The Neo News Today team joined Neo Global Development’s AMA series, Neo Live, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. NNT founder Dean Jeffs, and editors Brett Rhodes (aka Edge) and Dylan Grabowski joined to discuss covering the Neo ecosystem since 2017 and other activities/projects NNT maintains.

In the AMA, the trio talked about the origin of NNT, the team’s role within the community, NNT’s non-media related projects, the r/NEO GasBot, and how to get involved in contributing to the Neo ecosystem.

The full transcript can be found below:

John Ricci (Neo Telegram admin): Neo News Today was founded in 2017 to serve as an objective source of information for dApps, developers, and events in the ecosystem. Additionally, NNT is among the initial 21 members of the Neo Council, which is tasked with maintaining the network’s health and liveness. Since its founding, NNT has covered the Neo ecosystem by way of articles, videos, and podcasts, while also creating the r/NEO tipping bot, redeveloping, and distributing grants from its Council node income.

Dean is the founder of Neo News Today. He cut his teeth in the bourgeoning world of e-commerce in the mid-00’s, before moving onto broader digital project management in the 10’s. Dean’s interest into future trend technologies was what drew him into blockchain in 2013. Since discovering Antshares in 2017, Dean has tried to make positive contributions to the Neo community in whatever way he can be useful, primarily manifesting in the creation and management of NNT.

Brett is a blockchain enthusiast and content creator who originally produced videos and articles for the gaming and eSports scenes. He mined his first Dogecoin in 2013, but didn’t join the blockchain world full-time until 2017. Since then he has spent most of his time contributing in the Neo ecosystem, especially as part of the NNT team, which he joined in 2018. Over the last year, he’s been putting skill points into development, hoping to find new ways to encourage the adoption of decentralized solutions.

Dylan was an urban planner in his past professional life and is a graduate of the crypto class of 2017. He joined Neo News Today in January 2018 with the mission to cover the Neo ecosystem in an objective, rational, fact-based manner. Since then, he’s written more than a thousand articles, recorded over 50 NNT podcasts, and hosted roughly 20 Neo-focused in-person meetups. When he’s not behind the computer screen, Dylan can be found somewhere in the wild climbing a rock.

Hello, I would like to thank the members of the Neo community for joining me today for this AMA event.

We are happy to have Dean, Dylan, and Brett (Edge) from Neo News Today here with us today. Can you start off with a bit about who you are?

Dean Jeffs (Neo News Today founder): I’m Dean, I’m the founder of NNT. For the rest, take a look at my bio from above.

Dylan Grabowski (Neo News Today editor): I’m Dylan, I’ve been writing for NNT since Jan 2018 and hosting the podcast since 2019.

Brett Rhodes (Neo News Today editor): I’m Edge, writing for NNT since mid 2018 and a Neo contributor for about a year longer.

Q1: How long has NNT been in operation and why did you start the project?

Dean: NNT started in 2017 as Neo rebranded from Antshares. At the time I was really inspired by what COZ was doing to build the community and grow the ecosystem, and I wanted to contribute in my own way. Anyone who was around blockchain at that time would remember those were peak hype days with the ICO phase, and it was just so hard to find information that wasn’t fluff or nonsense.

In the case of Neo, I remember all these rumors about Neo being partnered with AliBaba or the Chinese government – things like that – and it just wasn’t true. So NNT tried to be this news outlet that gave you straight facts. If you read our coverage you’ll probably notice we never make any outrageous claims, we always refer to sources when claims are made, and we have never ever reported on price movements.

I think NNT is pretty unique among crypto projects in that regard. We aren’t trying to sell you anything. We’re just trying to give you the information you need so you know what’s going on with Neo.

Q2: Aside from publishing news, what are some of the other things NNT does?

Dean: NNT does a lot in the ecosystem. You may be aware of the Neo News Today Podcast that we started back in 2017. It went away for about a year and came back in 2019 with Dylan as host, and he has really made it his own since.

We now also run and are working on building this out as the N3 ecosystem starts to take hold. We inherited this from the NEXT community as we are in a really good position to know what is going on with all the Neo dApps. It serves as a source of information for network, dApp, and community development activity, and will be adding more resources as we go. We haven’t promoted nDapp a great deal yet because we’re really still just getting started with N3, but we hope this will become a valuable ecosystem resource.

We also recently launched the r/NEO GasBot, which allows users to send each other tips in GAS on the Neo Reddit. This is a simple way we can help onboard users, foster more community activity, and support those who actively try and make positive contributions to Neo.

Beyond that we also do a LOT in the background. We speak to NGD quite regularly in an ecosystem advisory capacity and are often involved with the planning of events like DevCon etc. Quite often we’ll take the role of making sure NGD is aware of things going on in the community because we talk to so many people and monitor so many sources. We also provide proof-reading for lots of communities and projects that maybe don’t have native English speakers.

