Hi Raymond! This is such a pleasure to welcome you today for this AMA. It's been a long time since we wanted to make one with you to learn more about yourself and WeAct. We are honoured and very excited. Thanks a lot for being with us today.
Before starting the interview, could you please introduce yourself?
Thank you very much. I appreciate the time. So I am Ray Laracuenta, the CEO of Oblivion.io Software. We are a two year startup in the collaboration software space. We have a team of 9 people with a mix of full and part time. My background prior to WeAct was in IT research at Gartner Inc. 15yrs of that time was spent on collaboration software and building high performance teams. The team is made up of several key developers. They are experienced in Flutter, React, Motoko, Python and Swift/Java.
What is the best way to describe to the IC community what WeAct is about?
WeAct is all-in-one collaboration platform that we are targeting at social activism. So think Discord, Slack, Zoom and Trello in one. The idea was to create a platform where work could be done for activism and really volunteer based group. The idea behind WeAct is to turn conversations into action or execution elements. So unlike chat apps which are cool, conversations within WeAct are geared towards specific outcomes. And we provide the tools in the platform to do realize those outcomes.
We designed it after 2 years of research and interviews with activists and volunteer leaders. They were also part of the design phases from wireframes in Balsamiq to final UI.
Some people were confused. Before going further, could you please clarify the difference between Oblivion Software, WeAct, and WeActivism?
Sure. Oblivion Software is the holding company we created two years ago. It really is a software studio designed to spin out products which will enable better more human collaboration apps. WeAct is Oblivion's first software product. WeActivism is our social media handle, so @weactivism would be how you find us on most social sites. I do get that it could be a little confusing. Branding is an evolutionary process.
What problem does WeAct solve? And why is it important to solve this problem?
WeAct solves the problem of awareness cycles and breaks down the barriers between and amongst groups. So on awareness we found that many activists groups were equating social awareness and followers as a metric of change. It makes sense right that if lots of people follow our movement, like our posts and donate money were are making an impact. So on the awareness front that is very true.
However when you look at the underlying metrics or stats of an issue, you don’t always see and commensurate improvement data versus the level of awareness and engagement a group may have. Simply put the data is not getting better but the social awareness is at an all time high. So we determined the issue was many causes couldn’t go from awareness development to implementing specific solutions, change laws, changing actual buying behaviors or personal behaviors.
That work is harder to do, takes focus, clear plans and shared knowledge. Those plans and knowledge need to be shared across hubs within a group and between groups. That is not is happening as easily when everyone is using 3-5 different tools plus social media.
Think of it this way. Advertisers make you aware of a product. They make you want to learn more, etc. But they have a salesforce to close the deal or offers on a website to get you to buy. You need both. So many causes struggle to go from advertising to closing the sale.
Let's take the previous questions to another level and link them to grassroots activism. Why do you think amplifying grassroots activism matter?
And another question : If grassroots activism was amplified with effective tools what positive impact do you think it would have on the world?
Great questions. Ideally we would see that move from getting people's attention to making measure change in regulatory and behavioral elements. So groups would learn from each other how to go from awareness to driving changes in laws and lasting changes in people's behaviors. And people would understand what they needed to do differently to make changes that have impact. We would break the cycle that social media has trained us all to be in, which is endless awareness & attention mining but with little action.
So we move from issue spotlights to solution spotlights. Plus since it is easy to have groups connect on WeAct we can accelerate this evolution from awareness to change. I call it elastic activism.
On a more personal level because this AMA is also to get to know you better : What are the causes that matter the most to you?
Well I am very much into climate activism and racial and gender equality. Really any place where things are not just. I tend to alway be for the little guy One thing on my interests, I am also a big animal rights activist. :)
How did you you get started building WeAct? Can you tell us more about WeAct team?
We started back in 2016. My cofounder Leigh McMullen and I decided we needed to do something to bring people together around common causes but with an eye towards solving problems & implementing solution. We were in Spain during the 2016 election and Brexit was happening as well. The world seemed splintered.
After some research and discussion launch Oblivion and then as mentioned earlier we interview 100s activists globally. Looking what tools they used, what they were concerned about, how effective they felt they were and if they felt there work was fully leveraged. From that WeAct was born as idea.
In terms of the team our first member was Ben Everard our lead developer. He came onboard in 2017. Then we added several advisors in activist and academic space. Sneak peek at the website with team info. https://we-act.webflow.io/company#team
The team link will make it easier and faster for you all to learn about them. But I am happy to walk through it if you would like.
