My First Web3 Communities Doctor Who-World’s Apart, The Bald Jesus Collective, and The Pixel Vault Founder’s Dao (PVFD)
This article first appeared in Vagobond Magazine Issue 7 which can be purchased as a readable NFT on Opensea
The first Web3 community I became deeply involved in was Doctor Who World’s Apart. I expected this to be my forever community, and to some extent – I suppose it still is but a series of delays, mis-steps, and falling asset prices caused several of the good friends I’d made in this community to step away and then – when I launched the Bald Jesus Project and joined the Pixel Vault Founder’s Dao by burning my Punks Comic #1 to get a PVFD token – my attention became too spread out and frankly I became a less valuable community member in all three of them. Still, I think these three communities together form an interesting picture of the beginnings of this idea of Web3 community – they are all ‘early’ though there were plenty of project communities that came before them. The reason I’ve chosen to focus on these three is because
1) they all began on different chains in different ways with different goals
2) I’m intimately connected with all of them
3) They were early enough to be innovators and free from the monetary-mania that many later communities formed under – but of course, they all took part in that as well
4) They all still exist.
I took a deep dive into cryptocurrency in 2017 and suffered through the bear market of 2018-2020. I’ve never been a sports guy so I had no interest in Top Shot (NFT basketball video sports cards) and although I’d seen Crypto Punks in 2017, I never took the time to understand why artwork on chain might be something valuable.
I’ve always been a geek though and a fan of Doctor Who so in late 2020 when I saw that a blockchain company was developing an NFT game around Doctor Who, I was instantly interested. The idea of video game players being able to own (and resell) assets was instantly attractive to me. I’d played and collected Magic the Gathering and Pokemon so a blockchain trading card game around a major franchise seemed like a no-brainer to me. At this point, I wasn’t even clear on what an NFT was although I knew it was a digital asset that allowed unique ownership – and that was enough. I bought a Founder’s Token for the game (which I think was around $500), a huge investment for me at the time and I began collecting cards and getting excited for the coming game.
In order to understand the game better, I joined the project’s Discord server. Very quickly, I became friends with a large number of the other Founder Token holders based on our shared interest in Doctor Who, blockchain, crypto, and gaming. The project developers included us in brainstorming, clued us in to new developments well ahead of letting the public know, and rewarded us generously for our early believer investment. In addition to sharing information on the game itself, we all shared our paths as we learned about blockchain, bought into new projects, and made or lost money in investing, scams, airdrops, and much more. It became obvious pretty quickly that we were all gamblers to some extent – some better than others and some with more addiction issues than others. We cheered each other on, we shared new finds, and we truly became a sort of family.
It was in this community that I decided to develop NFT projects. This was also the community I posted in when I made my next big risky investment and my first ETH NFT purchase – I minted two Punks Comic #1 from Pixel Vault. A friend had recommended it based on the art, the artists, and the idea that they were going to do some innovative things that went beyond publishing the first comic on blockchain. They were going to give ownership of the assets in a vault to the holders of the comics. It was revolutionary since the vault held millions of dollars worth of Crypto Punks. Punks Comic got off to a slow start and while I didn’t sell (it was still minting and no one seemed to be buying) I decided (to my chagrin) that ETH NFTs were a waste of money and ignored the advice of the same friend who told me I should buy a Bored Ape at around .25 ETH. Doctor Who World’s Apart built their own side-chain where they had a marketplace, future gameplay, packs, and more.
I built my first project on WAX. The WAX blockchain had an amazing number of games and a non-stop flow of art, artists, projects, and fun. I’d already created several assets on ETH and found it expensive in terms of gas. Since I hadn’t sold any of my ETH art, I liked the cheap WAX blockchain much better because it gave so much more functionality without having to pay $20-$100 for every transaction.
Using a domain I’d bought because it made me lol I launched BaldJesus.com. I hand drew several Bald Jesus figures and created WAX NFTs of them, a website, a Twitter account, and a Discord server. I let my friends in the DWWA server know about it and several of them encouraged me and offered to help if I wanted it. Some of them joined the Bald Jesus Collective Discord and I entered my second Web3 Community – one that I had created.
Bald Jesus was an instant hit. We quickly grew to around three hundred people with the idea that anyone could draw a Bald Jesus and that was the cost of membership into the community – no matter how good or bad, just draw a Bald Jesus and let us publish it as an NFT. Together we created more than a hundred different ‘BJs’ and even three different ‘packs’ of BJs. We had contests, I was invited onto podcasts, a Twitter rapper included Bald Jesus in a battle rap – it was fun. WAX is cheap and we weren’t making money, but we were selling most of our releases and making $5-$10 a month which more than covered mint costs. Mostly, it was just fun.
