How to Use a jokerace to Superpower your DAO on the Aragon App

This piece was written by Samantha Marin at Aragon, a modular and adaptable DAO framework. We loved the piece so much we asked if we could republish it; you can find the original here.


“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:

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. 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 part of a community that actually really appreciates their ideas.”

How to onboard new DAO members and find exciting ideas using a jokerace

  1. Create a new contest with a topic meaningful to your DAO’s purpose on JokeRace. It could also be a “call for new members” topic, where new members write a brief bio and why they want to join the organization.

  2. Set the submission allowlist to be permissionless, or open to any wallet. Set the voting allowlist to be DAO members only.

  3. Open the submission period and see what comes in.

  4. Open the voting period to DAO members, so they can choose a winning idea.

  5. Create a proposal in the Aragon App to mint governance tokens to the wallet that created the winning submission (or the top 3 or 5, to expand to more people).

  6. Send the new members the link to your DAO on the Aragon App and welcome them into your organization!

Develop an onchain reputation you can take with you anywhere

Another topic David touched on is that you can use jokeraces to develop an onchain reputation that you can take anywhere.

“If you do a hackathon for us, and Vitalik votes for you, you have an onchain attestation that you carry forever,” he said. That onchain vote is something you could use in a job interview or governance proposal.

As a DAO member, participating in jokeraces can build your reputation within the organization. If you put forward a submission that many DAO members vote on, you can use that as an onchain attestation that your ideas are valued within the community. You could use this as an example if you’re running for a position within the DAO.

Hackathons are a great way to develop that reputation. Your DAO could run a hackathon with submissions open to any wallet, and a small jury of DAO members with expertise on the topic votes on the winners.

How to use a jokerace to run a hackathon for your DAO

  1. Create an open contest under your preferred topic. For example, “Build a custom frontend for our DAO” or “Write an article about an event our DAO attended.”

  2. Set the submission allowlist to permissionless, or any wallet. Set the voting allowlist to a small jury of DAO members with expertise on the topic.

  3. Open the submission period and see what comes in.

  4. Open the voting period. A jury of DAO members votes on the winner.

  5. The winner is rewarded with a token prize through the jokerace platform

  6. Bonus step: Create a proposal in the Aragon App to mint more governance tokens and assign them to the winner so they can join your DAO!

Increase voter participation with rewards

Jokeraces are also a fun version of traditional DAO governance, with the option to program in rewards to winners, proposers, and voters.

“You'll often see the exact same product emerge in both a serious version and a silly version, even though it's exactly the same thing,” David said. He gave an example made by Peter Pan of Eventbrite vs. Partiful, and Google Forms vs. Type forms. They’re products that do essentially the same thing, but that serve different purposes and communities because one feels more serious and one more fun. “We're trying to lean on the fun side of a lot of the governance primitives,” he said.

One mechanism to increase voter participation is using the reward system in jokeraces. You can program in rewards for all voters, or for voters who vote for the winning submission, or for another parameter you decide on. This can incentivize voters to participate, even if it’s a very small amount of tokens. It can also be used to reimburse voters for the gas fees used to cast their vote.

How to use rewards to increase voter participation in your DAO

  1. Create a contest on jokerace. Set parameters to give a token reward to both the winning submission and every wallet that cast a vote.

  2. Set both the submission allowlist and the voting allowlist to DAO members only.

  3. Open submissions for DAO members to add their proposals.

  4. Open voting for DAO members to vote on their favorite proposals.

  5. Reward the winning submission and every wallet that voted with tokens.

  6. Bonus: if an onchain action was voted in, create a proposal in your DAO in the Aragon App to execute the action.

Expand your imagination with jokeraces

Traditional web2 apps tell you what to do: tap here to “like,” tap here to find more friends. Proto-apps are different because they don’t just tell you what to do: they expand your imagination for what you can do.

David gives Chat-GPT as an example of a proto-app. He writes that it’s a gateway to the internet in a way we’ve never seen before. This expands our imagination for what can be done on the internet, as we’ve seen with all the new use cases and plugins available. Similarly, jokerace is a gateway to the blockchain that opens up tons of new possibilities for how to use that data.

And when jokerace decision-making is layered with onchain execution, such as through your DAO built on Aragon, your options are infinite.

If you’re a developer, you could build a plugin to connect the results of your jokerace with your Aragon DAO onchain!

Aragon plugin ideas to integrate jokeraces directly into your DAO

  • What if every time a new wallet creates a winning submission for a jokerace run by your DAO, governance tokens are assigned to their wallet so they can join your DAO?

  • What if actions voted in via a jokerace are automatically created as onchain proposals in your DAO?

  • What if voting wallets are rewarded with more tokens, rewarding the most active participants in governance with more governance power?

  • Or something else?

Dive into our developer portal to get started.

Ready to get started experimenting with governance onchain?

Get started by launching a DAO on the Aragon App today!

And start your jokerace here.

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