Network Citizens

This is a product brief exploring a possible path for Cabin in Fall 23.

TL;DR - membership in the first network city-state

Outline

  1. Background
  2. Problem space
  3. Product
  4. Long term: Software for network states

Background

The obvious business model for an online community is subscription: direct monthly payments from community members. Balaji also believes this will be the business model of network states. The problem is that, while subscription memberships (eg citizenship) seem like the natural business model for a network state, they may not be that good of a business:

  1. At a palatable price point, the consumer comparisons are things like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Instacart Plus, etc that create a lot of value for people in their day-to-day lives
  2. At this price point, you can’t generate that much revenue from a small to medium network. We would need 5,000 members to hit $1M ARR at a $200/yr network membership, and most of that would have to go back into COGS in one form or another
  3. The value you can provide at this cost, especially for an abstract thing like a network state, is not a burning pain point that people are looking to solve. Even if the community would be extremely valuable to them, they don’t know that yet and don’t know how to look for it
  4. Consumer subscriptions have some structural product issues that make them hard to grow: Why Consumer Subscription Is So Hard, and What to Do About It | Casey Accidental

Problem space

  • Core pain point for target users: 5/10
    • Loneliness is a serious problem, but this is not necessarily a solution people are actively looking for
  • 10x better than alternatives: 6/10
    • There are other ways to find community and identity
    • There may not be other good ways to join a network city/state
  • Share of wallet: 3/10
    • Hard to charge a lot for a consumer subscription
  • Feasibility of execution: 9/10
    • Significantly easier to build than a coliving network or a village for families, and we already have solid prior art

Product

Cost: $200-500 / year

Includes:

For this to be a compelling consumer offering for existing and future users, you probably need something approaching this full package. Supper Clubs get them in the door and the other three retain them. While this would appeal to some of our existing community, it’s hard to see how it grows enough to build a business.

Supper Clubs

What: Monthly community dinner in core urban areas

Why: Most of our existing Citizens do not have the interest or capacity for rural coliving. They want to participate in the community, but need something local:

  • Nicole: “So, as you know, I’m a bit of a specific user because I have two kids ages 10 & 12 and it is just such a busy time with school / friends / activities. So for me, something that is local where I can connect with others in the short term.”
  • Ryan: “It would be awesome to somehow bring whatever the cabin cocktail could look like to San Diego”

Most of the people setting up intro calls with Chalice are lonely and looking for a new community of people to spend time with. They dream of homesteading and living the solarpunk life, but they have commitments and attachments where they are.

The natural path is to meet new members where they’re at, which is mostly in existing urban areas. Local events (eg Supper Clubs) are the clearest way to grow an online → IRL community.

How: Get five recurring dinners launched in existing community hubs by EOY

Hospitality exchange network

What: A network of people to meet and stay with, wherever you go in the world. Put our Census and City Directory in a blender and 10x the number of places to stay in the network by tapping into smaller stays in under utilized space.

Why: Existing community members want this:

  • David: “places to stay and people to stay with when i travel, just way too many issues with airbnb these days. apartment swap, or rent their apt.”
  • Rafa: “If I appear in a city or town, this is who’s there. Like “family in town””
  • Julian: “I’d definitely host Cabin people who are a match for me in my place in SF. Got a really killer setup for couch surfers etc”
  • Cam: “Location directory of citizens - just landed in Barcelona, who are values aligned people here? What/where/who are the hidden secrets? Lonely planet for Cabin, local guides. Feel like an insider in the places they go. Post where I’m going and get recs.”

How: Make it easy for community members to add places, find places, and stay at them

Identity: Merch, Passport, Census, and Citizen NFT

What: provide community members with a sense of identity, expressed through merch, a passport, Census, and Citizenship NFT

Why: People want it, could be another revenue stream

  • Spencer: “Identity: I enjoy simply being a citizen of Cabin”
  • Zach: “How can we make people feel like they want to rep cabin cause of what it represents?”
  • Nick: “I will pay for the membership no matter what”

How: For these people to keep paying for membership, we need to:

  1. Give them ways to represent Cabin as a part of their identity
    1. Distribute merch, passports, stamps
    2. Build a brand that’s a part of people’s identity
  2. Continue to clearly define the values and build the vision that Cabin represents
    1. Deepen values, vision, lore, language, practice. Balaji is starting the grey tribe. Are we the green tribe?

