The most hypocritical article you will ever read about crypto conferences
Awful, overrated, claustrophobic work events that nobody should ever go to, and sign me up right now, please
astarot/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks
People talk about getting invites to crypto conferences with the same hushed reverence as celebs talk about getting invites to the Met Gala.
The difference? Crypto conferences have much, much worse fashion, as I’ve already addressed here.
Oh, and they are also work conferences. There’s not even anything fun in the name. Work. Conference. A conference about work. Yippee.
The leadup to these events, due to the ever-growing creativity of crypto marketing campaigns, can be quite genius in instilling that feeling of “I just HAVE to be there or I’ll die.” With native apps that add a social media aspect to connect attendees, NFT giveaways just for showing up, entire parody Twitter accounts dedicated to the proliferation of conference-specific memes, not being there can feel as bad as not getting an invite to the cool girl’s sleepover birthday party.
And this strange allure of the crypto conference manages to persist across both bull and bear cycles.
Back when Bitcoin was weird, crypto events themselves were the news story. If you worked at a news outlet, your entire pitch could just be: “Let me attend this conference.”
The Cut had a hellish NYC crypto bro party story in 2018. Breaker Mag (rest in peace) had one of my favorites, an even more hellish extended crypto conference party feature on an actual cruise ship, also in 2018.
These types of stories contributed to the myth of the crypto conference, a magical, unhinged place filled with easy-to-write-about personalities like Brock Pierce and John McAfee, or get-rich-quick bros and their Lambos. When Bitcoin was still niche, crypto conferences as THE places to be made sense — you got to observe extravagant amounts of wealth being thrown around by people who didn’t fit in anywhere else.
But Bitcoin is more mainstream now, and conferences are following suit. The mechanical bull at last year’s Bitcoin Miami felt forced (and wasn’t even real!), without crazy announcements like the president of El Salvador accepting Bitcoin as a national currency to accompany it.
But no matter — it’s crypto conference season again, and the appetite for attending these events has not been dampened in the slightest. Even though Bitcoin is nowhere near $70,000, even though crypto companies are being sued for securities fraud left in right, even though the possibility of another authoritarian country accepting Bitcoin as their national currency is essentially zilch.
I bet your entire Twitter feed right now is filled either with photos of people’s feet resting uncomfortably on the back of an airplane chair with the caption “gm from X conference, Crypto Twitter!” or tweets like “you conference goers are making me mute my feed out of FOMO #cryingemoji.”
And as the day goes on, you might see more and more photos of blurry panelists taken in darkened amphitheaters. Sometimes, someone posts a photo of an empty room and mockery descends in the comments. Other people are angry about the exclusivity or cost of afterparties — after all, hundreds of attendees paid full price for unlimited access to sit inside rooms and listen to panels of three to five men and one woman, usually the moderator, talk about crypto all day. Occasionally, a highly paid celebrity zooms in to give a virtual talk. Doesn’t anyone subjected to that deserve a free cocktail in a rooftop bar?
Conferences in and of themselves are just as important to the crypto world’s sense of self as blockchain technology, NFTs, altcoins, DEXes. We as a society have made what is essentially several days of school followed by shuttles to a series of party prisons (sorry, afterparties) an integral part of our lives.
Read more Off Topic: Crypto’s next top model doesn’t exist
And at the end of the day, if we can believe social media and what people shout to us over the loud music at conference afterparties, we do seem to actually be having a good time.
Is all of this a giant lead-up in the weirdest advertisement ever to convince you to buy a ticket to Permissionless II? Nope (but click here).
Does my classification of crypto conferences as party prisons mean that I don’t actually want to go to anymore events? Also nope.
Because working in crypto while not caring that much about either technology or finance (if you’re shocked, read the tagline to this column at the bottom of the page, please), is about getting all of the perks that I can get. And if that means flying to Lisbon/Paris/Austin for a few days of highly air-conditioned lectures, free socks and a chance to meet many of my internet friends in person?
I’m guilty of falling for the crypto conference allure, guilty even of feeling like a “moderator” role confers some minor “status” even though I know better. I will continue to thoroughly enjoy a chance to “not work” while working, aka secure my media pass and spend several days wandering around a conference hall looking for free socks.
I am essentially a giant hypocrite.
So please, don’t read this op-ed and start revoking my media passes. You’d be condemning me to a life without new socks.
I don’t care much about tech, I don’t care a whole lot about finance, either. I care about writing stories and watching weird things unfold. And that’s why I’ve ended up in crypto.
But because I’m missing that passion for what crypto and blockchain are all about — finance, tech, privacy, yadda yadda — I’m going to write instead about what I am actually interested in. Everything about crypto that has very little to do with crypto.
That’s what this column will be about. All the tangential stories that come out of the blockchain and crypto space, what I think about them, and how I navigate it all as a skeptical former Russian literature major.
It’s precisely my perch as an outsider that lets me do what I do: Opine on all sides of any crypto issue, no strings attached, no skin in the game.
If you want to talk crypto with me, let’s go off topic.