A Roadmap for YAM (Part 1 - Finding a Vision)

Preface

I have spend the last 8 months or so working full time for YAM, and have been contributing for over a year. The following post is my attempt to layout what I see as a path that the DAO needs to take in order to remain relevant and be successful. While those of us working on the DAO have made progress on many fronts, I still feel that there are some big pieces that are either missing or incomplete, that need to be addressed.

This is a little bit of a roadmap and a little bit of analysis of our current situation. This document will focus primarily of ideas for YAM as a whole, and less about specific products, although I will try to dive into those at the end. I will be releasing these in different parts here on the forum so they can be discussed individually, although many ideas are inter-related and some rely on others to really work.

Before I start, I want to say that everything written here is my opinion and not that of any coordinated group at the DAO or a voice of “the core team” whatever that may mean. I am one stakeholder among many and these are my personal thoughts. I post them publicly because I think we need more transparency and I want people to read, think, and question them so that we can make them better together.

Part 1: Re-focusing our Vision

Before we start talking about the future, we need to discuss the past. YAM has a colorful past and understanding how we got to where we are will help us figure out where we need to go.

History

The Birth of YAM

YAM was created in August of 2020 in a week long fair launch where two fifths of the supply was given away to the DeFi Community. This was a false start as a bug in the code required a migration to a new temporary token contract, before finally launching with corrected and audited code a month later in September. the YAM token was an experiment with a mechanism called rebasing (see ampleforth, but in a nutshell it is an accounting trick to move token volatility from price into supply). as a way to build a community managed treasury. YAM was designed so that as the price of the token increased, some of the value inherent in that increase flowed into the treasury (the details are complicated but here is an ELI5). This succeeded in building a $3 million dollar treasury for the DAO over a few months, controlled by YAM token holders. The purpose and use of this treasury was not specified by the project creators, all of whom have now stepped away from the project to let it truly be community run.

The death of Rebasing

In crypto, nothing stays simple for long. Although the treasury was growing and a small community had formed to tend to it and the protocol, many were not happy with how the rebasing mechanism worked. It was deemed to take an excessive amount of value from periods of growth, and was criticized for not having a mechanism to return value in periods where the price fell. After lots of back and forth, disputes, and arguments, a decision was made to stop the rebasing functionality in the token and turn it into a more vanilla governance token. In late December of 2020, governance voted to turn off rebasing.

A (somewhat) Fresh Start

2021 started with the DAO re-invigorated to begin it’s journey as a traditional DAO (an oxymoron if I have ever heard one). There were a number of internal projects that were being developed: Degenerative (Yam Synths), Umbrella (Yam Protection), and DAO House (Yam Treasuries). Contributors were beginning to manage and grow the treasury by investing it in other sympathetic projects in the space. On the operation front, the DAO began building out a framework to compensate contributors and streamline governance.

In the following months, those of us working on the DAO learned that building products is hard and what seems to initially be a promising idea sometimes runs head first into the reality of implementation and viability. Umbrella and DAOHouse both started out as exciting projects and ran into numerous hurdles, exacerbated by a lack of developers and the expertise really required to push them forward. The DAO had turnover in some key roles, which further slowed things down, and the initial launch of YAM Synths did not generate the excitement that many had hoped for. But through those struggles there has been continuous development on YAM Synths, new work on integrating and incorporating the excitement around NFTs into the DAO with MoFY, and continued development on streamlining our operational processes.

Where the DAO Stands Today

When I look at YAM I see the same potential that I saw last year when I started contributing to the project. There is an ocean of opportunities that are just waiting to be discovered in the crypto/web3 space and we are in as good a position as any to find them. The products that we are building (and the ones we stopped building) have not found product market fit yet, but I am confident that they can and will.

What we are lacking is a clear vision of what YAM is and what it stands for . What is the thesis behind YAM? A thesis is defined as “a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved”. What are we as a community trying to prove by building YAM? That this is not clear is, in my opinion, the root of many of the struggles YAM currently faces.

Don’t we have a Thesis?

No. YAM started out with a broad and vague mandate defined in its founding as to essentially allow anything: " After deployment, it is entirely dependent upon YAM holders to determine its value and future development." YAM was going to be a rebasing token with a treasury, and further specifying a vision went against the open nature of the project at launch. YAM was an empty vessel that the best and brightest in the space could fill as they saw fit.

Unfortunately this didn’t happen, and it wasn’t helped by the original bug and issues with the rebasing mechanism. By the time that was all sorted out, there was a general consensus that all we needed to do was get some projects done and things would sort themselves out. Starting what could be a long and drawn out political conversation after we just had one was not high on anyone’s priority list. Trent and Brock were still contributing to the DAO and most of the core team (and community too) looked to them for guidance and vision. As they stepped away, they left a vacuum that no one has felt empowered to fill.

