In the AMA, Adams and Weybourne discussed a brief overview of how COZ operates in the Neo ecosystem, creating a brand identity, working alongside Neo Global Development, current and upcoming products, and participating in N3 governance.
The full transcript can be found below:
Panda Skiing: Hello, I would like to thank all members of the Neo community for joining today’s COZ AMA event. Nice to see you all. It’s our pleasure to have Tyler Adams and James Weybourne from COZ here with us today.
Tyler Adams (COZ co-founder and CEO): Hi!
James Weybourne (COZ product design lead): Hi everyone!
Q1: What is COZ, and what is the team’s area of focus?
Tyler: COZ is an independent global organization of product developers which arose from the Antshares community in 2017 as “City of Zion.” At the time, we were a loosely organized group of passionate content creators who operated on an endowment from Neo to translate community needs into reality in a decentralized way.
These projects have focused on a number of different areas that I’ll broadly break down into:
- Product Development (wallets and explorers)
- Developer Tools and Experience (boa, mamba, neon.js)
- Product Experience (meetup/hackathon planning and execution, product design, and marketing support)
- Ecosystem Stability and Security (blockchain and social platform monitoring and management)
We have evolved multiple times to adapt to ecosystem needs and generally consider ourselves to be servants of our community.
While the organization is still relatively decentralized, we have done a lot of work to organize our efforts and build out a product platform that is cohesive and intuitive. The decentralized approach can work well, but over the years, we found that there were a lot of projects being developed under the COZ banner, which were great in concept, but never formalized into a product the ecosystem could benefit from in a tangible way. Since our formalization, we have focused on building products, whether that is a wallet, an SDK, or to serve as examples for a hackathon.
Q2: What steps has COZ taken to rebrand as a business entity?
James: To support the new business strategy, we have done a complete overhaul of our brand identity and design language. We wanted to create an identity that was unmistakably COZ that was consistent across all our products, from individual product identity to the iconography used within the UI.
Product logos are clearly children of the main brand made distinct through color and shape. Typography is consistent across all platforms giving a far more welcoming and refined experience from before. When you’re working with or using a COZ product and transfer to another, there is a clear synergy to give a user the feeling of being part of a much bigger but familiar ecosystem.
We still have a way to go, but the benefits of product relationships are really starting to show.
Q3: How has COZ has worked alongside NGD this year?
James: Earlier in the year, we began working with NGD on the N3 campaign. This was a really exciting project to help with the launch of such an important milestone. There were a number of key facets to the project, including the N3 brand, product architecture, and language. We wanted to create a distinction between the platform (Neo) and the product/version (N3) to build resilience into the marketing strategy for future development campaigns. To reflect this, we wanted to be bold with the brand imagery and simple with the language creating the N3 name.
Together, we kicked off the supporting asset design with an analysis of the user base, creating key representations of the different groups and understanding the tasks that they needed to fulfill. This gave us a good base for evolving the neo.org website, refactoring the information architecture, creating the new content to support N3, and bringing it up to date with a new design language.
Since then, we’ve continued to collaborate across a range of projects, designing the Neo Frontier Launchpad visual identity, helping refine the design of the Neo Governance Portal, and much more. This has all sort of culminated in the formation of Neo’s new Product Experience team. It’s been great working with the Neo team, and I look forward to continuing in the future.
Q4: COZ currently manages a consensus node. As the ecosystem grows, how will COZ use this position?
Tyler: Our primary focus is to ensure that the community’s needs are met. This focus applies to our consensus node as well. Right now, the ecosystem needs to expand, so we are proponents of any proposals which support that initiative.
Recently, we have voted in favor of a number of proposals to significantly reduce the transaction fees on the network to make the network more appealing for projects. As a result of these recent changes, Neo is one of the least expensive major chains to develop on.
We also have a pretty mature developer ecosystem to leverage, so it’s a good fit for new projects.
Regarding the GAS generation, we plan to use the tokens to support new projects which support our vision of Neo as an industry-leading product development platform.
Q5: Are there any updates regarding existing or new products?
Tyler: We’ve just publicly released the Neon Wallet Mobile, which is a BIP39 wallet for Neo Legacy and N3. In addition, we’ve been working hard to formalize the new WalletConnect protocol for Neo. I don’t think the community is aware of how early to the game we are on this protocol. We began to work on the Neo protocol when WalletConnect was still an alpha release, so this is a big differentiator for our community that wasn’t possible until recently.
Regarding upcoming projects, we have recently been working on a new project that should help developers and engage the community at the same time. I’ve written thousands of lines of contract code in boa in the past month and it’s been a lot of fun! It has also opened my eyes to a number of major ecosystem projects that we need in order to scale.
Q6: What is COZ’s vision for the next year? Where will the team be focused?
Tyler: For the past few years, we have been primarily focused on the building blocks of the ecosystem. Now that those are reaching a mature level and our community has migrated to N3 MainNet, we will begin to develop higher-level products which leverage the tools we have built. We will also be allocating time to improving the user experience and features of our existing products.
