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❄️ New year // winter // markets bad: Welcome to 2022 from the ACJR ❄️
The best crypto and blockchain coverage in January
Welcome to 2022 from the ACJR, journalists and researchers!
Despite the recent market volatility, crypto is starting the year as hot a topic as ever with high profile brands making NFT announcements, congressional hearings, and possible regulatory action ahead of tax season keeping blockchain on top of everyone’s mind.
Our Off the Record series will return early this year. ACJR members can attend these strictly off the record virtual sessions where top individuals in crypto and media discuss current events and crypto journalism. Check our Twitter, Telegram and new Discord server (!!) for more info on upcoming dates.
Since introducing the new ACJR board members last month, officer positions have been selected! Here are the new ACJR board officers:
Joanna Ossinger - President
Sam Reynolds - Vice President
David Cannelis - Secretary
Mitchell Moos - Treasurer
Pete Rizzo - Treasurer
Marina Spindler - Membership
Paul Dylan-Ennis - Membership
Please message any board members on Telegram (or throw your ideas into the group!) if you have ideas to get involved — propose a working group, request funds to host a crypto happy hour in your city, or start a crypto book club!
Want to see your op-ed in the ACJR newsletter?
The ACJR newsletter has an open call for op-eds! Each month, we run an original piece from one of our members on a special interest topic of their choice. If you’ve got ~500 words on a passion project, Discord deep dive, or upcoming policy, we want to hear it. Reach out to Molly Jane or Anthony on Telegram if you’d like to submit an op-ed for the newsletter, and be sure to read part one of Michael del Castillo’s piece below.
🌟 Top Crypto Research in January 🌟
“Report: Illicit Activity Tiny Part of Cryptocurrency Use,” by the Chainalysis team
Chainalysis released some details in advance of their 2022 Crypto Crime Report. Despite illicit addresses receiving a combined total of $14 billion in 2021, Chainalysis found that legitimate usage far outweighed criminal usage with illicit activity’s share of transaction volume lower than ever.
“The Mnuchin Files” by Ian Allison, Anna Baydakova, Nikhilesh De, Lawrence Lewitinn, David Z Morris, Danny Nelson, CoinDesk
This feature story by the CoinDesk Insights team offers a rare look at crypto policy at the highest levels. The expose centers around 250 pages of crypto-related correspondence from Steven Mnuchin’s time as Treasury Secretary.
“Constant Rate Issuance Sales Protocol” by Dave White, Frankie, Justin Roiland
This research paper from Paradigm introduces the Constant Rate Issuance Sales Protocol (CRISP), a way to sell NFTs at a specific rate over time. The tool would modify a collection of NFTs prices up or down to maintain a specified rate. This could potentially help collections find better price discovery by dynamically updating “buy it now” prices instead of relying on auctions to finish.
“Paths Toward Single-Slot Finality” by Vitalik Buterin
Currently, blocks on the Ethereum network take between 64-95 slots to finalize (about 15 minutes). Vitalik outlines two possible ways to reach single-slot finality and the current state of research into each approach. Single-slot finality would mean increased security and faster confirmations times, among other benefits.
“Global Bitcoin Mining Data Review - Q4, 2021” by Bitcoin Mining Council
This end of the year review of the state of mining by the Bitcoin Mining Council tackles some of the most controversial statistics in crypto: proof-of-work mining energy consumption. The report compares mining energy use to global and United States energy generation and highlights key areas where mining has become more energy efficient.
And now — on to some journalism!
✨ Top Crypto Journalism in January ✨
“Will DAOs Replace VC?” by Tracy Wang, CoinDesk
Crypto investment-focused DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) have been gaining popularity amid a wave of negative sentiment towards traditional venture capital firms. Seen as community-first, investment DAOs offer a potential vehicle for projects trying to fundraise that sits more in line with the decentralization-first crypto ethos. Tracy breaks down the differences between how DAOs can support founders — and whether they could ever truly replace venture capitalists.
“China Offers Digital Yuan at Olympics to Test International Appeal” by Bloomberg News
The People’s Bank of China will be ready to debut e-CNY, the country’s digital currency, at the Olympic games beginning next month. Possibly a way to get the currency into the hands of international travelers, the PBOC said that all of the payment services related to the Olympics are in place. Bloomberg does a good job in working out what the adoption of the digital yuan (calling it an electronic currency, not a blockchain-based one) could mean for China — for example, U.S. Republican senators have already expressed “espionage” concerns if American athletes use it.
“Turks Pile Into Stablecoins” by Caitlin Ostroff, Jared Malsin, WSJ
Recent extreme volatility exhibited by the Turkish lira has inspired waves of Turks to turn to cryptocurrencies, specifically stablecoins, as a way to preserve their wealth. In the tail end of 2021, the lira became the most popular fiat currency traded against Tether (USDT), as distrust in government policy and local banks continued to grow. Caitlin paints a clear picture of how people are using Tether in Turkey everyday, with interviews from young people trying to both trade and protect their lira from inflation.
