It’s probably not a surprise to anyone paying attention that the reaction to the @proof_xyz team’s move to CC0 for their @moonbirds and @oddities_xyz properties has been pretty controversial. However, as I mentioned yesterday, the issue seems less with the CC0 move itself (which didn’t truthfully affect many people because there really aren’t that many licensing deals going around - for anyone, let alone MBs) and more with how things were communicated (or not communicated). While I am definitely one of the team’s biggest supporters (and I still am, and will continue to be - you aren’t getting rid of me that easily), that doesn’t mean that the team is perfect, or that there aren’t any valid critiques of PROOF out there or some of the decisions that have been made. So I want to start this off by saying that - I’m in this for the long term, and recent events haven’t changed that in the least.
At the same time, there is a way to convey these criticisms in a constructive way, and in a way that is construed as complaining or fud. We’ve seen enough of the latter lately, so I thought now would be a great time to approach it from the constructive angle - after all, I told you I am going to make sure I am as honest as possible with you all regarding my own thoughts on things. I may be one of PROOF’s biggest proponents, but believe it or not, I also don’t have blinders on. I’ve followed enough projects down into the depths that I’ve learned my lesson - so if you think I am giving anyone blind faith, that’s just not true (curse you Vechain).
As always, everything here is simply my opinion, but I’ve reached that opinion based off of what I am seeing and hearing within the community. I sincerely appreciate all of you who have reached out to me via DM, on Discord, etc., to let me know what you are thinking. It means a lot to me that you approach me with this stuff, and I hope I represent you well here. However, that doesn’t mean I speak for everyone - and maybe I simply got it wrong.
Keep in mind that I am also not necessarily saying that I agree with every angle of everything I mention in here - just that I do think it’s fair that these critiques exist. I’ll share some of the most valid critiques (in my opinion), as well as what I think could possibly help remedy the situation going forward, while scuttling some of the things that I don’t think really are any kind of issue.
In case you don’t feel like reading the book I typed out (and I recommend reading it if you are truly invested in this community), here is a summary below.
Hire a communications specialist full-time to be the liaison between the team and community, and form a volunteer advisory panel of invested community members (made up of artists, Collective members, Moonbird and Oddity holders) as a focus group for plans going forward
Clearly address where Pass/Moonbird/Oddities holders stand when it comes to future products and whether or not the main value accrual plan here is simply building the PROOF company out and hoping the proximity of the NFTs to the company helps accrue value; or if the plan is to build specifically and intentionally for the community going forward, always with the goal of returning value to Pass/Moonbird/Oddities holders as the main focus
Seed the DAO with ample funds from the team treasury to bootstrap it for the first year or two; redirect secondary sales of Moonbirds to the DAO to ensure it can function going forward
The biggest and fairest critique that the community has put out is the issue with communications (and the team has acknowledged this, and agreed). Whether it was regarding the @oddities_xyz reveal, the silver nest rewards, the move to CC0 or something else, there is definitely a disconnect somewhere between the message the team intends to send out and the message received from the community. While it’s easy to assume some kind of misinterpretation or mistake the first or second time it happens, once it continues to happen and becomes a theme, the criticisms become much more valid. I’m well on record in my time on Twitter as saying that communications is probably the most important aspect of any project in crypto (or even any project in general):
To give some context of the above tweet (the original tweets I responded to were deleted), IIRC I was addressing the fact that Yearn had a serious comms problem that constantly caused massive pumps (and dumps) just based off what the developer, Andre Cronje, felt like tweeting at the time. The “probably more valuable than some of the above” comment was referencing a tweet talking about them hiring engineers and other more technical positions. In my personal opinion, a good communication expert can often be one of the most valuable members of any team, returning similar if not more value than any engineer, product manager, etc. And that’s not a knock on any engineers or anything like that (I certainly don’t have their abilities), because without them nothing gets shipped. But what I mean is this - you can take the worst product with the best sales team and make it a huge success. But you can also take the best product with the worst sales team, and it’ll be a total disaster.
