MolochDAO Interview with Ann Willmott of ReallyBoringGuild
Grantee Interview Series
ReallyBoringGuild met with Ann Willmott to talk about her work with the Guild over the last year.
Even in the midst of a Wyoming snowstorm, Ann described the complexities of serving MolochDAO with warmth and depth.
ReallyBoringGuild: Can you describe what ReallyBoringGuild is?
Ann Willmott: I think a key to the story of MolochDAO is that it was kind of dormant. Many people in the community wondered what had happened to it.
There was a small group of people, including Stellar Magnet, who were trying to keep it alive. The treasury mostly includes funds from EthDenver 2019, Valentine’s Day, when Ameen Soleimani talked to everyone he knew and asked them to give 100 ETH to this DAO so they could give out grants. That year they gave out a bunch of grants and there was lots of activity, with discussions where some things were even voted down.
I consider discussion a sign of health because the community is active and shares different points of view.
By 2020, MolochDAO was already seeming pretty dormant, but Stellar Magnet wasn’t willing to give up on it.
As the value of Ethereum grew, what was left in the treasury became a lot of money, but there wasn’t a great way to get it out of the treasury, because most of the community wasn’t participating in the processing of grants.
At the end of 2020, Stellar Magnet set out to locate the people that had good projects to fund. Then by December 2020, she proposed a guild system to work on grant administration. It would be a separate little part of MolochDAO that could hire non-members to work for the DAO and help with the grant process.
Stellar Magnet received a grant for this guild and then along the way she hired Travis Wyche, who gave it the name ReallyBoringGuild.
At first, the name didn’t seem very inviting to me. I used to wonder if it’s a good idea to invite people to a meeting that you’re telling them is really boring, but after a little time, I really understood his sensibility and how fun the name is. MolochDAO isn’t a corporate brand anyway. I like to say that ReallyBoringGuild is “secretly not boring”.
In 2021, Travis and Stellar Magnet wrote the MolochDAO handbook to detail the grant process.
Around that time, I went on a trip to Wyoming, to look at a possible crypto project that I didn’t pursue. While in Wyoming, I hung out with Yalor Mewn, and he told me two things. He said, you know, people are actually working and getting paid in DAOs. I had no idea; I thought it was all volunteer work. The second thing he said is that I should meet his friend Stellar Magnet, who needed some help with a MolochDAO project.
I took a look at the handbook and was really impressed, so I signed on to help out with admin work. When I showed up and asked “what do you need help with?” they asked for 10–15 hours a week. I had full-time employment at the time, so we settled on 5 hours a week. I said I’d volunteer and they insisted they pay, so I said OK.
When eventually Stellar Magnet decided to move on, Travis and I spent a week discussing whether the DAO was really dead and what we thought we could contribute. We decided to submit a grant proposal for ReallyBoringGuild and received funding to continue improving MolochDAO’s grant process.
Over 2021, Travis and I didn’t have much feedback from the community, so we set up a list of priorities. We finished the grant round from the amazing people that Stellar Magnet had recruited and upgraded the DAO software, which I think was critical. By the end of 2021 we got back to another grant round and brought on Zayi Reyes and Pooja Ranjan, and now Christina Kirsch.
There’s a huge opportunity to invite grant recipients to stay around and people like TJay Rush and Pooja have been really invaluable new members. I see a huge opportunity to ask grant recipients to become members and to talk to them and see if they would be interested in staying around.
Lately, the MolochDAO 2021 Annual Report has been taking most of my attention. (Published in February 2020 with the help of Raid Guild!)
RBG: One thing that I feel is really important about working in ReallyBoringGuild, that you’ve had an impact on, is making your own work. Would you mind talking about how the guild members find issues, propose clearly defined scopes of work, and then own those scopes of work?
AW: At first, it was just Travis and me and even though we didn’t know each other, we were a team right off the bat. We just talked about things and figured out what to do.
To get anything done, we knew we needed to get the word out to the community. Even though there wasn’t much feedback, we tried to gather consensus from the DAO. You really can’t take action without MolochDAO members’ approval, so that was a really interesting process. We weren’t even members ourselves at the time. We were able to let MolochDAO members know that if someone objected or had questions, they could speak up in Discord or via direct message. We also used Twitter to make sure we could reach members who might not be paying attention to the Discord. And we had a little help reaching out to some of the original members, like Vitalik, just to make sure everyone was aware.
