The White Paper Trap

Published in Threats on Jan 15, 2022

White papers are great - I love reading them and I share the excitement with anyone who seeks to find such a paper when stumbling across a new project. It's what we do in the crypto space; it has become the norm.

What is often neglected is that writing & publishing papers often comes with disguised costs.

Before we get into, let's agree on a common definition for the purpose of a white paper:
"The purpose of a white paper is to promote a certain product, service, technology, or methodology, and to influence current and prospective customers' or investors' decisions." —

Societal Devaluation of White Papers

If you have read a lot of white papers in the crypto world, you have unavoidable noticed that there's a lot of garbage out there; this is by design and we crypto-people are the cause of it.

Broken down, white papers are only a medium for communication of information, not the information itself. Any medium like a website, wiki, or even social media can be the bearer of information if you are not truly in need of a white paper.

Fact is, most projects do not require scientific papers, but if we peer-pressure them via such standards, they will unintendedly produce papers of absolute trash, thus devaluing the term 'white paper' for all of us. A question we have to ask ourselves: Do we want to hold on to norms with these side effects?

White paper should only be produced with high intent and underly peer-review to ensure quality; not because we have made them a norm.

The Risk of Invalidation

We are fast learners. What we believe to be true today is often laughably ridiculous to our future selves, and that is especially true in a bleeding-edge space like blockchain. It's not only that we continue to acquire new wisdom that renders what we once were sure of obsolete, but also the blockchain itself continues to evolve and provides new functionalities that require fast adaptations. A white paper written a month ago can not account for any of that.

Great companies like Google, Apple & co. have not started out with a business plan or other future-predicting papers and there is a reason for that. Innovative solutions are built in a dynamic field, ideas get invalidated quickly & require you to find new solutions to problems that did not exist yesterday.

The Direct Cost

It takes an immense amount of time & therefore human resources to eloquently write, research, validate and maintain a top-notch quality paper. It's time that is subtracted from working on practical demos, prototypes and the envisioned solution (opportunity cost).

The Question of Usefulness

Our products are overly consumer-facing with the general consumer being the target audience. General consumers usually don't care about scientific papers. They consider them boring while they get their excitement from more frictionless sources like the landing page, social media, FAQs, ...

A Message to Investors

If you're an investor of any product I am involved in, I want you to know: Our interests are aligned. I, myself, and the teams behind want nothing more than for our creations to grow & succeed. We are working & learning night & day to bring the envisioned into reality; static papers are only holding us back.

I get that, as an investor, you seek clarity & validation of your investment, which is why we try to handle our work as transparent as possible through frequently sharing product updates, building our products in public (open-source), having public conversations, building wikis of frequently requested information, ...

We do not take the trust you have in us for granted & will do anything to strengthen it going forward.

About Academic-first Solutions

Cardano, an academic-first blockchain, is one of the projects I personally have a special interest in, but every time I use their products I feel the need to rush back to the simple & consumer-friendly Maiar-suite made by Elrond blockchain.

Cardano got drowned in their academics by bringing scientific approaches also into consumer-first applications. They unavoidably got aware of this and are now seeking to reduce friction for the general user who considers all of that confusing & boring. Or 'boring as hell' to quote them.

We are primarily building consumer-facing applications. Let's not do the same mistake.

To conclude:

  • Investors seek factual papers to rationalize their decision of investment
  • General consumers do not care about such papers
  • Our product's target audience is general consumers
  • By making general consumers happy (value exchange), we will also make investors happy (value appreciation)
  • When investors are happy, they do not seek white papers
  • So let's give investors what they really want: Happy consumers & the resulting effects

All of the above does not mean that there will never be a white paper by Freeiam or Superciety. We will continue to evaluate the situations and act accordingly. In our interest for your interests.