As time passed, we stopped noticing that the DAO does not have a strong thesis. This unexamined assumption has denied the DAO a truly strong message that we can both leverage internally and project out to the wider crypto space to attract and retain talent. A good thesis is a story. It is a vision of what is, and will be, important. It allows others who share that vision to find common ground and work together even if they don’t agree on other things. It provides a foundation for explaining why an organization may be important by describing why something else is important and frames an organization within its larger context. This is something YAM is sorely missing, and it is not too late to find it.

Am I the perfect person to try and create this thesis? Maybe, Maybe not. But the DAO needs a strong thesis to guide it’s future path and to align our stakeholders and participants around a unified vision and direction. So I am going to do my best. And I don’t want this to be my vision, but our vision, as a community. I am just jump-starting it. I am looking for discussion and critique of my thoughts here and not blind acceptance unless you all love it.

Building an Updated Vision

Much of the groundwork for this was laid in late 2020 when @designer laid out the YAM mission statement and the methodology he used to develop it. [part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5]. My goal here is not to over-ride this work, but to build on and extend it, adapting it for our current situation and landscape. It was made at a time when it’s incomplete nature was not noticed and we all assumed it would get fleshed out as we went along. Well, now is the time to do that.

After this work, @designer and @tmoneywatershoes made an even shorter “Vision Statement” to further distill the mission statement. Here is the original vision statement:

Yam DAO is a self governed community
building integrated and novel DeFi products
designed to grow the value of the Yam ecosystem.
Empowered by shared economic incentives in pursuit of a decentralized self sovereign financial system for all.

This is a good statement if we are trying to describe how a DAO in the DeFi space should operate, but it does not differentiate YAM from other projects. You can tell this because removing YAM from the statement and replacing it with another DAO reads equally well:

[Sushiswap / OlympusDAO / etc.] is a self governed community
building integrated and novel DeFi products
designed to grow the value of the [Sushiswap / OlympusDAO / etc.] ecosystem.
Empowered by shared economic incentives in pursuit of a decentralized self sovereign financial system for all.

The above statement describes how we want the DAO to operate, but it doesn’t describe why it should operate that way or what larger goals the DAO has beyond just operating in this way. It is a statement of What and not Why.

Digging deeper, maybe there is more why in the longer mission statement?

Yam is a collaborative community innovating at the intersection of decentralized governance and programmable finance. Our open, fair and ethical philosophy fosters an inclusive and energetic culture. We are a fair-launch DAO pushing the bounds of innovation and launching experiments to enable the very promise of what DeFi can become for the world: a global, permissionless financial ecosystem.

This statement is also mostly What with a hint of W hy at the end: to enable the promise of DeFi: A global, permissionless financial system. This is a good start, but feels limited as I read it today, knowing that DeFi is now only a piece of the current Web3/Crypto ecosystem. And even if DeFi were all there was to the space, it needs to be unpacked to start to tell a story and make a thesis. Why do we want this new financial system?

In an early post @trente laid out a number of ways the project could move forward, but stopped short of stating a why among the options for how. Trent later wrote a forum post on which Designer’s Mission and Vision Statements were based. One of the last paragraphs of the document reads (emphasis is mine):

The Yam mission is to push the bounds of decentralized
governance and programmable finance. Yam envisions a new structure for
capital coordination and an enablement of economic experimentation that
leads to a truly permissionless financial ecosystem, created by and for
its community of users.

The bold line above is the closest that I have seen a thesis for what the DAO believes and is working toward. It starts to hint at what this new world of decentralized finance would look like and provides a guidepost for future work. Unfortunately this level of specificity was removed as the document above was translated into the final mission and vision statements.

Finding YAM’s Theses and Values

I believe that the first step is creating a strong thesis is taking a stance and stating our beliefs and vision. These are the beliefs that I would like to see YAM adopt. These are not statements about what the DAO does, but why it does them:

  1. We believe that an open financial system built on a decentralized, permissionless ledger is incredibly valuable infrastructure for the world.
    This is why we build and invest in DeFi Products.
  2. We believe that this open infrastructure is equally valuable for art and culture.
    This is why we build and invest in NFT and art/culture products.
  3. We believe that open, decentralized systems enable new forms of coordination and we are committed to building and using them even though it may be difficult.
    This is why we are a DAO and build decentralized products
  4. While the world may end up multi-chain, we believe that Ethereum, and it’s rollup-centric roadmap has the best chance to become this infrastructure.
    This is why we are building on Ethereum.
  5. We believe that the success of the Ethereum ecosystem is positive sum and we should collaborate and open source where possible to maximize our shared success.
    This is why we work collaboratively and build open source products
  6. We believe tokens are a new and powerful coordination mechanism that we should use to further our vision.
    This is why we have a token.
  7. We believe that anyone, anywhere in the world should be able to join and contribute to YAM.
    Our infrastructure must be built to be as open as possible
  8. We believe in continual improvement and will always be looking for better ways to operate, govern, and build.
  9. We believe in kindness and treating each other with respect. A community that is kind to each other will inevitably do greater things than one that is constantly infighting. This includes kindness to other communities and those that we disagree with.

