The Guild of the Rose Alpha was created to provide a formal community and development structure for rationalists. The Alpha was an experimented proof-of-concept that lasted several months. After close to half a year of work, the Guild launched a Beta aimed at both rationalists and non-rationalists. Over sixty people applied to join and the Beta has now run for over four months.
This article is the first in a sequence of four. This article details the structure of the Guild's courses, our business model, and our internal organization. The remainder of the sequence will take a retrospective look at our courses and end with a vision of what the Guild could someday become.
The Guild of the Rose is led by an eight-person Council. Council members are in charge of specific areas:
CEOs: Alex, Errol.
Community management: Raven, Devas, and Oscar.
Course design: Matt.
Long term strategy: David.
Technical resources: Gray.
Council members are generally available in Discord, although in practice, the three CMs field most questions from the wider Guild.
Cohorts are the Guild's secret sauce. They are groups of four to eight people who attend classes together and act as a cross between classmates and a study group or lab partners. Cohorts meet outside of class as well to discuss class content, game together, or whatever they want.
Cohorts are small enough to feel welcoming but large enough that there's almost always a few members at any given class session. One of the mistakes we made in the Alpha was grouping people in separate timezones together. Ideally, cohorts would all be in the same timezone, but due to our small size, that hasn't always been possible. Our new policy is to place people in the cohort with the closest timezone, and adjust as needed.
Another advantage of the cohort system is that it reduces both the frequency and severity of interpersonal conflict. While issues do still arise occasionally, they're often contained within the cohort. Cohorts elect a facilitator (a sort of TA/team leader) and are self-governing. This means that the Council only steps in when asked, a strategy designed to avoid the classic "moderator on a power trip" failure mode.
We currently have seven cohorts.
Much like traditional academic courses, Guild courses are a series of classes focused on a general topic or skill. The similarities end there, however. Guild courses are:
On nontraditional topics. The Guild has little interest in retreading well-covered ground. Historically, our courses have covered a variety of unusual subjects such as fashion, identifying cons, or applied Bayesian reasoning. Some proposed courses include Metalearning, Emotional Intelligence, and The Laws of Human Nature.
Community-led. Anyone can apply to become a Guild instructor. The Council ensures a minimum standard of quality, but we don't reject instructors for not have arbitrary credentials. We also allow the cohorts to choose which course is taught next.
Taught via a flipped classroom model. In a traditional setting, students attend a lecture and are assigned homework which they complete later. At the Guild, lectures are recorded and provided before the class session. Students are expected to watch the lecture and complete the homework. Class time is then a mix between "lab time" and "study group" where students discuss the homework and complete in-class exercises.
Online-first. The Guild is first and foremost an online organization. Digital space is much easier to experiment in than physical space, allowing us to be more responsive to the needs of our members. As a digital organization, we also have limited influence over our members' lives. This helps limit the potential for catastrophic failure. Yes, we have noticed the skulls.
Structure of a Course
Courses generally run for four to six weeks. Each class within the course is taught twice; one during the week and once on the weekend. This redundancy is to accomodate our international members' timezones.
The first ten to twenty minutes of a class are spent reviewing the lecture and homework. (Remember, in a Guild course, students watch the lecture and complete the homework before class time.) This period is also used to answer any questions and perform basic administrative tasks such as taking attendance.
After the review period, students are broken out into cohorts and given a group activity. These activities are specified ahead of time in the lecture, allowing members to prepare if they wish. Activities are frequently discussions, but we're experimenting with more hands-on exercises as well.
During the Beta so far, we've run three courses:
- Practical Decision-Making, which focused on system-2 conscious decision-making
- Quantified Self Assessment, which provided a series of tools to help students figure out what they didn't like about their lives
- Context and Communication, which provided a broad overview for communication as a discipline
We also have three upcoming courses:
- Practical Social Networking, which explains how to create a social network from scratch
- Personal Finance, which covers budgeting, investing, and other basic money-management techniques
- Metalearning, which teaches one how to learn faster
If any of these courses look interesting, consider joining the Guild or asking us a question. Future articles will also discuss all six courses in more detail.
Most companies are C Corporations, or "general for-profit corporations". C corporations are owned by shareholders, and their primary purpose is to make money. Legally, C corporations are not required to be socially or environmentally responsible. In particular, publicly owned C Corporations face an incentive gradient that encourages exploitation.
The popular alternative to a C Corporation is a nonprofit. There are dozens nonprofit variants, but they all share a single common condition: they don't pay out profits to their shareholders. This largely solves the incentive issues present in a C corporation, but it comes at a high price. Nonprofits have many restrictions on what kind of actions they can take. We felt that this was too heavy a burden given that the Guild of the Rose is already a small, "weird" project.
After considering several other corporation types, we settled on the B Corporation, also known as Public Benefit Corporations. A PBC strikes a balance between the extremes of a C Corporation and a nonprofit. The Guild is legally required to optimize for the wellbeing of all the people involved, not just a group of elite shareholders. Our expectation is that this will help curb some of the failure modes common in ambitious, idealistic projects.
The Guild's Alpha phase was free run, but the Beta requires a Guild subscription. We currently offer three tiers:
Seedling ($2/month). This is the basic subscription. It grants limited access to our Discord server (the hub of the Guild's community), as well as the right to attend Guild classes. Notably, it doesn't include access to a cohort. We currently have two Seedling subscribers.
Flower ($15/month). This is the standard subscription. It unlocks full access to our Discord server, as well as a cohort. We currently have 42 Flower subscriptions.
Rose Bush ($50/month). This is the highest subscription we offer. It's meant as a way to go above-and-beyond and these members are rewarded with direct access to the Council. In practice, the Council is pretty available, so it's not surprising that we only have a single Rose Bush subscriber.
In total, the Guild makes about $600/month after Patreon fees. These funds are re-invested into the Guild in the form of video editing, domain expert consultation, and infrastructure. The Guild is still a small project that's primarily a labor of love by a handful of passionate individuals.