Introducing the Otter Badges (Part II)

In Part I, we told the story of the Otterverse coming under attack from Moloch as more and more Otters floated in and coordination became harder. The rocks ($ROC) the Otters use as a currency for ownership and governance were not good enough for running the Otter planets. In part II, we tell the story of how the Otters discovered a new model for organizing the Otterverse.

Otters are clever and curious creatures who do their own research. As they review human history for clues, they stumble upon The Badge…

Evolution of badges

Badges have been used in many forms throughout human history to recognize achievements, demonstrate community affiliation and display social status. We can consider the badge an atomic social unit that is itself simple, but carries a great deal of meaning. A quick survey of the use of badges throughout history illustrates this simple but powerful concept.

12th Century - Coat of Arms

The coat of arms takes us back to 12th Century Europe, where organizations (families, corporations, states, schools) and individuals represented heraldic achievement in a visual composition including a motto, supporters, crest and shield. Individual knights bore a coat of arms to signal their rank and affiliation. The system was used as a visual representation of rank and pedigree in society, and some countries like England even had entities in control of granting arms to organizations.

17th Century - Military

The military have been using badges to recognize achievements and qualifications since the 17th Century, with some badges being awarded for exceptional conduct – such as the British Victoria Cross, and others being purely used for identification – such as the US Army Military Horseman badge. Similar to the coat of arms, the badge is a simple object with all its meaning coming from who granted it and the circumstances under which it was granted.

20th Century - Scout badges

The scout movement was started in England in the early 20th century by an Army General who most probably drew inspiration from the military in the use of a uniform with badges. Since then, scout badges have grown into a world of their own, being used to represent group affiliation, progressive awards, proficiency awards and event participation. Individuals sew the badges onto their uniform in order to display their achievements and affiliations.

21st Century - MMORPGs

The rise of massively multiplayer online games was marked by the success of World of Warcraft, first released in 2004. The game is based on players adopting an avatar to interact in the virtual world, completing quests and engaging in combat to earn experience points and level-up their character in the game. Players earn costumes, titles, objects, skills, XP and gold which accrue to their avatar and form the basis of their perceived reputation in the game. One big challenge with World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs has been the selling of in-game currency and entire accounts, undermining the reputation system.

Twitter blue checkmark - 21 C

Twitter’s blue checkmark is an example of a badge granted by a Web2 organization to attest that an account of public interest is authentic. While initially used as a tool for content moderation and curation, the blue checkmark has become a symbol of social status and reputation, as it is only granted to ‘notable’ accounts.

The history of badges teaches us several important attributes:

  • Badges are earned, never bought
  • Badges are granted by and associated with an organization
  • Badges are simple – at face value they are a set of identical physical objects with a name
  • What gives a badge meaning is the granting organization and circumstances under which it is granted
  • Reputation is not explicit, but implicit through the process of attaining the badge

DAOs and the Otter Badges

Since their rise, we have observed many DAOs struggling with:

  1. Limited ways to break down membership
  2. Financialized rewards for contribution
  3. Reputation and identity of individuals is not persisted
  4. Reliance on manual human intervention and judgment
  5. Token voting ineffectively balances incentives between stakeholders

To read the full break-down of the problems we are addressing with the badges, check out Part I of this blogpost series.

In order to bring more order and recognition into their communities, we have observed DAOs using levels, roles and guilds to break down community membership into more granular units, and recognizing achievements and event attendance via POAPs.

The badge model suits these types of organizations because without a centralized, hierarchical decision-making machine, individuals need to carry their reputation and affiliations with them. Badges allow DAOs to represent community and sub-community affiliation, community progression, achievement, event participation and skill acquisition.

Within the Otter Protocol, badges are a non-tradeable NFT issued by a community, used to grant power and permissions and displayed to show reputation, history, experience, social capital and standing in the community.

The Otters found what they were looking for – a way to give Otters a sense of identity, reward achievements, enable autonomy and fight the whales. The Otter Badge was born. The Otters decided to craft badges from pearl oyster shells and meteorites and give them unique names, but they needed to figure out how to grant badges to Otternauts.

The Otter Badges

The Otter Badges are based on an open set of Ethereum smart contracts that can be used by any DAO. The design of the badge object itself is as un-opinionated as possible, while still retaining enough structure to have meaning. The design is inspired by what we have learned from historical instances of badge systems, as well as hours of conversation with leaders at DAOs like ENS, Gitcoin, PrimeDAO, Juicebox, Mirror DAO, Metastreet, LlamaDAO, CabinDAO, Synthetix and DAOHaus.


