2021 was a monumental year for crypto.
ATHs for BTC and ETH, jpeg summer, alt L1s, DeFi 2.0, dog coins, the birth of DAO gurus, the rebrand to Web3.
Crypto broke into the mainstream mindshare, and the floodgates of innovation were open.
We witnessed some amazing product launches: Uniswap v3, Curve v2, Arbitrum One, Optimistic Ethereum, Bored Ape Yacht Club.
We shared some lows too: the Compound bug, the Pengu wars, Maxis fighting Ethereans fighting SoLunAvax-ers, and countless market crashes to boot.
Amidst all the craziness, we’ve also seen an influx of talent like never seen before.
After years of hopium, it finally feels like crypto is here for good. Working in this space, it truly feels like we’re at the forefront of innovation -- at the cusp of something world-changing.
Reflecting on all that’s happened this past year, I always go back to what my boss told me about crypto when I was first getting started,
“What we’re building aren’t companies [yet], they’re toys. They’re games. To learn.”
All of crypto is an experiment.
A constant search for the answers of ‘what if’.
What if we had self-sovereign money? What will people build with a permissionless, distributed world computer? How will people coordinate when there now exists a trustless layer of data and value? What does a community-owned network look like, and is it better than what we have now?
And the only way to answer those questions are through trial-and-error -- iterating on the numerous parameters that constitute our giant meta-game, or creating something so crazy and out there that it just might work.
Crypto has captured the minds of the most curious people in the world. Like a puzzle, or a brain teaser. It’s one of the most exciting games in the world.
To end this year, I want to showcase and celebrate the experiments that I think have shaped and will continue to shape our design space.
And I’m doing it in the most fitting way: through a little game.
Rules of the Tournament
To celebrate and determine the best experiment of 2021, I’m “hosting” a three-day tournament with 8 contestants.
I picked, in my opinion, the top 8 experiments -- with guidance from my peers. Three rounds will be held until the winner is crowned; each round is a 24-hour poll on Snapshot.
The first round will start at 12pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, December 28. That means after three rounds, the winner will be crowned at noon PT on New Year’s Eve! 🥳
The winning experiment will get bragging rights for the whole year! So if you were a part of that experiment, congrats -- you get bragging rights lol
Tournament voters can win something a little more tangible -- the voters who pick the correct winners of all three rounds (seven 1v1s in total) will get an NFT airdrop of the Experimentooooor, commemorating their next-level voting skills 👀
Criteria for the contestants
In order to qualify in the top 8 experiments, I had three buckets of assessment:
- Definitionally an experiment: the (initial) launch was time-bound, had limited scope, and limited resources. So no venture-backed DeFi protocols sorry
- Innovation: the project pushed the boundaries of our design space
- Impact: the project inspired others, changed narratives, built communities from scratch
No. 1 Loot vs. No. 8 Wolf Game
Could the number 1 seed have been any other project? Dom Hofmann’s innocuous tweet and smart contract deploy quickly became the only thing CT talked about. An experiment of on-chain loot item NFTs, the Loot Project consumed the hearts, minds, and Twitter fingers of nerds, devs, and VCs alike. Hundreds of developers and creators leveraged Loot to visualize the NFT characters, shipped collections that complemented Loot like Realms, forked the idea to create GTA/Mafia/other spin offs, and even created governance structure around Loot, mLoot, and $AGLD.
The concept behind Wolf Game is simple, and that’s what made it so genius and inspiring. A blockchain game that pits players against each other in a complex game of risk management and game theory -- using NFTs like Wolves and Sheep to produce and steal $WOOL.
No. 2 ConstitutionDAO vs. No. 7 Amulets
Not the first but surely the most influential investment DAO, ConstitutionDAO started as a joke after Dame and other members of Gas Station discovered that the U.S. Constitution is being auctioned at Sotheby’s -- and quickly escalated into a 72-hour fire drill that raised $47 million to bid for the Constitution and ultimately lose to the literal Grinch, Ken Griffin. ConstitutionDAO set the bar high for viral crowdfunding (WAGBTC), and lives on as a meme coin with a market cap of nearly $1 billion.
