Nadia Eghbal

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I'm joining Protocol Labs

The past few years have generated a lot of interest, but also a lot of questions, about how our digital infrastructure gets made.

In today’s climate, we’ve seen that motif repeated not just in public software, but tech platforms, journalism, social media, and online content. We know shockingly little about how to structure incentives in our modern world, and current research doesn’t have much to say about today’s challenges. Open source software, because it’s so thoroughly documented, is a great way to understand these behavioral patterns.

While I’ve been eager to tackle these topics, it’s extremely rare to find paid research opportunities of this sort in tech. On the other hand, it turns out that thinking about these problems on my nights and weekends is a recipe for creative exhaustion.

Starting mid-May, I’m joining Protocol Labs to research and develop new economic models to describe how we produce software. I first reached out to Juan in 2015 after stumbling upon IPFS and thinking, “I can’t believe this is a real thing!” Since then, my respect for Juan and Protocol Labs has only grown.

Part of my excitement is not just the work I’ll be able to do, but in taking part in the grand experiment that is Protocol Labs itself. There are few companies who not only share my interest in solving hard problems with long timelines, but who structure their organization and funding model accordingly. I’m grateful to be able to develop my ideas in a forward-thinking environment aligned with my values.

To that end, I will also be a visiting Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School this year, which will give me extra space to collaborate and explore new ideas (and get out of San Francisco every once in awhile!).

My last day at GitHub is April 18th. Thanks to everyone who made my time there so memorable. Working at GitHub deepened my understanding of how developers work. It also gave me an appreciation for the challenges that come with balancing the needs of many different tribes: from massive scale projects to first-time developers, from Haskell to .NET, from game developers to cryptographers. GitHub has a huge responsibility to the world of open source software, and I feel lucky to have taken part in carrying that weight, if only for a brief time.

If you’re a researcher interested in economic incentives driving the production of digital goods, please get in touch on Twitter or email: I’m particularly excited to collaborate with others.

If you want to follow along with my work, I’ll be writing plenty. Sign up for email updates: