[#10] NFT Metas to Watch: Open Editions and Community Lists
Guest post from Lorepunk featuring Jack Butcher and @0xdgb
You've likely heard of Jack Butcher's Checks, the NFT collection that has kicked off the recent run of open edition NFT projects. (Even the VenturePunk team joined in on the Check derivative fun.) Are Open Editions a positive move for the community or are they a blatant cash grab by opportunistic artists? NFT Twitter is now full of hot takes on both sides of the argument. In the following guest post from Lorepunk, we examine the rise of Open Editions featuring a chat with Jack Butcher himself. We then explore the Community List meta (the anti-OE?) with an interview with the artist @0xdgb. Keep building! - Jordan
In an echo of the heady days of 2021, activity in the NFT scene has flourished in 2023. Every day has new mints, in every part of the space, from collectibles to art to GameFi.
The NFT space is a pretty compact market—the majority of us move in a herd, whether we’re buying, spectating or discussing ongoing events on Twitter. It’s become commonplace to refer to the “NFT meta”—meta being a term from video game culture—as if we were all players on the same MMORPG server.
In a very real sense, this is, indeed, what we are. We share a space—or a series of overlapping spaces—with their own physics, weather, trends and hidden treasures.
What constitutes these spaces? They’re not only made from the blockchains where we transact, but also the places where we converse: Twitter, discord, Telegram. Entities as august as Sotheby’s auction house and as liminal as a scammer’s Tox chat play their part.
And, like any community of players, we debate our strategies. When one reaches a certain level of adoption, we call it a meta.
It’s important to keep in mind that, unlike (some) games, the game of NFTs does not have consensus on what a win condition would be. An obvious answer there would be “generational wealth.” But even this is not straightforward. That chat full of scammers might be seeking wealth, but their efforts are inimical to the experience of everyone else—not equivalent to the artist, developer or content creator approaching the same goal in an ethical, eusocial manner.
There are other playstyles that are perennial to the space, like “let’s make a quick buck with a forgettable degen mint”. Then, there are those who are focused entirely on the technology and what it uniquely offers.
Art and collectibles with a community twist have been around forever, but blockchain art and collectibles offer the promise of decentralised, permissionless, immutable actions. Projects that take advantage of these features (mathcastles by terraforms comes to mind) can deliver innovative, magical and moving experiences—up there with the very best of traditional conceptual art.
Right now, we’ve got an interesting meta going on: Open Editions.
Simply put, an open edition is where a piece of art is put up for sale as multiple (usually identical) copies, for a fixed period of time. Instead of a 1/1 or 10,000, there could be a handful, or tens of thousands minted.
We’ve had open edition meta cycles before—there was a period where Nifty Gateway open editions were all the rage! Today, we’ve got a few interesting twists going on with the best of the open edition projects. Here’s a few of my favourites—and, at the end, I look into another developing meta that offers a novel counterpoint to open editions.
We’ve all heard of Checks—the simple grid of Twitter verified checks, echoing Damien Hirst, dropped a new artwork, titled “This Artwork May Or May Not Be Notable,” as a 24-hour open edition on 3 January, selling for 8 bucks. The image was a huge hit and derivatives started pouring out!
What is it?
Checks is the brainchild of Jack Butcher, a veteran marketer and designer who has explored the concepts of notability and provenance, as well as playing with the check image, in a number of previous works. In his excellent interview with Proof’s NFTStatistics, he tells us that he worked out the game of Checks in the days following the mint.
How does the game work?
A default edition mint was this grid of 80 colourful checks. Over 16 thousand of these were minted. Then Jack came up with the game: burn two editions for an on-chain original, each with a halved check number. The end goal is to mint a black check—three are possible, but in order to get even one, we have to work together!
Why is this cool?
The game is unfolding in an ongoing, curated process: a few days in, Jack and team (including the incredible @jalil_eth!) announced that the checks have their own “DNA,” determined by tokenID and the person who minted them. I expect that the experience will be as meticulously communicated and curated as is humanly possible, given Jack’s fanatical attention to detail and focus on fun and clarity. It’s deflationary, creative, and the outcomes are unknown.
I’m holding the heck out of these—I’ve got four editions, and I’ll be checking in regularly on everything; not just floor price, but Jack’s tweets, the derivatives, memes and references. I expect there will be whales, DAOs and memesters out to reverse engineer the subtle algorithms of Check DNA, in search of the perfect editions to burn.
Here’s my quick interview with Jack (big thanks Jalil for connecting us!)
One of the most delightful things about checks is their note-perfect debut in the space! Tell me about your process determining the $8 sale meta and the timing of the drop
$8 is a reference to the recent switch in twitter policy that allows anyone to purchase a blue checkmark.
Timing was literally because I had the idea and couldn’t keep it in, but these themes have been a part of my work for the last few years.
Why do you think that everyone is vibing so much with the visual of the checks and making instantly recognisable referential derivatives? Got any favourites among the derivs?
I think the ubiquity of the check symbol colliding with a moment in culture where its meaning is being called into question tapped into something the wider community that exploded participation.
Also, the concept of digital verification seems to resonate more deeply with people who are already participating in the permissionless networks where the culture of NFTs was born and lives. The idea of reclaiming this mark as something we own collectively, vs. being told who is and isn’t notable by an institution.
Coupled with an incredibly simple visual restraint — a grid of 8x10, that doesn’t even need to reference colors or symbols to point back to the overall meme.
Among the sea of freemints, derivs, PFPs, and very similar projects, the game of Checks truly stands out. How did you design the burn mechanic, both artistically and in the context of how the project situates itself in the wider space (meta)?