“ERC-4626, DeFi New Money Lego” by Daniel Kuhn, CoinDesk
ERC-4626 is a newly proposed Ethereum token standard (think ERC-20) designed to unify the way DeFi protocols generate interest. Referred to as the “tokenized vault standard,” ERC-4626 provides a standard way for platforms to generate and store yield-bearing tokens, paving the way for greater DeFi interoperability. *note, this is an opinion piece
“Bud Light Owns a Nouns Ethereum NFT — and May Use it in Super Bowl Ad” by Andrew Hayward, Decrypt
With all of the news recently of big brands getting into NFTs, it’s easy to think that it’s all just hype. But in this piece, Andrew breaks down exactly how involved Bud Light really is in the NFT scene, how it became a member of Noun DAO, and how likely it is for us to see Noun NFT imagery in Bud Light SuperBowl ads.
“Booming NFT Art Market Plagued by 'Mind-Blowing' Fraud” by Avi Ascher-Schapiro, Thomson Reuters
The NFT market has endured many criticisms since the digital artwork boom really took off last year. In this piece, Avi goes into the problems with artists having their work stolen without their permission to create NFTs, and what is being done to stop this digital plagiarism.
☝️ Op-Ed: How Crypto Journalists Can Overcome Selection Bias When Reporting On Africa
Now that Africa’s crypto market has exploded 1,200% in one year, reporters should start wondering why they aren’t reading more stories about the continent, and if they have anything to do with it? Or, they run the risk of being passed by the rapidly innovating region.
By Michael del Castillo
After six weeks living and reporting in Kenya I’ve got two main takeaways. 1) Many of Kenya’s so-called unbanked don’t want to be banked. 2) There’s more crypto innovation than the reporters can handle, and much of the rest the world — myself included — isn’t paying enough attention for obviously avoidable reasons.
Briefly, to the first point. I started my trip with an all-points-bulletin on Twitter asking who in the crypto-space I needed to know in Kenya. I promptly found myself having lunch with five crypto entrepreneurs in the ground floor restaurant at PWC tower in Nairobi. The lunch turned into dinner and then dinner became a road trip to a community workspace with 70 aspiring crypto developers. From there, the on-the-ground reporting really only ever stopped to take previously scheduled calls, and to remotely fulfill a few other writing duties back in Jersey City, where Forbes is based.
I’d been sporadically following crypto in Kenya since the early days of BitPesa, which sought to capitalize on Kenya’s incredibly mature mobile money platform, inspired by a grassroots movement of Kenyans trading mobile minutes on their phones for goods and services. But I had no idea I’d so quickly find myself literally surrounded by so many innovators, ranging from CEOs, to nascent smart contract developers.
So why hadn’t I heard about them? The answer, I’ve come to believe, is the second point above: there’s more crypto innovation than the Kenyan reporters alone can handle, and outside media outlets aren’t taking the region seriously enough. So when the founder of a news site, Kenyan Wall Street, Erick Asuma, invited me to address a group of current and aspiring reporters from around Africa, I jumped at the chance.
The trick to participating in such an event is I ran the risk of propagating the same well-intentioned, but flawed thinking that has led to so much investment from Silicon Valley and New York startups looking to “bank the unbanked in Africa.” Namely, that outsiders can fix African problems, ranging from financial services to reporting. But the opportunity to rally interest in reporting on crypto, and interject a few basic journalism tenants that are as often screwed up in the States as in Kenya was too good to pass-up.
After I accepted, the talented co-organizers at Kenyan Wall Street and crypto news site BitKe put together a three-hour bootcamp on blockchain technology, use cases, regulatory considerations and scam detection, and even got together a high-profile sponsor to pay for the location and the awesome Kenyan cuisine that followed. After throwing together a short outline for a 30-minute talk, a week later, I hailed a motorcycle from the bustling street outside my Nairobi apartment and whizzed in and out of traffic to the event, at the Baraza Media Lab, in the same building where the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands has offices. Fifty people were in attendance, including reporters from the state-run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the Standard Media Group, the National Media Group and the BBC—from places as far flung as Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Botswana.
It was a good talk I’d prepared, but no one will ever hear it.
After listening to the speakers before me address the audience it became clear to me that in spite of all my self-awareness I’d still missed the mark in a subtle way that changed nearly my entire talk. Other than a few basic basic journalism tricks, like searching for fraud in your subjects, and including a list of competitors to ensure the article isn’t just a souped-up press release, the most valuable thing I could share was my perspective as an outsider. Blockchain is by its very nature borderless, and while we all want our friends, family and neighbors to read our work, the real audience in crypto — almost always — is global.
Stay tuned for Part II in next month’s newsletter!
And that’s all for January!
Meme courtesy of Lukey McGarry
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