What is the current progress in development?
We have WeAct V1 for web 2.0 out today. You can find it in the app stores search for WeAct chat. WeAct for ICP is underdevelopment. Thus far we have our canisters built and single sign on running. The plan is to port WeAct V1 to ICP. We are 60% of the way there on the back end. The plan is to connect the V1 clients to the canister back end.
So when we launch you will have IOS, Android and browser versions of WeAct ICP. What is interesting about out our ICP project is that is may end up being the first hybrid ICP app out there. Chat as you may know on ICP can be a little slow at the moment. And feature wise a bit limited. So for V1 of WeAct ICP 75% of the app will be on canisters but the instant chat part will be in something called Matrix Which we use today.
This actually seems to answer the next question which is : why you didn't choose to build V1 directly on the IC ?
We had most of WeAct v1 done when were awarded the Dfinity Developer Grant. Very interesting to learn about hybrid aspect of WeAct. So we immediately started to look for Motoko developers and got busy doing the back end work which starte in early June. They team has done amazing job getting so far so fast. Remco is our lead ICP developer and he has really made a difference
But I also want to thank Jesse from Learnd and Jonathan Green from Canistore bc they both were earlier supports of WeAct and contributed code and ideas. We are lucky to have met them and many others in the community Very bright and committed people. I think that is why we have covered so much ground in two months :) Also Sid who is a flutter to canister lead has been with us since we kicked off the project
Can you explain your decision to build WeAct with blockchain technology instead of using the legagy IT stack?
And why did you choose the Internet Computer instead of another blockchain?
On the first question we wanted WeAct to be decentralized. We wanted this back in 2017. But the tech was not ready to scale affordably for users. But when we saw what Dfinity was doing early this year it got my attention. So we focused on ICP as the ideal platform to decentralize WeAct. You see we also did market research on brand activism this year (I can share the paper if people are interested). One of the findings was a need for transparency and to a degree community engagement.
From people's vendors. So what better way to engage a community then giving them governance rights and a vote in how a platform for activism evolves. With blockchain and ICP specifically we can decentralize WeAct, incentivize tasks, share ideas, bring in donors, etc. We cannot do that on traditional cloud. Cloud propagates stoves pipelines. Chain propagates communities of interest.
Everything you just mentioned it indeed ONLY possible on the internet computer. There is no other decentralized tech stack that you could use to achieve this.
Agreed :) Plus the folks over at Dfinity are very socially minded. They jumped in to helps us right away. Even asked us to apply for the grant! I can go into more IC specific plans for WeAct if you want.
Yes sure we all want to! This will come with next questions.
Some people tried WeAct V1 and there is nothing they could really test since they had no group to join and then be able to fully use the features. What is the best way to test all the features of WeAct V1?
Great question and an issue I am of which I am aware. Yeah WeAct was design for groups to use because of its focus. That said we can create groups of interest of any type and begin to chat with each other around those group themes. I have created a few like Climate Action, Sustainability, BLM etc. But I would recommend you come over with a few friends and create a group and then testing will be more fruitful. We are just two weeks into the soft launch so the plan was for early tire kickers to find bugs and ask questions.
Now we will be launching the new site, doing more videos etc. So that will spin up activity. But my best recommendation is to sign up and then invite people to your group. Which btw is cool but clear. Meaning you can invite people via QR code.
Here is one on climate action. Anyone who scans that can join the group.
Yes WeAct is just getting started, it's gonna be very exciting to see it evolve and have positive impact. Thanks for the recommendation, this is definitely the best thing to do and we will do it with ICPMN group of testers. Awesome, thanks for sharing your QR code for climate action!
In the groups page you will see a QR icon. Hit the QR button and then select scan from camera. You can also email the QR code to people etc and they can scan it from a saved image on their phone.
Thanks a lot for your recommendation Raymond. This is very helpful.
When can we expect the WeAct V1 on the Internet Computer? Will it be the same as current V1?
So we have about 4 weeks or so of development left before we are done with Grant project. If all goes well we should be able to share WeAct with the community later in September once we do a some canister refactoring for scaling.
Is there a WeAct roadmap available?
There are actually two. One is on the new site on the applications page that shows the web 2.0 roadmap. The Dfinity version roadmap will come out next week. So new website this weekend and the Dfinity page (which will launch this weekend as well) will get a roadmap on it next week. We have a review session with Dfinity on Wednesday so I wanted to do that first before I updated the WeAct ICP roadmap
Someone said : I visited weact.chat website and it was not straightforward to understand what is WeAct, Do you plan to make a new website or landing page to make it more clear and engaging?