Note: I may be wrong. I can’t be bothered to double check -- I’m not writing a research paper on CT history.
Amulets combine puzzles with creativity. Players are invited to create poems that, when hashed, hexadecimal SHA-256 hash of the text includes four or more 8s in a row. This is a game of not only chance (Proof of Work style) but also of raw creative power: who can create the most rare, most human readable poems.
No. 3 PartyBid vs. No. 6 PaperclipDAO
Another experiment that started out as a tweet from Dave White that resulted in Anish Agnihotri creating PartyBid, a tool for individuals to coordinate together to crowdfund, purchase, and manage (e.g., fractionalize) an NFT. Now, PartyBid is managed by PartyDAO, a team of contributors who have shipped PartyBid V2 that comes with a slew of new features like compatibility of OpenSea.
PaperclipDAO seeks to re-create the viral One Red Paperclip experiment where a dude trades his way from a paperclip to a home in less than a year -- the DAO hopes to receive offers and trade up to an ultimate prize (in exchange for $CLIP), which will then be sold and the profits distributed to $CLIP holders. So far, the DAO has received Parallel cards, a CryptoPunk, and now are in possession of a Digital Zone by Mitchell Chan.
No. 4 OlympusDAO vs. No. 5 Nouns
The ponzu that launched a thousand forks. OlympusDAO is a bold experiment that seeks to create a decentralized reserve currency -- backed by a treasury of assets. They coined the term “Protocol-Owned Liquidity”, were the inspiration behind DeFi 2.0 (scoopy tweeted it but in regards to Olympus), and pioneered the concept of discounted bonds. They also created the (3,3) meme that spawned a million renditions that can be seen in any CT profile right now.
WTF is Nouns? An NFT project, an experiment on governance, a novel fundraising mechanism, a statement on community building. One Noun is auctioned every day -- with Noun holders getting governance rights over the treasury the DAO raises from the auctions. Nouns is also unapologetically CC0 -- allowing for derivatives to be created and accrue value back to the canonical art pieces.
I like said -- everything in crypto is an experiment. So, inevitably I will have missed some experiments in the tournament. I was debating expanding the tournament to 16 seeds, but it’s holiday break and I want to do non-crypto shit.
Here are some honorable mentions of best experiments of 2022:
- Tascha's Destroyed Diamond: an experiment on the value of an NFT vs. its real life counterpart (omitted because didn’t inspire repeat experiments)
- Dark Forest: a video game built on zkSNARKs (omitted because launched last year, although blew up this year)
- Corruption(s*): Dom’s new experiment on on-chain lore (omitted because full experiment still being realized; also didn’t want double dipping on creators)
- The Open DAO: an airdrop of $SOS tokens to OpenSea users with the hopes of a DAO forming and creating an OS rival (omitted because nothing has been built yet)
- Proof of Beauty: generative art from Ethereum transaction hashes
- Krause House: a DAO that’s buying a basketball team
- Murat Pak’s The Merge: Pak’s art piece that combines with one another
- Hashmasks: the NFT art collection that kicked off the bonding curve meme, the generative art phase, pre-cursor to jpeg summer & its 10K PFP projects
Is there another experiment that you think I missed? Let me know on Twitter in response to this announcement thread.
And many thanks to JulzRoze, m1guelpf, stefdelev, pet3rpan, rafathebuilder, avichal, Jierlich, OKDunc, 0xAndros, n2ckchong, LordTylerWard, theyoungcrews, nico_valencia, notscottmoore, arisatoyo, DCbuild3r, and the Dumb Jimmies holders for your input on this list! 🥺❤️
Happy holidays! See you on Snapshot -- the tournament will kick off on 12pm PT Tuesday, December 28, 2021.