Odyssy really helped us with the technical path to the upgrade. Ven, Dekan and Spencer were amazing; we were so lucky that we reached out to them. It was really fun to work with them, even during the terrifying moments when we moved $6M of the DAO’s money to a new DAO. Not gonna lie, your life flashes before your eyes a little bit.
After that was done we returned to recruiting grants and refining grant processes.
To your question, I think it’s really important to let people carve out pieces of work that they can do and contribute, or carve out collaboration and subgroups that you’re going to do, and really own that and have accountability and responsibility for that. It’s important to enable your other team members to do that too and listen to what they want to do.
I try to listen to what other people on the team say and back them up as much as I can. I want to invest in them. If I disagree, I try to explain why they feel supported, so they can avoid a problem. If they choose not to follow my suggestion, I’m going to back them up anyway.
When you work in a group where no one is the boss of anyone else, I really can’t say no, you shouldn’t do that project or task. What I can do is help you shape it by bringing skills and accountability and then allowing you to get credit. We all shine when everyone shines. When the team is amazing, we’re all lifted up together.
I’d like to see this in the world, instead of so much hierarchical structure. Although, people do get so confused in DAOs, or companies with a more flat structure. We’ve had hierarchies baked into our brains for generations.
So a lot of the work I’m doing with teams really has to do with accountability, deliverables, and communicating your work. These skills may not be things that people needed when they had a boss, telling them what to do and whether their work was good. These are different sets of skills. I’m having a really great time observing how this unfolds — and some days it’s just sitting in chaos and being OK with that.
RBG: With the original goal of using the MolochDAO treasury to give out grants, is ReallyBoringGuild, in your opinion, making progress there?
AW: I was looking at that while putting together the annual report.
If you look at the ReallyBoringGuild grant proposal, written by Stellar Magnet and Travis Wyche, it’s all the stuff we do, grants administration, adding new members, and communication about MolochDAO.
The DAO is a grant-giving organization and the people that gave money at the beginning have moved on to do really amazing things in the space. They are not activists, so our goals should support finding useful projects that make a difference and giving grants to them. Everything else should serve that.
When we started getting questions from the community about what ReallyBoringGuild is actually doing, I thought, this is great because now we are actually getting feedback from MolochDAO members. Maybe we did wake up the DAO.
I have talked with various MolochDAO members and they tend to be fascinating people working on impactful projects. They are just fantastic human beings.
ReallyBoringGuild is not MolochDAO, so even if there’s a little tension from MolochDAO members, it’s useful feedback. As the DAO becomes more active, ReallyBoringGuild plays an important role and I’m excited about that.
RBG: Is there anything specific that you would like to see for ReallyBoringGuild in the future?
AW: I’d like to see more engagement with MolochDAO members. I think it’s really important to get their feedback, but you have to go reach out to them. You can’t just put up a poll and hope that they will answer it. MolochDAO members have valuable information, but they don’t always pop by the Discord.
One thing that I loved about the grant process, at the end of 2021, was having open proposals for a month — so people could make proposals anytime during the month, and also discuss the proposals that were already up. It created a buzz in the community.
Laying out grant priorities and interests will help to signal what MolochDAO would fund, so proposals can be tailored and then there’s clarity on what the DAO is interested in. Anyone can submit a proposal and the DAO can fund what it wants, but guidelines will help. Of course there’s complete freedom for a proposal to surprise us and the DAO can always vote for whatever it likes.
What makes a big impact in Ethereum and in the world will change, so ReallyBoringGuild should listen to what’s important to MolochDAO members and adjust the guidelines annually.
RBG: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
AW: I’m excited about the sustainability model in the MolochDAO 2021 Annual Report. ReallyBoringGuild teamed up with Raid Guild and they built out a spreadsheet that looks at how much money MolochDAO should spend on grants each year, and therefore each grant round, depending on how long members want the treasury to last.
There are some assumptions about the value of Ethereum, but it raises the question of whether to shut down the DAO at some point or to raise more funds. It’s something the community can discuss and maybe it can be used to help other DAOs.