Today I am speaking with Colson, a Graph Advocate and member of Graph AdvocatesDAO. Colson’s name is likely familiar to many of you, as he has been an active and recognizable presence within The Graph community. He’s made notable contributions, including representing The Graph at various events and hosting the Advocate’s community call, Community Talk. Colson has also been actively engaged in The Graph and Advocates’ Discord, where he notoriously offers assistance to newcomers in the community.
During our interview, Colson shares insights from his diverse background, which includes experiences in soccer and competitive gaming, followed by a career as a teacher. He elaborates on his journey into the world of crypto, how he discovered The Graph, and his journey of active involvement within the community. We then explore his evolution from a keen enthusiast of The Graph to his current role as a Graph Advocate and member of Graph AdvocatesDAO.
The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e., GRTiQ.com/podcast[episode]). We do not authorized anyone to copy any portion of the podcast content or to use the GRTiQ or GRTiQ Podcast name, image, or likeness, for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books or audiobooks, book summaries or synopses, or on any commercial websites or social media sites that either offers or promotes your products or services, or anyone else’s products or services. The content of GRTiQ Podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice.
We use software and some light editing to transcribe podcast episodes. Any errors, typos, or other mistakes in the show transcripts are the responsibility of GRTiQ Podcast and not our guest(s). We review and update show notes regularly, and we appreciate suggested edits – email: iQ at GRTiQ dot COM. The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e., GRTiQ.com/podcast[episode]).
The following podcast is for informational purposes only. The contents of this podcast do not constitute tax, legal or investment advice. Take responsibility for your own decisions, consult with the proper professionals, and do your own research.
Oh, it’s amazing. We have a lot, as you said, a lot of Graph Advocates now from all time zones. So we are over 300, and last time I checked it was about 64 different countries.
Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today I’m speaking with Colson, a Graph Advocate and member of Graph AdvocatesDAO. Colson’s name is likely familiar to many of you as he’s been inactive and recognizable presence within The Graph community. He’s made notable contributions, including representing The Graph at various events and hosting the monthly community call Community Talk. Colson has also been actively engaged in The Graph and Advocates Discord where he notoriously offers assistance and answers to questions from newcomers in the community. During our interview, Colson shares insights from his diverse background, which includes experiences in soccer and competitive gaming, followed by a career as a teacher. He elaborates on his journey into the world of crypto, how he discovered The Graph and his journey of active involvement within the community.
We then explore his evolution from an enthusiastic member of The Graph community to his role as Graph Advocate and member of Graph AdvocatesDAO. As always, we start the discussion talking about Colson’s educational background.
Yeah. I studied to get a Bachelor of Science education at the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam, in which I had classes about physics and chemistry as those were the subjects I was teaching in high school. But that was only about one third of the study material. The other two thirds I found a little bit more interesting. They were classified deductive methods, which is basically teaching you how to teach things to other people. And then the other one was that you follow a specific method to teach, which is helpful if you have students that learn differently. So that was a lot of fun. And then the last one third of the classes were classed as behavioral science, which were super helpful with dealing with [inaudible 00:02:43] classes and maybe special needs children.
And in my final year I did I guess a double minor. The first one was special needs education where I learned how to educate people or students I guess in a way that accommodates their individual differences and their individual needs. So that was a lot of fun to learn and I also learned a lot about myself that way. And then the second minor that I did was business, so innovation and how to start a business, how to run a business. That was only a small part and I didn’t finish that one. But that helped out in starting the AdvocatesDAO and keeping that running.
Cool. So I want to ask you the question about why you became interested in becoming a teacher. So when somebody goes to college and they study how to teach and become a teacher, that signals that at some point in their life they became interested in teaching and wanting to educate others. What was that initial drive or interest in doing that?
So I was very good in high school in a couple of classes and I was very bad in high school in a couple of other classes. And I found it very interesting how the teachers would deal with me in certain classes where in one of them they would help me to ask out the other students and that in others they would help me out more. And I always felt that school, and especially being in a classroom, I always felt super safe and super welcome and I thought that was very beautiful. So I thought at some point I would like to do this for other children later on. And then eventually I did a small test class. In one of the science classes, we had to do an experiment with a lot younger children. I think there were seven or eight just to show them what chemistry was like.
And all of my other students, all of my other classmates really didn’t want to do it and I was super excited. So it kind of pushed me forward. You just do the class. And while I was doing that was on a forum inside of the school. And some of my mentors and teachers stopped their lessons because they heard what I was doing from the outside and were just watching while their classes were stopped. And then afterwards one of my mentors came up to me and he said, “Hey, I’m not sure if you know what you’re going to do yet later. But you might want to pursue education and teaching.” And yeah, I already had the idea back then, so it was a great affirmation that this might be a really cool thing to do.
Makes a lot of sense. And I appreciate you sharing that. As you also mentioned, you’re joining me from the Netherlands. I’m curious to know about the crypto scene in the Netherlands. I don’t think you’re the first guest I’ve had that’s joined me from there, but it’s been a while. So what can you tell us about the Netherlands and the crypto scene there?