There are several types of actors that are relevant to a DAO:

  • An individual human member (an Otter)
  • A group of individuals acting in concert (a romp of Otters)
    • A squad or sub-DAO
    • The DAO itself
  • Benevolent community bots

In the Otter Protocol, any of these agents can hold badges and play a role in creating, distributing, revoking and reassigning badges. Within the protocol, agents are identified by the badges they hold.

While DAOs can be considered agents when acting as a single organism based on a governance vote, we also see them as an important entity in the system. One of the key design decisions we have made is that a badge must be associated with an organization or sub-organization. In this sense, DAOs are both agents and organizations or networks to which other agents and badges can belong.

Badge actions

The Otter Badge
The Otter Badge

Designing a badge

An agent designs a badge by creating a schema for the badge, in line with the structure set out by the protocol.

For example, Louie 🦦 the community lead at Otter DAO might design the “Rock holder” badge by providing the required metadata and other parameters. The Rock holder badge then becomes part of Otter DAO’s badge collection and can be minted by DAO members who meet the eligibility requirements.

Badge attestation and proofs

The badge’s proof is the rule-set for the circumstances under which the badge can be minted. Every badge must have a proof associated with it when designed, or else anyone could mint any badge.

Badges must be attested before they are minted. This is the process whereby an agent completes/meets the requirements and another agent or system verifies that the requirements have been met. At the end of this process, a mint voucher is generated.

Importantly, agents with a mint voucher must mint the badge themselves rather than having the badge airdropped. This ensures that all badges are associated with an agent by consent.

Revoking a badge

Badges can be revoked, making them inactive. Inactive badges are still visible and associated with the agent as a record of history. For example, Louie holds the Otter DAO “Alpha Otter” badge, representing that he is the community lead. Unfortunately, he swims off with the DAO’s shrimp budget, and the DAO votes to revoke his badge. The badge itself remains part of Louie’s collection, but is in an inactive state.

Reassigning a badge

The core principle of badges is that they can only be earned, not bought. As such, they should not change hands between agents. There have been multiple proposed design approaches to this problem, including verifiable credentials, but we have chosen to work with a non-transferable NFT. We believe that with the possibility of reassignment, an NFT meets the requirements of this problem.

Badge reassignment happens when an agent loses access to their wallet or wants to change wallets for a different reason. In reassignment, the tokens in one wallet are burned and reassigned to a second wallet.

The badge itself

We view the badge as a primitive that does not assume a specific use case – as such, it is similar to the types of badges we have observed throughout history. We have based the metadata schema on the examples we have observed in the DAOs we’ve worked with.

To learn more about how the badges work under hood, including the metadata, Otter badge schema and the minting process, sign up to the wait list to be the first one in line to try our private Beta.

Downstream of badges 🌊🦦

Badges create an implicit network of agents (badge-holders) who have rights (governance, ownership, access) within an organization (or DAO) by virtue of owning a badge. This network structure is emergent and organic (self-organizing) rather than artificially or arbitrarily pre-defined by leaders.

Various apps can represent the data in this network in different ways, such as an org chart, talent marketplace, or leaderboard. Other apps might want to interpret the data held by the network to calculate skills, reputation, trustworthiness, and other scores.

DAOs can use the ownership of a badge as a requirement for an agent to be able to access spaces (e.g. Discord), knowledge (e.g. Clarity), governance (e.g. Snapshot), tasks (e.g. Wonderverse), Code repos (e.g. Radicle), multisigs (e.g. Gnosis Safe) and compensation (e.g. Utopia Labs or Coordinape).

The Otter Badges are a public good that can be used by DAOs as a foundation for any type of badge system to represent membership, distribute power and recognize contribution. The Otters are still at the early stages of building the Otterverse and welcome all Otternauts with ideas for improvements or collaboration. 🦦🚀

The Otter Badges are used to represent affiliation with a planet, give governance over the planet and recognize the achievement of extraordinary Otternauts. As Otternauts collect the badges and tuck them in their fur, they can show other Otters who they are and access the interplanetary rafts. Moloch doesn’t stand a chance against this level of coordination.

Equipped with a new tool to manage the growth of the Otterverse, the Otters are ready to welcome new Otternauts on board their mission.

Join us by following along on Twitter, or sign-up to the wait list.

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