Q3: What do you consider your role to be within the Neo ecosystem?

Dylan: My favorite description of this came from John Wang during our five year MainNet podcast episode. Basically, John described NGD as the “father” of the ecosystem, giving support in the way of funding, direction for the projects, etc. Whereas NNT is like the “mother” of the community. We provide a different kind of support, helping projects be seen, developers be recognized, voices be heard, and so on.

Odd Røland (Flamingo co-maintainer) even made a comment about this in a recent chat, how NNT is always around to ask questions whenever an announcement or new piece of content comes out from a project.

Another metaphor we’ve used in the past is that we see NNT as a public utility, or a public good. We exist for the benefit of the whole ecosystem. As a sponsored community like COZ, Neo SPCC, AxLabs, and the others, we’re not reliant on advertising or a subscription model to operate. That means we don’t need to take any money from projects for coverage or anything like that. We can treat everyone fairly and if something is useful for the community to know, we’ll write about it.

Ultimately, our role in the community is to give NEO holders, developers, and anyone interested in the ecosystem the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Q4: Your standing within the community led you to be a member of the initial Neo Council. How do you intend to use this position to better serve Neo? 

Brett: We are so grateful to have been chosen as one of the initial council members and we take the responsibility very seriously. We’re passionate about being a representative for you. Part of that responsibility is using our vote on the Council to ensure Neo and the N3 ecosystem is set up to succeed. NNT has already taken the initiative on a number of Council topics, pushing for lowered transaction and oracle request fees, and will continue to play its part for as long as we retain our seat.

In addition to helping NNT grow and provide better coverage (we’re onboarding new writers at the moment), we also are actively looking at ways to invest our Council income back into the ecosystem.

The r/NEO GasBot is one initiative in this direction. We’re checking Reddit all the time and looking for worthy submissions, helpful commenters, and for users that are struggling to get started with the network due to a lack of claimed GAS.

We’ve also given spot rewards to community members who have been building useful apps and web-portals, and set aside funding for larger grants. These are intended for developers and other contributors who want to create important resources and content for the ecosystem. Our first grant of this type was initialized in September, distributed to community developer Robert Oschler for his services in creating the “From Ethereum to Neo” development series.

Q5: Having watched and written about all facets of Neo for a number of years now, what are some interesting observations you’d make about the project from your unique perspective?

Dylan: People like to talk about Neo being a “community”-based project, but I don’t think they fully understand the extent to which that is true. There is a lot of input from the community in things that Neo does, such as events, promotions, projects, etc.

The Neo Frontier Launchpad hackathon is a great example. A lot of the visual identity of that came from the community. The structure of that event was heavily advised on by the community. The community played a big role in pulling resources together for new developers, and then providing around the clock assistance to hackathon participants. A lot of this effort came from the sponsored communities, but there is nothing stopping anyone from contributing in this way.

We at NNT certainly cannot speak for NGD, but in our experience, they are very receptive to supporting smart and motivated individuals/teams looking to do something positive for the community. It’s actually kind of one of the things they do best. You just need to show up and prove you’re willing and capable of doing the work.

For example, the MyMingo team showed up in Q1 of 2021 with a new platform and features to make staking and providing liquidity much easier for users. (They too placed a high value on their community’s input.) And now, the team has taken responsibility over the entirety of the Flamingo project.

I also think NNT is another good example that you don’t need to be a developer, or a certified expert, to bring value to the table. None of us were journalists in our previous professional lives, but every single contributor brought with them the desire to produce quality content on behalf of the Neo project.

Further, if you’re an individual, then there’s ways to get involved. I’ve seen community members who interned at NGD go on to work with various other community projects, or ecosystem-adjacent projects.

And you know what? If you need some support and NGD is not the right place to get it, NNT is also happy and actively looking for initiatives to fund through our council income, so you can always hit us up. We’ve specifically been seeking to engage grass roots developers as of late, which can be seen in the grant we distributed to fund the GptForMe’s ‘From Ethereum to Neo’ video tutorial series. There are also other community led support opportunities in the pipeline from other groups within the ecosystem.

Q6: The r/NEO GasBot tipper was a great contribution. Do you have any other similar tricks up your sleeve? What does mass adoption look like to you? 

Brett: Glad to hear it! The GasBot project was spawned from a community suggestion, we really appreciated the potential for it to activate new users of the Neo blockchain. For now, it is only a tipping service, but we hope that over time we can expand the functionality in new ways that provide additional value to Neo users. For example, allowing GasBot accounts to interact with smart contracts, integration with other community social platforms, and support for other tokens.

To me, mass adoption means integration of blockchain technology into both public and private infrastructure at a low enough level that regular people can enjoy its benefits without knowing they are using it. The reality is that the average smartphone user isn’t ready to be their own bank, and it’s possible they never will be. Yet almost every crypto application today needs you to control a dedicated wallet. When that starts to change, I think mass adoption will be within reach.

Q7: Since Neo is all about community and teamwork, how does one setup a community team that will be able to focus on the long-term innovation and development of the Neo ecosystem? 

Dean: This is a great question. Again we can’t speak for NGD or any of the other communities, but I can tell you what we have observed.

Neo has always been a work-first, reward-later community. All the way back to the genesis of COZ, there was always an emphasis/bias towards “do-ers,” or people who would show up willing to contribute something without putting their hand out first. Perhaps one of the reasons that was so special back then was because it was peak-ICO era, and everyone was getting paid for nothing but hopes and dreams.

But a lot of the sponsored communities today started this way. Us, COZ, NeoTracker, AxLabs, etc. All of us started building and contributing to Neo in our own way and eventually were rewarded and able to grow into something bigger. You can look at teams like MyMingo, who have now taken over Flamingo, or Ghostmarket, as other examples of projects who just decided to get on the tools and reaped the benefits in the long run.

You can do the same thing. There are plenty of people in the Neo ecosystem looking for the next wave of great contributors and want to support their efforts. You also don’t need to be a developer.

Q8: Thank you for keeping us up to date with Neo projects. How does it feel to work in such an exciting ecosystem? 

Dylan: First of all, you and the entire ecosystem are absolutely welcome! The whole reason I started writing for NNT in the first place was because of all the incorrect information, or misinformation about the Neo project and dApps back when I first started exploring the ecosystem in 2017.

As mentioned previously, I was an urban planner and had a whole other career before joining NNT. It was a huge leap of faith when Dean offered me a full-time position, but ultimately a “once in a lifetime opportunity” that I couldn’t say no to (even if my former boss and parents didn’t understand what exactly I was going to do for work).

I’ve gone through moments of extreme bliss, telling myself this was the best decision ever, and moments of doubt, wondering if leaving a cushy government job for such a fast-paced, innovative sector was worth it. Ultimately, even in the moments of question, it has been wholly fulfilling.

Dean said something to me back in 2018 that really resonated with me and is something that I think back on often when we’re having a down day in the ecosystem, or perception is negative. He said, “people working in the Neo ecosystem could be doing anything in the world, but they choose to be here.”

We’ve got brilliant minds building decentralized storage, oracle networks, digital identity standards, and improving upon the codebase that is Neo. Further, there are new inquisitive minds joining chats, asking questions on Twitter, or just stumbling on Neo for the first time. Those moments connecting with new folks are also very fulfilling, because there’s a plethora of people, content, and ideas in the community to connect them with, to help make their vision become a reality.

To wrap up, working in such an exciting ecosystem is so great because anyone can put forth a new idea or vision, and if others are interested in it, they can choose to join on board. And when these concepts are built out, then I get to learn something new. And after I get to learn something new, then I get to share it with everyone in the community!

Q9: Dear NNT Team, firstly thanks for your work in covering all the aspects of our ecosystem. You are a dream team! I’m curious to know if you are thinking about launching your own crypto token on the Neo blockchain. NNTDao? 

Brett: Thanks so much for your question. This is definitely something we have given thought to over the years. We had a few ideas as to how we could use tokenization at NNT; for example, maybe releasing some special NFTs or a NEP-17 to reward users, or make use of the community for governance with a DAO token as you have suggested. But the most important thing to us is finding the right fit, and not just creating a token for the sake of it. If we ever find a suitable application (maybe the community has some ideas?), we’ll definitely explore it.

Q10: Have you planned any special kind of coverage for the upcoming hackathon next year? 

Dean: I don’t know about “special coverage” but we try to cover anything that we think will be interesting to the community. If you look at the last hackathon, we did interviews, podcasts, and feature articles about the participants and winners. Or, you could look at previous big Neo events like DevCons or the Neo Community Assembly, and we have done things like live interviews or documentaries, so we’ll definitely try and find the best way to keep you guys informed!

John: Great questions from the Neo community as always! We would like to thank everyone for joining us today for the Neo News Today AMA. 

We would like to thank Dean, Dylan, and Brett. It was a pleasure having you all with us today. We are looking forward to all the great things to come from NNT!  

Any final words from the NNT team?

Dean: Thanks guys! Happy to participate. Final words. Let me think… consider voting for NNT as your Neo Council candidate!

Brett: Thanks for having us!

Dylan: It was our pleasure to be here today, and we do our best to serve the Neo community with every piece of content we release.

Note: Some edits have been made for formatting and readability.

The full AMA can be found at the link below: