December 9, 2021
The Language of Cardano
A few months ago we began cataloging the Cardano ecosystem. Our ambition was not just to provide the curious minds of the world with a simple database of the projects being built on Cardano, it was to build the groundwork for a resource of the future. A resource where a user can always come and plot their own intrepid course of discovery through the Cardano ecosystem in as safe an environment as is possible.
It’s not that we thought this task might be easy, but we soon discovered that the goal we set out toward was a very ambitious one because, by its very nature, a decentralized network has few rules governing its organization. This makes such a beast a challenge to catalogue in humanities desired coherent and easily navigable way.
As human beings we naturally turned to words as our tool for cataloguing the ecosystem. We used words to help us apply logic and organization to an ecosystem that we found scattered throughout the ether. We found that a basic structure of terms defining the different elements of the Cardano ecosystem already existed in both the wider crypto-verse and in the Cardano community itself.
How Words are Used
The natural process of making sense of the Cardano world around us using words was already well underway before our inception, and we used this existing crowd wisdom and the community driven terminology to build a framework in which to organize and present the decentralized world we were sifting through and trying to make sense of.
It was easy to recognize that the language being used to define and organize Cardano created a two tier system. The highest tier is that of Industry, where people talk and relate to parts of the ecosystem on a general level. The second tier is that of a more unique language, which we gave the title of Tags. These are used to speak of more specific elements of an industry or a feature present in the ecosystem, used without being confined to only being used in an individual industry.
These two levels of terms provided the framework for the language of Cardano that has evolved as our organizing of the ecosystem has evolved. When these terms are applied to a search function through a user interface, i.e. Built on Cardano, they provide an intuitive and easy way for someone to search and refine the contents of the Cardano ecosystem. There are, however, other results of this organization besides facilitating a more intuitive exploration of the Cardano ecosystem.
Note: all of the images shown below are live and interactive. Just head to Built on Cardano and our Language page to use them yourself!
The Result of Organization?
The result, after cataloguing over 270 projects, submitted by both ourselves and community members, is a primitively evolved landscape of interconnecting terms. When viewed from the side and vertically organized, with industries held above tags, these words form quite neatly organized stacks of terms that represent the framework and structure we discussed above; which, after all, was a part of our goal.
If, however, we view these terms from a different perspective, let’s call it “taking a bird’s eye view”, and place all the terms on a single level, then we find a different and more complex web of connections forming that tells a different story of the language used to describe Cardano. This complex web can be broken down and we can remove individual terms and view their connections to the other terms used in Cardano. If we look at the term DeFi:
Here we find 68 terms relating to the industry of Defi, ranging from DEX, to auction, to SDK. Each of these then has its own connections that range far and wide across the ecosystem in their own standalone webs.
This form of data representation can tell a different story to each person, depending on what angle they’re coming at it from. If you’re looking to see where the Cardano ecosystem is strong and well flushed out you can find that here. If you’re looking to find a weak, or under-developed part of the Cardano ecosystem you can find it here too.
Language Diversity and a Language Evolution Process
The crypto-verse is maturing and the Cardano ecosystem, as its own microcosm of that wider world of crypto, is evolving along with it. In this young world burgeoning with creativity and development we find new terminologies which, on multiple occasions, are describing the same thing.
Who are we to choose how one should describe a certain functionality? If we chose one ourselves, are we doing the community an injustice? We could skew searches and could maybe misrepresent the ecosystem to people. On the other hand, you could argue that using three different terms to describe the same thing is misrepresentation. Or is it a representation of the diversity of the way those building in the ecosystem are thinking?
There are many ecosystem maps out there that users can view and use to help them get an overview of the whole Cardano ecosystem, we have our own interactive ecosystem map here. These maps group projects by what we earlier defined as our "level 1" Industries to provide an overview of the whole ecosystem. But they don’t give the whole picture. Using our languages and tags we created another interactive tool through which you can browse different terms used across the ecosystem. Here is DeFi presented through this tool:
Of the ecosystem that we have currently catalogued 18% of it is categorized under DeFi. We can also see that 40% of these projects are tagged with the term “DEX” and 18% of them with the term “lending”. This gives us a more intimate look at the defi ecosystem on Cardano, and, because people can’t resist a logo-ed representation, we’ve included clickable logos too!
But you’ve gotta go to the page to click ‘em ;)
We don’t pretend to have cataloged the whole ecosystem. Such a claim about a fast growing, decentralized ecosystem would be naive at best. We do, however, hope that we have done a satisfactory enough job to warrant your attention.
We’ve called this representation of the ecosystem Measuring Mass and measuring the mass of different parts of the ecosystem allows people to weigh different elements of Cardano against each other; for whatever purpose they desire!
Some terms may be used by many projects in their marketing speak, but, when these words and their use are properly scrutinized, how many projects still use them? A good example might be the term interactive.
We’re dealing with a virtual world when we talk about Cardano, so it could be said that every part of the ecosystem is “interactive” in some sense; We have used it three times in this post to describe the tools which we provide for viewing the community. But would that, and those features, warrant Built on Cardano being labeled interactive? Probably not.
So, with terms like interactive, if we remove the broad sense of the term that is often used in marketing materials to maybe advertise a project’s “liveliness”, what do we get? Turns out to be two NFT projects (so far), that represent less than 1% of the ecosystem.
This view of the language of Cardano has the ability to make us question how people describe themselves and their projects. A lot of material that we read in this space exists to sell us something. This means a skewed, generally or loosely applied use of terminology to try and jam a narrative or product in-between our brain’s synapses. In our efforts to use words to organize the Cardano ecosystem we aimed to remove this obfuscated and marketing use of language, see our content guidelines, and present projects for what they are, not what they pretend to be on marketing banners.
What to take from “The Language of Cardano”?
Whatever you want.
These language based tools provide a different way of looking at the Cardano ecosystem and have arisen from our first attempt at cataloguing the ecosystem. As we and the ecosystem evolve and become more sophisticated then, undoubtedly, so will the language that we and others use to search the ecosystem.
Our task, now and into the future, is to continue along our current trajectory. To continue cataloguing the evolving language of Cardano as it grows and changes with the growth and maturation of the community and the blockchain. This means continuing to add to our catalogue of projects and related content, whilst evolving and updating our existing listings and terms so that they are as relevant and as useful as it is possible to be.
As we cast a wider net and add in more project pages we inherently must apply more time to ensuring our existing content is up-to-date. If you have a desire to contribute or have an egregious error to point out then please contact us. We have more supplemental tools in the pipeline for users to help with understanding the Cardano universe, and the projects building upon it. So keep your eyeballs peeled and pointed over in this vicinity as things will start coming your way soon!