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Destined to fail: The sober reality of the Dash Marketing Hub
- Understood by the network to grow and enhance the scope, skills, and breadth of the marketing capacity of the Dash ecosystem, the Dash Marketing Hub is in actuality explicitly designed and implemented to “energize community leaders.”
- While modeled after the Dash Incubator, which is run by IT professionals, the admins of the Marketing Hub are not marketing professionals, resulting in amateur, unstructured, and unrigorous work and leadership.
- Unlike the Dash Incubator, the activities of the Marketing Hub are largely process oriented rather than outcome driven. Quality work is alluded to often and loudly but never properly defined.
- While transparency is deceptively promoted as the counterweight for the Hub to keep it honest and in-check, there is in actuality no accountability within the Marketing Hub short of total defunding by the MasterNode Operators.
- Already within the first month, the admins have broken their promise to the network by using their admin powers (censorship, banning) on proposals that they are the financial beneficiary of.
- The admins refuse to engage in open conversation about Hub activities on platforms they do not directly moderate and control and block those that attempt it.
- Despite their proposal to the DAO promising “public and easily-accessible information,” conversations about activities on the trello board defining and tracking the work are blocked and rerouted into the discord memory-hole where they will never been seen or linked again with the proposal. This makes accountability extremely difficult.
- The Dash Marketing Hub is funding activities (paid out to the Admins themselves) that the DAO treasury system would never fund otherwise.
- The Hub is repeating the continued mistakes made by the same people that has lead to Dash being perennially misunderstood, ignored, and perceived as smaller than it really is. As structured the Marketing Hub is not a path forward and needs to be defunded.
What follows is my attempt at a facts driven account of what is happening with the Dash Marketing Hub. Personal attacks, conjecture, and innuendo towards those involved are reserved for twitter where they belong.
I am distraught by what I am seeing and my goal here is to prevent the Dash Marketing Hub from discrediting the dash network.
I’ve identified some glaring problems with the Dash Marketing Hub that aren’t being addressed in any meaningful way, in fact quite the opposite seems to be happening with the digging in of heels.
In August 2021, a proposal was funded by the Dash Decentralized Autonomous Organization’s (DAO) treasury, called Dash Marketing Hub: Official Dash Incubator Fork for Marketing and Promotion. The exact language of the proposal and the comments of MasterNode Operators and past proposal owners can be seen here: https://www.dashcentral.org/p/dash-marketing-hub. The Dash Marketing Hub is now operational and running as a trello board here: https://trello.com/b/kk4LcqJY/dash-marketing-hub.
The Dash Marketing Hub proposal states
On first glance there isn’t anything offensive here. It sounds good. Dash needs more marketing, now more than ever. The technology already is best in class for user experience and ease of use. It has growing real world adoption, and some really cool innovations on testnet. Yet people somehow have no idea about this. Raising Dash awareness is very much needed, no doubt.
The spirit of the Dash Marketing Hub is a good one. It is a tool to unlock activism/marketing from more people, build reputation for new marketers, coordinate activities across teams/individuals, and is more accessible for proposal owners than submitting proposal directly to the DAO. Personally, I think there is a strong case to be made that the Marketing Hub is inferior to simply using the DAO treasury system as is, but the spirit of the Marketing Hub is ok.
Take a closer look though. The mission statement tells you explicitly who this proposal is designed to help – “community leaders” who have simply become “unenergized.” This wording is significant. It absconds responsibility from previous failed marketing endeavors. It doesn’t say it is designed to help bring in new talent, analyze past failures, leverage the global community of Dash, or even do basic marketing research. Remember, these are the community leaders who up until now have been ineffective at promoting dash or cultivating a culture of activism. So if we can acknowledge that there is a problem with marketing results (a very uncontroversial take) why expect the current “community leaders” to be the leaders the community needs?
