Hello Web3 World
November 12th, 2021

My hope is to have the story of Developer DAO told through the voices of its many members from all over the globe. My version of the story is no more important than any other, but we’ve got to start somewhere. So, here it goes.

I’ve watched DAOs from the sidelines for years.

Happily, I missed the boat on “The DAO” - one of the first large-scale attempts to democratize governance over publicly invested funds. In 2016, this project failed spectacularly after a hacker drained the smart contract to the tune of $55 million. Long story short, this event spurred the heated debate that led to the community splitting into Ethereum and Ethereum Classic. For a time, DAO was a taboo acronym.

After some hard lessons were learned in public and enough time had passed, interest resumed. Along the way, I had a hunch that MakerDAO and Aragon were building important tech, and that MolochDAO and MetaCartel were on to something interesting, but were just one-off experiments by friends that could afford to lose a few cryptobucks.

I continued to watch with interest as art acquisition and curation DAOs sprouted up, and finally jumped in when SquiggleDAO came about. Art Blocks is a wonderful community and I believe Chromie Squiggles will hold a small, but important place in Internet history. However, my involvement started and ended there. Probably through no fault of the SquiggleDAO, I just didn’t see any opportunities to get involved that captured my interest, so I continue to root for them from the sidelines.

Meanwhile, DAO tooling continued to mature. Established Web3 companies, like Gitcoin, distributed their governance to a DAO. Friends With Benefits, a social club DAO, raised venture capital funding. Twitter never missed an opportunity to remind that DAOs would eat the world.

Call me dense, but I still couldn’t read the signs. It was clear that DAOs could generate value, but I still didn’t grok where I could play a role. And then, two months ago, that changed.

The “What”

Nader Dabit, best to known to me for JavaScript and AWS conference talks and blog content, live streamed his way through an Ethereum NFT deployment. There was a rough sketch of a game plan: the smart contract to be deployed was a derivative (read: clone) of dhof’s Loot project that had the NFT world abuzz.

Whereas each Loot NFT contained a list of gaming-inspired items (e.g., Leather Boots of Protection), Nader’s NFT contained a list of traits that a developer might have: a programming language, a text editor, an industry, and so on. While this is mildly interesting on its own, the important bit is that each of these NFTs was to signify membership in a community.

The pitch: anyone who mints one of these free (+ transaction fee) tokens would be a member of the Developer DAO. Anything created by the DAO would be collectively governed. Anything monetized by the DAO would end up in a treasury to be managed by members. All skill levels were welcome - we’d learn together along the way.

Finally, DAOs clicked for me in a very real way. There was beauty in the simplicity. I understood that I could put my experience in open source software and content creation to work, helping to level up developers, while building value in something I help govern.

Things moved quickly right out of the gate. Perfect strangers went about setting up a Discord server, creating a GitHub org and a Discourse forum, buying web and ENS domains, and spinning up websites for viewing developer traits, finding available tokens, and minting new ones. A dozen or so members volunteered to moderate the chat server and went about creating requested channels and helping onboard the first members. One team got right to work on a pixel avatar derivative NFT.

Derivative pixel avatars, a community project
Derivative pixel avatars, a community project

The “Why”

It quickly became clear that, as a community, we needed a common lens to evaluate how to focus our energy. Members were given a place to answer the question, “what brings you here?” Following a wide range of answers and discussions around them, we narrowed in on a set of repeating themes. The DAO had its first snapshot vote to ratify the founding mission, values, and goals of the organization.

The mission:

Developer DAO exists to accelerate the education and impact of a new wave of Web3 builders.

The values:

  • Transparency (open source everything, conversations in public, document and share the journey)
  • Diversity and Inclusion (seek to foster as diverse a membership as possible and support everyone to contribute)
  • Responsibility (as a self-governed community we rely on members to be personally responsible for their actions and commitments to the community)
  • Kindness and empathy (we know that we are living in a complex, stressful, and diverse world and go out of our way to make people’s lives and days better through our interactions)

The goals:

  • Onboard, educate, and support Web3 developers
  • Foster and build Web3 tools and public goods

Importantly, these aspirations revolve around building, learning, and sharing those lessons learned along the way. This is distinctly different from organizations that exist to maximize assets.

One thing that members of this DAO have been especially good at is learning in public. Technical channels in the chat server have a steady stream of questions and humble attempts to answer. “Aha” moments are celebrated and egos are surprisingly quiet.

I believe the tone was aptly set by Nader’s deployment of the NFT on day one: a live stream event, later described as “a bit of a YOLO launch,” where all were invited and it wrapped up just in time to get to another meeting.

There’s a couple of small blunders in the NFT metadata which feel charming now: an improperly escaped ampersand character, which causes OpenSea not to render the SVG, and the misspelling of São Paulo as one of the trait locations. While I grimaced when I first noticed these, I now appreciate them as reminders not to take ourselves too seriously and that a YOLO launch is sometimes way better than no launch.

The “How”

Having agreed on why we’ve gathered, the next step was to figure out how best to move forward. It turns out that a community with several thousand members needs a bit of organization if its going to achieve any goal.

What followed was a chaotic and occasionally overwhelming process of sifting through a steady barrage of suggestions from members, ranging from simple and straightforward to wildly ambitious. I believe the messy process of figuring out where we’re headed helped inspire a vision of the future that could be shaped by any one of us. Those with more crisp and actionable ideas, and the time to develop them, began to emerge as natural leaders.

In the end, some short-term next steps were distilled and those are contained in the DAO’s second governance vote to define what we hope to achieve by the end of the year. Borrowing from DAOs that have come before us, we’re calling this period “Season 0” and the broad idea is to organize membership into guilds, e.g., the Community Guild, the Design Guild, and so on. I’ve volunteered to head up the Writers Guild to kick things off; hopefully by this point in the post I haven’t convinced you that this was a mistake. More of the logistics can be found within the linked proposal.

The Future

At this point, you’re all caught up! It’s only been two months after all.

A wide and exciting range of events, open source tools, learning platforms, spinoffs, and acquisitions have been proposed by members. Ideally, the guild infrastructure will enable our great many creative and motivated members to get designing, hacking, and shipping many of these ideas into the world.

It’ll be an iterative process and there’s plenty left to figure out, but the future feels bright. And lucky us, you’re just in time! We’d love for you to jump in and help us figure this whole thing out.

Closing with Nader’s unassuming opening to the live streamed launch:

“Alright. So, we’re here for another unprompted stream, but I have something really cool that I want to do today that I think is going to be pretty interesting.”

So far, so good.

🤝 wagmi 🤝

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