Adventures of a Crypto Shrimp #1

Chapter 1: There is no helpdesk

Preamble

As we languish in the suffocating boredom of a crab market, it is now clear that a new era of my journey into the cryptoverse begins. And what better way to start a new chapter than to write about the old in fond reminiscence.

This is a story of my journey as someone who started crypto with a small bankroll, a crypto shrimp¹ if you will. It is my hope that this series serves two purposes: the first is as a time capsule chronicling my adventures into the space, and the second is that fellow shrimps and newcomers will learn valuable lessons at my expense. On that note, every time you see a citation on an unfamiliar term, scroll down for an explanation of the crypto lingo used.

The open seas of crypto are daunting — sharks, whales and bugs are threats to us shrimp. But together, we can make it. Probably.

Let’s begin.

Credit: https://insights.glassnode.com/bitcoin-supply-distribution/

Birth of a Shrimp

In August 2021, a new crypto shrimp waded carefully into the deep liquidity pools of crypto. That’s me ser² . Truth is, I might have become a crypto dolphin at least (if not whale) if I’d listened to a friend who shilled ETH way back in 2017. Know why I stopped? Well, the Metamask³ Fox looked suspicious to me, so I dismissed it as a scam. NGMI⁴.

It’s pretty cute though

Which brings me to the first and probably most important lesson to learn in crypto: self-custody turns you into your own worst enemy.

But before that, what made me change my mind about crypto? This is the origin story of CryptoShrimp so buckle up.

It all started out of boredom, just like this series. I was on a year long work trip and my wife had to return to our home country due to visa issues. During one of those long work days, I started chatting with a colleague of mine, let’s call him GM, about cryptocurrencies. The conversation started awkwardly enough. You could sense the years of being mocked by other colleagues about Dogecoin and Magic Internet Money (which is an actual stablecoin by the way) had begun to take its toll. Slowly, he explained why the blockchain exists and what it aims to solve. The enthusiasm was oozing out, but still heavily controlled. I could sense that this was probably bigger than a 15 minute conversation at the coffee machine would allow for.

And so, that night I read the Bitcoin whitepaper for the first time.

I’ll put a link down below, and if you haven’t already take some time to read it. Admittedly, I have limited expertise in coding but the whitepaper was sufficiently clear that I was able to see the beauty of the system. My background working in finance and financial systems certainly helped. Blockchain solved many of the issues plaguing the current financial system and the decentralization narrative gave it a liberating allure.

Two weeks later, I’d read the docs of almost every coin in the top 20 list by market capitalization. I was convinced that this was the next evolutionary stage for not just the financial system but also the Internet as we know it.

Time to put my money where my mouth is.

Self Custody: A charm and a curse

But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself …You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

After buying my first fraction of a Bitcoin ($BTC) and some Ether ($ETH) from a centralized exchange (CEX in short), I was ecstatic. I was now baptized in the rivers of crypto, ready to ride the Valhalla candles to riches and glory.

Credit: https://cointelegraph.com/news/decoupling-ahead-bitcoin-and-ethereum-may-finally-snap-their-36-month-correlation

Feeling proud of my accomplishment, I went on CT⁵ to find out what to do next. A curious quote started popping up everywhere “not your keys, not your coins”. I had no idea what it meant and started consulting the great oracle Google. As it turns out, the $BTC fraction (otherwise known as Satoshis⁶ or Sats) and $ETH I had bought earlier from the CEX was not really mine yet because in reality it was sitting in the custody of the CEX, set aside for the account which belongs to me.

Shrimp Advice

Create your own wallet and own your coins

Confused? Let’s explain this in simple terms.

We’re probably familiar with banks. Now, imagine you’ve received a hundred dollars of dirty fiat from working at McDonald’s.

from flippin’ alts to flippin’ patties

You go to the bank and deposit your grease-covered paper into your bank account, causing your bank account balance to go up by positive one hundred. So, who actually holds the one hundred dollars now? Well, the bank does (it’s not in your wallet anymore) — but in return it provides you a guarantee in the form of an account balance that if you so desire, you can have one hundred dollars back in your wallet. Unless of course you transfer it to someone else or spend it to pay for your wife’s boyfriend’s new car. In the same way, by purchasing $BTC and $ETH through a centralized exchange, I was only provided a guarantee in the form of an account balance that I would at any time be able to withdraw that amount of $BTC and $ETH

“But ser, what if the bank does not have enough money when I go to withdraw it, or it chooses to freeze my account and does not let me access my money?”

Welcome to the world of self custody, anon⁷.

The Charm

Herein lies the charm of crypto. You can transfer your $BTC, $ETH, $DOGE or any other shitcoin you’ve bought into a wallet that you hold the keys to — hence the phrase “not your keys, not your coins”. That means you alone control how, when and where to use your coins or in other words self-custody.

power to the shrimps!

Remember Metamask? Turns out it is not a scam but a virtual wallet available as a Google Chrome extension which could only be accessed by me with my special set of keys or seedphrase (check out the link at the end of the article for a guide to setting up Metamask). Excitedly, I created my first Metamask wallet for $ETH and other EVM⁸ compatible blockchains and a Trust wallet for $BTC. The prospect of being in charge of my own financial destiny without fear of bank runs or frozen assets galvanized the otherwise mundane process. I was asked to write down what looks like a grocery shopping list of random words on a piece of paper. This is known as a seed phrase and is used to retrieve the wallet on different devices or in case the wallet is removed from the current device.

