The DAO Tooling and Web3 Community Best Practices at Cabin.City
A conversation with Roxine Kee, the head of growth at Cabin
March 16, 2023
November 22, 2022
0 min read
Cabin is a network of co-living properties that began as a residency program for independent creatives. Its first location, known as Neighborhood Zero, situated just an hour outside Austin, Texas, has been a temporary home for songwriters, artists, and other online creatives invited to enjoy the space to collaborate and create together.
In 2022, the network added two new locations: Montaia Basecamp (Sierra Nevadas) and Radish (Oakland, California). Residents, as they are known, are invited to move from location to location.
Cabin’s founders, Jon Hillis and Phil Levin, have a vision for growing Cabin beyond just three locations.
“Decentralized cities,” Hillis writes, “allow people to maintain close social ties and norms while moving around to different places. It also creates resilience against local changes in climate, regulation, and society.”
Cabin’s work is novel in that it uses Web3 primitives like a $CABIN token, Snapshot voting, and other DAO tools to decentralize power and ownership across its residents, community members, and investors.
Recently I chatted with Roxine Kee, the head of growth at Cabin, to share lessons learned from managing the Cabin DAO.
How did you get started working with CabinDAO?
Roxine: My introduction to Cabin was almost a year ago. I was one of the residents [at Neighborhood Zero in Texas Hill Country]. Cabin started out as a creative residency program, and our three cohorts were crowdfunded. I was in the third cohort of those residencies.
My background is in growth content and product marketing, for not Web3, but for Web2 startups. I got into the Cabin residency and then slowly started doing a little bit of writing for the DAO, more content writing. I was part time from around October, November, and December, and then in January, I kind of ramped it up. February was when I went full time with Cabin.
I think how you define Cabin is actually very accurate. There’s been a lot of different ways people explain Cabin, because we haven’t figured it out ourselves. So the official north star that we have for Cabin right now is that it is a network of coliving neighborhoods at the intersection of tech and nature. How we talk about it is, it’s a network city of coliving neighborhoods, for tech workers. But it’s also steps from gorgeous nature, with the natural world at the front door. There’s a lot of different problems that the network city and the coliving experiment want to solve, and one of them is what you mentioned that John had tweeted: affordable housing. I am by no means an expert on that subject, but that’s one of the things that we’re hoping to solve by building this network of coliving neighborhoods.
How many people are on the Cabin Discord?
I think our Discord is at around four thousand right now, but we also consider our Twitter following of ten thousand as part of the community. Of course, there are folks who aren’t on Discord but are on Twitter, or vice versa. And then we also have folks who hold the token. I'm not sure about the exact number, but it's probably around one hundred people who hold between one Cabin token and all the way up to our biggest token holders. So those people are part of the community, too.
How many people are part of the overall Cabin DAO?
Roxine: We’re starting to feel the growing pains and trying to distinguish between someone who is a member of the community, someone who is a contributor, and someone who is actually a customer of the community.
I’m kind of picturing it as a Venn diagram of community members, contributors, and customers. Someone can be one, two, or three of the categories. For contributors, most of the people who hold Cabin token right now do so because they contributed through a bounty to the DAO. There are folks who are bounty hunters who kind of do it almost on a freelance basis (that’s not super accurate). But when we’re talking about work, there’s the freelance bounty hunter side and then there’s the fellowship team, which is kind of a project team, like almost all service providers for the DAO. So I am a part of one of the fellowship teams, and Cabin is my job. There are six of us who are part of this fellowship, and everyone treats Cabin as our job. And there are those who email us and folks who come and do coliving in our Cabin properties. So it’s really hard to say how many people there are, because there’s a lot of overlap.
Can you maybe talk about why you’re dropping the DAO from your name? I’m wondering, does it mean that you’re becoming less of a DAO and more of something else?
Roxine: I was just talking to John [Hillis] about this, actually, and Vitalik [Buterin] just put out a post “DAOs are not corporations” which was almost like an addendum to his definition of a DAO, and if you read it, Cabin is actually becoming more and more like a DAO, or at least the ideal version of the DAO, according to Vitalik. So I don’t think we're dropping it because we’re being less of a DAO; I think it’s more like going from “The Facebook” to “Facebook.” In other words, it’s a lot cleaner to just say Cabin.
But in terms of the direction we’ve been going, we did publish our road map for 2022, in which we talk about our wanting to be an embassy for DAOs. So for that one, we were really targeting people who are in Web3 who are in DAOs, for our residences and retreats, but then the bull market happened and we realized that maybe the market for Web3 and DAOs in targeting them as our audience either might not be as big we thought or is a little bit too volatile at this time to be building a viable business there.
So the pivot into the name “Cabin” is also reflective of our desire to serve people who want to co-live, who want to create this new future, and who want to do so in a way that is friendly to nature and lets you be able to touch grass.
By dropping the DAO from your name, it possibly signals more inclusion into Web3, or that you don’t even need to know about Web3 in order to participate in Cabin?