So who are these “community leaders?” Given that the first “community leaders” who have so far received dash from the Marketing Hub is the proposal owner and his band of moderators/admins, this is a tacit acknowledgment that they are not effective marketers. It might sound harsh but it is in the very language of their mission statement and we see it playing out already in the first month of Hub operations. It paints a picture that this is an initiative designed primarily to cater to and further strengthen entrenched interests. This goes against the spirit of the Dash Marketing Hub as a concept and Dash as a decentralized network.
Perhaps I’m over reacting. Maybe they’ve learned from their mistakes. After all, their roadmap seems more or less coherent. Let’s see.
The false analogy
There is one more aspect of the proposal that I want to draw attention to before we get into what Hub admins have actually been doing with the network’s funding. A major justification for the dash marketing hub within the proposal is the perceived success of the Dash Incubator. The Dash Incubator has a similar incentive and work structure as the Hub but applied to IT development tasks and has been in operation for several months with enthusiastic support from the MasterNode Operators. By most accounts, the Dash Incubator is generating results as can be seen in the comments section of the Dash Marketing Hubs proposal. Association with the Dash Incubator is a significant part of the proposal and is mentioned 29 times throughout the proposal and the comment sections on dash central.
So if the Dash Incubator seems to be working to supplement the network’s development activity what is the problem with Dash Marketing Hub copying their model? Well, for starters, the Dash Incubator was run by Andy Freer, an IT professional and former chief technical officer of the Dash Core Group. Andy is not without some controversy during his time as the chief technical officer of Dash Core Group. However, no one can deny the fact that he is, by profession, an IT professional. His job, quite literally, is to prioritize what development to conduct and fund within an organization. This makes for a very logical and obvious transition to essentially the same role as the Dash Incubator admin.
In contrast, how many of the Dash Marketing Hub admins, the people who make the decision on what to fund, are professional marketers? As far I can tell, that number is zero. Not a single admin running the dash marketing hub is a trained or experienced marketing professional. None have been paid to do marketing for any organization outside of the dash ecosystem. This is not an insignificant difference as we will see when reviewing how the Hub is being run within its first month.
There is one more significant difference that makes the Dash Incubator and the Dash Marketing Hub incomparable and that is the nature of the work. In IT development work when a product, integration, update, etc. is shipped there is very little confusion about the quality of the work being done. It works or it doesn’t. Granted there are other considerations like the code’s resource usage, dependencies, etc. but in general it is rather easy to understand if you are getting what you paid for. Especially if you are an IT professional yourself evaluating the work. In other words, quality is relatively easy to define and accordingly it is well defined. As a result there seems to be no confusion over what is a successful delivery of quality work within the Incubator.
There is a lot of fluff language within the Dash Marketing Hub proposal and its founding documents that attempts to hand wave away this very serious question of how do you measure success in the context of specific marketing activities funded by the Hub. I think the circular logic of this comment from Joel, the lead admin of the Hub, is telling when asked if there are any quantifiable metrics being tracked when approving successful completion of particular task, he says;
The focus is on quality and impact over easily-gamed stats. The expectation is both roles will be active every single day, and the admin assigned to this card will review activity for the criteria in the specifications.
The specifications in question, as well as the language in the proposal always come back to the world “quality” without ever defining it. So we’ll know if it is quality if it is quality. This is not rigorous. This is the work of amateurs. The purpose of a specification sheet is to define what quality is. Otherwise how is the amateur admin supposed to have any hope of evaluating the work? What we see here is a specification sheet that lays out a process to be undertaken without the definition of “quality” or “impact.” Perhaps this can be forgivable or even acceptable if the admin reviewing the funded tasks was an experienced marketing expert. But as we now know, that is not the case at all.
When pushed for clarification on how quality is going to be defined, I received no answer. In fact, my question was deleted and I was removed from the trello board. More on this experience shortly.