Shrimp Advice

Write your seed phrase on a piece of paper, store it safely and NEVER reveal it under any circumstances.

The next step was transferring my $BTC and $ETH, a nerve-wracking ordeal which took me nearly an hour. I checked the Metamask wallet address which looks like a string of gibberish at least five times, googled if Metamask accepts $ETH, it did. Fingers trembling, I hit the withdraw button on the CEX user interface (UI). Countless refreshes later, it was done. By the power of the blockchain my Metamask wallet was no longer empty.

Example of an ETH address: 0x71c7656ec7ab88b098defb751b7401b5f6d8976f

In that transaction, I felt something.

It was the same feeling I got when flying on a dragon mount in World of Warcraft (shoutout to Vitalik) for the first time. The feeling of pure magic and awe.

“That sounds great! We’re finally free from the clutches of evil big banks and TradFi⁹ systems so where’s the curse?”

The Curse

The problem with being the controller of your money is that when something goes wrong, you can only blame yourself.

A friend of mine bought $ETH shortly after I did. I walked him through the steps, things proceeded smooth as butter. We got to the final step, transferring the $ETH to his Metamask. He input his Metamask address into the CEX’s input field then hit the withdraw button.

We waited for five minutes, he checked his Metamask — no $ETH.

“Yeah, that’s normal, Ethereum is probably slow again because some animal profile picture (PFP) NFT¹⁰ is minting”

Another ten minutes go by, starting to get worried. “Check the address that you used”

Shrimp Advice

Always send a test transaction with small amounts first to check if everything is correct

The blood drains from his face. The string of gibberish known as an address was wrong. Turns out he had tried to type out the full address instead of simply copy-pasting it and had gotten just ONE alphabet wrong, and the $ETH was now sitting in a random wallet probably never to be found again.

He panicked and tried reaching out to the CEX’s helpdesk. That’s what you would do if you made a wrong bank transfer, right? Call the helpdesk and ask them to reverse the transaction, it’s probably done in a couple of working days. Except, this is DeFi⁹ and there isn’t a helpdesk to reverse transactions.

Welcome to the world of self custody, anon.

at least someone’s happy here

Self custody also means that you are responsible for looking after your seedphrase and keys. We are progressing towards a future where vaults will no longer be filled with gold, but probably slips of paper with random words scribbled on it. As my colleague GM once said to me in jest, his greatest fear is that his wife will see his seedphrase lying around the house and throw it away thinking it’s just an old shopping list. Yikes. There are many stories of $BTC lost forever, in fact almost 25% of it is just… gone.

Another worrying development is the use of mobile phones to store seedphrases. Sure, you don’t want to write it down on a piece of paper because you’re either too lazy or have the handwriting of a drunk toddler. But if years of iPhone fappening leaks have taught us anything, it’s that your phone is NOT secure. Repeat after me: phone is not secure. Well, most aren’t anyway.

To add a further layer of complexity, having your own wallet and being extremely careful is not the end of the security threat. Hackers, bugs, and scammers lurk in Discord servers and CT searching for unsuspecting shrimps to steal tokens/coins from. Stay tuned to Chapter Two for more on this.

With that, we’ve come to the end of Chapter One. Hit me up on Twitter (tora) if you have feedback or comments on this series. Feel free to retweet if you’ve liked the content or found it useful.

Transaction checklist

There are many things that can go wrong when sending coins over the blockchain, and below is a checklist which you might find useful.

  1. Check the address, no typos allowed!
  2. Check if the receiving address supports the token standard (useful article in links) of the token/coin you are sending. The most common is the ERC-20 standard which is supported by most CEX and wallets.
  3. Always send a small test amount first, even if gas hurts.

Feel free to let me know on Twitter (tora) if you think there are more checks.

Explanations

¹ aquatic animals are often used in reference to the size of one’s bankroll, e.g. a whale is someone with a huge account].

² unisex term for addressing anyone, much like sir

³ metamask is one of the most widely used wallets for Ethereum and other Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible blockchains like Harmony, Matic etc.

⁴ NGMI = not/never gonna make it. Often used in jest, sadly sometimes true.

⁵ CT stands for Crypto Twitter. A maniacal crew of Twitter users obsessed with crypto.

⁶ Fraction of a Bitcoin, 100 million satoshis equal one Bitcoin — named after the pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

⁷ Anon stands for anonymous. Just like you are to me, so this is me addressing you. Anon.

⁸ Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is the software platform that developers can use to create decentralized applications (DApps) on Ethereum. Examples of EVM compatible coins include Avalanche, Fantom Opera and Polygon.

⁹ TradFi = Traditional Finance referring to the legacy banking and financial system which is currently predominant.

DeFi = Decentralized Finance referring to the decentralized financial system which has no central governing body.

¹⁰A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a one-of-a-kind digital asset (e.g. musical track, picture or text) which has provable ownership.

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bull market: flip alts stack sats bear market: flip burgers stack patties

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