Roxine: Yeah, totally. Some of the people whom we love hanging out with at Cabin are the people we call solarpunk builders. These people might not necessarily be in Web3, but they have this vision of the future where tech and nature are in that same future, and they love going out and building things with their hands. So for a solarpunk builder, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Web1 and Web2 or Web3, Cabin is the place for you.
Is it a solarpunk building? Where did that come from?
Roxine: I think it’s just the conversations around the lore of Cabin and the kinds of people who thrive in our community. Something that we love doing is our build weeks; we’ve done about three so far. The first one was Neighborhood Zero in Austin, Texas, where we built a pergola and a firepit. For the second one, we built a sauna on the same property, and it’s almost like these people go to the properties. They’re tech workers for their day jobs and they’re building code by typing on their laptops. But they also want to be spending their time out in nature, building and actually sweating in the Texas Hill Country. So I think there’s that combination of someone who is immersed in the tech world but also knows that we’re building all this tech just so we can be in nature more of the time.
What goes into running Cabin DAO?
Roxine: I’m no longer facilitating the groups of writers within the DAO. What is happening right now is, if folks want to talk about bugs, if folks want to talk about writing, then it’s like the community side. So now I’m more on the contributor side, less facilitating conversations and more writing articles, doing content, and doing growth. Whereas facilitative media is good, I would say my time was split fifty-fifty, between contributor and community. Got it?
What are the best DAO tools for anyone who wants to create their own DAO?
Roxine: One definition of a DAO is basically a group of friends with a group chat and a shared wallet. So that baseline could just be what a DAO is: you could be on Telegram, have a multisig, on Gnosis or even just a shared Metamask wallet, and that would already be a DAO.
When it comes to doing work in a DAO, though, I actually think back to my Web2 days of working together and collaborating with other people. So at Cabin, we use Google Drive. We have some docs on Notion and we use Clarity.so for token-gating documents. But I think for the most part, our key tools are nothing too crazy, they’re just what get the job done. So if a lot of our bounties are on Clarity, that actually helps us keep track of and pay out our contributors at the end of the day. As someone who’s writing product marketing and announcements and docs and things like that, I’ve worked from Google Docs and shared links from there. And then I’ve shared on Clarity as a project management tool.
How indispensable is Clarity.so for Cabin?
Roxine: Again, going back to the distinction between community contributors and customers, it’s mostly the contributors who work on Clarity, and then we have public-facing links for people to read through when they are onboarding. So I can’t really say how essential it is, but that’s kind of the information flow that goes into Clarity. When it comes to handling our boundaries, though, Clarity is totally the essential thing that we need. Because if you log into Clarity (I think this is what throws people off), you have to understand almost two or three different note-taking apps or project management apps to understand what’s going on. So if you’ve ever used Roam Research before, and Asana, and, let’s say, Trello, then Clarity will make sense to you. But if you’ve never used any of those, especially Roam, or maybe Obsidian, then Clarity will be very confusing. So for our bounties, we actually have almost kanban boards set up to track where boundaries are, where projects are going, and when they are done. Whoever is sponsoring the project and set it to “approve” creates a spreadsheet, and then we can pay them out at the end of the month.
Clarity allows Cabin to run your crypto-bounty program?
Roxine: Yes, that’s the basics of it.
Do you feel like Cabin’s bounty program has been successful?
Roxine: Well, it depends on what you mean by successful, and the definition of that has changed over the months. At first, we measured success by how many people reached their first bounty as quickly as possible; later, it was the total number of bounties reached. Now we’re just thinking about if the bounties actually fulfill the outcome that we are going for, which is developing neighborhoods. So I think in that way, we have a smaller number of bounties available now, but they are more aligned with where Cabin is headed. So, yes, they’re successful, but it’s almost like I have to rejigger the criteria to make it successful, because it’s changed over the months.
Is Cabin’s bounty program public? Or is it only visible to members?
Roxine: I’m not sure about that. I do know that most of our Clarity is token-gated, but there are public pages. I've been holding Cabin for a while, so I can’t really say for sure. If someone does not have Cabin and wants to go into our Clarity, they should feel free to reach out and let me know what’s public and what’s private.
What makes a good Web3 bounty?
Roxine: I think to answer that would first involve going back and asking what your bounty program is for and what its specific bounties are for. For instance, let’s consider a design bounty for a header for the blog: For that, I’m very specific. When I work with designers, I try to give them at least five working days. And for doing creative work, and creating bounties for creative work, it’s important to give people context, not just on what a specific project is, but also on where it falls into the bigger narrative of the DAO or community or project of which it is a part.
So, you almost want to answer, from small to big, Why are you doing this? What is the outcome of this specific design or specific project? The goal should be that people working on it can make their own decisions and judgment calls without having to wait for me as the one who created the bounty to tell them yes or no.
So with bounties, if it’s creative work, give people as many guardrails as possible, and don’t just say, “Oh, I want an article, go and do it”. And also expect that, especially if someone is starting up the bounty process, you’ll have to do parallel processing of teaching someone what to do, giving feedback on that specific project, and thinking about how the bounty process can be improved. So I think that was a big brain moment for me: I’m not just asking someone to design a header image, I’m also thinking about how we can make this process of designing header images or this boundary process better for the future.