Yeah the current website was focused on content development and a little WeAct app promotion. The new website is WeAct focused with a great blog. So we flipped the orientation. We will be posting how to video clips there in the coming weeks so that people can learn how to use each function of the app.
This is actually a very good way to engage with WeAct users and onboard them. Let's talk now about competitive advantage, network effects, acquisition and retention strategy.
How would you highlight WeAct competitive advantages?
So advantage wise we are one of the few if only collaboration apps built for volunteer/activist groups. We have combined several apps worth of functionality into the platform. So you don't need Slack, Zoom, Trello, etc, to run your group.
You can toggle between groups pretty seemlessly. And what you see on the new site, WeAct chatrooms can connect to Slack, Telegram, WhatsApp, Discord.
So if you have a mixed app group you can use WeAct to talk to all those platforms. They are called application bridges and we can setup for each group. We will do press release on that because it's kind of a big deal :)
Plus we never will mine your data. No disappearing messages like Slack. We always will have a free seat with usable usage profile.
Let's do something guys, let's open Q&A live session and open discussion now. There are still AMA questions so I will still ask them but you can all ask your questions now and engage with Raymond.
What is WeAct doing to combat those who wish to dox activists, or somehow inhibit activist progress?
Ultimately put them on IC and insulate them from that.
Since changes in laws/regulations are so important, will WeAct have any features/capabilities to directly connect activist leaders to politicians or lobbyists?
As company we are activists so we publish pieces on issues. We talk to politicians and campaigns. And part of the profits of Oblivion will be put into a foundation to support activism globally. We are not looking to but islands or never pay taxes.
What about malicious users? Is there any plans in the works to moderate the platform? This is a REALLY "spicy" corner of the community, and will absolutely require moderation between even legitimate members, let alone malicious actors.
We will also create Moderation bots the Mods can use to be in more than one place at a time. Mods need help and tools because they are all volunteers after all. On moderation - yes we will have moderation support. Each group has a mod now (owner) and that owner can create more mods in the app
For WeAct to become valuable for users there needs to be huge network effects, how will you achieve that?
Network effects will be driven by signing up key activist groups or hubs, earn their trust and grow from there. Plus the token economy model planned for WeAct will help grow the network. Well clearly building large communities on platforms like this will be key.
We are also building an advisory board of activist leaders and planning a climate conference which will be also hosted on WeAct and in person. Climate groups are connected to almost every other type of group. So getting a foothold there will be important. But getting the community of blockchain supporters is also key. Because when you think about people who believe in blockchain, they are activists in their own right. They are looking for a fairer way to live and to use tech.
Will you focus on a specific cause or a specific group of activists on WeAct launch? I guess you already answered blockchain community and climate change activists, is that right?
We have dozens of groups from our MVP (2020) we will onboard first. They are connected groups that number in the 100ks. We have 8 causes on our current website you can check out. We will start with climate.
But run the table as they say on those causes. Working closely with leaders in each cause. To get them acclimated to WeAct and its benefits. Then it almost has an affiliate marketing path from that point. Earn their trust.
They promote WeAct to their hubs. Hubs promote to other groups. We also believe WeAct on ICP and community governance will be how we retain and grow the user base.
If I’m already an activist and want to start a group on WeAct, how am I incentivized to bring the other activists in my network to WeAct?
If you are an activist today and on another platform my recommendation is to consider the number of apps you are using, are those vendors aligned with your values, do they have a road map for you or do they just want millions of users on their platform. So there should be discussion on values of you partners and their goals. The practical side is WeAct does most what 3-4 programs do without the limitations. It makes easy to find other groups or hubs to partner with. You can connect your current platform to WeAct and test it out with a mixed environment
I see the focus is activism, but what I am seeing this could also be a good solution for businesses. Correct?
Yes. In our ICP road we have two derivatives of WeAct planned. One is called WeDo aimed at business. The other is called WeSolve which is aimed at university researchers and private sector research. WeDo will take the learnings from helping activists collaborate and apply them to business. If you think about it activist is a great example of how people can work together when motivated around a common causes.
They are also inherent bottoms up managed and don't need a ton of oversight. Business tools need to adapt to that kind of commonality in their tools. Inspire and get out of the way. Current tools in business are top down and push management oriented. Which is by Slack Teams etc sometimes fizzle in corporate setting and in activism. They are designed to be used by people being told what to do. Sorry this is my old stomping ground (business collaboration) lol.
