Gregorian calendar) can reflect on the good and bad of the past year, and think about how they will make the next year better.
Oh, and people usually have some ridiculous parties!
But like most of you, this past New Year’s Eve was very different for me. Not because I wasn’t out (been a long while since I’ve attended NYE rager…) or because I had nothing to reflect on or resolutions to make (I WILL work out more and be more patient in 2021!) or because I was worried about my family (we have been fortunate for having good health this year).
It was different because I spent most of the evening like many evenings of the past 6 months — strategizing about ArDrive, learning from mistakes and plotting what we will accomplish in 2021.
For the first time, I wasn’t thinking about personal or family goals, but community goals. My eyes were watching the awful pop singers in Time’s Square, but my brain was obsessing over the things we did well this year, our brand image, and the things we didn’t deliver on. Sure, my own needs are important! But my mission of stirring passion in others and getting permanent storage into the everyone’s hands trumps any resolution I’ve ever made on my favorite night of the year.
So what did we do right this past year?
It all started with planting the seeds of change and taking the plunge into building a Profit Sharing Community on Arweave. The plan was simple — develop an open source, intuitive file sync app that took advantage of time stamped, tamper proof and permanent data storage using Arweave. Many would argue leaving a relatively cushy career to build applications using a powerful, exotic but not exactly proven technology is crazy. This is exactly what I needed though, as my “prove others wrong” mentality is strong.
Working on the bones of ArDrive core over the summer and putting together my first real presentation/pitch for myself (as opposed to some senior leader at a company) was something exhilarating and scary. While many world changing events occurred, I will never forget the summer of 2020 for this reason. There is nobody to check your work, nobody to say “yes, that’s what I wanted” or “no, go change this up”. You only know it’s successful when the success happens.
The Open Web Incubator culminated in August, and apparently others thought that ArDrive could be just as important as I did. It’s not often a “blockchain application” is so easily understood. I was raised to work and earn my keep, so taking money without earning it is very difficult for me, whether friends or family, let alone investors. Our community was able to raise some capital to make the idea come to life. Soon after our first team members joined… things just kept getting more and more real.
I figured if I just trusted my instincts and kept building, good things would keep happening.
We needed ways to start spreading the message… so we decided to reward users for trying our beta apps with Aztec. We wanted to show people how easy it is to upload and share public data… so we did #ShareYourDrive on twitter and got so many unique submissions from curated non-copywrite movies, cypherpunk documents, digital artwork and even data on the novel corona virus. We made sure other app devs knew how to integrate with us, so we shared an extensive file system architecture, allowing all Arweave apps to share the same data and encryption patterns… We wanted to get feedback on our design, so we open sourced the entire design process for our V1 apps in our chat room… We wanted to make sure everyone knew the intricacies of permanent storage and could take apps for a quick spin, so we redesigned our website and packed it full of help information.
As our Discord channel and Twitter following grew, more and more people provided ideas, features and comments (good and bad). Its indescribable to see people’s positive reactions to what you are doing, when you are being totally true to yourself with your work. The Open Web Fellowship further cemented our mission, with incredibly positive feedback and even some press in the media and podcast interviews!
It was hardly a perfect year. We could have moved faster with app dev, hired more resources, aligned our image better across our apps, and promoted our community token distribution harder across social media. The IT Architect in me completely loathes the fact that we didn’t have a completed design document before starting any development! But we can’t obsess over the failures, rather learn, adapt and become stronger.
We ended the year with having 215+ people trust ArDrive with 19000 files or around 350GB of data permanently stored. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2021, we will be stepping on the gas and moving forward with our lofty goal of revolutionizing personal cloud storage. It starts with finalizing the first version of our Web and Desktop apps, and beginning work on our mobile app. There are lots of new features wait in the wings to add, whether its streamlining the onboarding process and giving users easy onramps into getting AR tokens, adding secure sharing features, letting multiple users write to the same drive or displaying photos in easy to view thumbnails. Support articles, how-to’s, videos and more rich media will help us educate our new users and give them the guidelines on how to take advantage of permanent storage. New rewards programs should keep things interesting and fun while giving people an opportunity to be able to upload more data permanently.
Community Governance will also play a vital role in the future of ArDrive. We will introduce formal plans and documentation (dubbed Community Improvement Plans) that support a decentralized and democratic way of running the community. Open tech design and security reviews, bounties, brainstorming sessions, podcasts, voting discussions… nothing is out of bounds for us right now. This also includes integrating ArDrive into other services, like social networks and content management systems. The team will also have to grow, whether technical roles or not. My journey has already introduced me to incredibly talented people from around the world, but more hard-working, like minded souls are needed!
As the night marched on, my mind raced back and forth thinking of the opportunities and obstacles ahead, but as the ball finally dropped and January 1st 2021 adorned my clock, I had a stark realization…
What draws me to ArDrive is the same thing that draws me to New Year’s Eve.
Regardless of location, age, race or creed, we all have things that are so important to us we want to hang onto them forever. Its something EVERYONE can understand and celebrate. With this, I resolve to continue to put my blood, sweat and tears into it in 2021 and beyond!