So the way that I’ve seen it in general and what I hear from other people when I talk about my work is that you still hear crypto, it’s a scam. And what is crypto? Is it Bitcoin? What is it? So I think there’s still a lot of confusion. But now that I am in the space for a bit of a longer time, I’ve gotten to know a lot of developers and a lot of builders in this space. But they usually are using a pseudonym or they’re anonymous and everybody in Holland that is in this space speaks English very well. So if you don’t know them personally, you might not ever know that they are from Holland. So sometimes it’s kind of a surprise. We’re in the middle of a conversation with a new group of people. It’s like, “Oh wait, you live like 200 meters away from me. What is going on here?” So yeah, in general it’s all good [inaudible 00:06:03], but I think there’s still a lot of room to draw and a lot of room for education.
Another interesting personal fact is that you in your youth were involved in competitive gaming. We talked a little bit about this when we were preparing for the interview. What can you tell us about professional gaming and how you got into that?
At first, I was a competitive soccer player. And we can talk about that a little bit later. But at around age 14, a lot of my players in my team were getting scouted for pro clubs, and that meant that a lot of the people that were super driven and super competitive left the team. And in the end, I didn’t really enjoy it that much. And by that time I was already doing gaming non-competitively, that specific game for about a year. And I saw that a lot of the friends that I made there, we played together and we would study and learn together to get better. And eventually I got to a level in that game where you could make money from it in multiple ways. So I started going very hard on it and learning and practicing. And yeah, it was a very interesting time where I got to know a lot of people. Some of them I’m still in contact with 10 years later, even though we all don’t play the game anymore. But we just became good friends through that.
What game was it?
It was League of Legends. It’s a multiplayer battle arena. In essence, you have a couple of roles just like you would have in soccer. And if you play that role well, then in the end you destroy the enemy base in a way. But it was a lot more competitive than soccer in a way where there was a really high learning curve. So for me that was super interesting because you could just keep learning and learning and studying and know all of the small details and know all of the [inaudible 00:07:40]. And then I would talk to other people that were also very competitive. So I got to know a lot of people there with really good mindsets. And that is something that I also appreciate in the space that we are all in now, where I see a lot of those same characteristics I recognize from competitive gaming, the drivenness, the readiness to learn and the willingness to cooperate. It’s very beautiful.
So that was really probably your first experience with online community and developing and getting to know people that might exist only in your world online.
Yeah, exactly. A lot of them used a pseudonym as well, like their gamer tag as we would call it. And you would get into communities, you would start to learn with them. Some of the people made teams and that the teams would have competitions. So in the end there would be a lot of people playing together. At that point I also did some live streaming and some coaching and some video content from that. So I also had my own little small Colson community in the gaming space. So that was probably also the first time where I learned, “Okay, this is interesting. People can work together even though they don’t know each other.” And back then it was focused around that game and now it’s focused about The Graph and the Advocates program.
What can you tell us about competitive gaming? That’s a world that you don’t get a lot of insight to. Certainly I don’t have much. Any incredible experiences or moments from your time in competitive gaming that kind of shed a light on what that’s like?
Well, it’s very interesting. So at that level of a competitive game like that, it becomes a lot like a chess match. But then there is also a lot of mechanical elements involved where you have to press buttons on your mouse and your keyboard. So you are very focused. You are kind of like any other competitive sport where you are hyper focused, your heart rate is through the roof and every mistake can cost you the game and if you’re playing in a competition, could cost you a lot of money or opportunity.
So it’s a very tense environment where you’re also in that game with four other players in your team. So you have to have very good communication. You have to get a very good attitude because if you don’t, you will never get to the top of a game. You could be the best player in the role. But if you can’t communicate, you can’t play together very well then that doesn’t work either. So it was a very humbling experience in that way as well where you better get your attitude right and your mindset right, because else you’re just not going to make it even though you practice a lot and you put a lot of time and effort into it. And I think that’s a life lesson.
Makes a ton of sense. And so another interesting personal fact is that you were quite young when you started competitive gaming, but also when you first became aware of crypto. I think when we were talking, you said you were like 13 or 14 when you first became aware and interested in crypto. What’s the story there?
So at that time I was in high school and early high school I suppose, I think the second or third year. And I was browsing some online forums where people have cryptic usernames or were fully anonymous, and I saw these people talking about crypto and investment and about technology. At first it was very strange because these people, they’re anonymous, so you don’t really know who is talking and what they’re talking about. But then you see them posting questions and providing answers and then getting responses that things are working and things are helping.
And some of the threads that were on that form were about bitcoin mining. So I was in I think the very early stages, I wasn’t that much into it. But they would post pictures of old mining rigs outside or in a basement so it would stay cool. So for me at the time, it was super fascinating. And I actually have some Word documents of that time where I kind of broke down the cost and I would show it to my family. And they would like, “No, we are not doing this.” So at the end I didn’t really pursue it, but I was in there pretty early. And then afterwards, now all of these years later, I’m like, “Oh, so it did turn out good and it did work out.” And yeah, eventually I started browsing those forms again a couple of years ago and I saw talks about Ethereum and eventually about The Graph. And then I got aware of this cool ecosystem and started enjoying it.
