NOUNS.WTF – A strong web3 project with a real focus on community

The Nouns DAO community has ticked many boxes to build a strong web3 project with community at its core. I’m really impressed with what the team has achieved so far. The Nouns founders have added a lot of value to their community members right from the beginning. Let’s look at how they’ve put the theory of building a community into practice.

To explain a few things to anyone new to the web3 space, here’s some additional info (skip the key terms section if you already understand the space well).

Because it’s important, I should stress that I do not own any Nouns (or derivatives of the Nouns projects) at time of writing this, and this is not financial advice. I’m an experienced community manager and community mentor, analysing this project for educational purposes.

Some key terms to know:

NFT: Non Fungible Token: Think of these as anything that is unique (e.g. art) and lives on the blockchain. These can provide a variety of utility to people, from proof the art is real, to tickets that provide you access to exclusive clubs or events.  

DAO: Decentralized Autonomous Organization: think of a community that is empowered to make decisions as a whole with no central body. I cover what a DAO is in further detail here. 

Generative art: art made using a predetermined system (you create rules that provide boundaries for the creation process. Then a computer follows those rules to produce new works on your behalf) – it often includes an element of chance.

Open source: anything people can modify & share because its design is publicly accessible.

About the Nouns Project (nouns.wtf)

  • The Nouns Project is a combination of NFTs (of generative art) and a DAO. 
  • The Nouns NFTs are generative pixel avatars based on people, places and things. 
  • The project is open source (meaning anyone can build on their project). Those who own the NFT belong to the Nouns community.

The Nouns DAO is the main governing body of Nouns. The community treasury (the money received from the Nouns Project – from purchases of Nouns NFTs for example) is managed by the DAO.

Clear messaging

It’s easy for anybody that’s new to their project to get on board to understand what they’re about. 

A project/company’s website is usually one of the first port of calls for anyone who is trying to learn more and figure out if this is the right community for them to join or participate in. 

When I go to the Nouns website, I am first shown a live auction taking place, which instantly sets themselves apart from a usual NFT or DAO website.

Scrolling further through their website, I can clearly read what this project is all about – and it doesn’t take me long to figure it all out. 

They have stated “one noun every day, forever” – this is very clear messaging. 

I’m starting to understand that it’s an auction, there is one noun that is auctioned every day forever. 

And then they’ve got a heading WTF, because that is literally what most people would be thinking, why would you generate an NFT every day forever? They then go on to explain what they’re trying to do.

They’ve anticipated what people would be thinking when they visit their site.

The language is also really personal. I feel I can truly understand the people behind the project, they want to be bold, they want to take risks, they want to attract the builders who can take the raw ingredients of the Nouns protocol, and turn them into applications that are ready to be consumed by the well. 

It’s a huge purpose. And there’s a huge mission here. 

This isn’t going to attract the quick flippers. 

They’ve been very specific about the right types of people that belong here. 

There’s plenty of information for people to understand more about the Nouns and it’s clearly organized. 

They’ve used Notion to organise their community resources docs, it’s really easy for anyone in the community to access these. 

Their messaging is very clear throughout their website, documentation and any other marketing.

Execution is key

Nouns is a very experimental project. 

So they go through and explain what compelled them to create this project (looking at the history of other web3 projects like Crypto punks), and what they’re trying to achieve.

They cover the history of what the founders had experienced in other web3 communities, what was important to them and what they’re looking to achieve in the future.

Their values are clearly listed out and it’s very clear throughout their website that these values are important to the Project. It’s constantly shown through the execution.

For example: the project mentioned how they are attempting to bootstrap identity, community, governance, and a treasury that can be used by the community. When I scroll to the top of the website I can see there is a community treasury and they have transparently included the total of funds available in the treasury in real time. And I can also see in their header that they have a DAO (this refers to governance & community), Discourse (a community forum for further community discussions) and docs for further information for their community members to get involved. 

The most important aspect is their website clearly shows me they aren’t just “all talk”, they are actually backing up the words used throughout their messaging with execution. 

If you’re building a community, keep this in mind: 

What are some of the key values that are really important to your project/ brand/ company? 

How are these values being reflected throughout your website – or the first place that new people would land to learn more about you?

It’s not just words on a website. 

If we go beyond words and deeper into the Nouns project itself, things become even more impressive.

With the Nouns project, they’ve literally built the Nouns protocol, which is a suite of smart contracts that generates and auctions these Nouns every day. Now, the protocol serves as an open standard for generative art, which is the Nouns. So all of this is telling me all right, that this is definitely experimental, but they’re actually experimenting, they’re actually doing it, they’re not just talking about doing it. 

And all this execution ties in strongly with their values. One of the values was the importance of having the project be open source. The Nouns artwork is in the public domain. 

And digging deeper, this is something that is actually important to a lot of people in the web3 space. So it’s also a sign to those in the industry that the founding team of the project are people that truly understand the industry and want to build  a better future. 

With this project, because the art was released under the public domain, it means that developers can build without restriction on the protocol at the smart contract, or application layer. So this means that people can build upon their project. That’s integral to the Web3 space –  encouraging things to get better and truly being an open project. 

Again, it’s not all talk because members of their community have actually gone ahead and built on their protocol to create derivative projects. 

The Nouns Project talks about the importance of the Nouns virtuous cycle, and this is where if you’re in the community space, it gets pretty interesting because this is THE DREAM for those of us in community. You want to create a cycle where you empower community members to bring value to the community, to make it better but all whilst staying true to the culture you are building. 

Nouns is an open source project and protocol, the code that creates Nouns, and critically, even the art is open source. So they put it back into the public domain, so that anyone can build on the artwork, just like they can build on the codebase.