I’m not sure where I lost the community – things were heating up in the ETH NFT market and people were making (and losing) a lot of money. You only had to be there to take part. Big money drew big projects, big scams, and a whole different kind of person. Bots began playing a bigger and bigger role in every part of NFTs. Trust disappeared as scammers began stealing more money than most people will ever see. My goal for the project started to turn towards creating a Bald Jesus ETH project (Bald Jesus Drinking Club), making Bald Jesus into a completely ridiculous cult, and less about just being silly and making art. I took a month long trip during Summer of 2021 during which I tried to clear my head of all the NFT stuff and when I returned – the server was largely dead. The attention span of my community had gone to where the excitement was and we never recovered. Eventually, I moved the BJC community to my personal discord – it’s still there, a lot of the OG members are still there and active – but it has never been the same.
Around this time, I became more active in the Punks Comic (Pixel Vault) Discord. Eventually, they gave us the opportunity to ‘burn’ a Punks Comic #1 for a Pixel Vault Founder’s Dao token made by the artist Fvckrender. I went for it. There were 5900/10,000 Punks Comic #1s burned. Owning a PVFD gave us access to an exclusive channel on the Pixel Vault Discord, inside information on the many developments of the project, and access to the founders. Where the DWWA discord was a group of people who shared a love of gaming and Doctor Who, the PVFD was – from the start, much more focused on making money, sharing ‘alpha’, and pumping both Pixel Vault and other projects we collectively decided to invest in. I want to be clear, we didn’t operate as a pump and dump or organize pumps – but since we all aped in together, there was definitely a PVFD effect on projects we decided we liked. For most of the slightly more than a year it has existed PVFD has been more of a degen alpha group than anything else – this was especially true when our most notorious member ‘Beanie’ was active in both Pixel Vault and the PVFD. PVFD members tended to be people that it was easy for me to think of as wearing grey suits – bankers, pilots, lawyers (so many lawyers), people that worked for Twitter of Facebook, hedgefund people, pharmacists, doctors. And while they may have been gamers, art lovers, or people who loved the tech – I think that those hats largely came after the words professional and investor.
Don’t get me wrong. We shared our personal projects, looked out for each other, and in many cases met up and became friends in the real world. Over time Pixel Vault gradually introduced tools for decentralized governance, community control, and an independence that would make us seperate but (almost) equal to Pixel Vault itself. What didn’t come about was something that had led many of us to invest in the first place – actual ownership of the Pixel Vault company. The PVFD is a really interesting community filled with some of the smartest people in blockchain/crypto/NFTs/Web3 space – we like to joke that nobody can fud our bags more than we do ourselves. A big part of that is because of the iterative nature of a company like Pixel Vault. PV is being built on the fly through an iterative process that has created a lot of assets (too many) and also had to deal with some major issues like affiliation with Beanie. In terms of governance and organization, I’m not sure there is any Web3 Community that has advanced as far as the Pixel Vault Founder’s Dao has towards becoming a truly decentralized and community controlled organization. With every step of the way being compliant with regulatory government and financial conditions, PVFD has sometimes moved at what felt like a glacial pace – but looking back, things have happened much faster than it seemed.
So where are these Web3 Communities today?
Doctor Who, World’s Apart is still a vibrant and active community. We are still patiently waiting for the public release of the game. Much of the initial Founder Token community is still there and now that ETH NFTs are cooling off – many of us are finding our way back there. Do we own the project? No. Do we own the server? No. Are we decentralized? No. Do we get rewarded for participation or membership? Yes and no because the value of the assets have dropped so significantly.
The Bald Jesus Collective now exists as a couple of channels on my Vagobond server. BJC members are still some of the most active members on my Discord but the truth is, there has been very little focus on the community we once were and it has been quite a while since anyone asked to join by making a new BJ piece of art. As for Bald Jesus, I created the ETH project, I wrote the Holy Bjble for the silly religion, I’ve been living it and sharing it for almost a year now, and I even created an LLC (Bald Jesus Cult) and a DAO forthe Bald Jesus Collective – but the truth is, there is almost zero traction. Bald Jesus Drinking
Club is still minting after a year. Is it decentralized? No, largely because there just isn’t a community around it who cares enough to take responsibility for it so it is pretty heavily centralized on me.
Pixel Vault Founder’s Dao is still fudding itself and still coming closer each day to the model for what a professional, regulated, and legally compiant Web3 Community should be. We are governing our selves, hold our own assets collectively, and are working on building our own projects out of our community. It’s a very serious kind of business – perhaps a bit too serious for me. Is it decentralized? Sort of. Pixel Vault still owns a huge stake and there are a number of whale stakeholders who alsocontrol a large number of votes. My single vote is easily cancelled by any number of large holders but my voice is still heard. As far as rewards for participation or owning the project – asset prices have many holders swimming in the toilet and the many rewards simply don’t cover that. It still feels very much like Pixel Vault could wipe this project out of existance if a government told them to do so which doesn’t feel very decentralized to me.
Still, I love my DWWA, BJC, and PVFD fams and I’m not going anywhere.