Laying Off Your Community
Layoffs. An unfortunate but necessary part of the business lifecycle, especially in downturns.
What is a layoff? For the purposes of this piece, I like BetterUp’s definition:
Whether it is due to external market conditions, a failed business initiative, or a move to extend the runway of a company, this happens in many shapes and sizes:
Full-time employees: Amazon announcing the layoff of 9,000 additional employees in the coming weeks
Contractors or partners: Ending a relationship with a contractor or partner (eg: agency). Doesn’t quite fit the traditional definition of a layoff, but it involves a termination or conclusion of a contract.
Community: Wait a second? You can lay off your community?
I believe you can, but it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of what a layoff is and what they look like.
Over the past week, one of the more prominent communities in NFTs saw a lot of commotion: Doodles.
What happened and why?
Last Thursday, Doodles announced a Gold Sock initiative related to the Doodles 2 wearables collection. If collectors held all 12 types of socks, they qualified for a pair of gold socks.
PS: This reminds me of the NBA Top Shot challenges where users collect a set of moments to qualify for a reward. This feature has been a part of the NBA Top Shot ecosystem for over two years now, suggesting that it has had a positive impact on the product and business.
The reaction to the sock challenge was mixed. Some collectors excited at the prospect of receiving a scarce asset while others expected more from the team:
The excitement and disappointment migrated from Twitter into Discord for more detailed discussion and eventually resulted in the following message from Poopie, one of the founders.
The screenshot of this message spread like wildfire and became a headline across the NFT ecosystem.
Although the intention of the statement was good, the way it was interpreted was negative to many that read it. My interpretation as to why:
By no longer being an “NFT project”, Poopie gave the impression that the team was more focused on building Doodles the company and brand, instead of the NFT aspect, which is where the holders are today.
Not embracing the ‘build in public’ ethos suggests that communication with the community will be opaque and inconsistent. An example of a team on the other end of the spectrum is Luca Netz and his team at Pudgy Penguins. The team has a Youtube channel literally called Building In Public lol.
The statement that the team will not ‘spend any resources appeasing those with financial motivations’ rubbed some holders the wrong way as well. It’s hard to imagine that anyone involved in web3 is not in it for a least a little financial motivation. These aren’t Dollar Store jpegs.
Additionally, later in the evening Poopie replied to a holder to ‘floor it and gtfo’, which also went viral.
Without context (my speciality 😉), this looks terrible. With some context, it’s more understandable why Poopie responded the way he did:
The commotion reached a point where Poopie clarified his statements the day after.
How does one layoff your community?
As the Doodles news unfolded late last week, the floor price of Doodles has dropped from 4.26 ETH a day before the socks news to approximately 3.78 ETH at the time of this writing, a ~11% drop in ETH terms. It’s difficult to attribute this drop to to the events above, as many NFT collections have seen a similar or even larger drop without the attention.
However, holder count is more indicative of how this news has impacted the community.
In the same time period, holder count (defined by the number of wallets holding a Doodle) has dropped from 5,502 to 5,444, a 1% drop.
TPan, 1% drop? That’s nothing. How is this a layoff?!
Layoffs in the context of communities are dynamic as opposed to corporate layoffs. Employees that are let go aren’t replaced immediately.
In the world of NFTs, there is a buyer for every seller. Some of these buyers are existing holders, while others are new entrants to the community. The numbers might not look as drastic as a 9,000 employee haircut, but there is a constant rotation of who is a part of the community.
Although this ‘layoff’ wasn’t intentional like many corporate layoffs, the aftermath has parallels:
There is a temporary dip in morale
There may be more people that leave as an aftershock
The core team and employees continue to push forward with the organization’s mission and vision
In chart form:
Not a perfect comparison, but I believe there are strong parallels. Also, the ‘contract’ as a community member is a social one instead of a legal one for employees.
For a community like Doodles, the path to recovery is easier considering the company’s financing ($54M in September 2022) and stronger foundation of dedicated community members as a more established project.
For others, a Poopie situation like the above would be a nail in the coffin.
The beauty of these situations is the creativity and innovation that springs up like weeds after a rainy day. One notable example of this is with @EtanBoss and how he is turned the ‘floor it and gtfo’ into a meme in sticker form.
Instead of letting the ‘floor it and gtfo’ moment be a blemish in Doodles lore, Etan flipped it on its head as a moment of conviction held proudly by the community.
The team and community move forward. Negative moments like these test communities and the core team behind them. Not all make it, but those that do seem to come out the other side stronger.
Layoffs aren’t intentional but are sometimes necessary for a business to be healthier and move forward. Though it looks different, it seems that the same can be said with communities.
There’s a million reasons why any community and company can fail, especially in web3. And there is only so much a community can handle if there are too many negative moments in a span of time.
What’s next for Doodles in the near-term:
The formation of a community council, similar to what Cool Cats did several months ago
A revamped DoodleBank, the community treasury that currently holds $5M to fund community initiatives)
A community-funded Triwizzy tournament, a cross-community creative competition
And of course…time. Time heals all. Except our bags sometimes 😂
Shoutout to Jeff and JUMP’s weekly Friday Twitter Spaces. This is where I initially came up with the concept of Community Layoffs at 1:10:00.
Bitcoin Search Trends
Last week, when I wrote about the USDC depegging incident, I concluded the piece with a question about Bitcoin search interest.
Where are we at today with some more data? 👀
See you Thursday!
Eager to see what ends up happening with Doodles this year.
The only thing I might add was the hilarity that ensued with a couple of NFT projects spawning after the 'Not an NFT project' was said by Poopie, the most notable of which was this made by notpoopie.eth: https://opensea.io/collection/not-a-nft-project
They also made a site where you could mint a 'Not a sock machine': https://www.notanftproject.wtf/
One would think strong projects can deal with parody and jokes. I'll be curious to see how far the notannftproject goes.
Great title 👌