Before we move on, I want to also ask you about that soccer element here of your youth. So what were you doing in that and how serious did you get with soccer?
Yeah. So in Holland, basically all of the boys play soccer when they’re young. Football is really big, or soccer I should say is really big in Holland. We are usually one of the top 16 teams in the world, even though our country is very small. So as a lot of other kids, I started playing soccer about age eight and my team would usually play one level below the professional clubs. So it was very competitive, but it’s because it’s a small club from a small town. It wasn’t professional yet. But we would usually play the second professional club, the second team of them, and then the best amateur clubs in the region. And I was playing center back, which is the defending and more specifically a sweeper, which doesn’t really defend an opponent. But you’re basically the final line. So if the enemy breaks through, then you can sweep up the ball and try to help them out and make sure that they don’t score.
In my last year, so I was 14, 15, I didn’t really start growing yet. And in competitive soccer, size is still pretty important. So I moved to central midfielder, which you then organize where the ball is going and you try to help everyone out making plays. And in that last year, a lot of my friends and teammates from that small club transferred to professional teams and some of them are now playing in other countries. And now one of them is I think playing in Argentina and one of them is playing in Belgium for professional clubs still. I’ve not been in contact with them, but for this episode I looked their names up and I saw they were still playing. So that was pretty cool to see.
So there’s really two really important threads from your youth, one competitive gaming and one soccer that you sound like were very intense and put probably a lot of practice and time into it, but now you don’t have as much interest or participation. Have I got that right? That must be a strange transition.
Right. So when I quit playing soccer, that was also the time where I would have more time for the gaming part. The way my brain works is that I’m really bad at being average at something, so I get very obsessed with things and I want to be the best at all times, which is super helpful in my professional career. But it’s not very good if I pick up new hobbies now because I know that I will not be good at it from the start and I find a very hard time starting that. So I don’t do gaming anymore because I want to play all the time. That doesn’t work. So now I just do gym and I have a very strict training regimen so I don’t go overboard with that. And that’s enough for me now so I can focus more time on The Graph and learning about crypto and [inaudible 00:15:30].
So if we go back to university, as we said at the beginning, you were learning how to become a teacher, you were studying education, you were taking some classes in business. Did you get the opportunity to teach? And how does that work as somebody that’s in university and pursuing an educational degree?
So after that interaction with my mentor at the high school where I taught that one class, it became pretty clear that I wanted to pursue this path and that I would not need certain topics such as French and German, which are usually mandatory in Holland to learn. So they basically said, “As long as you don’t mess up your other classes, you are free to not attend these ones and only attend the classes that you would need for your college degree.” And in that free time that I had, I would help out 12, 13 year olds, so the first year of high school, as kind of a teacher’s assistant so I could already get a little bit of practice.
Now after that, when I graduated high school, I entered college with a dual study it’s called in Holland where you would go to school or to university 50% of the time, and then the other 50% you would spend at a high school to watch other people observe how other people would teach, write reports about it, and then eventually take over parts of a class. So maybe one time you do the introduction, one time you do the classical explanation, and one time you help them out with homework. And as long as you do those right, eventually you can start combining them and teaching classes. And so right out of high school when I was 18, I started teaching.
What was that experience like? You went from a genuine interest, you were guided by a mentor, and now you find yourself in the classroom. Was it everything you’d hoped it would be?
It was, yeah. And I quickly realized that I also started learning a lot quicker or it made more sense to me if I could also practice what I was learning. So that was very great. And the first two years of that, so the first two years of college and the first two years of being at a high school, there would be a teacher sitting in the back of the class taking notes and if anything really went wrong, they were that to help you out. But they quickly realized, “Okay, if you don’t make any mistakes, you’re not going to learn very well.” So after some time they would just let it go wrong a couple of times and then talk about it later because also something that you have to deal with later on in your teaching career. Not everything always goes right and you learn how to deal with situations.
And after those two years, I got a part-time contract at the school. So then you’re just part of a team while still being in school to learn. And actually the other teachers really like that because young people bring a new perspective and sometimes they all teachers are there for a long time. So if there is a new teacher coming in, it kind of fires everyone up and everybody gets more energy. So that was really cool.
And that teaching track you were on, I imagine getting started at 18 and then having this personality that you have of going all in and developing expertise, you probably excelled in that role and started moving further down that career track. Is that true?
Yeah. So I would do the teaching during the day and then during the night I would study and prepare my next classes. So I quickly realized that I want to be very good at presenting, so I would just make the presentation and practice it a few times and eventually, because I had to do the same curriculum every year, that got a bit easier. Especially at the start, it was just a lot of practicing. After a couple of years, I would also move to a new school every year. That was part of that dual program, so you would get more experience in different environments. And after four years, I got a part-time job at the school where I then stayed for four years. And due to some unfortunate circumstances, the science department lead had to take some time off and I volunteered to become his replacement.
So at the age of 24 when I was teaching for about five years, I became the science department lead of that school, which was very cool because I was suddenly leading a team of teachers at age 24. And then there were more duties like overseeing the curriculum, overseeing the testing, making the grading, and coordinating with other sites department leads from other schools in the area to do practical experiments way easier because we would have more resources and we’d pool it all together. So a lot of those skills that I learned during the studies and by teaching the class and then by leading the apartment transferred surprisingly well to my work in web3 and Graph AdvocatesDAO.
