Request Network’s Makeover: Community Management Talks Branding and Development Progress

The payments-focused project Request Network has made headway on their objectives in the first half of 2018. It now supports ERC-20 tokens on the mainnet, and the team has revamped their roadmap (which showcases their current focus), and released a plug-in called Reqify for popular shopping service Shopify.

PR remains a minor problem for the project — let’s not forget the Wikimedia incident — and their achievements don’t make the team immune to criticism. The problem can be partially attributed to the fact that Request is undergoing a rebranding and, as they brainstorm ways of refining the image they envision, they are likely to experience growing pains along the way. Regardless of all of the advances they have made, they too are a project in their infancy, and the kind of scrutiny they face now is a sign of the expectations placed upon them.

These expectations have resulted in the community requesting a level of professionalism in communication, and its members have bluntly voiced their concerns on the Request Network subreddit.

Noted Request Network community member AdmREQ, who moderates the subreddit and created the Request Network WooCommerce plugin WooREQ, has spoken at length in response to the community’s growing anxiety surrounding the project.

He is respected among community members and has personally interacted with Request’s team members, having dined with the team in Singapore. AdmREQ is a frequent presence on Request’s community channels. His development and community work has led to him being entrusted with the role of an informal communications officer, acting as the point of contact between the team and the community.

He, along with other moderators, has taken the initiative to soothe the community, and we detail both the community’s concerns and the community management team’s response below.

Community Divided on Request’s Recent Communication Approach

The attempt to communicate better through the new roadmap hasn’t translated into better community relations. Community members feel that the frequency and quality of updates have deteriorated over the past few months, and they have been urging the team to keep them in the loop about the project’s status.

These concerns, which primarily revolve around transparency and clarity, have caused some investors’ confidence in the project to lag, with user Skiznilly noting how such avoidable mistakes can have a long-term impact on the success of the project:

The last few months have been a slew of updates with very little information in the way of progress being made (or why there is a lack of promised progress being made) – in good times this may not matter as much, but in bad times people want to know what is going on… Whatever the case, a lack of (visible) leadership on a project that has visibly messed up simple simple things and is being outperformed by many is only going to drive more uncertainty in a project, and reduce confidence.

Others have complained about the new roadmap, which they say leaves the team less accountable with respect to development. The new dynamic milestone system mentions no fixed deadlines, which investors say makes the team complacent, while others argue that having fixed deadlines in the rapidly changing and frantic blockchain space simply burdens the team, leads to disappointment, and limits progress with inflexibility.

As user CBass360 puts it:

It’s better in the long term for the product, it’s worst for the short term investor. I also think it’s better, from a market perspective, to wait with the good stuff until the market sentiment gets better.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are known to be a vocal and finicky bunch, and some REQ investors advise restraint in forming judgement about the team’s new branding.  

The overall sentiment is that the community would prefer meaty, well-described updates on development progress as opposed to the more informal posts that have been making the rounds recently. Community strength will be a critical factor in Request Network’s survival and growth, just as with other altcoin projects. Giving the Request team a chance to settle into their new rhythm, we’ll hopefully see them address these issues in time.

AdmREQ’s comprehensive statement to reassure the community with respect to their concerns covers the team’s marketing and branding efforts, development progress and updates, community management, and roadmap.

Request Pictures a New Image for Themselves

The first point of discussion is Request’s decision to hire a digital agency to handle their brand image and make them more accessible to the broader public through educational content. AdmREQ discussed the scope of this effort with Request’s Brand Manager Robbin Mazurel, and expects to see Request make itself easier to comprehend for a less tech-savvy audience.

Saying that “one of the goals of the project is to revamp the website to cater for developers, businesses, users, community members, early adopters and investors,” the Request Hub will focus on attracting developers and businesses to assist them in working with the platform, while keeping the website accessible and readable to boost mainstream adoption.

Development Updates

The integration of fiat into the Request platform is another major request from the community, but AdmREQ rightly points out that this is a difficult implementation in blockchain’s current state in the world. Reasoning thus, he says that while fiat is an important goal for the team, bank APIs and partnerships with payment processors are not the current priority.

Rather, the team is focusing on building the infrastructure for a solid platform that users and businesses will flock to when the time for fiat integration does arrive. This includes scaling, dApps, and partnerships.

Request Hub and Fund

The Request Hub is a place where community members can work together to better the Request ecosystem. Developers in this ecosystem can work on various projects and will be rewarded by the Request team for their contribution.

The funds for this purpose have a dedicated funding pool called the Request Fund, to which Request will allocate $30 million in REQ and ETH over the next 5 years. Anyone on the Hub ecosystem can work on the projects and earn for their contribution.

AdmREQ is considering different ways in which Request Hub can be streamlined, including improving the funding process of Request Fund. He is also looking into creating tutorials and workshops himself to ease developers in.

The goal is to better the Hub and Fund, as it will soon become a prominent part of the website, which will be implemented towards the end of the year.

Marketing

A cohesive marketing campaign has not yet seen the light of day, because the team wishes the product to be ready before they execute a marketing strategy. For example, the core Request platform involves features like BTC support, which must first be integrated, before marketing can come into action.

The focus of Request’s marketing has been segmented into two halves: dapps and the core Request platform. This is so because both of these have different goals.

The dApp team focuses on creating decentralized applications on top of the Request platform, like invoicing and crowdfunding, which can function between businesses or between businesses and customers. Dapps operate independently of the Request team and will work like an independent business, with its own team and objectives.

The core platform will be given the most attention during the marketing phase, and marketing will focus specifically on how businesses can utilize Request to their benefit, as well as the education of a broader audience.

The current focus, however, is building the infrastructure and a marketable product. Having fleshed out the Request core platform, the team will then launch a marketing campaign to onboard developers and businesses. Dapps will have separate marketing campaigns once they have been created. In the meantime, there will be an active marketing campaign on brand awareness, concentrating on educating the public about the utility of Request Network.

Bi-Weekly Updates

One of the biggest concerns has been the recent bi-weekly updates, which community members feel have been lacking in substance. Consequently, the changes being discussed involve the subject matter of future posts.

AdmREQ has said that there is an ongoing discussion within the team about how to construct future updates. Among other things, future communications may focus on transparency with regards to development, the challenges the team faces, motivations, and previews of new features.

The challenge lies in the resources required to create these new posts, which the team cannot easily apportion, what with other tasks at hand. However, in time, we may see updates that appease the community and do not detract from the team’s development efforts.

Community Management

Another major concern has been the management of the community and the various channels it thrives in. Request’s community moderators want to foster a collaborative and inclusive space where people can voice their opinions freely.

AdmREQ does not claim that he and his fellow moderators are perfect. Indeed, they have lined up potential improvements to the communication flow between the team and the community, and reiterate how they strive to be impartial and helpful.

Roadmap

AdmREQ makes the same point that some investors brought up in the debate about the new roadmap — it is simply asking too much to have developers meet strict deadlines in the fast-paced and amorphous space of blockchain.

He adds to this by saying that estimating long-term deadlines is a difficult task, given all that can happen in that time, and the ever-increasing list of partners and unforeseen events can result in developments features getting sidetracked.  

Request Network Roadmap

He cites the PwC partnership as an example of this, saying:

Let’s take BTC support – if the team was fully focused on BTC I would have no doubt there would have been no delay. But PwC came along, which took up development resources and, unfortunately, impacted the deadline. Long-term, having PwC onboard will have a more positive effect on the overall Request Network ecosystem. Partnerships won’t wait around, Bitcoin support will.

He personally prefers the new roadmap, which permits flexibility, but does concede that the team could be more transparent and the roadmap could be improved — which he expects will happen in the near future.

Final Thoughts

The expectations on the Request team is a direct result of what they have achieved since Q3 2017. Some of the community’s concerns are legitimate, but it is also true that the team has several items on their roadmap, which stretches their resources thin.

As an investor, one would hope to see them addressing their PR issues and maturing as a business, which is the growth crossroads they are at.

Related: Match Made in Blockchain: Waltonchain + Request Network (Analytical Speculation)

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