This is an extension of the vision for Web 3. While Web 3 has become a bit of a buzzword, it is a clear and powerful statement about the internet and decentralized systems’ role within it. I recommend this article to understand it: Making Sense of Web 3. 👉Interested in helping build the… | by Josh Stark | L4 blog | Medium

Turning Values into a Vision

From the Theses above, we can re-form a Vision Statement:

Yam DAO is a collective of like-minded individuals, unified by a shared vision for a better Internet: an open internet of value that allows anyone, anywhere to participate, benefit, and invest. The DAO uses this mandate to invest in, promote, and build products that further the vision of web 3, with the goal of building a better world.

It tells the user who we are: a collective of like minded individuals, unified by a shared vision

What we support: A n open internet of value that allows anyone, anywhere to participate, benefit, and invest.

How we are doing it: we invest in, promote, and build [web 3] products

Why we are doing it: with the goal of building a better world

I believe that this vision statement says a lot more about YAM as a community and organization than our previous statement. It quickly explains our intentions without getting bogged down in the minutia. The tent is big, but with a focused goal larger than ourselves that resonates strongly with crypto-natives. From here we can dive into how we are executing on this vision, and the details of the plan.

Proselytizing a Vision

Once we have a vision, we can sell that vision. This is distinct from selling our products or any particular characteristic of the DAO. The vision exists without us and so it can catalyze action without us having to execute on anything. Selling the vision doesn’t entail selling tokens, but it can act as a soft marketing campaign, getting our name out and connected to something that people like and believe in. This idea can also be woven into every product that we make (and it should be) to reiterate both the vision and the value of the products within this vision.

Moving Beyond a Vision

Of course, a vision is just a piece of the puzzle. We still need to execute to build products, manage our treasury, improve governance, and curate and build our community. But it is the foundation on which we build, judging the value of new ideas based on a shared framework of beliefs. It is the beginning of the resurgence of YAM


Part 2 discusses DAO governance

2 Likes

Thank you Ross for this multi-part investigation. It is well organized, well written, thought provoking, and a pleasure to read.

In summary, I agree with your new overarching statement. It is helpful as a baseline statement of core beliefs – what I would call a philosophical statement of values and YAMs ethos.

Perhaps your new statement works best as the base level values/ethos – like the base layer of a pyramid. The second layer of the pyramid would be the Brand Pillars. With the third layer of the pyramid as the “Vision Statement” by @tmoneywatershoes. And finally, at the top of the pyramid is a short concise brand statement. In this way, I see this new statement as a foundation to the others, and not as a replacement to them.

I feel the essence of the original Vision Statement’s sentence, “designed to grow the value of the Yam ecosystem” is very important to YAM’s community, customers and prospective investors. This is evidenced in the fact that “growing the value of the Yam ecosystem” is the goal behind your other Roadmap posts (part 2, part 3 and part 4).

In conclusion, it occurs to me that this is a great statement of values and serves as the ethos of YAM. That it and the original Vision Statement, plus the Brand Pillars, are all part of communicating what YAM is and aspire to become.

Again, thanks for your intelligent investigation in your series of Roadmap posts, it’s of great value at this time.

2 Likes

Thanks Ross for such great depth of insight. It’s quite moving to read. I appreciate the highlighting of Yam’s core beliefs. Def so inspiring to get this bigger picture look.

I created some visuals around your Yam Theses and Values section, to highlight the importance of the ideas!









2 Likes

I agree with all of this and think it’s a great dissection of the issues along with some really solid value statements we can build around on a cultural level.

My only comment is less of a reservation and more of an admonition:

I agree that Ethereum and its rollup-centric roadmap has the best to become the infrastructure you speak of, for now. And it makes sense that we are Ethereum focused. But I think it would behoove us to always be exploring, experimenting, and looking for opportunities wherever that may lead us. I am firmly convinced that there is a middle ground to find between practical market application and idealistic vision, and that is something I will always advocate for within the DAO.

1 Like

I agree with your thoughts on experimentation and looking for new opportunities.

It is funny how much nuance and implicit assumptions go into these simple statements. Many of them need more context to really get to the heart of them. For this one in particular, it comes down to trying to define what it is about Ethereum right now that makes it the right choice, and what would need to happen for the DAO to decide that Ethereum (and its L2s) are not where we start out or focus most of our effort.