I want to ask you about that because in a point here in your life you make a transition away from teaching and going into web3. But before I ask you about that, I do want to know, are you at this stage in your life framing your future professionally as, “Yeah, I’m going to be a teacher. This is what I studied and this is what I’m doing and I’m having success. I’m a department leader and I got started young and I’ve got some respect.” Are you thinking, “I’m on my track here?”
I did for a long time. And once I finished the study and then just continued teaching, I thought that would be very cool. I also thought about starting a tutoring business on the side, which I then enrolled into that minor of business just so I can learn about that a little bit. But after becoming the science department lead, I started to run into a lot of problems with management about funding and about just regular things in the classroom that I thought could improve, but I couldn’t improve it anymore because of bureaucracy of the higher ups. And at that point there wasn’t that much room for me to grow at that school because I was already science department lead. So the only thing that I could do was grow into management, which takes a long time. Usually management in the school is a lot older than I am. So I could also change to a different school with a higher education or different students or special needs. That would also be very cool.
But none of those options were really exciting to me. And at that time it was during Covid lockdown, so I was teaching from home and the students weren’t really asking questions because there were no requirements of them having a camera on or being active in the chat room. So I think they were just all PlayStationing on the side and then sometimes answering a question in the chat room. So at that point I was not really getting challenged and I started browsing a forum on my dual screen and then seeing about The Graph. Then I joined the Discord server. I didn’t know what was going on, but I started asking questions and the people that started answering then are some of my best friends now. Eventually because of the educational background, I started being the guy that was answering a lot of questions in the Discord.
And eventually that got noticed. And after some time doing the Advocates work as community care, which then wasn’t as good a role as it is now, it became a bit too much with traveling to events and then teaching and then studying. The manager of the school also said, “Hey man, the school year is almost ending. We need to know soon if you’re going to be here next year.” And at that point we just had Graph Day San Francisco and met all of the amazing people in the ecosystem. And I thought it would just go for it and make the jump. So then I quit the job, I resigned and I quit the college to go all in on this new opportunity.
Incredible story. So let’s unpack some of that. If we go back in time to when you first became aware of The Graph and then those first impressions of the community and interacting with people, what can you tell us about that?
The story about that is pretty interesting as well. So I was already teaching part-time. I think it was 60% of a full-time job, so about 24, 28 hours a week. And then during the weekends I would do bartending at a company called the Party Group in Rotterdam. So usually when students go to party, they have to spend a lot of money. But because I was working during the week and during the weekend I started making a little bit of bank and eventually I thought, “Oh, I remember this crypto thing, let me look about investment opportunities.”
Then I saw Graph for the first time. So people kept saying that it was very cool and was very cool technology and I knew that there was also a token, so I thought, wow, this might be interesting. So then I wanted to do my own research as we always preach, I joined the Discord server and started asking questions there. And that’s initially how I got aware of The Graph and started learning. But it took me probably a year more to go back into this server again and really start learning how everything worked and the technology behind it.
Do you remember the aha moment or the moment where you saw that this was actually technology that has real utility in the world?
I think I really started getting interested in January and after some time I was already answering a little bit of the questions, but just by seeing what other people said and looking it up and then answering again. I think my real aha moment was Eth Amsterdam a couple of years ago where I saw that a lot of Graph people were going. I was like, “Oh, a cool meetup. And I’ll go there and finally see all the faces that gather behind these usernames.” So I show up and I’ve never been to a hackathon, I didn’t know what it was. So I was just thinking that, “Oh, it’s probably going to be 20 people meeting up and saying hi to each other.” Yeah. That was a little bit of a shock here. There were thousands of people there and we had to get a ticket and a Covid test and I was super unprepared.
So I’m happy that someone from global just said, “Oh, you look very confused. You can come here. And what is going on? Why do you look so confused?” So they helped me out and gave me a guest ticket, and then I finally met The Graph people. And a lot of people came by to say how they were using The Graph and what they were building. And I think that was the point where it kind of all became real to me because I saw the Hackers building, I saw the people in the company, and I saw people in the other companies. And they were all super friendly and real people instead of Discord usernames. So I think that was the moment where I was like, “Okay, this is real. This is a thing and I could become part of it.”
And so you definitely became part of it. And I remember in the history of your personal story, but also in the broader context of watching the community at The Graph grow, you showed up into Discord and were incredibly active. It seemed like 24/7 people were asking questions and Colson was answering them. So you really propelled yourself by being very active in the Discord. What was that experience like? I mean you went from wanting to learn about it, showing up to a hackathon, not even sure how to get in or who to go talk to becoming somebody that seemingly had all the answers in the Discord.
Right. So I was still teaching at that time and I would just have a laptop open and then an iPad on the site. So every time I would have a break, usually you have two hours that you’re teaching, so a hundred minutes, and then you have a small break. So during that time I could just quickly check if there are any messages. And if I knew the answer, I could do it. And also I would just put in my notes so I could respond to it later. So that was during the day, usually nine to five. And then when I would go home, I would prepare my classes on my screen and have The Graph Discord open on the other screen. So I could manage to get about six to eight hours of just observing and responding where I could.