One area of major focus will be leveraging our entire product platform to generate new value for our community.
Q7: The Neo Frontier Launchpad highlighted the need for documentation for N3. Is COZ working on this area by hiring experts or improving the documentation quality?
Tyler: There is currently a major initiative to overhaul the handling of documentation in the entire ecosystem by the Product Experience team. Regarding individual projects, now that a lot of the features for our core projects are solidifying, it makes sense for us to visit the documentation initiative.
Q8: COZ has been with Neo’s ecosystem for quite some time. Can you touch on the advantages of becoming a Neo Council member? Has rebranding to COZ and registering as a US company impacted business?
Tyler: To me, the major advantage is that we have the opportunity to represent a community voice in how the network operates. Because of our diverse experience in the ecosystem, we can provide a holistic community perspective to the conversation. I think it’s extremely important for community groups to have representation on the Council since they act as a direct conduit between the community and its governance.
Regarding incorporation, it has opened up some pretty substantial opportunities for us. USD is still the primary store of value, so it is a lot easier for us to hire and engage in service providers using fiat. This also introduces a lot of future opportunities with our products.
Q9: What are the challenges at product design, and how to overcome them?
James: To some extent, many of the problems we face today are very similar to those we’ve always faced, but there are also new ones with the more global nature of teams in the blockchain space and the remote working burden that Covid has forced upon us.
From a product design perspective, you need to have your processes together within your company. Instilling a strong UX culture is key to efficient and effective design, and I’m not just referring to the design team. The experience you create for your users needs to be embraced by the whole team from devs, project management, content writers, and anyone who contributes to the end-product. Blockchain is fast-paced. You need to be quick to respond and to do this, you need the whole team with you.
With this in mind, design at COZ is done collaboratively via a shared digital workspace such as Miro. Each skillset and experience base is pooled together through exercises such as a “design studio.” This helps in two ways; you get buy-in from the whole team upfront, which avoids the nasty rework later in the project and exposes siloed team members to the bigger picture.
None of this can take place, though, without a good grounding in who you are building for first. The team needs to understand the tasks their users wish to complete and what the drivers are behind these needs. They need empathy with the customer. With this in place, it allows a far more efficient remote working practice. This vital information is often overlooked, though, even today when it’s widely known that user experience is the key to successful products. But it doesn’t need to be a burden of cost and time. Through a more Guerrilla-style approach to research, you can achieve great insights that allow you to approach design in an objective way.
This last part has been a particular challenge in blockchain, where tools are fragmented, and the huge differences between the requirements of blockchain devs and normal users, who all use similar tools but have very different needs with the level of information. This is where the COZ suite of products will come into their own, with each product working more seamlessly together, sharing the burden of our users’ tasks.
Q10: What does the Neo ecosystem lack compared with other blockchains? How can COZ help Neo N3 move to the forefront of infrastructure and services?
Tyler: My answer isn’t technical. I think the Neo ecosystem lacks the community perception of novelty; and, novelty is easy to use as a mechanism to generate hype. The N3 platform is amazingly capable, but because the ecosystem has existed in the blockchain space for years, the novelty factor isn’t as substantial, which makes hype generation difficult.
We’ve just executed the largest active network migration in blockchain history for a platform that supports multiple languages and lower transaction fees for the majority of operations when compared to other contract platforms. It’s a very impressive platform, team, and community, but we are not the benefactors of being perceived as new.
Regarding infrastructure, there are a number of things that we can do. A major one is to ensure that all of our ecosystem developers are using their own tools to build products. Without an understanding of the users of our platform, it’s difficult to perceive how to improve it. We can get far through research, but being the customer is ideal. Moving forward, we will be pushing product scalability. To do that, we need our teams to understand the perspective of the developers who use our products.
Q11: Does COZ have any plans to add any features to make voting easier with Neon Wallet?
Tyler: Yes. The more elaborate answer is that in 2018, COZ began discussing native voting in Neon Wallet for Neo Legacy as part of a planned roll-out of decentralization. At the time, there was a large blockchain race between Ethereum moving to Proof of Stake and Neo enabling voting. We defined the implementation, but never implemented.
A revision to these designs were presented at Neo Community Assembly in 2019 (before we had fully defined how voting would be handled on the network) with multiple iterations. Ultimately these iterations rolled into some of the Product Experience work that is seen on the existing governance portal.
James may have some of the old designs laying around to show everyone. They are pretty nice in my opinion and we may consider implementing them in the future. They would probably need to be revised given some ecosystem behaviors that were relevant in the original voting architecture (like vote yield farming).
For the time being, we have a pull request open to enable WalletConnect support on the governance portal that needs to be merged as well as an application that our special projects lead (Hal0x2328) stood up to enable voting while we wait for the PR to be approved.
Note: Some edits have been made for formatting and readability.
The whole AMA can be found at the link below: