I just spent the most wonderful week in Los Angeles speaking, moderating, and partying at NFT|LA, a gathering of Web3 enthusiasts with a special emphasis on NFTs and all things crypto. The organizers did an outstanding job mixing solid content and amazing experiences. I’m sure everyone had an incredible time. I’m also sure the audience was bifurcated into two clearly defined groups: predators and prey.
While delighting in a fresh, warm, soft pretzel in the VIP lounge, I was approached by Maryann (not her real name), who had seen me on stage earlier in the day and wanted to chat. Maryann asked a few questions that were filled with crypto word salad. In practice, they were unintelligible and, therefore, unanswerable. I didn’t feel it was my place to explain (especially during pretzel time), so I asked what she hoped to gain from attending the event. She told me that she wanted to build a “Web3 community.”
Intrigued, I asked her what that meant to her. She proceeded to tell me about the utopian future Web3 will usher in. It will be free… open… uncensored… and no one will have to put up with big tech overlords. She was passionate in her conviction that “a fully decentralized world would offer the best hope for the future of humanity.” Yes. That’s an actual quote. I did not want to dissuade her from her vision.
Instead, I asked her what tools she might use to build a Web3 community. She did not understand the question, but when I clarified a bit, she said, “Discord or Twitter.” When I mentioned that both of these were Web2 tool sets, she got confused. I asked if she had a particular focus in mind for her Web3 community. She did not. She was just excited about using Web3 technology to set everyone free.
Maryann was not alone. I spoke to dozens and dozens of Maryanns this past week, highly optimistic and enthusiastic people using nonsense words (random terms of art) to reinforce (and broadcast) their profound ignorance. Many had become newly rich from NFT purchases or crypto speculation, and most considered themselves experts in every sense of the word. They are the prey animals in this ecosystem, and they are extremely easy to identify.
The predators can be loosely divided into two camps: Technocrats and Hucksters. While the technocrats are absolutely predators, we can give most of them a pass. The good ones are, for the most part, clear about what they are selling. I heard a lot of nonsense from salespeople this past week, but in most cases, it was just account execs doing their best with a lot of new jargon.
Of course, there were quite a few imposters running around. One guy told me his firm specialized in Web3 security. When I asked him to describe a typical engagement, he could not articulate what differentiated his Web2 security services from his Web3 security services. It was an entertaining exchange for me and the people I was standing with, but it was not so entertaining for him. When I said I was excited to have his team evaluate our Web3 sites, he said he’d get back to me, turned, and walked away. Oddly, he didn’t ask for my contact info.
The hucksters are another story. It’s one thing for the audience to be filled with curious people who have come to learn what the crypto craze is all about. It is something quite different when the famous and the neo-famous hawk pure fraud. Sadly, there were more than a fair share of hucksters in the crowd.
Importantly, NFTs and crypto are not fraud. Fraud is fraud. It is criminal to build a system with specific intent to take people’s money and return nothing of value. I saw way too many fraudulent projects this past week. In more than a few cases, the people hawking the fraudulent projects didn’t even know their projects were fraudulent.
There is no escaping the hype around Web3, crypto, NFTs, and the metaverse. You have only one path forward: education! You need to learn as much as you can and then decide what you believe. Is Web3 a transformative group of technologies? Will it change your world? Should you invest in crypto? Should you buy an NFT? If so, which one(s)? Is there a reason to join a DAO? Should you start an engage-to-earn project? Can your business benefit from creating a liquidity pool? Is there a project where blockchain might be more useful than a more traditional solution for your organization? These are common questions. You need enough education to feel comfortable with the answers.
We’re about to launch Metacademy.xyz. It’s a Web3 training site that is free of charge and risk-free. It’s a good place to start your crypto, NFT, Web3, metaverse education. I also have a best-selling book on the subject. That said, these subjects are covered in thousands of places. There are great videos on YouTube, fantastic blog posts, amazing free (and paid) courses, and no end to the number of books. The information you need is plentiful and mostly free. Education is the only way for you to know when you’re a Web3 predator or prey. Drinking the Crypto Kool-Aid really won’t help.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it. I am not a financial advisor. Nothing contained herein should be considered financial advice. If you are considering any type of investment you should conduct your own research and, if necessary, seek the advice of a licensed financial advisor.