I have never seen a community like the crypto community before. There is incredible work being done, but what truly stands out to me is that so many people think they are the smartest person in the room. The reality is that most of us are not as knowledgeable as we believe ourselves to be. Tripoli from a year ago was an idiot, and a year from now I’m sure I will feel similarly about my current self.
If you take nothing else away from this list, please stop assuming that large personalities in the space are actually intelligent.
In my view, there are four distinct groups of crypto critics: the archivists, the noise-makers, the hindrances, and the essential.
In many cases, particularly outside of the crypto community, the archivists are the most visible of the critics. Molly White, the creator of Web 3 Is Going Just Great, is perhaps the preeminent archivist and is doing great work, but the issue with archival work is that it is by definition responsive and will rarely, if ever, preempt issues. The narratives preached by critics in this camp are very ineffective at convincing current crypto holders to abandon their positions, which reinforces the growing divide between those inside and outside the crypto community.
The second group, who form the majority of critics, are simply noise. Rather than attempting original thought, this group amplifies what they believe to be strong arguments, but in reality they are some of the least effective. My best analogy for members of this group is:
Imagine you’re having a conversation in a quiet home and you don’t understand a word used by the other participant. When you ask about the word, rather than explaining the concept, they just yell the same word louder.
Some of the people in this group of pure noise are: Tether truthers, Bitcoin maximalists who call all other coins scams, Ethereans who without demonstrating arguments claim that Bitcoin’s security model is doomed, and the anti-crypto/NFT crowd who claim the tech is useless.
The group that I consider the biggest hindrance is very small, only made up of those who are intellectually dishonest and make verifiably false claims. I’m not going to name names, but common tropes from this group are: quoting electricity per transaction stats, using inaccurate depreciation schedules for mining devices, comparing hash rate directly across hashing algorithms, claiming that Ethereum is controlled by Vitalik, and claiming that Bitcoin will never need another hard fork.
The final group of critics, those who are truly essential, are embedded in the community and are intellectually honest. The main two that come to mind are Eric Wall in the Bitcoin community and Polynya in the Ethereum community. This is the group that I hope grows in 2023, but it’s a punishing role in an ecosystem full of vitriol.
SBF and The Block, what a setback. Coin Desk hasn’t been much better, even if they claim to be at arm's length from Digital Currency Group it’s just not a good situation—you don’t need to be directing everyday operations to influence what is being published. As a note on article quality, in my opinion, it would probably be a net-benefit if 90% of journalists who cover cryptoassets were replaced by automated GPT-3 summarization. I’m not a big fan of the writing quality of GPT-3, but the bar has been set so low.
The most promising development in this space is Ryan Selkis floating the idea of a crypto media DAO. Details remain too sparse and it would be a difficult task for a decentralized crypto funded organization to remain truly neutral, but this has the potential to be a very interesting project.
2021 was the year of excess in blockchain and 2022 has been the resulting hangover. The cryptoasset space needs fewer cartoon apes, and more NFTs with utility. Fewer add-on digital tokens as a way to monetize products, and more games designed bottom-up around the advantages of blockchain. Fewer pump and dump tokens, and more collectives creating meaningful content that helps to address the flaws in the industry. Less money for fund managers, and more for software developers building the foundation of the industry.
The Ethereum community needs to stop elevating podcast hosts, fund managers, newsletter writers, and NFT artists. Almost everyone is out here trying to monetize your time, to get you to follow them into trades, or trying to get you to buy low quality art that they’ll proceed to abandon.
Those worth elevating are the core developers and people running community projects like Gitcoin or the Protocol Guild. Reject personalities that shill NFT projects and paid memberships, particularly those who don’t disclose their holdings or their earnings.
Bitcoin is a revolutionary and integral project, but the thought leaders and community are awful. There is a small group of people in the Bitcoin community that are extremely promising and open about the future, but many others would like to see these voices drowned out.
The narratives that tend to resonate are the ones that are the easiest to explain, but those also tend to be the stupidest.
For reference, some truths that seem lost:
The Merge was not done for environmental reasons.
Ultra sound tokenomics mean little for price, particularly in a bear market. In bear markets, demand is the dominant factor.
Bitcoin isn’t the best simply because it does nothing.
Flare mining isn’t going to make Bitcoin carbon negative.
The US Military mining Bitcoin and turning it into a tool for economic warfare is not a good outcome for anyone with remotely sane values.
The marginal newcomer is less and less interested in the original values of cryptocurrency, and unless UX dramatically improves centralized exchanges and actors will remain a vital part of the industry.
The most important narratives aren’t easy to explain, that’s why it is important to explain them.
Above all else, there is a lot of work left to do. Stay humble and have a great 2023.