And eventually that ratio started to switch a bit because I started to learn more and I also became friends with a lot of people in the ecosystem by joining the Indexer office hours and the community talk and the monthly update calls. So then I kind of started to know already a little bit who knew what about what, and then I could just refer the questions to them. And I thought that would be very intimidating, like, “Oh, I think this person knows it, but they might not know me, so I will reach out to them.” And then everybody was friendly. Nobody ever said like, “Hey, why are you reaching out to me?” I’m not supposed to do it. So by doing that, it just became really fun as well because I could get to know all these people and I could help out the other people. I could see everybody happy. And by doing that, I think I got really happy myself as well.
I want to ask you a question. I think it’s a difficult question, but it might not be. And it’s this question of motivation. So as you said, and this is very common, people move from the speculative nature of crypto to a better understanding and conviction for the underlying technology. And as you’re going through that experience yourself, you’re also learning a lot about The Graph. But you’re spending a lot of time online, you’re in the Discord, you’re working with the community, you’re answering questions. So what’s the motivation here? Why devote that time? Why put the energy and resources into being active and helping people in the discord?
In my opinion, to get a reward, a lot of the work should already be done. And especially as I was unknown in the community, I would not expect the people in The Graph ecosystem, I think it was The Graph Foundation at the time to say, “Oh, well you’re new here. But you seem to be pretty active. So here you have a grant for X amount of GRT.” So I want to make sure that I was already doing a very good job. And then eventually it got noticed and then eventually I got brought into the ecosystem as a contributor now in Graph AdvocatesDAO. But I think I was just trying to improve myself and also I was just having a very good time, so it never really felt like work. It just felt like I’m doing my part and I’m helping out. So it never really was about the GRT or the reward for me. It was about learning and about experience and just really good vibes in the community.
Is there also a bit of that, as you described earlier, intention to be the best at what you do? Was there also this drive of like, “Hey, if I’m going to be in this community, I might as well be a leader and know everything I can so that I can answer any type of question.”?
Yeah. It’s that. And also coming from education, I know how bad it can be if you provide a wrong answer to a question because at that point, if somebody comes into the Discord and ask questions and the first thing they get is a wrong answer, then they might leave and never come back. So by providing bad quality answers or not optimal quality answers, you’re just ruin the fun for everyone. So I just wanted to make sure that I knew all of the answers about everything. Of course, The Graph is very complex, so I still don’t know everything, but I know a lot stuff about the community and you’re mostly where to find the resources. I think that was what I was doing most at the time, just referencing people to the right page in documentation and just doing that. It’s a very easy task. Everybody can do it, but it’s super helpful. So if anybody wants to get into community care in The Graph, start by doing that.
So as you mentioned, you went out to San Francisco, you went to Graph Day and Graph Hack in 2022. And that was kind of a moment for you in your life when you said, “I’m going to go full-time into this thing and give up teaching.” Let’s go back to that transition a little bit here. I’d like to know what you’re telling friends and family. You’ve got a very traditional career track, it’s teaching. And now you’re going into this emerging industry with this project that I’m sure some of them have never heard about before. Is it help us understand what’s going through your mind at that time, what you’re telling others?
So the career risk wasn’t really that much of an issue because I knew that I would still have the bartending job, which doesn’t really pay well. It’s really fun and would pay my bills. And for the teaching part, I always had a one-year contract and I always think that I did a very good job at every school that I taught. So I could always go back to any of the schools because science teachers and physics teachers are very high demand. So I thought even if it doesn’t work out, I still have that as a backup. So that wasn’t really that much of a thing. My family was a little bit surprised obviously when I told them, “Hey, I’m going to call in sick to the school because they won’t give me a holiday and I’ll fly to San Francisco and then meet all of these cool people that I’ve been talking with online.”
And I was living with my mom at the time and she would hear the discussions through the speakers and hear me talk about stuff. And sometimes she would ask me later, “It sounds so difficult.” Well, sometimes it did a little bit difficult, but it was mostly just because it’s very specific around our ecosystem. But my friends already knew that I always did a lot of stuff online. So for them it wasn’t really a big surprise. And it was very gradual. As I said, I started by posting some answers to the questions and talking about my friends how cool it was. And then suddenly I was posting a lot of answers and still talking about how cool it was.
And then when I finally got a position, nobody was really surprised. Some of them were surprised by me quitting the teaching job, but they saw how much I was enjoying this and they all wished me the best of luck. And some of them, actually multiple of them are Graph Advocates now and they help out in events and text translation from English to Dutch. So a lot of my friends are also here, so it’s fun.
You also mentioned that you met some community members in Discord and at some of the events that eventually went on to become some of your friends, but they were formative I guess in this early part of your evolution within The Graph. Talk to us about those first impressions of meeting the community and how big of a factor it was in meeting those people to propel you I guess on this path of learning more about The Graph and getting involved in the community.
When I started answering questions in Discord, you would usually see some of the same names. And I was also aware of the Indexer office hours. So I joined that a few times and I was like, “Oh, these people are so smart. I don’t know what they’re talking about so I’ll just keep my microphone muted.” And I think accidentally one time I joined in a bit early and some of the people joined and they were like, “Hey, Colson. How are you?” And I’m like, “Oh no, I have to unmute now.” So that’s how I actually got introduced to them. And by that doing that, it made it a lot easier to ask them questions as well. And some of the European community members then came to Ethereum Amsterdam. So I met up with them I think the day before and the day after to finally meet in real life, just walked around the city.
Very interesting to not just speak about The Graph, speak about things that you do as a person, where you’re from, and a lot of the experience that they have had in the past. And then at Eth Amsterdam, I met more of the team also, the people that are from overseas. And everybody was just so friendly and helpful in trying to provide each other with a place in the ecosystem, make sure that everybody is doing well. So I think that was one of the reasons why I stuck around, that I just felt so supported and so welcomed and I truly hope that everybody that joins the ecosystem right now also feels the same way. Not sure that they could find the people that I found as well. Might not be the same people, but the same feeling.
Okay. So you become activated within the ecosystem. You are answering a lot of questions. You’ve risen to the top so to speak of people who are active in the community, answering questions, always seemingly online. And you eventually joined Graph Advocates. So talk to us about when you became interested in Graph Advocates and the story of being onboarded into that program.
When I was answering questions, like you said, eventually it became so much of a time sink that I was thinking of maybe getting compensated for it, especially because I thought I was starting to do a pretty good job. So I applied for a grant and eventually while doing reviews, [inaudible 00:34:15], some talks back and forward and then I got a call saying, “This is not about The Graph. But it’s about economical thing that’s happening in the ecosystem called Graph AdvocatesDAO and Graph Advocates Program. We would like to have more capacity on it. We are setting that up right now. If you are interested, please let us know and we will get you onboarded for the initial launch.” So I started with the initial cohort of Graph Advocates now and that’s how I got that position.
Longtime listeners of the podcast know that I’ve had a lot of Graph Advocates on the podcast, so if they want to learn more about the program or meet some of the other Advocates, they can go back and listen to some of those episodes. In your case though, Colson, I’d like to know about how getting involved in Graph Advocates with that original cohort and then seeing it grow to present day where I think there’s over 300 Advocates worldwide, how has that changed your perspective of The Graph community?
Oh, it’s amazing. We have a lot, as you said, a lot of Graph Advocates now from all time zones we are over 300 and the last time I checked it was about 64 different countries. So that’s amazing to see. And a lot of these Graph Advocates are also involved in other communities. So whenever we go to an event or there’s an event happening that is big, there is usually one or more Graph Advocates there. And it makes a lot of easier collaboration as well because they are already involved in their own communities.
So besides The Graph community growing a lot and especially not only the Advocate but also all of the core developers and all of the grantees and it’s a very big ecosystem, and then on top of that, all of the local communities that these Advocates are involved in, it’s crazy. Every event that we go to, it’s five or more Graph Advocates that are doing amazing job and it’s just very, very cool to see. From start where we had I think 30, which are now the AdvocatesDAO members growing to 300, it’s been a very interesting experience, super exciting, sometimes a little bit hard, but overall really fun.
This is a question I haven’t asked other Advocates, but would love to get your opinion on it. How do you frame the role Advocates have in this kind of community building or protocol growth type of lens? How important are Advocates in that framing?
I think they’re very important in the sense that maybe if there is a developer or someone else building a project that wants to get involved with The Graph or wants to be more aware of The Graph, because the ecosystem is so big and so complex, they might not know where to look or where to go. And I think that is one of the most important things of having Graph Advocates on the ground and in these local communities and at these events so they can find the right individual to connect to the individual that wants to learn more or wants to be connected to The Graph ecosystem. And because we have such a wide range now and such a great web of Graph Advocates, I think that is becoming a lot easier and more people are finding the solution that they’re needing.
You also mentioned that you went on to become a member of Graph AdvocatesDAO. And for listeners that are newer to The Graph Ecosystem, Graph Advocates launched and members of this initial cohort of the DAO oversaw the Advocates early on as well as community grants. What was it like going from Advocates program to now a member of a DAO that was overseeing the Advocates program and trying to onboard the next generations of Advocates?
So in Graph AdvocatesDAO there are multiple committees and I’m currently active in all of them. But at the start I was mostly involved in the Advocate interviews, which means that we have a 15-minute interview with new prospects or new applicants to the Advocates program to see how they could fit in and what contributions they could make. And besides that, I was very active in the grants committee because we needed to find a system or a workflow to better process the grant applications.
And for me it was super interesting tinkering with the workflow and seeing which steps work and which steps don’t and where are we getting stuck and what can we improve? So that was where a lot of my time was spent. And then when that system was kind of solid and network ready, main Advocates program with the contributions program, so the six roles that we have in the Advocates program, that got launched and then I could start optimizing that. So that’s where I’m most active now. The grants committee is doing their thing and I’m still active there. But most of my stuff is in reviewing Advocate contributions and still in the Advocates applications, so mostly the Advocates committee as we call it in the DAO.
What have you learned about the nature of DAOs, some of the opportunities or challenges by virtue of the work you’ve done in Advocates now?
