Toxic Pragmatism

independent brains require thicker skin

Konnichiwa from DevCon V!

Programming for the event starts this morning (evening NYC time). I’m heading over to the Eth 2020 roadmap sessions shortly (I wonder if they’ll launch on time…zing!), and will recap those sessions and the plenary sessions with Aya (EF Director), Vitalik (ethgod), and the 1.x and 2.0 overviews for those who were unable to make it to Osaka.

But first, steak.

(My cow got a degree in tastiness.)

Speaking of toxic bitcoin maximalism, this happened on my way back after dinner:

The only real problem I have with this tweet is that @messaricrypto wasn’t tagged. All mentions are good when it comes to building awareness about our token registry!

I’m half kidding, of course. While we don’t mind criticism, it’s rarely as blunt as Matt’s tweet, and rarely sparks as much engagement.

It did get me thinking about cancel culture, and what I’ll call “toxic pragmatism” in crypto, which is the situation you get when you’re kicked out of a tribe for having a “not right” opinion that normalizes “bad behavior”, even if you’re pretty measured and centrist about the position itself and your rationale makes sense.

We see this everywhere today, but I’ll skip the longer meta conversation, which is more political that I’d like to delve into in these missives.

Instead we’ll focus on why we’re doing what we’re doing at Messari, and why our sort of toxic pragmatism is good for an industry whose core is arguably built around twitter armies and no-nuance memes (social scaleability!) more than technical advancements.

First, the basics...

As you probably know, Messari runs a token transparency registry, where 65+ global teams go through our disclosures application, get vetted by our research team, and agree to certain ongoing disclosures.

I wrote about why we approached the crappy data problem from this angle in the height of ICO mania back in 2017. Even though many assets have corrected 90-99%+ since (as we, and others, predicted they would), we still believe in the right of these teams to continue to experiment…provided they aren’t egregiously fleecing investors.

Our mission is the same now as it was then: promote transparency and smarter decision making in crypto.

But there’s a healthy tension here: we don’t want to promote or condemn projects and hurt our reputation for neutrality. At the same time, we’re proud of the brand we’ve built, and some (incorrectly) equate the Messari registry as a stamp of approval, or a “buy” rating vs. what we’ve always said it is: a pass-fail rating for teams that provide some minimal degree of transparency. We actually work hard to limit our direct criticisms of projects — even those we think are questionable in value! — because our larger aim is to standardize a much-needed disclosures norm.

We’re Switzerland here.*

[*For those who’ve followed me for a while, you know how taxing it is for me to play this role.]

Some are going to condemn us for selling out and normalizing vaporware. But the same critics tend to attack - indiscriminately - anything that isn’t their favorite crypto. 

It’s important to give builders a fair shake at raising money in novel ways and allow them to innovate so long as they aren’t exploiting their end customers. This caveat is important. Teams that pump and dump to enrich their founders and dupe investors, should, as Matt so eloquently puts “go fuck themselves.”

Everyone else, let’s see which of these experiments end up bearing fruit long-term. 

Some assets which I thought were garbage initially (ETH, BNB, MKR, ZEC, NMR, etc.) have made me question my initial skepticism since via their team’s execution and creativity. When I’ve been right about a shitcoin, I’ve prevented someone from losing 99% of their money. When I’ve been wrong, I’ve often prevented someone from making a 1000x+ gain.

So the math simply works in favor of open-mindedness provided the information playing field is fair, and the next incremental buyer can understand as much about a liquid tradable crypto asset, as a16z.  

I think most of our fellow toxic pragmatists agree with our approach. 

But to really grok why we’re focused on building an open-sourced “EDGAR for crypto” as a foundational product (a "shitcoin legitimacy machine" to critics), you have to understand our team’s ethos, which boil down to core beliefs in free people, free thinking, and free markets.

Said another way, you can’t be libertarian, free-market, innovative capitalists, and also shut down conversation around everything but bitcoin.

Can we do better? Of course! 

We’re a small team that’s just getting started.

But if you want us to do better, then give us feedback! What objective information can we do a better job of collecting and standardizing for the benefit of the industry? 

We have the resources to work on this for years now, and it pays to be pragmatic when you’re playing the long game. 


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Messari Compression Algorithm

Content and thoughts from around the web as summarized by the Messari team.

🔐 [Analysis] Testing Testnets - Incentives for Early Protocol Users

Messari registry participant Elrond ($ERD) recently launched a testnet competition, “Battle of Nodes”, encouraging participants to both secure and attack the network and offering a reward pool of $50,000 to do so. As part of our research team’s first weekly long form research piece, Wilson Withiam took a look at various smart contract platforms that launched recently or plan to in the near future and compared ways they incentivize early developer involvement.

What the full report? Sign up and Go Pro! The first year is just $299.

Quick Bits (don't read that, I read it for you)

  • Algo Capital, which recently raised $200 million for its venture firm supporting the Algorand ($ALGO) ecosystem, lost around $3 million after attackers seized control of a hot wallet controlled by the CTO Pablo Yabo.

  • PayPal announced that it will not join the Libra Association as a member of Facebook's Libra Network, according to comments shared to Twitter by Bloomberg tech reporter Sarah Frier. "We remain supportive of Libra’s aspirations," PayPal said in a statement.

  • A high severity security vulnerability was discovered in the Cosmos' ($ATOM) Tendermint consensus engine. It was discovered through their bug bounty program and a patch released by the team shortly after.

  • Ethereum infrastructure provider Infura has officially been acquired by ConsenSys. Originally a "spoke" that was funded by and run as part of ConsenSys Infura will now operate as a wholly owned business within the organization.

Did I miss something?

Send me the link, your twitter handle and your best imitation compression algorithm write up. If I like it, I’ll include your bit next issue (with attribution).

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