WeSolve will be a tool to accelerate innovation and research finding sharing between schools and PhD candidates. Along with sharing data sets etc. We will need to help them overcome their reluctance to do this :)
In the end we wan to connect WeAct, WeSolve and WeDo into a shared learning network ..but more on that down the road.
I think this question from Brian hasn't been answered. It is very interesting because we haven't talked yet about politicians and lobbyists. We let you finish current discussion which is very eye opening.
We actually did have a US presidential candidates campaign team on our WeAct MVP. She dropped out pretty earlier so the testing was limited. But WeAct could be used for campaign mgt, field canvassing, polling etc. We worked with a PAC for a brief time back in 2019 about using a version of WeAct as in the field tool to interview voters and collect data.
Tricky part of politics is if you go with one side first they other tends to shun you. In the US if you get democrats on your platform other parties will avoid you. But we are open things voter reg, rank choice voting, getting the vote out etc
We would be happy to chat with up and coming politicians who wanted to check us out. We did chat with some folks on Andrew Yangs campaign as well. They were on Slack at the time. still are but the as with most slack setups the site is pretty overloaded content wise.
What is your biggest challenge currently or the biggest you are likely to face in the future?
Probably getting people off what is good enough tech mentality. Moving from Slack to Discord to another platform is disruptive for some. And human nature is rooted in being rooted :)
So convincing people to try something new and move all their people and discussions to a new platform can be a challenge. I think we have a compelling story, product, team and roadmap and the application bridges makes it easy to try WeAct while still being on your current platform. The other is what was mentioned above - network effects and awareness ironically. Making the broader activist community aware this is a product and a company aligned with their needs and values Out there. Slack is owned by Salesforce. Discord is at its core focused on gaming.
Social media is just about eyeballs. They are not aligned with activism or volunteer networks. So getting people to see that and act that reality is both a challenge and an opportunity. I do think people are ready for something new bc what they have been using and how they have been using those platforms is not yielding the results they want or need imo. This is actually both very challenging and inspiring, and you guys seem to be prepared for upcoming challenges with your preparation, you seem to have a deep knowledge of activists problems. We are up for it.
What are you most excited about at WeAct right now? And how would you like people to remember you and WeAct?
I am most excited about learning how people use WeAct and really what WeAct can become on ICP. We have big plans for IC. Tokens, NFTs, in-app fundraising, online education, working with Learnd on activist modules, working with ToniqLabs on wallet, token and NFT tech. WeAct on ICP will be a DAO in the end.
We have coin offering planned and hired a token expert last month. A lite paper is being created with a full token economy. Yes the ecosystem is pretty stellar. It does need more developers though
So much to be excited about, so many things are happening for WeAct, seems like this AMA is happening at the perfect time to share everything that is coming.
We collectively have more ideas than hands to create them. It is good timing and if we can create the worlds first DAO activist platform I think we can finally make a dent in the causes many have been fighting for over the past 50 years. Global change management takes a global community that can work together, IC enables that. WeAct will leverage IC tech to make it happen
How would you like people to remember you and WeAct?
In the end we will measure WeAct's success (and mine I guess) by how many lives we positively impacted. And how much real change we made. Versus only how many DAUs (daily active users) we acquired. We don't want to acquire users. We want to enable change makers. Lots of them, globally. Also know we bootstrapped our way here so avoid selling out early.
Once we get WeAct ICP out we will also be working on a open internet messaging service for WeAct ICP and the community. Messaging with intent for workflows.
Interesting. How would that be different than OpenChat for example?
It would be more oriented towards message transport that would trigger business rules. So we need that in WeAct and WeDo. And I could envision CRM, ERP Customer Support ICP vendors needing it as well. But we have talked to the OpenChat team about having a version fo WeAct that use OC on the back end. So that could happen down the road as well.
What is the best way for the IC community to support WeAct?
Try the app. Create some groups that are public so people can join them. Share the download links with your networks. Get people thinking about who they are doing business with now. Do their values align with theirs. Or are they just a useful DAU for investors to track. And clearly discuss the implications of a DAO versus of WeAct where the community drives the platform. Around their needs, values and goals.
We also have a fledgling Telegram channel so hop on there to share ideas, connections anything. We will be in here every day as well so here or the WeAct channel is fine. https://t.me/WeActDev
Are there any questions that have not been asked yet that you think the IC community would benefit from hearing the answers?
This was pretty thorough. I think we are good. Thank you!
Please feel free to ping me on WeAct. Create a group and invite me.
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