Illogical projects, a few absurd people, redundant narratives and the never-ending supply of trolls and memes — over the past few years, the Cryptocurrency space has not for a moment failed to excite its many followers and workers.
In my four years working as a consultant and product manager in this field, I have had quite a few opportunities to work with business leaders, technologists, regulators, and of course shady customers (many of whom would want my head for creating this post) attempting to build that next big crypto-project.
Looking back at these interactions, and combining them with the many trolls, memes, and absurdities that are rife in crypto-media, with the realities of consensus algorithms, token economies, and the intricacies of business and regulatory landscapes that dictate the working of this ecosystem, I have observed a few strange patterns.
Since the internet has an undying appreciation for lists, here is my 2019 take on the top seven everyday oddities in the cryptocurrency world.
1. That Same Ol’ Introduction
Have you met anyone working from crypto lately? How many of them have slipped in any of the following lines?
“I’ve been in bitcoin since 200X.”
“I bought my first bitcoin at 0.X cents.”
“I started mining in 200X at the bottom of my basement”
“I am Satoshi!”
Except for the last which applies mostly to just the one person…
…the bitcoin introduction has persisted over the years with an earlier year of bitcoin discovery (supposedly) implying more crypto chops and higher resistance to bear market cycles. However, my experiences contradict the above implication. I can justify quite well because I’ve had numerous experiences where I found out that…
2. Some Crypto Specialists Can Be Plain Stupid
Below is a real conversation I had with a ‘Blockchain specialist’ client in January 2017; at the peak of the bull market explosion:
Client (Possibly Yakuza): We will use Cardano to create our token.
Adil: The platform is not ready yet. Their compute layer is releasing later next year. Do you wish to consider alternatives?
Client: No! We build on Cardano. We wait.
Adil: But why Cardano?
Client: Why becos ADA will soon moon!
[feeling proud at creating a rhyme]
Client: Also why becos Charles Hoskinson has… has… has…
[queries his limited english vocabulary for the right word ]…
[finally makes a weird hand motion around his chin]…
Adil: Has good beard symmetry?
Client: Yes. Correct. We build on ADA.
This was one of the many instances where I experienced important technology decisions driven by the promise of future price movement. Such decision-making prowess was often closely correlated to yet another esoteric field of expertise which customers often took it upon themselves to define…
3. Tokenomics — Where Everyone’s a Non-Expert
Having been involved (or should I say forcibly involved by the grounds of employment) in multiple, slightly sketchy ICO projects, there have been a few instances where I found myself having to redefine, and sometimes even manufacture the token economics of a project’s whitepaper. Since the customers were hailing from a country that I cannot explicitly name (although they took me out for excellent sushi in Tokyo), communication wasn’t easy, and sometimes information used to get lost in translation. Either that or someone missed their ECON101 classes.
Client: Our project excellent. Our token price will go up.
Adil: But I do not understand, why will people buy your tokens?
Client: Becos project excellent!
Adil: Ok understood. But why will the token price go up?
Client: Becos everyone buy token!
Adil: WHY WILL EVERYONE BUY THE TOKEN?
Client: Becos price go up!
Adil: [Takes a shot of wasabi]
Unfortunately, cryptoeconomics is not the only minimally understood concept in our world of currencies created from thin air. Anyone who has been in this space long enough would agree that —
4. Bitcoin Gets a Lot of Undue Hate
Yes! We have all heard it. Again and again and again…
“Bitcoin uses expensive mining!”
“Bitcoin is slow. Pffft 7 transactions per second!”
“Bitcoin consumes more electricity than the entire country of…[insert environment-friendly scandanavian country]!”
Be it competing currencies like Bitcoin Cash, private Blockchains like Hyperledger or Hashgraph, or even non-existent project whitepaper’s that do not have a single line of code to show; they all start their sales pitch juxtaposing their project metrics again that of Bitcoin; drawing comparisons to their superior speed, high throughput, and record transaction times. With all that said, let’s see what history has shown has shown us time and time again.
I am no bitcoin maximalist, but it does not take an expert to realize this over-arching pattern — we have seen years of similar comparisons drawn up, and yet the slow, expensive, shoddy chain continues to dominate the market.
As a reader interpreting such comparisons, one should remember that the internet has been in existence for a little over 30 years, and Bitcoin has survived over a third of those — no small feat by any means!
When new projects come forward to assert their superiority over Bitcoin, they should stop comparing and instead explain the trade-offs for security and decentralization they make for achieving their claimed transactional throughput. Respect what Bitcoin has achieved instead of pouring the hate.
However, it is essential to note that bitcoin is not the only victim —
5. Toxicity Amongst Crypto Communities is Ubiquitous
Here’s a common theme among all the crypto projects currently in operation — they all like to compare, contrast, and beat each other up. This can range from taking casual jibes at one another’s projects to full-blown vitriol.
The crypto world is badly in need of a spokesperson who can dispassionately represent the divergent interests of these communities to the outside world. Although such a person may not exist just yet, not all hope is lost. There are a few common narratives that reconcile and patch together these bickering communities into a tenuous agreement. One of them is the commonly preached —
6. Venezuela Narrative
Don’t get me wrong. Venezuela is well and truly one of the markets that can immediately benefit from cryptocurrencies. Accounts from real people such as these and the local bitcoin activity over the past few months are a testament to the technology’s success in the country.
However, as the first slide of every bitcoin presentation would tell you —
“There are over 1.7 billion unbanked people in the world”
Venezuela has a population of approximately 32 million people and a GDP of $500 billion. Cryptocurrencies have room to grow to another 1.670 billion people, and it is time we start analyzing product-market fit in countries beyond Venezuela.
Last but not the least, parallel to our discussions about product-market fit wherein we attempt to analyze markets that can benefit from cryptocurrencies, it is also essential to acknowledge ideas and conversations that have become—
7. Dull, Boring, and Saturated Narratives
There are quite a few, but here are the ones that irk me the most —
“Blockchain developers are rare talent”
If by Blockchain you mean solidity devs, then I’m afraid you are wrong. We have an abundance of solidity devs in the community who are building random dapplications with no direction. Post a job on Upwork and give them something real.
“People need to be educated about crypto”
Yes, about how to use it, how to secure private keys and how to buy more. Not about proof-of-work, hashes, and uncle blocks. We have to learn to keep the technology discussion aside when dealing with normal people.
“[Insert more shill]”
“[Insert even more shill]”
“Oh! BTW this is not financial advice.”
Thank you for giving us financial advice masquerading as ‘not financial advice’, but this is not aiding adoption in any way. We’re only attracting more speculators into the market. If you wish for more people to get into bitcoin, simply direct them to Andreas Antonopolous on the internet, and let them decide for themselves.
“[Insert any account of poor user adoption of cryptocurrencies]”
User adoption is a factor of whether an entity can sustain a business while making money out of a product that customers love to use. Cryptocurrencies are only minimally different from traditional FinTech products. They require prior analysis of the market they are deployed in, and of the people who interact with them.
Traditional tech companies have for years leveraged the skills of UX designers and product managers in creating software that customers love to use. Our space, for some reason, disregards them. This is the problem that needs to be rectified.
Side note — if you happen to be in the market for a product manager or a consultant who has spent his entire career researching the Blockchain and cryptocurrency space, do reach out to me on my website ConsultMeLive or on LinkedIn. I would love to chat.
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