I think it’s a very interesting space where the values of individuals are highly valued. So if somebody has an opinion, we all have to listen because everybody has the same voting rights. So that is a very good thing because usually we get to a very nuanced solution to problems and I think a lot of times the solution is way better than the solution that I initially thought of myself. So I’m very thankful for that. The only thing that I sometimes don’t like as much is that because everybody has a voting right and you need to listen to everyone, the process can be a little bit slow sometimes. So it’s a quality versus speed kind of thing. And I think we are doing very well on the quality side, so I truly like that part.
Do you have any advice for listeners that might be interested in joining AdvocatesDAO getting started as a Graph Advocate, what’s the best place to get started and how should they do it?
So the best place to get started is either sending us a message in The Graph Protocol Discord server or The Graph AdvocatesDAO Discord server. And I’m sure we can put those in the show notes. The Graph Advocates program is a very good place to start because there is no minimum requirement. So you can literally just do community care for one hour a week or you maybe make one Twitter thread a month. And that is already a place to start. So that is very high quality content. You only spend an hour every month. That’s super valuable ecosystem because we have a lot of people doing that and the end goal is really nice.
By doing that and by joining the Advocates program, you join this community of knowledge over 300 Graph Advocates and over 30 DAO members that also have a lot of connections around the ecosystem. So I’m sure that you’ll find the right place where to get started and you’ll find a lot of new friends. And after joining the program, you can start growing. And eventually if you do a lot of good contributions and you build up your community reputation, you can become part of Advocates now, which is currently happening. So I’m very happy that we now see a bunch of Graph Advocates graduating in a bigger role in AdvocatesDAO. It’s really fun to see.
One last thing to talk about before we move on from the incredible work that DAO is doing is the fact that the DAO not only oversees Graph Advocates, but they also oversee community grants. And that’s a huge responsibility, but an incredible opportunity for any community member that wants to really step in and help shape the future of The Graph. What’s it been like seeing the Dow take on responsibilities of the grants and some of the grants that have come through?
It’s a very big responsibility, I would say, because sometimes we’re dealing with pretty large amounts of funding and then it’s always a little bit of anxiety of, are funds going to be used well? But I think we do a pretty good job at the due diligence beforehand and we really engage with the applicants, the grantees to make sure that everything goes to the right place and the grants are very valuable. So I would say to community members, if you are thinking about hosting an event or doing other community building efforts, reach out to us in The Graph AdvocatesDAO Discord server or in The Graph Protocol Discord server, and we will work with you on creating the proposal. We would love to spend time with you and see what your ideas are to get really cool community grants going because that’s what the program is for, and that’s why we are doing it. So if you have any cool ideas, please reach out to us. It would be amazing to work with you.
Early on in your journey you mentioned that you went to an event, a hackathon which ignited a lot of your early interest. And you’ve continued to go to events and you’ve worked at The Graph booth and attended hackathons as a Graph Advocate.
Been your favorite event so far and what has it been like going from showing up to event, wondering where to go and who to talk to, being the person that people need to go find and talk to at the booth?
I would say, as I said, that first event, I think that’s always the most wonderful because it’s just so overwhelming and interesting and kind of dystopian in a way sometimes. So I think that was my favorite one. But if you would talk about the boot times, I think Eth New York was really fun. It was my first time going to New York and a very beautiful venue that was very well set up. And you could just talk to other hackers that are building cool projects on The Graph. And sometimes I couldn’t help them because I’m not that technical, but they would try to explain it and use normal terms, what they were building.
And just seeing them starting their project and then at the end very happily presenting it to us, that was really cool. And I’ve done a couple, as you said, where I’m in the booth talking to people, talking to all of the other projects and protocols that are sponsoring the events. And through that I’ve made some amazing friends and every time I have the chance to go to one of these, I can reunite with them again and work together on a lot of this stuff because a lot of the projects and protocols use The Graph. So it’s very easy to make connections and talk to other people because everybody is kind of interconnected in this very big web3 space.
In addition to that, you also hosted The Graph’s second birthday. So every year in December, The Graph Community has birthday event celebrations. And last year for the second birthday celebration, you hosted one. That must’ve been quite an experience for you to be a leader of event in your own hometown.
It was as I was not experienced with event evangelism yet. I had only attended and never really hosted one. Luckily I found a event space that had a very nice lady that worked with me on setting everything up, and then people from Graph AdvocatesDAO and The Graph Foundation helping me on our side. So it was mostly just coordinating and then getting all the people there or not getting them there, but welcoming them in that project. A lot of The Graph Advocates actually came out to help with ticketing and doing presentations. And then I also met a lot of the core developers that are from Europe because it was the only event in Europe I believe. So it was a very warm and welcoming community meetup. And a lot of people from Holland obviously because I hosted it there. So I made some good connections there and continued to see them in monthly meetups in Belgium and in Holland. So it was an amazing meetup.
What’s your advice to individuals that are listening to this podcast and they’re hearing your story, the fact that you went from a career track to a transition to now a community leader? What’s your advice to them who are contemplating making the same type of transition?