From the teaching perspective (that’s my wheelhouse), the number one skill a teacher needs to have is classroom management. It doesn’t matter if you’re a content expert if you can’t control your class or convey your message. This also taps into another issue that I have seen pop up in the community - people sometimes feel like the team is making rash, quick decisions. While we know that ultimately isn’t true, it can appear that way when there is never any word about anything prior to an announcement on Twitter.
Now, the term community manager in the above tweet was misused by me (I couldn’t think of the term at the time), and that is not what PROOF needs - they already have incredible ones. So what do I think could be the solution here? Simple - PROOF needs to hire a communications specialist (plural?) whose entire job is to take announcements and messages from the team, and put it into a format that the community at large can understand and digest. Similarly, they should take the concerns of the community, and make sure they get heard by the team. Someone to act as the bridge between the team and the community when it comes to messaging, to make sure the right message is getting out there.
In addition to this, the PROOF team should bring on some community advisors as a sort of focus group to bounce ideas off of (this doesn’t need to be a paid position obviously as I’m sure they can find volunteers). These advisors should have representatives from the Collective, from Moonbirds, artists within PROOF, and from Oddities. Ultimately, the goal here is to throw ideas and plans out to this group to get their honest feedback. If there is a concern about things leaking out, you can simply remove and replace people if it becomes an issue (the juice is worth the squeeze here). PROOF has continued to say that community is the most important thing - and this would show that they are listening. This would also address another issue I see pop up a lot, and that is the disconnect between what the community wants, and what the team thinks the community wants.
Honestly, I think this situation is a fairly simple fix - and it would be a benefit to both the team and the community. By hiring a communication specialist(s) and bringing in a group of volunteer advisors, the existing team would get to focus on the important stuff, the communications specialist can worry about packaging a message, and the community reps can make sure their opinions are heard.
There is an unbelievable amount of stuff going on in the PROOF ecosystem right now, and it seems like every day some new initiative is getting launched. Currently, we have Collective Passes, Grails I, II (and future grails), Moonbirds, Oddities (yearly), Ravens, Podcasts, PROOF Academy, Highrise, Deep Dives, Book Club, Media Arms, Conferences and Events, etc. While it’s awesome that there is so much going on all the time (especially for a content creator like me), it can make people wonder if the team is spread too thin, or what the team’s real mission here is. That’s why another issue I have seen come up is the question as to what role the Collective, Moonbirds, and Oddities will play in everything PROOF builds going forward - and whether they will play a central role to everything PROOF builds going forward.
There’s this weird situation in web3, and particularly in NFTs, where we are aware we aren’t purchasing equity in a company when we buy their NFT. But that doesn’t change or temper people’s expectations that when they hold a team’s NFT, the team is kind of expected to be “working for the holders” - and that means returning real value in one way or another, particularly in a space where community is often held in the highest regard. It may not be popular to say that out loud, but most of you are probably aware that that’s the truth, and I’d argue most people who ever buy an NFT do it with those reasons in mind. There has been a lot of chatter lately about whether the focus of PROOF is on building a media or tech company, or whether their focus is on returning value for their communities - and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s always possible that the team can have their cake and eat it, too (sometimes it is).
Along these lines, a question I have had myself that I would like to ask at some point is whether or not the team believes PROOF the company will fail if @moonbirds or @oddities_xyz fail. And I don’t mean will the company “fail” in the sense that “Oh, we failed our community.” I mean - do they think it’s possible for PROOF the company to survive as a successful business without Moonbirds/Oddities/Pass holders and the communities that hold them if there was a loss of trust and many holders sold off their assets and the community largely turned over or departed. The answer to that I think is really important to the community, as there is this expectation out there that everything PROOF does going forward will keep pass holders/moonbirds/oddities as the main focus, and that they will continue to return value to holders in that manner.
I get the impression sometimes that a lot of the talk about value accrual for the community (and their NFTs) is some secondary, tangential benefit by being part of the PROOF ecosystem, and as long as PROOF grows as a brand, then people will want to buy the NFTs we have. I’m pretty comfortable in speaking for a decent amount of the community here (and you let me know if I’m wrong) in saying that that is definitely not what people are expecting in terms of returns of value. That would just be an expected bonus on top of what the real expectations are - that the team keeps the existing community in mind, and keeps them central to everything they do. Now I’m not saying that all of these expectations are fair or right, but they are the expectations out there, with all the good and bad that comes with it.
So what’s the solution here? This one is fairly easy also - a clear message about what role Moonbirds and Oddities and Pass holders have in the PROOF ecosystem going forward. And I don’t mean a generality or something unclear like “a front row seat,” but a clear message that without Moonbirds, Oddities, Pass holders, etc, then the company can’t succeed - or a clear message that PROOF, the company, can succeed without us, and ultimately will be building things that don’t directly bring value back to the community. Just to give you an idea of the sentiment you can find out there - there are some people who are interpreting Kevin’s “front row seat to everything we build” comment as basically meaning early beta access to stuff only - and I feel fairly confident that if that was the main return for many holding PROOF NFTs, people would be pretty disappointed.
So once again, to clarify - are they building out the PROOF brand with the hopes that the NFTs gain value by association, or are they intentionally designing products specifically for our community, that other people outside the community get to use (as a secondary benefit). A clear message about that will help a lot of people figure out where they stand and what they should do with their assets.
Finally, the last thing I will touch on today is the upcoming formation of The Moonbird DAO. While at first I was concerned that the team would be handing off important aspects of the Moonbirds development/roadmap to the community, Kevin did clear that up and state that the DAO is going to be focused solely on things like deciding who can use the trademarks and contributing money towards to projects that help build the community.
However, there is an extremely important question here - how is the DAO getting funded? I believe @axueth asked Kevin in discord voice (sadly I don’t have a saved reference) when the news first dropped if the team would be planning on funding the DAO, and that he received the answer that they wouldn’t be, but that maybe in the future they would consider it. If this is the case (I could be remembering this incorrectly, so don’t hold me to it), then where will the DAO get the funds to start doing these things - specifically paying people to help build out the community?
In my own personal opinion, I don’t think asking Moonbirds, Oddities, or other PROOF holders to contribute to this new DAO is going to fly in light of recent events - not to mention, we are in a bear market, and the world macro is brutal as well. It also goes counter to what was mentioned previously a couple months ago in regards to opening up some channel in Discord where community members could pitch their ideas to the team and receive support and funding from the team to build the community.
I’ve often heard the argument that Moonbirds have returned great value to those who minted them - and that’s true - but every single day that passes, that argument holds less and less weight with every new entrant who buys a five figure NFT on secondary to join our community. Now of course the team doesn’t set the price - but it is what it is. I don’t think we can placate displeasure in the community anymore by saying “well the mint was 2.5, and people are up 2x.” To have new entrants come in, spend a lot of money buying on secondary, and then ask them for more money to fund a DAO when the amount the team raised is pretty well-known would be a little bit tone-deaf. I’m one of the biggest supporters of Moonbirds and the PROOF team out there, but I’m also a teacher on a teacher’s salary - I simply can’t (and won’t) be coughing up more money to fund a DAO.
The solution here is also fairly simple (there’s a theme here) - if the DAO is truly in the plans going forward, the team should seed the DAO with enough runway to support the community for quite some time to come. Then, they can even direct Moonbird secondary sales towards the DAO if they wanted and allow it to maintain itself once it gets started. But that initial seed capital is vital, and I personally don’t see the DAO being very successful if they are trying to raise money from the community that is already so heavily invested, and many who are down significant sums (but I’ve certainly been wrong before).
Once again, I may have some of my information above incorrect, so if I do, I apologize. However, this all goes back to the importance of hiring a dedicated communications specialist so that this type of confusion doesn’t even exist. I’m pretty plugged into the PROOF ecosystem obviously, so if I am confused, others certainly are.
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this newsletter, as I feel it was one of the most important ones I’ve written yet. I hope you don’t misconstrue any of my critiques as fud or as me losing faith - that is certainly not the case, and I’m here for the long haul. Instead, I hope I was able to do a decent job of taking some of the community concerns we’ve heard throughout the past few months and making them easier to understand. I know that PROOF is unequivocally the best team in crypto, and all of these things are just opportunities for us to make everything better for everyone.
That’s it for today (I’ve ran out of space) - I hope you have a great Sunday!