The Jon Wong Interview (Part 1): Solana Ecosystem Engineering, Backpack xNFTs and Mad Lads
Jon Wong hints at major xNFT alpha, gives us a behind the scenes look at the Solana Foundation, speculates on the future of blockchain careers and tells us why Backpack is disrupting Web3.
Software engineer, project manager, culture builder, public speaker, NFT maxi and recovering WoW addict - Jon has a unique set of skills that are needed in Web3.
We caught up with Jon in between the workplace grind and talked to him about building culture within the Solana Foundation, the direction that blockchain hiring might go and a potential xNFT alpha leak.
What is “Ecosystem Engineering” and what does it mean for Solana?
Jon: Ecosystem Engineering sits at the intersection of business, technology, and innovation within the Solana ecosystem.
We support ecosystem teams across any number of business verticals and derive technical primitives, standards, and conventions that end up helping all of them.
Compressed NFTs is one example of something our team might end up driving; the Foundation seeks to play a coordinating role within the ecosystem.
Web3 is a unique world where developers are the leading edge of culture.
What does the career path to Ecosystem Engineering look like?
Jon: Every engineer on this team has a distinct background that allows them to uniquely tackle problems across many different verticals.
In comparison to the prototypical product engineering team, we don’t often work with each other but rather tend to focus on working with ecosystem teams—hence, ecosystem engineering!
What Web3 jobs will exist in 5+ years that most people aren’t thinking about?
Jon: In 5+ years, we’ll probably see many more experts in tokenomics and cryptographers. I also think we’ll see folks whose expertise is “leverage”—how to make use of the existing smart contracts to provide maximum composability for your product and business.
I also think we’ll start to see more “experts” in smaller, more niche fields.
“1,000 true fans” isn’t particularly difficult to get if you have the right community, but making them be co-creators in that community is going to be harder than just building an audience.
Backpack as a wallet is widely understood by the Web3 community.
Backpack as an operating system for xNFTs is just now starting to be explored.
What problems do xNFTs solve for developers? For users?
Jon: For developers, xNFTs provide an opportunity to ship game-changing technology without first having to fight the battle of adoption.
Given how critical wallets are to the Web3 user flow, unless you control the wallet yourself you’re somewhat at the mercy of having to deal with user acquisition into your website in order to create habits, but xNFTs allow you to reach out to users where they are.
For users, it makes Web3 that much more simple. Instead of remembering websites or running the risk of getting scammed, they can trust the xNFTs distributed by the developers themselves.
Jon: This is especially useful for products where the touchpoint is incredibly small where a typical website might prove to be too big for
What opportunities do xNFTs provide for brand builders?
Jon: Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to building a website that caters to every version of a user, being able to distribute one or many “micro” dApps to users can better facilitate specific actions.
Jon: Brands can also target and unlock more interesting experiences as a result of knowing what assets are tied to that particular public key in a way that is near-impossible with prototypical emails, but with the added capability for users to pick and choose what they do and do not expose publicly!
What makes xNFTs a compelling piece of technology?
Jon: We’re always experimenting with new tech, and xNFTs provide a suitable vehicle for testing these without having to dedicate the time and effort to building out a full website, domain and all.
Really tightens the feedback loop, and if those efforts need to be shipped / shared, there’s a clean distribution method for verified parties.
What is your favorite use case of xNFT technology so far?
Jon: Some I can’t quite talk about yet… but I’m generally a huge fan of the Foxes and their dedication to getting useful products done quickly.
Love that they’ve pushed the bill with xNFTs to isolate key actions that *everyone* might benefit from, holder or not.
What type of projects do you think should be exploring xNFTs?
Jon: Anyone using or developing new tech should be using xNFTs.
When / if there are standalone websites that can host xNFTs and connect with other wallets, or other platforms integrating xNFTs, I think that will dramatically expand the addressable product space
The tough part is evaluating whether or not this is going to be a suitable user acquisition stream for non-crypto natives. I don’t think it is (yet) but I can dream up some ways to make things work a little more cleanly!
Describe your experience working with the Backpack and Mad Lads team.
Jon: The Coral team is one of the best teams in the ecosystem. They’re thoughtful, open to criticism, and very willing to be wrong.
And they ship non-stop.
Backpack released their “coin” based staking system for Mad Lads in June. This showcases a new technology for xNFTs, the inventory. Each NFT in the Mad Lads collection effectively has a wallet that can receive airdrops.
What implications will this have on NFT project builders?
Jon: Have always loved the idea of NFTs that can own other NFTs / fungible tokens.
Coming from many years playing World of Warcraft, feels right at home with the idea of characters with an inventory, but abstracted out so that you could permissionlessly create your own inventory on top of any particular trait or aspect you wanted to target.
Maybe Galaxies get “stars” that help only with DAO-related votes, but not be something that everyone has to think about.
What makes xNFTs a compelling route for your favorite traditional NFT projects to explore?
Jon: Interactivity! The way that xNFTs are constructed provide a lot more operational leverage for developers to be able to ship wonderful interactive experiences directly to holders.
One has to be thoughtful about how you use internet resources, but otherwise I love the idea of xNFTs that provide self-contained operational logic.
What do you think about the subcommunity culture that is forming?
Jon: Subcommunities are one of my favorite features of NFT collections!
Partially because they’re emergent from the community itself picking, choosing, and working towards making any specific trait or group successful. Obviously aesthetics play a role in it too, but I bet if you asked any 10k PFP founder what they thought might end up being in a subcommunity, they’d likely be at least slightly wrong.
I’d love to see subDAOs being formed within PFP communities to help make decision-making a little more accessible to everyone in it.