Transparency without accountability
Throughout the proposal language, comments section, and the trello board, nearly any concern about how the Hub will be operated is assuaged by a promise of full transparency. They state;
Under this model, a complete history of every piece of work done by the Hub, including funding criteria and rationale for each task, who designed the task, who performed it, who approved it, and so on, is all public and easily-accessible information. The organization is effectively always under full and public financial audit due to its very structure, so no discrete audits are ever necessary. And finally, participation in the Hub will be open to the entire Dash community, leveraging our whole talent pool. This open collaboration and radical transparency will cause Dash to flourish and grow exponentially.
The problem is that the mechanism for accountability is totally unclear. Yes you can see who is accepted or rejected to participate on the board as a contributor or an admin. You can see what projects are selected for funding. What happens if you disagree with what you see?
Well, I happened to disagree with what I was seeing on a proposal to pay two of the admins to run a twitter account. It didn’t make sense on a number of layers and I was asking questions trying to understand why the proposal was set up the way it was.
To understand the incompetence of the admins and their disregard for their own governing documents, I am going to into detail of this debacle. The proposal in question is here: https://trello.com/c/kwkdgF6L/10-dash-community-twitter
You can see that one admin Pedro was paid 0.5 dash for the idea of paying two other admins Joel and Chris to run a twitter account. Joel was paid 0.5 dash to write a specification document that defined the process for running a twitter account with no definition of what impact a quality twitter account is supposed to have. In fact the quality assurance section is marked “none.” To run the twitter account both Joel and Chris will get paid 1 dash per week.
I was left scratching my head, so I asked the following on the trello item, “none of these are outcome driven goals. Why should the community be paying someone to run a twitter account like this?”
It is worth reading the exact exchange on the trello board. The Admin Pedro gaslights my concerns suggesting that the specification document is outcome driven (it was not and continues not to be despite Joel’s suggestions on twitter) and tells me to submit an alternative proposal if I had a better idea. Open collaboration this was not. I had no intention of running a paid twitter account but I engaged with him in conversation explaining my concerns with the proposal. I thought the price was wrong and it would be more effective if people from low cost areas ran the twitter account. This is where things started to go off the rails.
Joel jumps in commenting in an admin capacity on a proposal he will be the financial beneficiary of. He tells me to move the “debate” to discord. This would effectively hide any criticism of the proposal into the ephemeral fever dream that is the discord server. It is also, of course, a discord server that he is the owner and moderator of. Moving the conversation into discord would have gone against the text of the Hub’s proposal to the DAO that information would be “public and easily-accessible.” Seeing as I somehow had a better grasp on the function of the hub than the person who was paid 20 dash to craft the language of the proposal, I refused and reminded him that we were promised full transparency. I also reiterated my concern that the proposal we were reviewing was designed to pay two admins to post on twitter when they already post on twitter for free with very poor outcomes. How can that be justified?
Here, Joel demonstrated his complete lack of understanding that transparency is not the same thing as accountability and that he has no problem abusing his powers;
There is [full transparency]. Anyone can view the board whether they’re members or not. This board is not for debate, especially for non-admins. Do not interrupt the workflow or you will be removed from the board. Final warning.
You would never guess this is the person begging people on reddit to join the Marketing Hub and provide legitimacy to it. In the proposal to the DAO it was made clear by Joel that admins would not admin on proposals they put forth for funding. Yet here we are. He is threatening removal, making a joke of transparency and collaboration, and denigrating anyone who is a non-admin. Joel’s power hunger is on display here in bold letters. The message is clear, “if you try to mess with my payout, you will be silenced”.
Now I refuse to be bulled by Joel. I see that he is clearly breaking the rules of the Hub. So I asked Pedro, the actual admin tasked with managing this proposal what he thought about Joel threatening to use admin powers on an item he has no authority on. I also asked what possible justification he had in paying out Joel and Chris when their own twitter accounts have so little followers and engagement even after years of being run by them – a clear sign they are not talented on twitter. This must have really upset Joel because he removed my comments and banned me from the trello board.
