Clear communication is crucial for the success of any community, including those centered around non-fungible tokens. NFTs are unique digital assets, authenticated using blockchain, controlled by a wallet owner. Over the last few years, a totally new and unprecedented industry has emerged around NFTs and their power to represent ownership of digital content such as art, music, collectibles, and much more. The quality of tooling available to the artists, entrepreneurs, and communities utilizing blockchain will heavily influence the rate at which the NFT industry grows.
Truly successful NFT projects are often defined by a community of engaged holders. By holding the NFT, you become a participant in the experience, and the other holders are your peers. By ensuring everyone is informed about important updates and promoting mutual respect among members, NFT communities can thrive while also contributing to the success of the ecosystem overall.
What is HAZELnet?
HAZELnet was created to enable trustless communication and verification for projects building on Cardano. According to the website, their flagship service HAZELbot is “the only Cardano Discord Bot you will ever need.”
Using the features offered by HAZELbot is as simple as inviting HAZELnet to join your Discord server. Then it’s time to take your community to the next level. The HAZELnet site lists features that benefit several different facets of the Cardano ecosystem, including custom and private whitelists, stake pool delegator verification, privacy and scam protections, DAO tools and voting features, plus customization options and more.
Having HAZELbot in your Discord server can streamline many of the processes that are required to facilitate clear communication within a community. I was lucky enough to get to do an interview for this article with the founder of HAZELnet. His name is Nils, and he’s a very pleasant guy to talk to! I asked him about the origins of the project, and he told me the following:
“I started as a stake pool operator… learning the technology essentially. That was in May 2021, but it didn’t take long – about a month or two – I bought my first NFT, just to see what it does. Shortly after, I became more active in the NFT scene on Cardano. And Discord became a base of operations for many projects. What I observed in those days was how people were publishing everything there was to know about their wallet and connecting it to their Discord account. I found it disturbing… and it was a terrible user experience because you would be typing in a channel while hundreds of others are typing at the same time. I think there were at least one or two mints that crashed because Discord could not keep up with the thousands of people signing up… I thought there must be a better way to protect the people doing this. [HAZELnet] makes it a little bit more convenient and accessible for the average person. I played with it in my mind for a while, then decided I could do something about this and continue to explore my passion for building something in the ecosystem. The other part was I knew it was going to be hard to market the stake pool just on charity and cat pictures alone. I felt tying it to something of actual value for the ecosystem could help with that.”Nils
Changing the Meaning of ‘Whitelist’
In the NFT industry, a whitelist refers to a list of individuals or entities with special access to purchase or participate in a specific NFT sale or auction. The whitelist is usually curated by the team behind the project. The most common benefits have included early access to NFTs as well as exclusive access to special edition assets. As with most things blockchain related, the meaning of what a whitelist is and how it can function within a community are changing and evolving fast.
Quality communication within NFT communities is the best source of innovative new ideas and use cases for non-fungible tokens and the systems that crop up around them. On the topic of how NFT projects can benefit from HAZELbot in this highly dynamic field, Nils said the following:
“Originally the idea was to have some mechanism of verifying NFT ownership. That was never the specific utility though. Having something verified is not utility in itself. You have to offer me something as your community member. Some projects use this just for clout by giving you a role in Discord showing you’re a holder. But there are many ways you can upgrade that. You can create fully gated communities, where access to a Discord is fully locked to the ownership of an NFT. And as long as you have it, you have access. Projects that are using the NFT holder verification functionality are doing it in very interesting ways. I love the idea of projects combining the basic functionalities of the bot with other systems and tools. Now we go beyond just holding an NFT. That’s what exciting for me, the idea that this is a long-term thing. Using a Discord tool that is connected to the Cardano ecosystem in one way or another is very exciting and has lots of potential.”Nils
Cardano stake pools are nodes on the Cardano blockchain that work to validate transactions on the network and are rewarded with ADA tokens. Stake pools allow delegators to earn rewards by staking their ADA to with a pool. Communication between delegators and stake pool operators (SPOs) is important for several reasons. Delegators can gain insights into the SPO’s experience, technical capabilities, and the pool’s expected return on investment. In addition to that, communication between delegators and SPOs can help build a sense of personal connection within the Cardano ecosystem.
I asked Nils about HAZELnet’s approach to developing features for Cardano stake pools and he responded with the following:
“[HAZELnet] doesn’t have enough of the features that I would like there. Right now, it’s only delegator verification. It allows you to connect more intimately with delegators. When I built the bot originally, I was thinking, I’ll be catering to NFT projects because they have an urgent need for holder verification. But for stake pools it makes sense as well. So, I built that feature in. In the original beta program, I tried to get 10 to 15 projects that would be using the bot. I was hoping to get an even split between stake pools and NFT projects. As it turns out, most stake pools don’t have Discord and don’t really care about the bot. The larger stake pool operations that I talked to didn’t really seem to have the free bandwidth. Most told me they don’t interact with their delegators that way. They just have an open Discord, either you join or you don’t, it doesn’t matter if you’re a delegator. So, in the beta, I had two stake pools and 15 NFT projects. I wish I could spend more time on delegation and stake pool related features. But the honest truth is that I haven’t gotten a lot of input from stake pool operators. I want to build what the community is looking for. But I have a large spot in my heart for delegation-based features.”Nils
Decentralized Autonomous Communication
In a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), communication is particularly important because decisions are made collectively by all members. Opinions, ideas, and concerns should all flow freely to help ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of the organization. DAOs often use digital tools to communicate, such as messaging apps and forums, with Discord being a very popular platform in specific.
HAZELbot can be used in conjunction with other Discord bots to create a genuinely one-of-a-kind experience for community members of a server. It’s a simple as clicking a couple buttons, and a user can automatically have their NFT holdings verified on Discord in a secure and private fashion. Although this already represents amazing utility in its current form, Nils told me he isn’t content to let HAZEL exist solely for communities on Discord.
“Yes, we’re on Discord, but that’s not the long-term goal. I know that will be counter to the idea of decentralization to only be there. What if Discord goes away? You’re left without a way to integrate. This isn’t sensible from a business perspective or a reliability perspective. If the tool only works with one party, then that party decides to ban crypto-related content, for example, what happens then? I’m excited to see what I will learn from integrating with other platforms too.”Nils
A Tool for the Cardano Community
HAZELnet is a tool built to help Cardano projects foster quality communication within their respective communities in a seamless and trustless way. Nils has done a great job of meeting users where they are, rather than telling them to come to him. The feature list for HAZELnet is always growing to serve the needs of NFT projects, DAOs, Stake Pools, DeFi projects, and beyond!