16 Nov 2021
I believe that Hicetnunc, Rafael's project and name, was hijacked by the "community".
The nail in the coffin for me, and a great example of why I have lost trust in this "community", and why I believe Rafael was distrustful as well, was when I tweeted "is anyone going to be in art basel" and I received a response saying hey, we would like you to be involved in the Tezos booth, we have an exhibition and a speaker series about HEN. I was invited to be a speaker in the Tezos booth to talk about Hicetnunc since I was on the core team as a developer/discord mod. The more I pried into what this whole exhibition/speaker series that I was being invited to was, the more I realized that this whole event was planned and signed off on before me, Rafael, or anyone in the core team even got to know about it. I asked them, "So does Rafael know about this?" and they replied "Well no, but we sent an email to Rafael and he never answered it, and I've been a part of the community since the beginning". Weird how the show still went out without Rafael knowing about it, and the only way I would have known about is if I tweeted about it. I decided to do it anyway after talking to Rafael about it, and I gave this person a list of 5 artists in generative art that come from the global south, because the lineup was predominantly from the global north (You would think that such a large event with global eyes on it would be a great opportunity to showcase and include a diverse set of artists from all around the globe), in which they responded "Oh but we are already finalizing the contracts with the artists, but would you be interested in showing your work? We will send you a contract". This example was just many examples that shows that there was no respect for Rafael or his vision, and that the "community" did things behind his back and felt entitled to run things under the HEN name because they are "volunteers". Now this "community" is off to making their own DAO so they can run their own decisions about Rafael's site, but this time without Rafael, the way they have been trying to since the beginning. And the part that bothers me the most is that they are proud of it, and they are acting so quickly to take it over without even thinking about whats happening and what has happened.
However, let me start from the beginning. I started off by entering the discord sometime in (March?), where I watched all kinds of artists be confused about the website in the #help Discord channel and were seeking troubleshooting support. I felt passionate about the website and felt like maybe since I had development skills I could contribute someday. I decided to volunteer hours to the discord to help troubleshoot artists/collectors getting started so the developers could focus on development. I was also trying to see how I can help development-wise but was a bit scared to jump into the code for my own reasons. After about a month, I received a random payment of 40-60tez in my wallet. This was Rafael paying me for what I had contributed, and I noticed about every week after that I was being rewarded for my time. Rafael always had a "core team" of about 5 people he was paying consistently, sometimes in tez, sometimes in hdao, and I was one of them. And although people were still complaining about the website, the anger wasn't directed towards anyone in particular.
The amount of users grew quickly and lots of developers were building tools to quickly outpace the development flow Rafael had in place. A shift happened where the anger was starting to get directed towards Rafael because people's pull requests weren't getting approved, people weren't getting payed for their time, and overall felt "unappreciated". A "hicathon" was formed to do just this, outpace Rafael's development flow. Some of the people on this hicathon got paid (I believe by the Tezos foundation), and some of them volunteered their time. However, I believe the Hicathon helped perpetuate a disdain and discourse of Rafael as some kind of "dictator", and somehow followers of this "community" felt the need to constantly harass Rafael about why the website wasn't what they wanted it to be, despite the fact that it was putting food on family's tables. It was never good enough for them. Rafael was the only one with admin control (understandably, it was his website and project) of certain things like the domain and the server, so a staging site for example was constantly suggested but never implemented.
