Out here at Neighborhood Zero, the last vestiges of the winter grasses are dying and the first sprouts of spring life are blooming forth. As if on queue with Cabin's transition of seasons, the bluebonnets, paintbrushes, buttercups, and coneflowers are bursting forth from the brown detritus of winter and declaring the arrival of spring. The timing is so perfect and the metaphor so clear that it feels like we should retire our seasonal numbering system and consider calling this next three months Spring instead of Season 3.
In my role as Caretaker, I spend my time dipping in and out of conversations and decisions across guilds within Cabin and across DAOs within the ecosystem. This gives me a broad aperture view of the landscape, and I intend to spend more time in the coming seasons distilling and sharing that view in ways that help contributors within Cabin and other DAOs with their work. Seasonal transitions provide a natural opportunity to look back and look forward, which we cover in this piece.
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When we proposed a theme for Season 2, we called it Multiplayer Mode: the transition from our proto-DAO residency program into an intentional set of programs for bringing groups together. Early in the season, we expanded this theme with our 2022 Roadmap, which charted a course towards our role as an Embassy for DAOs.
We've made tremendously fast and effective progress in achieving these goals — if anything, we have underestimated what we are collectively capable of. It's hard to believe it's been only six months since we became a DAO. Since then, we have:
Developed our brand as one of the top social DAOs operating in web3
Progressively decentralized into five guilds, each with strong leadership and contributors
Run a full slate of impactful retreats, residencies, and build weeks as part of our transition to Multiplayer Mode
Built out physical infrastructure at Node Zero and began the process of intentional node expansion
Published dozens of high-quality essays on creators.mirror.xyz and launched a podcast
Grown the breadth and depth of our virtual community via intentional onboarding, social clubs, and Guild Games
Been featured in the New Yorker as an example of the future of DAOs
Completed a token migration and treasury diversification to set ourselves up for long-term success
Looking back on our Season 2 goals and 2022 Roadmap, we seem to have underestimated ourselves in two ways:
The breadth of community activity that can be developed by a loosely coordinated group with a shared mission
The extent of interest in rapidly expanding the Cabin network to new nodes around the world
These strengths represent opportunities for how we think about the next season.
The thing we have most consistently underestimated is the extent to which our online community shows up and manifests ideas in unexpected ways. This seems to be the superpower of successful DAOs: breadth of exploration around the edges.
When we launched the original residency program, we completely underestimated how many contributors would show up in the discord interested to work on things other than the residency program. Before long, we had writers creating content, engineers building software products, designers making graphics and UX components, placemakers developing and hosting new IRL programs, architects building new physical structures, community builders organizing social clubs, and thousands of people showing up in our discord and manifesting their own roles in the community.
Nurturing and growing this ecosystem is how we will continue to thrive. It will become incredibly tempting, at this point, to start to form more hierarchical structures. We are becoming too big for the loose informality of a small group. The classic solution to this problem is having more process, rigidity, hierarchy, and standardization.
We should not be opposed to these solutions dogmatically, but because they will not help us accomplish our long-term goals. We need to learn to scale superlinearly by finding ways to get better with growth instead of worse. Centralization, in the abstract, is not a root evil — and decentralization is not an unequivocal good. We are carving trails into uncharted territory, and we must use the full set of tools in our knapsack to discern the ways in which we can build organizations that have the scaling principles of cities, ecosystems, and economies.
The powerful emerging coordination tools at our disposal have opened new doors in the idea maze of how to build resilient, complex organizations. But we need the humility of history to bring these new powers to fruition. We can find inspiration in unexpected places. Zakk gave me a copy of Jim Mattis' Call Sign Chaos recently, and reading it has opened my eyes to the ways in which the US military is much less hierarchical than often portrayed. Mattis explains that decentralized leadership is the key to winning battles in rapidly evolving circumstances. While our work is much more cooperative than combative, Mattis' leadership advice resonates with us: "aligned independence is based on a shared understanding of the why for the mission. This is the key to unleashing audacity."
He explains his principles of decentralized leadership:
The correct exercise of independent action requires a common understanding of both the mission and intent of what the mission is expected to accomplish.
Trust must be the coin of the realm. Guard rigorously against overcontrol, which is compounded by the seduction of immediate communication.
Instillation of personal initiative and risk taking doesn't spring forward spontaneously. It must be cultivated and rewarded in an organization's culture.
Be tolerant of mistakes. If risk takers are punished, then you will retain only the risk averse.
Bottom line: imbue a strong bias for action.
If we are to become the decentralized city we strive for, we need to collectively create a culture that allows us to get better as we scale by fractally embodying (and adapting) these principles. Building this level of common understanding, trust, risk taking, and bias for action, will require deep thinking and experimentation in our norms, governance, organizational structures, metrics, and reward mechanisms — all within the constraints of limited time and resources.
In our 2022 Roadmap, we outlined a plan to grow our role as the Embassy for DAOs, both online and at Node Zero. Simply put, we are ahead of schedule in accomplishing these goals:
We knew that the next priority beyond this roadmap would be expanding to more nodes, but we didn't expect to get there until 2023. Now, with clear progress towards our Embassy for DAOs, node expansion is on the horizon:
Other DAOs focused on developing IRL communities are starting to pop up and want to partner with us
Our rapid progress at Node Zero (including a fully booked Season 2) suggests a need for expansion
We are developing theoretical frameworks for how a decentralized city could function
The community has expressed a clear interest in tangible steps towards expanding the decentralized city
Developing these ideas and frameworks into practice will take time. Keeping with the principles of bias for action, risk taking, and a shared understanding of the mission, we should lean into the uncertainties and spend the next season building a clearer sense of how to turn node expansion into a protocol for our decentralized city. The good news is that we already embody these principles as a DAO, and the community has started running in the right direction. Planning exercises like this are a lagging indicator of progress across the edges:
We are already partnering with a little neighborhood of three distinct legal entities at Node Zero: Creator Cabins, Montanoso, and Girraween
We've begun the process of partnering with Montaia Basecamp on a new location in the Eastern Sierras
The new node pod within Placemakers has been tracking, interviewing, and building relationships with dozens of other organizations that could be future nodes
We've developed a framework for how token curated registries could form the basis of the decentralized city
We've shipped physical passport cards and NFTs that could form the basis for membership and identification across the network
Our next season should see continued progress in these directions, as well as other directions we haven't yet explored that contribute to the growth of the decentralized city.
Just as important as understanding our strengths and opportunities is understanding the risks and roadblocks that lie ahead of us. We should each think critically and independently about these, because risks can emerge in unexpected ways and are best identified at the edges of the network. Here are a few that keep me up at night:
Recruiting and retaining top talent
Proactively identifying and supporting strong contributors
Improving our continuous onboarding process
Evolving our compensation structures
Progressively decentralizing guilds
Empowering decentralized leaders
Improving our governance processes
Developing budget and metric protocols
Documenting to maintain legibility to newcomers
Designing on-chain organizational structures
Maintaining quality outcomes for end users
Balancing risk taking with rewarding success
Making outcomes more legible and celebrated
Maintaining high executional standards with scale
It is with a deep sense of joy and gratitude that I look back and forwards with you all. I have found no greater joy in life than discovering shared meaning with other humans, and this community has been a tour de force in bringing that joy. In just over a year, decentralized cities have gone from an abstract idea to a rolling snowball, gathering incredible momentum and direction. Now feels like a crucial moment for us to collectively shepherd this vision from its current state into a more tangible reality. Let's build.
[originally published April 22nd, 2022]