I then took the conversation to twitter. A place where Joel cannot censor me. Did he and Chris Web engage with my concerns? Did he enter conversation and act collaboratively? No. They gaslight me, called me a troll, threatened me, and ultimately blocked me. They did everything but engage with my concerns. They then went back into their little hole in the ground- the discord channel to congratulate themselves.
Perhaps you haven’t been blocked by them yet. Ask them, in public where it will be seen. Why should they get paid 4 dash each to run a twitter account when their own accounts are so small? How are they qualified? If most people (I ran a poll) would not pay them to run a community twitter for 4 dash per month, how did Pedro come to the conclusion this was appropriate? Why aren’t they exploring using these funds to pay low cost talent with a track record of success from other places in the world? You know, scaling the marketing capacity of dash! Why are we paying a premium for their very limited talent? Ask them. They can’t block us all, can they?
It is clear the trello board is designed to rubber stamp the decisions of the admins, more specifically the head admin Joel. He sees no problem with his behavior above. It doesn’t matter that they are by their own admission bad marketers. It doesn’t matter that they fail to offer justification for their proposals. It doesn’t matter that someone is offering ideas on how to make a bad idea a potentially good one. All that matters is that the process in their mind is followed (i.e no clutter or debate on a task) and of course that they receive the dash. It is infuriating. It is disgusting behavior. It needs to be stopped immediately.
This one poorly thought out item is not the exception either, it is the rule. These admins are running around like kids in a candy store, approving each others’ half-baked ideas that have no place in a well thought out or coordinated marketing campaign. These are not things a professional marketer would start an initiative with.
For instance they are paying 1.5 dash to their friends to make videos showing off DashDirect usage. They need to be “quality” videos, again not defined. A distribution channel for the videos is not clear, nor is the expected outcome. Things get really idiotic when you realize they don’t want 1 video showing this, nor a dozen videos, they want 50 videos! One for each state in the United States. What is the possible justification for that? Well, because “debate” is discouraged in the marketing hub and their decrees are meant to be set in stone. We have no idea. But any non-corrupt thinker would wonder what possible benefit would it make to pay for 50 of essentially the same video. Is buying a meal at IHOP in Texas different than an IHOP in Virginia? Of course not. They decided it makes sense to spend 75 dash to make the same amateur video 50 times. It is frankly incomprehensible. It would of course make so much more sense to make one good video and spend the rest of the funds promoting it. That is beyond the mental capacity of the amateurs in charge of making the marketing decisions at the hubs. If they paid to promote the video, how could they and their cronies pocket the dash themselves, after all?
And to be clear, that is what they are doing. They are “energizing” themselves through compensation. Take out your calculator and look at how much Joel is getting paid already in this first month of operation. By my count as of this writing, he has gained 27.5 Dash, not including the 20 Dash he received from Dash Incubator to develop the Hub. Now look around, did the network get its money worth? Does it have a pathway forward that makes you think it will get its money worth? Would the MasterNode Operators being paying for this if it was put forth as a proposal to the DAO treasury? Almost certainly not!
Meanwhile Joel has made the discord his personal fiefdom, the subreddit is his self-promotional machine and otherwise is totally barren, and in return the Dash network looks small and pathetic. No other cryptocurrency network would hire him to be the monotone voice of their network. In fact, the dash network has rejected him in the past but he has entrenched himself so deep into the community workings of dash that it doesn’t matter what he does, he keep reinventing his role as “community leader” and somehow keeps getting paid to do the same wrong things.
Compounded over years of this behavior and we have a community that is not well understood by the market, a community that is perceived to be smaller than it is, and saddest of all a community that has lost members that could be helping but are disgusted by this sort of habitual behavior on display. How did we let this happen? How did a decentralized network, with a functioning treasury proposal system, devolve into a system where “admins” handpick other admins who can stifle conversation and choose to pay themselves.