Strong Brand

You can see that the actual NFT’s all have these glasses, and they’re instantly recognizable.

In fact, they’ve taken these glasses and put them on other characters and now unified other characters. Those that founded the Nouns are called Nounders, and you’re part of the Nounaverse. 

It’s generally super geeky, and it relates to people that are at the frontier of the Web3 space. They encourage the broader community to build upon their project. 

They are open rather than closed. This has resulted in some incredible derivative projects. 

Check out Nounebys (a play on Sotheby’s) where fine art pieces like the Mona Lisa have been magnified into the Noun Elisa!

The community also voted to create a derivative project called Lil Nouns, which is really about opening the Nounaverse to people who couldn’t afford the high price of Nouns. So think similar to Bored Ape Yacht Club and how they introduced the Mutants to expand the community. 

The brand is so strong that again, they have replicated the Nouns website, and they’ve really taken it to be their own, but still applying very strongly to the Nouns, branding and universe. 

You can see how they think about their project, it’s really different to other projects that would potentially be really upset if their project got copied and fought against duplicate projects. 

But this is different. This is like saying, well, if you build on our project, you are actually strengthening a brand.

The brand is so strong that again, they have replicated the Nouns website, and they’ve really taken it to be their own, but still applying very strongly to the Nouns, branding and universe. 

Transparency

The Nouns project is incredibly transparent. Their treasury is clearly included on their website for everyone to see!

The Nouns founders are clearly doxxed on their website (this means I can see exactly who is behind the project) – you can follow them on Twitter, you can understand more about their backgrounds and expertise.

The founders rewards themselves are cleverly tied to the success of the project itself. It just keeps showing me that people who truly care about the success of the project are here to stay and believe in the mission.

There’s no roadmap on their website. To get the roadmap, you go straight to the DAO, you look at all the proposals and the status of the proposals. That’s your roadmap. It’s incredibly transparent.

Provide Value To The Community

This is a principle I discuss with my clients (a lot) when mentoring them on building their own communities. 

Adding value to your community goes beyond telling the community how amazing your project or company is. 

Let’s take a look at the Nouns DAO. 

The DAO reflects their principles of empowering the community to determine future decisions. 

You can see all the community proposals here that are active and community members are voting on future projects like Nouns at Art Basel or if Nouns DAO should consider eSports potential partnerships. 

This may seem completely random to you if you are not part of their community. But for those within the community, they are discussing the future direction of the project and having a voice.

All of these proposals are potentially providing future value back to the project, its mission and the community as a whole. 

For community voting, they use Snapshot, a platform I have covered previously

What’s important to note about these community proposals is that if the majority of the community votes to go ahead, the DAO then funds the proposal and whoever has put the proposal forward receives VALUE. Not only do they receive a monetary sum (if required), but most importantly they receive the backing of the community to go ahead and proceed with their proposal. 

One example of a Nouns community proposal that went ahead was Gnars. One of the Nouns community members was passionate about finding a new way to fund extreme athletes, and wanted to use the Nouns open source code to go ahead with their mission to rethink how extreme sports people get sponsored.

The community voted to move ahead with the proposal, and Gnars, the “Stewards of Nouns Athletes” was born.

You can see REAL athletes who have been sponsored by Gnars, where 75eth was raised in funds.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? 

Now, of course, whether this will be successful or not in the long term is unknown. But remember, the founders have said that all of this is experimental. They’re at the frontier of web3 and pushing for a different way of doing things. 

What’s important to note is they are actively providing as much value to their community as possible. 

Whatever they’ve said that they’re going to be doing on the website, you can see it actually taking place in the real world.

They welcome the community to build upon their vision, they’re not centralizing it.

The founders are not controlling the project all within the Noun founding team. They are championing for community members to build upon their work.

I’m here for it. 

The Nouns project has set clear boundaries (and even then, encourages their members to push the limits as that is part of their culture). 

There is this openness in the community and a push for innovation and creativity – values that have been mentioned to be important to the cause.

You want to see how many people and projects are part of this Noun community? Well they have included it all in the Noun Center.

This is adding value to the community – check out that portfolio of derivative projects!

Discord Server Security: High

Now, when I went to take a look at the Nouns Discord, what I first noticed was how tight they are on security. 

We all know how Discord servers are getting hacked, they’re getting spammed and generally bad players trying to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) into the minds of others. 

What I noticed was the Nouns founders were actually well ahead of the curve. 

They took security seriously from late last year – looking to restrict bot accounts joining their server in order to reduce spam.

They prioritized protecting their members, putting their members first both in terms of general security and the overall community experience.

Those that didn’t go ahead and pass the newly created Captcha challenge lost access to channels until they did. 

I really want to highlight the importance of ensuring a great experience for your community – especially for newcomers who enter a Discord trying to figure everything out. 

It’s worth taking the time to evaluate how you can ensure the security and optimal community experience for your members can be attained.

I’ve deep dived into their announcements channel (check out at the 14:45 mark) to discuss key learnings (many projects and companies seem to misunderstand how to use the announcements channel –  an incredibly important way to communicate with your community).

Acknowledge members’ contributions

The Nouns project gave acknowledgement to the community members.

In their Discord, they created a new role “prop builders” to commemorate builders who have gone through the proposal process and are actively building. 

The founders mentioned how important the prop builders are to the culture and the future of the project. They say  “Nouns are a pro builder culture, one that prioritizes builders, who through their art, show us what is possible. Thank you for your vision, enthusiasm and hard work.”

Do not underestimate the power of acknowledging and recognizing your community members.

Final Words

So as you may be able to tell by now (and congratulations if you made it to the end of this very long blog post!) – I’m a fan of the Nouns community and what they have built so far. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on the Nouns project and whether you have experience of being part of their community.

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