While I can see how a disdain could grow from these facts, I think its pretty shitty to say you "volunteered" your time, and then in the end expect that you deserve ownership of the site, or any form of payment after the fact. I think its pretty shitty to volunteer your time contributing code then get mad when things aren't going how you want it to because you never formally made any kind of contract with Rafael over how things were to be handled. Moreover, former developers on Rafael's core team who were being payed weekly were complaining that they werent getting enough money. Let me be clear in saying I never did this for the money. I never signed a contract with Rafael, we never discussed payment, and I never expected anything more or less than what Rafael was giving me. I accepted from the beginning that this was 1 person's experimental project. What Rafael did with the money he had in his wallets was none of my business, and to accuse him of doing things nefariously without any evidence was just jumping to conclusions. Imagine starting your own project and having people constantly harassing you all the time because it doesn't look or work the way you want it to, and then hiding behind a "community" to hijack it for yourself. Imagine starting your own opensource project to share knowledge, and most of these developers in the "community" turn around to make closed sourced versions of your project and take your IP (objkt.com, "objkt" refers to the name of the token minted by HEN and made up by Rafael, and the founders have expressed no interest in changing the name, and ultimately has led Rafael to denounce this project as an "epistemicide"). I don't think Rafael pulled the plug in a graceful way or reacted in the discord in a graceful way but I definitely don't blame him. I also don't blame him for not accepting PRs or other help from the "community" because I think he knew the whole time what was happening, and I think that he was protecting his own project, and rightfully so.
Speaking of DAOs, there were 2 DAOs, one was made by a former developer in the beginning, and when it came out, there was no traction and it was useless because Rafael had the ultimate say in if the votes would be respected or not. A second DAO formed from the hicathon, and again it was useless because Rafael had the ultimate say whether or not things were voted on. I will repeat that I believe the DAO was an experiment just like the site, and it was a work in progress. The work made from the hicathon was more of I think a design exercise for Rafael than something to be fully implemented. He was still trying to figure out how he wanted it to function, and although the hicathon thought they figured it out for him, that doesn't mean that HEN ever had a fully functioning DAO. At this point in time the "community" has hijacked the DAO, and the leaders of this "community", the developers, the ones organizing things, are going to dictacte how it runs, and decide the design of it. And somehow there was always this idea that the DAO should be functioning to dictate HOW the site runs, what changes are to be implemented regarding features and functionality, to appease the leaders interests of what the DAO and HEN's purpose should be.
My last conversations with Rafael regarding the DAO were more shifted towards voting on art for shows and festivals, not the way the site would implement features and code. In his more graceful days, when someone would lash out at Rafael in the Discord, he would respond that this needs to stop and we need to start focusing on the art again. I do believe Rafael cared about the art and a social cause, but was constantly distracted and eventually worn out by people calling him names, belittling him, and harassing him to give up his website to the "community". If you payed attention closely to what Rafael was doing in parallel to development, he was spending his time on his own "community", not the one that likes to brand itself as the "hicetnunc community". Hicetnunc was formed in Brazil in 2020-2021 by Rafael and he had 2 trusted Brazilians help guide him in the making of it, and they were the ones who started the hashtag event "OBJKT4OBJKT", which led on to other hastag events. He was also focusing on running and mentoring Hicetnunc2000 lab's Tibum Residency, something Rafael announced in the Discord and the twitter, which was a residency for artists in the global south (OBJKT # 82281). The instagram started doing livestreams from the Brazilian community in Portuguese and he tried to bring on board a Brazilian social media manager.
What started off as an open source project has ended up in closed sourced copies. The developers who sat in the discord and learned from Rafael show no interest in sharing the knowledge they've built upon. If we really want to continue to think about decentralization, is it really one "community" that we should be following and building trust on? One of the last things Rafael said to me before pulling the plug was that people are going to have to start running HEN on localhost, and while this seems daunting for a lot of un tech-savvy people, it could be another way to decentralize the project, or to at least have multiple opensourced mirrors running with different galleries/features coming from different mirrors and microcommunities. There also needs to be educational resources on how one can run HEN on localhost and how to deploy it.
I'm salty about a "community" that forced Rafael's resignation through pressure and aggression, and in the end causing me and the other core team members to get fired. This project was always open-sourced. Why couldn't the Hicathon and other 3rd party developers fork/clone the repository and make its own version of the site instead of hosting third party tools on their own websites? Why did they have to force Rafael to change the way he managed his own project? Its a shame that Rafael has to be gone when in the end forking/cloning the site to add new features is what they're going to have to do anyway. But in the end this was always about money. Now they have control over hDAO, now they have control over where the percentage of the fees go, now they have control over which developers get paid, now is when they are trying to figure out how to make reparations. And I will continue to be very skeptical of one "community" running things.
Violet Forest / Violeta Lopez