Bringing valuable public content to Optimism

Hi, I’m a builder of Matters Town, and we just finished migrating to Optimism from Polygon. As the transactions ramp up and we plan to attend the demo tomorrow, I’d like to share some background of Matters Town and the perspective from a community quite different from the ones already on Optimism.

In 2018, there was widespread recognition of the collapse of the media ecosystem in Chinese, a language used by 1/5 of the world population. As in the English world, social media outcompete traditional media, especially the small and independent ones, and then fill the void with viral and manipulative content controlled by algorithms. For Chinese users, things were hugely exacerbated by an authoritarian government that has fine-grain control over what you can publish and read.

In the debris emerged Matters, a global community of writers, creators, and builders seeking a better way to distribute and sustain valuable content, a new space in the digital world to practice democratical self-governance. We turned to p2p protocols and the nascent blockchain technology, hoping to build a censorship-resilient network that can sustain content with great public value. The main application Matters Town quickly fit into the need and grew to over 120k creators and 600k monthly readers. It also spread into other languages, first to Russian and Farsi where users have similar needs, then to more than 40 other languages.

We later realized that starting from practical needs, the problems we need to overcome are uncommon in the Web3 world that is shaped by cycles of ups and downs. For instance, we combined ActivityPub, the most widely adopted social protocol, with IPFS for p2p data transfer; we utilized donation, the most common financial relation between reader and creator, as the on-chain curation signal; we designed from scratch an on-chain advertisement protocol to sustain the underserved creators.

This year we started to apply to the Optimism mission grants, after which the uncommonness of our situation became more apparent. It is hard to find a mission that is suitable for a project like ours, one that does not focus on crypto for its own sake, but instead uses it for other needs. The only mission that was relevant was a draft about onboarding communities that eventually failed to pass.

However, this uncommonness seems to reveal a problem if what we want is advancing digital public goods. Financial instruments do not create value directly, instead, they redistribute value and enable value-creating endeavors. The most common form of value in the digital world is content, ranging from articles to videos, from ebooks to games. Therefore, to grow an ecosystem for public goods, we have to enable valuable public content, creating systems for them to be discovered and sustained. Viewing from growth and impact, public content is also highly valuable for the Optimism ecosystem. There are only a small fraction of people who trade assets directly, but almost everyone engages with online content one way or another. These engagements shape how we feel and think as individuals and as a society.

We will keep building on Optimism, using it as the incentive system and content index. I also advocate that we should together push Optimism beyond a financial engine, into the backbone of content ecosystems that can benefit the general society. Projects like Wikipedia, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and Library Genesis are the treasury of the internet that have shaped a generation of brilliant minds. If we build such great projects now, I am hopeful they will be fairer and more sustainable. I am also hopeful that they will happen on Optimism.

I would love to hear your opinions. I am attending the demo tomorrow, so please come for a discussion if you like.


It’s great to see Matters coming to the optimism building, a lot of the articles on matters bring digital public goods to life, and we’ve seen a lot of desci content on matters today, looking forward to more from Matters on Optimism!

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Welcome @Guo! I think this thread might be of interest to you: Increasing Asia’s presence in Optimism Governance, Grants and RetroPGF through outreach and guidance

Have a nice day!

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Thank you @Marcus01! It has been the great work of you and other friends at OP China that familiarize us with the governance structure at Optimism.

Making a personal note to promote something around decentralized media in the next phase of Mission Requests.