I’ve spent the night in New York City a few times, but turns out, you can’t really appreciate the immensity of the city from an anonymously decorated Google office. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a city boy anyway. Something about retiring to a beach to smoke and read sounds far more appealing to me than running around a shit-saturated sidewalk in leather wingtips only to get hit by a bike courier or have a heart attack before I’m 40. But, being the Culture H0Rs we purport to be, it was important to make the pilgrimage to the annual gathering for paradigm-shifting technologies: NFT.NYC.
Laying in bed on our last day of the trip, at the green, spry age of 27; my knees and back screaming ‘why don’t you walk more’ as I’d spent 2 full days hiking circles all over town; my head toward the cloud as I burned a trail of NFTs, social handles, and alpha, the hidden gems of IRL, I started writing this reflection.
Some of the trip was spent on trad tourist activities — sightseeing along the riverfronts, getting lost on the 1 train, illicit exchanges in multiple parks, hypebeast shopping, extortionate drinks, and, of course, several late night pizzas. But it was the steadily increasing flow of Bored Ape logo and Doodle stickers appearing on those streets as the conference progressed that signaled the real reason we’d arrived.
The palpable passion for these communities in real life. The sweat-drippling-close vibes of a Chainsmokers private show. The pseudo-intellectual conversations with the rare degen who actually understands the technology. The afterparty on a yacht. There was much to take home from our first foray into boots on the ground reporting, but none stuck with me more than discovering the secret cliques and subgroups simmering under the crypto DAOs and NFT collections of this online country club.
Our own @NFT_nom bought in early to Doodles, an NFT collection currently sitting just outside the Top 10 on OpenSea. Her foresight also bought me plus one access to a number of exclusive events hosted by both the Doodles team and the perhaps even more promising teams materializing within, the origins of which we discussed over the course of the week.
The House of Bandits, for example, is an emerging NFT community focused on the art and adventures of a Doodle hodler, who street writes under the name Bandit, and whose Doodle (#2691) wears, believe it or not, a bandana. He’s a minor celebrity within the community of Doodles hodlers, wielding his art to further mythologize the world the founding team created. But he’s now building his own community, too, focused around Bandit-designed merchandise and other collectibles, which I found firsthand to be an enormous hit amongst the Doodles crowd. And there are plans to expand to include a community of Bandidos uniting under a love of street art in both online and IRL environments.
Now, most of the utility described in their statements online is fairly vague from a layman’s perspective, but what has me so excited about this project are the people behind it. Among the Culture H0R NFT.NYC party at least, Bandit was the star of the show, and his brazen acts of tagging billboards and other locations across New York made for a pretty iconic photo. But I had the pleasure of meeting a handful of the other team members in person, and came away impressed as well. A senior lead from a luxury fashion house, a growth hacking community leader, and tight but rabid base of fans (who’ve already demonstrated strong engagement by participating in a citywide scavenger hunt for collectibles hidden around the city and hinted at via tweets) hint at a niche sure thing with skyscraping upside, if you ask me.
Follow along with their Twitter if you want some serious alpha. They’re reported to mint sometime in June/July, so either it drops now at the height of NFT.NYC or fizzles out and disappears into the dark corner of the annals of history reserved for cached crypto Twitter threads. Which brings me back to the aforementioned origins of these sorts of communities, as discussed with Nom over free shots of tequila at the Doodles clubhouse.
The crux of the conversation focused on Nom’s observation that, because these communities are so large, sub-communities, or more realistically cliques, are forming inside of them to facilitate the intimacy needed to develop such an affiliation with the brand. Now, some of this segmentation is facilitated by the team themselves, in moderated Discord channels and what not. But the majority of it, Nom told me, seems to occur organically, as people who had aped into the same project together discovered the other common interests they shared with groups of other NFT holders. In an average DAO, you get the day trading and NFT flipping crowd, the extremely online finance bros who get most of the crypto criticism thrown their way. But in general, like in real life, they represent a vocal but marginal segment of the community, with other groups forming around shared languages, identities, and who knows what else in insulated channels and outside chatrooms.
Now I can’t say whether or not a community made up of separate communities with a shared interest in a brand is super viable long term. I kind of doubt it, which sucks, considering my plus one status also bought me early access to the Doodles Genesis Box. (Meaning I’m now bought in on the community in practice, if not in theory.) But community members like Bandit have demonstrated the power of wielding community clout to launch their own projects. With a fan base already built in, these subgroups can afford to be more targeted in their roadmaps, filling smaller demands and solving specific issues rather than making big, empty gestures at the future of the internet without doing a thing about it. Perhaps, the unbundling of web3 has already begun.