The Many Lives of a Nouns DAO Proposal

In my dreams, I am ever closer to writing some all encompassing post about how I think of Nouns. In reality, I’ve barely written anything. So, awaiting that blessed day, I’m going to try posting shorter thoughts. 

Nouns DAO funds proposals. Proposals can be made my anyone with two Nouns delegated to them (frequently, a builder can get a delegation to put up a proposal). Proposals include at least one transaction: e.g. transfer ETH from Nouns DAO to the proposer, so that they can do what the proposals has described. 

At first pass, evaluating a proposal and its suitably for Nouns DAO funding is entirely about what the proposal says it will do. Voters are generally asking, “Will this actually work?” And if it will, “How much will this benefit Nouns DAO?” And finally, “Is the likelihood of the benefit worth the spend?” 

Voters’ answers depend to a large degree on what they see as benefitting the DAO—a monetary return, a social capital return, etc.—and where voters draw the line of what is “worth it.”

But there is also a meta level to proposals. Nouns, like most organizations (and individuals?), competes in the attention economy. And there is a meta game to how proposals bring value to the DAO, apart from whether they accomplish what they plan to.

Nouns DAO exists online, where everything is watched. The process around every proposal is an artifact of who cares about us, how we work, and what we value. 

For example, if a famous person makes a funding proposal to the DAO, that alone, regardless of proposal outcome, brings value to the DAO! We have gained attention from that. 

Proposals bring attention, and the meta of proposals dictates how we will be perceived. Are proposals thoughtful and sensical or do they feel like grifts? Are they made by high quality individuals? What do most of the proposals intend to do: are they about making money, social impact, creative work, etc.? 

Beyond the meta of the proposal, how the DAO respond matters, as well. How we vote signals what we value and helps to codify our culture. How we treat proposers and engage with proposals is a signal to all those watching. 

My point is that the value a proposal brings to the DAO goes beyond what the proposal literally intends to do and whether it works. Proposals can become memes and the story around the DAO’s vote can do just as much good or harm as any proposal outcome! Everything we do is in the attention economy. 

I often read a proposal and think, “Is the meta story here charismatic?” Is it funny or bold or exciting? Will people spontaneously tell their friends about this? I think these points should not be undervalued.

To take an extreme example, suppose kid pitched the DAO on getting $50 for their lemonade stand in exchange for Nounish branding. A very limited read might say: “That’s of low utility to the DAO! How many people will see that lemonade stand?” But we could also say, This is a very funny and charismatic story and the meta (from feel good story to “kid pitches DAO for $50, DAO spends $600 voting,” etc.) could give us far more attention online than just the literal work the proposal intends to do. 

There’s an example of this already, Proposal 97 “MOOØNBEANS: Nouns Baked Beans.” Nouns were pitched on a Baked Beans brand, funded it, and then the proposer disappeared (er, for a while, apparently this is still being worked on). Every so often this gets brought up on Twitter

Is this good attention or bad? I’ll let you decide! But it’s evidence of how proposals live beyond their literal work. 

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