Re: Ethereal — Scandal! 2+2=4!!
Also… 5-1, 1+3, 7-3, 25-21, 16/4…
Treated to the headline “Crypto’s Uneasy Relationship with the News Media,” the organizers of the Ethereal conference handed the Gray Lady the story she just waiting to write, even if it was ultimately a somewhat self-neutering one.
Long story short, the annual confab by and for the Ethereum ecosystem went from a public event to a non-public one. This is a tough move to communicate in any context but, apparently, invites to the press had already gone out. These had to be rescinded, with the poorly formulated rationale of the need for “a safe space for sharing and idea-creation.” The Times was moved to cover this in its Dealbook newsletter, giving it second-story treatment under analysis of Ukraine-related market sentiment.
Of course, this came with the usual implication of hypocrisy. “Blockchain people” are said to prize transparency and openness, the reasoning goes, so they must therefore — and in any context — expose all activities to the public. DeCential’s Matt Leising supports this with the claim that the technology’s openness means that “dissident opinions are favored.” (Five minutes on crypto-Twitter in general, and Bitcoin-Twitter in particular, might indicate otherwise.)
Then the Times moved to present this gaffe as alleged industry hostility to the press, or at least in a way that could be uniquely tied to crypto. The piece cuts to early crypto-scribe Laura Shin, who under the subhead “Hostilities between crypto and the news media seem to be ‘ratcheting up’” undercuts the Times’s case by basically saying the gaffe doesn’t represent “the actual state of relations” and “raises suspicions where they are not warranted.”
Then… Something something something Buzzfeed doxxing the Bored Ape people and Shin’s uncovering of the 2016 DAO crypto-heist perpetrator. The public interest argument — one I might cautiously support, by the way — is a topic for another edition.
Okay, so where exactly is the story here? I’ve gotten to the end and struggle to figure out what the point actually was, other than to tell me that 2+2=4 and, maybe, there could be some other solutions as well.
Honestly, I’m betting that a big deal is getting made out of an administrative error. Were I a betting man, the conversation in Slack probably went like this:
“We’re doing Ethereal again next year.”
“That’s great! The past Ethereal conferences were well-attended and well-covered! In fact, we’ll do it up even better than last year.”
“You would not believe the press RSVPs we’re getting. Ethereal 2022 is going to be amazing. And we’re doing it in Wyoming, no less!”
“You invited… journalists?”
“Um. Yeah. PR folk gotta PR.”
“So, you missed the memo.”
“We’re taking the event private. We want to approach it more like a private retreat.”
“You mean I gotta walk back all this work?”
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
“Well… In college, we could say something was a ‘safe space’ and pretty much get away with anything.”
“Brilliant! Run with that!!”
Nothing sinister. At worst, maladroit. While I do think that our ecosystem would be better for having press covering the event, the attendees generally comprise a group of people who have trouble staying quiet on Twitter about what they know and you don’t. I have every confidence that we’ll know what’s going on.
But… This is what a lot of outsiders don’t understand: What is often ascribed as scheming, pyramided-finger-flexing intent by communicators and marketers is usually a cascade of clerical screwups or missed internal communication. This happened all the time at my last gig. He-Whose-Name-Is-On-The-Door could run into a burning building to rescue a basket of baby kittens and the headlines would still read “CEO of Big PR Firm Allows Building to Burn to the Ground.”
So, a bad outcome but not necessarily one worth the attention it received. Really, the Times apparently just wanted to write a piece about a group that may distrust the press. However, this describes a lot of people. Crypto needs to do a better job of providing a less-enticing target profile.
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MUSIC: “Suzanne Takes You Down to Her Place Near the River,” Guernica (2022) — A sad and moving tribute to Leonard Cohen’s famous muse.
FILM: “Francis Ford Coppola’s $100M Bet,” GQ (2022) — “Coppola likes to describe himself as a ‘second-rate film director,’ paraphrasing the composer Richard Strauss: “‘But I'm a first-rate second-rate film director.’”
CULTURE: “Solving the Wordle Puzzle,” The Atlantic (2022 — Wordle is part of my morning ritual. I do it in the original English, since sold to The New York Times, Portuguese, and even one that only features physics terms. But why is it so enjoyable?
Andrew Heaton is one of my favorite humorists and I always look forward to his Friday Release Valve podcast, where he takes a break from politics, history, and science fiction and just bats around funny headlines with friends. Enjoy.
While you’re at it, check out his “Citizens vs. Government” series with Austin Bragg.