I'm taking yet another photography class, and in it I happened to catch a TedTalk from Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist. He also has another claim to fame being one of the earliest kids being profiled as addicted to video games. I actually remember the photo he shows in the TedTalk video when it ran in the newspaper at the time. In this particular speech, he talks about the characteristics of a creator, which got me thinking, since I'm heavily involved in writing, photography, and learning how to draw at the moment all over again.
The TedTalk got me thinking about how creative folks work, something I deal with on a regular basis in my day job managing project creations all the time. The builders involved just focus on business requirements, coding, quality testing, and moving to production. I deal with managing the overall project from beginning to end, securing the network resources/tools/compatibility environment, the politics, the budget and cost control, securing the support contracts, finding the talent, motivating the team, troubleshooting the build surprises, securing the test environment build, dealing with the 11th hour stakeholder injection, production willies, and finally the criticism at the end that the project could have been better from people who have no idea how to code "hello world!" if their life depended on it. Then comes the bigger challenge of keeping the project running smoothly month after month when the talent leaves.
Part of the issue, which creative folks hate with a passion in tech is the followup part. That includes the documentation, the transfer to production, the quality follow-up, and the stability or maintenance of the product. However, the two go hand in hand. If all you have is creators, they just keep building new stuff and no one is working on keeping it going after creation. Systems and digital products need support in a hundred different ways. Everything from the system they run on to code updates and source file replacements as well as regular bug testing and risk management all come into play. And, worse, if you don't have documentation, good luck trying to reconstruct something when the creator up and leaves with all the knowledge in their head.
So, when it comes to NFT projects, everybody gets jolly and happy about new releases and being on the cutting edge of something new, as well as value for resale (let's not kid ourselves on motivation here). However, for that new thing to keep going (as well as resale value continue to increase), that NFT project is going to need a solid maintenance plan as well as a good creative team. This seems to be major repeat problem that doesn't get addressed very clearly in a lot of project white papers as it requires some serious commitment and detail what resources are actually going to be available and how.
No surprise, as soon as the tidal wave hits and the initial fun is over, the real test happens on whether the project can maintain. Many don't. And then the accusations fly. Why aren't the devs on it? How did this see the light of day without full testing? This is a rug pull! FRAUD!
Now, in some cases seen recently, clearly there was no intention to build the related NFT project system at all. However, in many more cases, the project owners were simply in way over their heads. The fact is, NFT projects are expensive to launch and even more expensive to maintain. They require time, professional skill, resources, platforms, protection, custom software and a whole lot more. Then they require a marketing team to launch and sustain the following, even if on a grassroots level like Telegram or Discord. So, by the time the project is launched, and the NFTs fly off the drop like water evaporating off hot cement on a 110 degree day, the team is scrambling to sell as many packs to recover initial costs, pay off devs, and hold onto the project platform as much as possible under sudden impact influx of usage.
DeHoot Valley on the Wax network is a recent example of a cash crunch catching up with a viable project. Lots of folks hate talking operational finance and accounting, but in the tech world money makes the wheels turn:
Source: DeHoot Valley Discord, 11/23/22
Then comes maintenance. No surprise, with all the costs of ramp up, maintenance is frequently an after-thought because the assumption is that the customers will continue to keep buying and sustain the project model. But that's not what happens. There is a sustained initial burst, but typically ongoing revenues drop off dramatically. Without a heavy and ongoing marketing push, people don't buy more unless they are motivated to with additional rewards. This continues to add up on the cost side without a matching income side to pay bills. And then expenses catch up.
Maintenance is boring, not sexy, frustrating and a continuing cycle of struggle to stay above water. It's also a hardcore study in matching operational needs with cash flow support and talent retention to keep the lights on. It's essential to keep what a creator puts out going and growing. So, when you're looking at your next NFT project to invest in, try to look for some discussion about how the project will actually keep going after the launch and initial sale. I'm going to bet, you won't find much. It's a hard piece to write and a lot of new projects avoid it entirely hoping the new NFTs distract enough to avoid difficult questions.