“In a world of composability, where anybody can build on top of you, your app is a protocol, and your protocol is an app,” said David Phelps, cofounder of jokerace, a governance contest platform for communities, in a recent X space hosted by Aragon. “We’re just very locked in these terms of app versus protocol, because that’s an old mental model that doesn’t really hold up in a world of composability.”
That’s the power of jokerace: composability. While jokerace might on the surface look like a different user interface for onchain governance, the power of jokerace is not only in the actions you can take within the app—it’s the actions you can take beyond the app onchain.
Jokerace is a platform for communities to make, execute, and record decisions. It’s a proto-app, as David has described it, because it is both consumer-facing with a frontend interface (the jokerace contest platform), and developer-facing with backend infrastructure or information (in this case, onchain data) that can be used by anyone.
That’s where DAOs—onchain organizations built on top of decentralized infrastructure—come in.
“You can actually have the results of a vote trigger an action onchain,” said David. “And because we’re fully onchain, it’s fully composable. As long as you can read the data, you can have that trigger an action.”
An onchain action is a task carried out on the blockchain after a proposal has passed, such as sending tokens to an address or interacting with an external smart contract. Onchain actions are core to how DAOs operate.
So, how can DAOs leverage jokeraces? A jokerace can be the decision-making layer and a DAO on Aragon can be the execution layer for a community.
For example, you could airdrop governance tokens to everyone who voted on a certain submission in a jokerace, or run a hackathon and reward great submissions with governance tokens, or even build a plugin that connects jokerace results with your Aragon DAO onchain.
Let’s dive into what you can do with jokerace contests and how you can combine them with actions in your Aragon DAO!
But first, what is a jokerace?
What is a jokerace?
Jokeraces are onchain contests centered around a specific topic. They allow communities to make, execute, and record decisions.
You create a contest, set the topic, and identify two allowlists: who can submit and who can vote. These two allowlists are levers you can play with to change the type of decision you’re making.
Let’s take a hackathon as an example. You would make the allowlist for submissions wide (any wallet, for example), because in a hackathon you want a lot of different submissions. And you would make the voters small (only a handful of wallets in your DAO), because it would be the jury deciding who wins the hackathon.
Now let’s look at DAO budgeting proposals. For this case, you would make the allowlist for submissions small, to just the core team putting forward proposals. But the allowlist for voters would be larger, because it could encompass an entire DAO approving or denying these proposals.
For an internal DAO election, you might make the submission and vote allowlists small, because you only want members of a certain guild in your DAO putting up submissions and voting on the proposal.
Here’s a visualization from the jokerace site that shows using the allowlist levers:
[Image: Visualization from the jokerace site]
After you set the allowlists, a time period for submissions opens up. If your wallet is on the allowlist, you can put forward submissions around specific topics. When the submission period ends, a voting period begins. Wallets then cast votes for the submission they want to win. At the end of the contest, you have a winning submission with an onchain record of every wallet that voted for them.
Now, we’re going to cover some ways that DAOs built on Aragon can use jokeraces to superpower their communities.
Find people you agree with (hello, airdrop!) and people you don’t (hello, fork!)
“As soon as a community gets to be over 100 people, maybe it should be forked, right?” David said on the X space. “Maybe you should then use all the data from these contests to say… this half of the community tends to all vote the same way, they all tend to have this shared preference.”
When you’re in a smaller community, it’s easier to interact directly with each other, bargain, and debate. So, you can use a jokerace to determine who those people are that should fork into smaller groups and a smaller community.
For example, maybe there’s a jokerace to decide on a mission statement for an organization. If there are competing mission statements that the DAO is divided on, you could use the Aragon App and Coinvise to create an airdrop to all the wallets that voted for the alternative mission statement, forking the original DAO and creating a new one with a shared goal.
You don’t need to go so far as to fork, either. If there is a contentious proposal, you could use it as a signal that you need to divide the organization into a few separate groups working on different ideas or goals. This creates competition between more tightly-aligned groups rather than everyone needing to be working toward a single direction.
“Cell division is just a really good way to look at this,” David said. “What we think of as multicellular is actually just a bunch of single cells choosing to coordinate with each other. They can break off into separate groups, but still coordinate effectively. And so you can have coordination all the way down.”
How to use jokerace to align your DAO into smaller groups around a shared interest/goal
1. Create a jokerace contest on an important topic for your DAO.
2. Set both the submission and voting allowlists to DAO members only.
3. Open the submission period and let DAO members submit their ideas.
4. Open the voting period. If two clear submissions are in contention (or three, or four….) these are your separate groups.
5. Collect the address for every wallet that voted on the submissions and group them in CSV files.
6. Create a new DAO on the Aragon App and assign governance tokens to each of those wallets that voted on one submission.
7. Repeat until you have created enough smaller groups that they can work together on a single mission!
Tokenless governance expands the landscape of possible ideas and onboards new members
Jokeraces are tokenless, meaning you don’t need to hold a governance token to put up a submission or vote. Instead, they use allowlists, which are lists of wallets that are authorized to participate in the contest. You set separate allowlists for submissions and for voting.
“You can use any sort of algorithm or formula you want to determine voting power,” said David. You could allowlist wallet addresses that have performed a certain onchain action, like used a protocol, minted an NFT, or interacted with a contract.
When we ran our jokerace to pick the next feature for the Aragon App, we allowed any wallet to submit a feature—no governance token required. This expands the possible landscape of ideas, because you don’t need to be opted into the community first. It opens the door for people who could become active DAO members later on to participate now, build reputation, and join the community after determining that it’s a good fit.
If you want to gate who can participate, you can add wallets to an allowlist based on any standard you want to set. For example, in our jokerace, we wanted wallets that had some experience using the Aragon App to choose what feature they wanted to see next on the App. So, we allowlisted wallets that had participated in a proposal on any chain on the Aragon App to vote on submissions. This meant that the net for submissions was wide, but only individuals that had used the App could actually vote on those submissions.
Tokenless governance can also help onboard new members into your community. Finding and buying a governance token to join a DAO can be a significant source of friction, especially for users not as familiar with decentralized exchanges and the risks of scams in web3. With a jokerace where you don’t need to own the token, the barrier to entry is significantly lower. Putting your idea forward is as simple as writing a great proposal.
“This should be the gateway for people to discover a community and give an idea in a space where no one knows who they are,” said David. People can “suddenly find themselves… “