I think a lot of the positions in Web three where you can join as a starter are part-time. So if you can find a couple of hours a week to study and maybe a couple of hours a week to engage, I think that’s a very good place to start. And if you do that, you will quickly build community reputation and people will notice because if you’re doing a very good job and you’re helping out, that’s really appreciated because we need that. We need more people in the space and we need more people to be active in the space. So if you have a couple of hours a week and you find a project that you’re very interested in or you find a community that you feel very welcomed, I would say go for it. Engage with it, try to see where you can help out, and ask questions. Ask a lot of questions because then you start to learn and you can start helping others.
Well, Colson, now you have three more questions for you before I ask the GRTiQ 10. The first one is, as you think back about being a teacher… And I’m sure listeners that are paying close attention realize that you really still are a teacher. You’re going to events, you’re working in Advocates, AdvocatesDAO, and you’re still doing what was essentially your first passion, but now it’s about The Graph. If you think about the one thing that has the most impact on engaging a student or somebody that’s interested in learning more from the teacher perspective, what’s the one thing we can do if we want to help engage or teach somebody else?
I would try to make sure that after you give an answer that they truly understand. So a lot of the times I would ask them, I would give an answer and then follow up question, “Does that answer your question?” And if it does, then you’re good. And if it doesn’t, then first of all you learn to give a better answer next time. And second, they have the opportunity to engage with the second question. And I think that brings a lot of safety and I think that makes it a lot easier for that person to then engage more because I think there is a little bit of a barrier of entry where people are maybe afraid of asking questions. So if you make sure that they have a good time and they feel safe and comfortable, then they will learn a lot more.
And so the second question I want to ask is if you put on that teacher lens for a minute here, that teacher hat, and for listeners that are non-technical, maybe this is their first episode where they’re just learning about The Graph, how would you in a simple way describe or teach what The Graph is and why it’s important to web3?
I think there’s a lot of people that can answer this question way better than I can, but I will keep it to sharing non-technical for people that are absolutely not aware of The Graph yet. So imagine that you walk into a library and you want to read one page out of one book. But when you walk into the library, none of the books have a cover and none of them have an index at the start of the book. And if you want to find that one sentence, you have to go through all of these books, which is going to take you a very long time and it’ll be almost impossible. So what The Graph does is that it does that, it puts a cover and an index in the book, so you can easily find where that book is in the library and then find the information that you need, but just not with books, but with data on a blockchain. And I think I would explain it in that way. I did it today and it worked. So hopefully it’s a good explanation.
And the last question, Colson, is what makes you optimistic about the future of The Graph and web3?
It’s the overwhelming positivity that I get at hackathons, at events of all of the people there collectively building really cool projects on all really cool technology. And I think if only 1% of these projects actually really takes off and gets widespread use, I think we are all very well off and very happy. And the overall sense of community at these events is so wonderful. So if anybody has not been to a Hackathon yet or a [inaudible 00:49:35] event, go to your local one or go to a bigger one if you have the chance. I would love to see you there.
Well, Colson, so now we’ve reached a point in the podcast where I’m going to ask you the weekly GRTiQ 10. And everybody knows these are 10 questions I ask every guest of the podcast. Of course, I do it because it makes the guest a little more human and it gives us a chance, learn a little bit more of each guest on the personal side. But additionally, I think it helps listeners learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their own life. So are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?
What book or article has had the most impact on your life?
It’s called The Molecule of More.
Is there a movie or a TV show that you would recommend everybody should watch?
I would recommend watching The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.
How about this one? If you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
I’m more into DJ sets than albums, so I’m going to answer it a little bit differently. But I would say listen to the Fred Again Boiler Room set of last year, 2022.
What’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?
Never be afraid to ask questions.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know quite yet?
I can’t answer this question because I always think everybody’s really smart, so I don’t know what to answer here.
What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?
I learned I feel the best when my days feel very structured. So I always schedule five major things in my daily calendar, which is sunlight, diet, exercise, breaks, and sleep. And since I’ve started doing that, my quality of life has improved immensely.
And Colson, based on your own life experiences and observations, what’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains how or why people find success in life?
And then the final three questions are complete the sentence type questions. The first one is, the thing that most excites me about web3 is-
The amazing community.
And if you’re on X, formerly Twitter, then you should be following-
And the last question, Colson. Complete this one. I’m happiest when-
I’m dancing with lovely people.
Colson, thank you so much for taking time to join the GRTiQ Podcast. It was incredible to learn more about your background and your history. And I know there’s a lot of members of this community who are familiar with who you are and will be excited to do a deeper dive on your story and learn more about you. If listeners want to stay in touch with you, follow the things you’re working on, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?
I think it’s the best way. If they join The Graph protocol or Graph AdvocatesDAO Discord server, you’ll find me there. I’m active there all day every day, so you’ll find my name Colson in the list. And if you want to chat, hit me up on DMs.
Please support this project
by becoming a subscriber!
CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
DISCLOSURE: GRTIQ is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any other way connected with The Graph, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and it is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, financial, or investment advice. The content for this material is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The Graph token holders should do their own research regarding individual Indexers and the risks, including objectives, charges, and expenses, associated with the purchase of GRT or the delegation of GRT.