Feb. 19, 2022 - was it a day of my precious life completely wasted or a day invested in some valuable learning?  The date had been on my calendar for weeks and eagerly awaited - from the moment I learned about WomenTribe and realized I had missed any opportunity  to get on the whitelist.  The 11am time slot was carefully protected against any possible interruption.  I knew the competition for the public mint could be fierce and that demand could easily exceed supply.  I had seen estimates that 75% of the supply had minted in the presale.  I had seen all sorts of speculation about the anticipated value of the work. I had no idea how accurate these estimates were, but I assumed that they were directionally correct and I planned to be ready.  I was head over heels in love with the art and I wanted to give myself the best possible shot at securing a mint.  I had participated in other public mints.  I had months in the NFT space under my belt as both artist and collector.  I was full of anticipation, edgy as I might be before the start of a challenging game, but on my toes.  As it turned out, like the WomenTribe team, I was completely unprepared for what happened.

As 11am approached, I was set to go.  My wallet was connected to the WomenTribe web site and I watched the minutes, then the seconds, tick away.  As soon as my phone ticked over to the hour, I hit the mint button - - - - and received an error message.

I refreshed the page only to get the same message.  Again and again and again.  I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed, but the site was down and remained down.  Finally, at 11:09, my refresh was successful, but it delivered the news that the mint was sold out.  

It turns out that the project sold out in less than 10 seconds. You might see a fabulous success, I see a botched mint.  As the dust settled, the WomenTribe Discord channel was exploding.  Those skilled in reading the Etherscan logs began to report their findings.  It became clear that hundreds of the  available mints were snatched by bots under the control of a very small number of well-prepared greed farmers.  The maximum mint was three, and these farmers had set up hundreds of wallets that each secured their three and then immediately transferred the minted NFTs to a parent wallet.  It also appeared, based on Etherscan time stamps, that these farmers had begun to mint slightly before the appointed time, minting directly to the contract and bypassing the official minting website. Many in the chat also pointed out the fact that the WomenTribe website had gone down immediately and was down for the entirety of the mint, confirming that my experience was not an isolated event.  In any case, the available mints were gone, and hundreds of true fans of the project were left in the cold.

As the situation unfolded, the comments turned ugly.  Real people who had sincerely wanted to join the Tribe were understandably gutted.  While there were some trying to keep the conversation kind and civil, there were plenty of disdainful replies accusing the disappointed of being silly noobs who simply did not understand how it all worked. They were ignorant and deserved what they got. During all this, the WomenTribe team was absent.  There was a celebratory Twitter Space underway and they were apparently unaware of the nature of their success.  

The team did eventually release an announcement in Discord acknowledging the action of the bots, and a raffle of 10 NFTs from their vault as compensation to the community.  The failed website was not mentioned.

In the meantime, I had tweeted my own disappointment and gotten an immediate response from what appeared to be the WomenTribe support team offering to make good.

I responded and played along until I was asked to validate my wallet by providing my seed phrase.  The Support scam was slick, with a Twitter account that looked genuinely like WomenTribe.  It was clearly a trap set up well in advance of the day.  By profession, I am a database developer.  I am technically savvy.  While detesting what had occurred, I had to give grudging respect to the folks who anticipated what was likely to happen and set themselves up to benefit in all the nefarious ways possible.  Unlike the fans and the team, they had been truly prepared.

The announcement from the WomenTribe team stated that approximately 500 mints had gone to bots.  The public mints were priced at .04ETH.  Sales on OpenSea at 1pm, as the botted mints were being sold, were at a floor of .27ETH, an increase of 675%, and an estimated profit for the scammers of at least 115ETH.  

As I explored OpenSea, watching the secondary sales occur, I found a number of blatantly counterfeit WomenTribe NFTs for sale.  The teaser images for the mint had been grabbed, minted, and listed by yet more scammers.  Greed had undoubtedly conquered.  Is it any wonder a large part of the world sees crypto as the realm of the criminal, a giant ponzi scheme, a playground where the sheep are led to slaughter?  We gave them ample reason to take that view as the day played out.

I did learn a couple of things.  At one point, someone in Discord, one of the few voices actually providing insightful information, pointed out that the situation was easily anticipated: flippers who had minted during the presale had listed their unrevealed NFTs on OpenSea and the floor price of these NFTs had climbed to well above the public mint price.  The creators of the bots had simply acted on the obvious opportunity to make a buck.  Had I been thinking as an investor, I might have noticed this and understood in advance that the public mint was unlikely to be any sort of opportunity for the community.

I also learned from a bit of soul searching.  I had allowed my love of the art to pull me into the drama, luckily with nothing lost but a day of emotional ups and downs. I was reminded that what I am genuinely interested in is the use of NFT technology to empower an art market free of gate-keeping elitism, in an arena of provable and transparent provenance and true community among artists, collectors, and curators.  I am going to do my best to never get caught up in a PFP project again. 

That is not my tribe.


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