Conference events

What: Host popup coliving houses and side events around crypto and adjacent conference events. Grow our own popup city experiences that last days (Cabin Camp), weeks (Cabin Weeks), and possibly months (Zuzalu-style?).

Why: We have seen decent product market fit with a small community of crypto founders at conferences. Here’s what they want:

  • Spencer: “pop-up Cabin co-living or co-experiences at events and conferences (Cabin is already doing this a bit; more of it!)”
  • Joe: “Give me familiar faces when I go to conferences”
  • Cam: “place to go and people to meet up with at a conference is wonderful, valuable”
  • David: “stuff like pasta night [at ETHDenver] which was one of my favorite favorite nights of the past year”
  • Matthew: “A dao camp-like experience is about the most fitting value-add thing that I can actually engage in atm. aka a once-a-year 3ish-day retreat like that”
  • Richie: “i generally find it easy to pay for memberships to things that put me in rooms with interesting or fun peers”

How: Run conference houses and side events. Unclear how this supports itself as a real business, given events like this are infrequent, operationally complicated, and rarely profitable.

Long term: Software for network states

Even though this type of membership is not a good business model, it could allow us to create a SaaS product for communities aspiring to become network states. It would probably include features like:

  1. Community census and dashboard
  2. Onchain identity and reputation
  3. Onchain governance
  4. Subscription membership management
  5. IRL meetups
  6. Hospitality exchange
  7. IRL interface (help getting bank accounts, visas, insurance, etc)

If we’ve already built this stuff for ourselves, we could generalize it. If network states become a thing, this will be a valuable business to build. Currently on Brian Armstrong’s request for builders / list of startups he would build today. The problem is that there is no real market for this right now.

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I’m particularly fond of this part, as imho it has the greatest potential for helping Cabin achieve substantial traction. It seems, of course, that it will be really difficult to achieve all this, but probably Cabin has to start building some of these primitives, even if it is in a very rudimentary form at the beginning.

Is there any roadmap on how this will be developed and executed during 2024?

I’m also gonna share some -poorly structured- ideas that I had reading the post. These don’t pretend to be more than random ideas and thoughts.

About trust
I really think one of the main Cabin core values is Trust (It could sound ironic considering that the crypto world has been pushing to make everything trustless). And that this value must serve as a guide for everything that is built from Cabin. In all the potential services you listed, I see many things that the community could find valuable and that they would be happy to pay for.

Cabin Week really inspired me to see the capacity of Cabin to attract people outside the crypto world, and bring Trust to the center. It’s the first project I have seen with such a diversity (and I have been involved crypto since 2013).

So I envision the Cabin Open Stack as something that allows to build up communities that reduce some usual members of crypto communities (anons not aligned with the project, free riders,…) while increases human trust with flexible privacy and onchain tech when needed.

About the services

1. Community Census and Dashboard — Importance: High, Effort: Mid
I think this is an idea that can be bootstrapped, starting with the Passports and some off chain info on a centralized server (profiles that people can voluntarily fill up).

2. Onchain identity and reputation — Importance: High, Effort: High
I think this is a massive project that will need an important preparation phase to undestand what needs must be met and assess the risks (and how to prevent them). I’m not sure if this is a project that Cabin can do by itself currently (Identity is such a biiiiig challenge that even projects working only around building solutions for SSI and authentication are struggling).

So perhaps what can be done is: focus now on what are the needs of Cabin in terms of Identity and Authentication and, meanwhile, using NFT passports with something like Unlock or Guild.xyz (what I believe is already the case?)

In a 2nd phase, probably the best solution is to use the Passport (Onchain) + badges (Ceramic Network?), and from there build the system (It’s essential to ensure that the process isn’t overly complicated, as this could discourage participation and undermine the diversity of the project).