The way out
If you think admins getting paid by the system as proposal owners is ripe for abuse and that there is a clear conflict of interest that will prevent this from being anything but a freak show. You are not alone. Since my twitter outburst, I’ve had a number of people in the dash community reach out who are disturbed by what they were seeing at the Dash Marketing Hub. We are assured by the admins that there will be full transparency. What we’ve learned is this means we get to see them do it to us. Unlike the DAO treasury, people can’t comment on specific proposals, nor can they defund specific proposals within the Hub. It is all or nothing apparently. Full trust. Given the choice, they deserve nothing.
The Hub was clearly designed not to have accountability in mind. The only way to make it accountable is to defund it entirely and return to the drawing board. There is a kernel of a good idea in there. If it is to return it needs to be picked up again by actual marketing professionals who won’t embarrass the network.
Let Joel and his band run off with the Dash they’ve embezzled. Let’s cut our losses and recognize that they were bad actors this whole time. It is not the first time the DAO has made a mistake, it won’t be the last. But if the network doesn’t acknowledge this is a total fiasco, and doesn’t acknowledge that this was designed to “energize” through enrichment a handful of incompetent insiders, we won’t be able to undo the damage.
So much of the vitriolic criticism of dash is based in fantasy land with truly childish accusations of it being a scam. But here, on transparent display, is a degradation of the principles of the network that is so obvious, that we should all be deeply embarrassed. If any detractors really cared to, they could have an absolute field day with this. Sadly, people don’t care anymore to put in the effort for effective trolling. In part because our marketing is so bad, so boring, and so off message that people don’t think about dash anymore. Paying these admins even 1000 times more wouldn’t change that.
Please, don’t trust me, you can go review the trello board yourself. It takes little to peel off the thin veneer of rigor. See that they seem to just be doing, stuff. There is no research being done, no defined targets. It is the work of total amateurs.
Our way out is to defund. We will not lose marketing capabilities as we still have the functioning dash DAO treasury system. The system will be getting an upgrade in that the proposal fee will be lowered soon (something Joel was publicly against, in favor of a solution like hub. Again showing he puts himself over the network). Realize this, the marketing hub barely passed. It certainly received no mandate like did the Dash Incubator, which received a record number of yes votes. You need to ask yourself what is good for the network, not what is good for Joel and the Hub admins.
Dash has a remarkably bright future. There is no other cryptocurrency I know of that is closer to delivering on the original promise of the Bitcoin white paper’s “peer to peer electronic cash system.” The problem remains that so few people know about Dash’s achievements. Paying Hub admins to “energize” their failed strategies, is not a meaningful path forward.
I have attempted my best to make this critique civil in tone, despite my visceral and complete disgust of what I am seeing unfold. I fully suspect the admins being criticized to respond by repeating their pattern of gaslighting, abuse, and other negative attacks. This is why I’ve lost all hope in them. If they can’t respond to criticism, if they can’t get better, they have no place being “community leaders.” I will not engage with them in any platform they moderate or administrate. I no longer participate in their self-aggrandizement schemes. Seeing as they will not engage with me on platforms they cannot control, I suspect I will not be party to defend myself against any character assassination attempts or other abuse sent my way. I’m mostly ok with this.
To everyone who has made it this far, to whatever extent you can, hold these “community leaders” accountable to the language and spirit of their own proposal. Don’t be distracted by any ad hominem smoke and mirror shows. Better yet, please consider leaving the stunted narrative control playgrounds they’ve constructed. Their power is entirely illusory. The DAO is bigger than any one person or group, especially a group with such a profound lack of meaningful impact. There are numerous ways forward from here, but it starts with recognizing an endemic problem. It is up for all of us to make changes.
This debacle, coupled with the general sad state of the internet, has left me disillusioned and totally uninterested in spending time online anymore. I’ll check in periodically but you can mark me down as another burnout, for now.
Letter Received September 14 2021 with reference to Twitter Posts