I think the transparency into the process of designing the next phase of the art has been the most unique component, there are many really well designed mechanics in other projects, you just can’t see how they came to be.
Another small detail I think that makes this interesting is the migration from an “identical” edition, to an onchain original, for absolutely everyone who participated — you don’t need to own 100 pieces to get unique art. This component is less appreciated in the short term but I think will become more important in time.
We’ve made decisions at every stage of the process that put the collector in control.
The process of getting single checks and the black check could persist over many years. How do you feel about coexisting with Checks for, perhaps, the rest of your life?
Hard to predict how this will feel in time, but I will have no control over the art itself once the contracts are deployed. I’d like to think I can act as steward up to that point, then it will take on a life of its own. I will be a fascinated spectator for as long (or as short) as it lasts.
Proceed with Caution
This project came from Des Lucréce, a really fun artist with an iconic Monsters brand, whose work recently appeared at Sotheby’s.
What is it?
After working out the details for months (including play-testing large edition mechanics on Tezos) Lucréce did the drop smack dab in the middle of OE season, on 18 January. It was a really cool mildly animated monster, entitled “Defy,”, drawn in his characteristic blue, black and white. 8,408 were minted in the fifteen minute window (!). Then, two days later, the game began.
How does the game work?
You could go to one of seven Manifold sites, where you could burn your blue Defy and, in exchange, receive one in a different colour, until the 27th. Cool!
Then, everyone started going for full sets. And then, Lucréce announced that he would be capping the number of each colour at 2102 total. A mad dash began, with folks racing to get their favourite colours before they minted out, buying blue originals and working for that full set (all 7 new colours plus the original blue.)
Why is this cool?
It was just 2021 levels of fun to play this game, hang out in the discord, and get your full set. It felt really good to hold it, and the colours look fantastic together. Lucréce is proper art, with serious fans and great vibes everywhere. I degenned HARD, got a full set, and then, on the last day before burn closed I had a stern conversation with myself (not taking profits lost me money in 2021/22) and sold the set off, on the frenetic last day, keeping one extra Arctic for myself. I feel strong regret, like I fumbled the bag, and that is an indicator of a great project.
Lucréce has done this note-perfect, and the planning shows. The OE does what a good open edition is supposed to do, which is introduce people to a great artist. I’ve spent a fair bit of time delighting in all the Monsters, and enjoying how the themes and language of Defy fit in. The entire Proceed with Caution game continues, and Lucréce promises utility for full set holders and singleton holders alike. The 8-piece Full Set is the grail for the project, and only 671 people have it. As Lucréce said in his discord, “it’s like a game of DnD with like 2000 players—it’s so fun!” We are in good hands with him as our game master. And of course, Proceed with Caution comes from that warning we see on metamask every day—there will likely be some unexpected twists in the plot.
Here is a great Dune page about Defy by @tombornal.
There are loads of other gamified burn-mechanism open editions about: PR Guitarman’s lovely Nyan Balloon, the Nyan Cat ascending to space, included a game where minters could exchange their red balloon for other colours, changing on a daily basis (or three for a super balloon version). Ness Graphics broke records with Money Printer go BRRRRRR, and lisb.eth has just dropped an edition that invites holders to participate in a murder mystery! There’s also a lot of dreck out there, so be careful—and as always, keep your eyes peeled for fakes and scammers.
There’s a lot to be said for OEs. It’s a terrible idea to buy a bunch of copies and assume number will go up, but it’s a great way to participate in the ecosystem of an artist you love. Buy editions and share them with your friends to onboard them onto NFTs, play the cool games that artists are curating for us, but do so with your eyes open. As compared to the early open editions of cryptoart, this meta has a lot more to offer because everyone has access to great sites like Manifold and zora, where it’s easy to set up for burn mechanisms. As time moves on, other sorts of utility will become accessible to non-coding creators.
But it’s also important to remember that the NFT market is fickle, with the risk that collectors will get salty when number goes down. This can unfairly damage the reputation of creators, so it’s important to ensure there’s clarity for plans, promises and value. The most successful OEs were planned meticulously, no matter how spontaneous and perfectly timed they look. All that said, they’re some of the most fun I’ve had in NFTs in a long time.
Community Lists—the anti-OE?
There are other things going on in the NFT art market besides OEs! The splendid 0xdgb, whose art, featuring ordinary and liminal spaces, inhabits the same style camp as Grant River Yun and Dylan Wade, decided to make a community list—for people to have access to minting his editions and 1/1s, avoiding the risk of botting. It’s somewhat akin to the mechanistic grinding and discord participation that so many 2021 and 2022 pfp projects required, but it’s refreshingly informal and natural, based on what Twitter names he recognises that interact with him over time. It’s a qualitative, aspirational, fun and utterly bot-proof way to build access that, at the same time, fuels Twitter reach and engagement.
0xdgb kindly answered my questions about his strategy.
So tell me about this approach—how will it work?
It’s rather simple really, because I put just as much effort into my Twitter as I do my art, trying to reply to as much as I can etc. I see who’s engaging the most, and you quickly start to recognise usernames and profile pictures who show up every day. I make a note of them, then add them to the list if I feel they’re being genuine and hear for the right reasons. I also add all my collectors and fellow artists I connect with.
How are folks receiving it—is it affecting your engagement?
The response has been amazing, everyone loves it, some of the names who have reached out to say they love my approach is incredible. Many artists have started doing it. Terrell is also considering it now!
How will things develop over time?
The same rules apply moving forward, the community allowlist will remain open for wallet submissions and I will keep adding to it between drops. It’s an ever growing community allowlist.
By Margaret Corvid About Margaret: Margaret Corvid (lorepunk.eth) is a writer and poet based in the U.K.
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