There are projects like Sismo and Gitcoin Passport that can be explored too.

3. Onchain Governance — Importance: High, Effort: Mid
Governance has to be kept as simple as possible. I believe that in many DAOs, some challenges include complex decision-making processes and structures. Along with either a lack of information or an overwhelming amount of it, making it difficult for a regular, non-active member (outside of the top 1%) to take informed decisions.

Imho, deliberation has to occur both offchain and onchain features. For the moment, the forum + a flexible voting system that allows voting for free + flexible voting methods + anonymity is the way to go. In this scenario, the best way is to use external tools like Onvote (to allow voting anonymously using the Passport NFT) or, in the future, the Vocdoni SDK (integrated in the Cabin Dashboard) → Note: I’ve been involved in Vocdoni.

I also think the voting in Cabin will probably need a mix of two voting methods: 1 Person 1 Vote (Cabin will need a Proof of Personhood, perhaps manually at the beginning through the Passport?) and 1 Token 1 Vote.

If we want to build a project where the citizenship is at the core and that builds common goods, the ideal of Universal Suffrage takes a lot of value and importance. That’s why I believe the ‘1 Person, 1 Vote’ principle should be the standard for most voting processes. I know it might pose challenges and potentially create reticence by big holders, but the advantages far outweigh the risks.

I think the system of “1 Token, 1 Vote” could be useful too, and I believe that, if required, Cabin can find the way to combine both. For example, separating groups of voting processes where different systems will be used or implementing Quadratic Voting for other votes or in which just a certain group of people can vote. Or allowing a vote to pass only if 50+% of the citizens + 30% of the total token weight voted in favor.

4. Subscription membership management — Importance: Mid, Effort: Low
This could be one of the first features of the Dashboard UI along with some other low-hanging fruits: Voting in proposals + Seeing your badges + Filling up the public profile for the census (making this optional) + seeing your past and upcoming Cabin experiences.
This MVP would require devs hired for the entire 2024 to build it up and continue, including features and adapt to potential pivots + Bounties budget (optionally).

5. IRL meetups
Nothing to add here, except that it could be a good way to get reputation badges?

6. Hospitality Exchange — Importance: High, Effort: Mid
As an old active couchsurfer and bewelcome user (host and guest), I find the hospitality exchange to be a great way to start offering services that are valuable and can attract users, build community and kick-off side ideas like badges or a reputation system. Specially if it becomes the go-to-platform for the crypto people (I have the perception that is a niche that travels a lot and that is interested in meeting other people).

It will probably be crucial to develop this as a side project (Keeping It Simple) but with potential for revenue generation. As an experiment, something like this: within the UX flow, when users make a request to a host, they will be presented with an option to contribute with a donation to a specific treasury dedicated to this side project. I think a project like this could need a significant amount of work (devs, community building, moderation) in the first phase. It could also open many important topics (liability of the platform if there are problems) that will have to be explored.

About privacy
I believe Cabin will have to establish trust by ensuring the option of privacy in interactions whenever necessary. This consideration is vital for those who prefer not to share public information, especially if it’s on-chain, and for security reasons, like preventing profiling. As digital citizens, it’s crucial to ensure that profiling is not feasible, given that the risks associated with making everything public could lead to numerous threats. Cabin will have to be a safe space, so there should be found a good sweet spot between privacy, pseudoanonimity, modular exposure of data and trust. But this is more like a principle that should guide the project and the software developments and that has to be integrated gradually (otherwise it would be impossible to start).

About the development
Some verticals are huge (like voting, SSI and zk identities) so I guess one of the possibilities is to partner up with other services or use software made by others because the amount of work and specialization that would need to build all this from scratch.

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thanks for the thoughtful post! We’ve already started building a lot of this stuff — particularly 1-4 on your list : ) You can see what we’ve built so far by creating an account on cabin.city and reading Building Cabin's Network City — Cabin. I agree that trust is at the core of community building & appreciate your thoughts and ideas around citizenship and the hospitality exchange. More to come soon!

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