If somebody was creating a DAO, or running a DAO right now, would you recommend starting a bounty program?
Castig: Also, is it enough to compensate people with the Cabin token? Do you ever get pushback like, “Hey, we want US dollars, what is this?” I mean, I'm just playing, just imagining that people might not want that. Or is it enough?
Roxine: Yeah. So I wrote a post How to DAO Ownership a few months ago, and I think with the bounty process, owning tokens in general has always been the bedrock of it for bounty hunters in Web2; they look like freelancers and consultants. And the hard part about being a freelancer or a consultant, which I was in a previous life, is that you might get paid higher rates than someone who’s salaried, but you don’t own any part of the company. So it’s almost like freelancers, consultants, bounty hunters, without getting part of the community, are incentivized to do just as much of a good job as what we’re getting paid allows for. So I think with a bounty program that pays in token, it’s a long-term play both for the person who’s providing services to the DAO and for the DAO trying to decentralize its operations. So it’s really great in that sense. In the sense of putting food on the table, that’s actually a little bit trickier.
In terms of people saying, “Oh, yeah, what is the token?” Like, “What the heck is this?” The Cabin token is strictly for governance; we don’t really have a liquidity pool. We don’t engage in speculation for our token, it’s specifically for saying, “Okay, please, we have this proposal going on, let’s vote, let’s put that DAO in the direction that people want.”
So I think that answers a little bit of the Cabin-token side, but we do also pay out in USDC as a result. I think a bigger-picture question actually concerns the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in a DAO. We have people who are working and doing things for the day job, and the DAO needs to pay them for professional services.
But what about the people who would just love vibing in a DAO? In Cabin we have these sessions called Teach Me Anything, where people come in and they teach whatever skill they have to the community, and that is totally from intrinsic motivation. The tough part about that is if we start paying people, whether in token or in USDC, for something that they volunteer to do, or that they intrinsically love doing, then it almost doesn’t feel very good, because you’ve made a transaction out of something that was meant to be almost like an offering and a contribution of free will. So I think we’re trying to kind of straddle that line.
Castig: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I’d say it also touches on one of my latent critiques of Web3 in general. Like, all the incentivization and tokenization stuff, I get it, and I’m also kind of really excited about it. But on the other side, there’s a lot about the gift economy, in experimentation and in theory, I think that’s really beautiful. Anyway, there’s a whole lot to unpack there. But that’s cool. It sounds like you guys are on the pulse of how to incentivize people using both ways. I think it makes a lot of sense.
Roxine: Yeah, we are definitely trying to figure out the sort of people who are thinking about this problem in their community. I would recommend a book: Drive. I can't remember who wrote it, but it’s about motivation in general. And I think that it gives a fuller picture of the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and how we can incentivize folks to do the best work that they want to do without making it transactional.
Castig: Yeah, that’s awesome; it’s Drive, by Daniel H. Pink. Another good one is Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely. And similarly, he just kind of describes human motivation, and talks about how powerful social incentives and motivations are. He did this really cool experiment with picking up kids. He found that if you asked parents to pick up other people’s kids, they were genuinely happy to do a favor, but when money came into it, people were less willing to help. But there’s a lot that goes into people building social capital (if that's what you want to call it), of helping other people, that money and tokenization sometimes drains from that equation.
Roxine: Yeah. And I think that’s why, when I was talking about Cabin, in our fellowships, I used the term “service providers.” So, in a coliving community like Cabin, we don’t pay people to wash the dishes. It’s just something that you have to do when you’re living with other people.
Like, if you’re co-living with someone, or you’re living in a house and someone just has to wash the dishes, you don’t say, “Okay, we’ll pay you ten dollars for every hour you wash the dishes.” But then there are cleaning companies that go in and clean people’s houses. So I think it almost doesn’t matter what the actual task is, it’s the intention around that task. If you’re thinking about “Okay, is this project a bounty?” the question you should be asking is if it should be an intrinsic- or extrinsic-motivation thing. That’s a useful analogy that I think about, like, “Is this washing dishes, or is this like a cleaner coming in and cleaning the house for me?”
How does Cabin use Snapshot and Gnosis Safe?
Roxine: Yeah, Snapshot and Gnosis Safe form the bedrock of Cabin’s tooling. All our proposals go through Snapshot. We are always testing out the new features from Snapshot as well; same thing with Gnosis. That’s kind of where everything goes and happens.
How many owners are in your Gnosis Safe?
Roxine: I think it is three signers.
How can people learn more about you and Cabin?
Roxine: Yeah, so with Cabin, our website is cabin.city. It used to be greatercabins.com, but now it is cabin.city. And I think our big thing right now is our co-living passport. So right now folks can book months at the—I’m not gonna say it’s historic; it’s been around for only a month, like a year and a half—but a very Web3 illustrious location. Folks can start living there beginning October 1, all the way until September 2023.
So if co-living is something you want to try out and do with Web3 folks, then that is the perfect place to go. So, cabin.city, and I think there’s a co-living pass tab at the top.