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 The Checks Meta
This essay may or may not be notable.
We are back with more essays on Web3 and emerging tech.
Recently, Checks VV, an NFT art collection has taken the NFT world by storm. The collection goes beyond art — it’s also commentary on the times and highlights some of the key values of Web3 and crypto.
Checks VV is also a live case study and example of how we see NFTs as a coordination mechanism with an Infinite Design Space.
Hope you enjoy!
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🏋️♂️ Checks VV: Creating a Meta
Open editions are NFT mints where an artist sets their own parameters and constraints. Instead of having a supply limit, an artist can instead set a time limit to the mint.
The Checks collection was minted as an 24-hour Open Edition for $8 per NFT.
The Checks NFT’s artwork started as 80 checkmarks in different colors, organized in a grid. (Since then, the Checks VV team has been updating the meta data with different images).
The inspiration for Checks centers around the concepts of ownership and authorship in the context of verification on the Internet.
Particularly, Butcher highlights Twitter’s intent behind its verification system was to use a checkmark to indicate that an account was “notable”. Last year, after going private, Twitter changed its checkmark program to an $8/month subscription.
Now for $8/month you can have a blue checkmark next to your username. You can buy notability and verification … but so can many others.
On the intent for Checks, Butcher noted: “The intent of this piece is to capture a moment in time — the shifting context in which the process of verification takes place, in a society dominated by electronic culture and communication. The coveted checkmark that was previously a badge bestowed by institutions, is now a symbol that merely means the holder can afford it and is prepared to pay for it… Checks is an infinite canvas for expression that is designed to challenge the concept of ownership and authorship in the age of the internet.”
In launching Checks as an open edition, Butcher sent out the proverbial “bat signal” and a community of people showed up to mint Checks.
The Checks open edition sold over 16,000 Checks NFT at $8 per NFT.
“It’s a combination of the eight dollars to buy status and this idea that verification and notability are now something that we have the infrastructure to assign from the bottom up…” [Source Article]
Since the launch of Checks VV, it feels like everyone in the NFT community is talking about Checks.
The Checks collection has since then spawned derivative collections, memes and open dialogue and coverage on the commentary behind Checks. It’s grabbed our attention and created a fledgling community.
In short, Checks VV seeded an entire meta — dubbed the Checks Meta.
⚖️ Metas: Attention Weighing Machines
Metas (trends, fads, vibes, sub-cultures) are effectively zeitgeists: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
Metas give us a pulse on what is top of mind for a community, industry or society at large.
To subscribe to and be a part of a meta, we pay with our most prized currency: attention.
Attention is the currency of metas.
Metas are attention weighing machines: At any given moment, people are voting on this weighing machine with their attention and by extension, sometimes with their wallets.
This weighing machine defines what we commonly refer to as “the times.”
The attention flywheel powers the network effects behind Metas: as a meta grows in popularity, more people hear about it, then more people talk about it, and then more people participate.
Here is my framework to understand value:
In the above framework, the Checks Meta lands in ideology/culture (although, likely some fandom (towards the team) as well).
One (high level) way to look at the current value of the Checks VV meta might be the difference between mint price and the current price. This assumes a healthy and efficient market where people make buying decisions based on their preferences. Which is a big “IF” because Web3 markets are nascent and there is a good chance we might all just be crazy AF.
Does this mean everyone involved in Checks VV is in it for the ideology?
Of course not.
🏔 The Journey of a Meta
The inspiration for Checks VV is to bring attention to the concept of ownership, authorship and verification.
But this does not mean that everyone involved or holding an NFT cares about this mission and shares the same inspiration as the artist and Checks VV team. It’s likely that only a very small percentage does.
The lifecycle of a meta can be viewed through Carlotta Perez’s framework for technology adoption.
While her framework was focused on technology adoption like the Internet and the steam engine, there are elements of her framework that highlight the life cycle of a meta.
Particularly the Frenzy and Turning Point parts of the framework.
The lifecycle of participation in a meta might look something like this:
Super Fans: The first people to subscribe to a meta resonate on some level with the values and original intent. They are the early believers akin to the evangelists and super fans of the community.
Speculators: If (1) generates and sustains enough attention, the next group to subscribe to the meta are speculators. In this context, speculators aren’t just those who are focused on financial value. There are also speculators who value the signaling that comes from participating. (I.e. this meta is cool, if I participate, then I’ll be cool… this is at the heart of mimetic theory).
Spectators: If (1) and (2) continue to generate and sustain enough attention, the next group to subscribe is the spectators, people who bring more attention to the meta (as a supporter or a detractor).
The 3 groups above help bring attention to the meta in different ways. Speculators and Spectators follow a peak and trough cycle, where their peak attention usually signals that we are in the “frenzy” part of the meta.
Just like in technology adoption, for a meta to go from fad to sustained defining iconic culture status, it must cross the chasm, or the “turning point” in Perez’ framework.
Very few metas go beyond fad and attain “lasting iconic culture” status. Many metas don’t cross the “turning point” because the power of the ideology and true believers never out power the speculative attention. Said another way, not enough speculators and spectators get converted to true believers before their attention goes somewhere else.
We live in a world with razor thin attention spans.
Sustaining a meta requires sustaining attention and converting (some) speculators / spectators into believers (super fans, collectors, evangelists, etc).
Very few projects have done this successfully. As Snowfro and the Art Blocks community say: come for the flip, stay for the art.
Sustaining a Meta: 🔨 Build in Public x 🎮 Game Theory
But how are metas sustained? Isn’t it just about the art?
Art brings that meta to life. But to continue to capture attention requires more than just one thing.
🔨 Build in Public
Beyond just dropping some art with commentary, the Checks VV team is also executing and building in public:
Show some art
Engage with community
Build novel tech / mechanisms that are engaging
Checks VV isn’t just about the art.
It also has game theory powered by tech, product and UI/UX. It has a team that builds in public without overpromising. The team is focused on doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Link to the above tweet, which is a part of a larger thread.
🎮 Game Theory
One of the more interesting parts of Checks VV is the economics and game theory.
At a later phase, Checks VV will give holders the option to burn their checks NFTs to obtain an evolved version of the Checks NFT. And the more you burn, the rarer of an evolved Check NFT you get. (There are also other mechanics as well, but this is the main one.)
For example: burning 2x “80 Check Original” NFT gets you 1x “40-Check Original.” All of this works up to the coveted Black Check, which requires 64 “1-check original” to be burned.
See below: Work in Progress of the burn mechanism.
At first glance, the burning mechanism graphic above might feel simple.
It’s just math, isn’t it?
Yes, but to enable all of this on-chain, tech and UI/UX need to built to support this. The almost maniacal focus on the details (from tech to UI/UX, etc) to create something simple and elegant for the user is what makes Checks VV feel different than other “just art” projects.
Simple is not easy. In a world of abundance, simple is hard.
All this creates a system that gives the community many preferences to choose from.
Some might have a preference for:
Exiting before the burn
Holding OG Checks as the supply decreases from burn
And any combination of the above and others… etc etc
Even the people who don’t do anything with their OG checks, are still making a choice. By not making a choice … they are making a choice. 🤯
This means that different people in the community can choose how they want to participate in this meta (i.e. different types of people can get involved in different ways).
🧱⛓ Composability: the Canonical Element of Web3 Culture
But how do we know this isn’t all still just a fad?
It might be.
But even if it is a fad, it still can add value.
At heart: The Checks Meta is about Web3’s OG values and ideology: verification, truth, provenance, decentralization.
The Checks VV team is bringing this commentary to life across different aspects of their project through experimentation and execution.
Whether the project succeeds or fails, or lands somewhere in the middle, the learnings, experiences, experimentation, sub-culture and everything that makes up the Checks Meta is shared knowledge (open sourced).
For example: all these mechanisms and components that form the broader Game Theory of the project contribute to the composability of the space. Others are/will experiment with these mechanisms in their own project.
Fads add another lego block to Web3 composability.
Composability is the canonical element that powers Web3 culture, innovation and experimentation.
🧐 This may or may not be notable
So is this the next “big thing” in Web3? Like anything in Web3 it’s an experiment.
The commentary, the art, the speculation, the values, the collecting, the memes all add to the Checks meta.
But is there enough to sustain our attention? Only time will tell.
For now, the Checks meta is the current outcome of the attention weighing machine.
And the whole commentary and story is unfolding on the very platform that inspired this: Twitter… the broker of attention. (meta-meta commentary?)
In the grander scheme of things, all of this may or may not be notable.
But for now, some of us are here for the Checks Meta.
This post is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing written in this post should be taken as financial advice or advice of any kind. The author(s) may own some of the NFTs and collectibles mentioned in this post. The content of this post are the opinions of the authors and not representative of other parties.
Empower yourself, DYOR (do your own research).