💪 February is for builders 💪
The best crypto and blockchain journalism and research in February.
Rows and rows of unregistered securities
The shortest month of the year is now over, and thus ends what has probably been the most boring month in crypto since…well, for a long time. We went through all of February without any large-scale bankruptcy filings or major arrests, no one flipped out on any Twitter Spaces, Elon Musk has been weirdly silent (or maybe we all just finally muted him). In fact, February had some pretty cool crypto news with Coinbase leaning into DeFi and Coindesk journos winning a super prestigious award. Yes, there was the usual crypto regulation + securities FUD, but all in all, what a quiet month! However, a quiet month doesn’t mean that there was a dearth of stories out there — this month brought us some powerful articles, op-eds and research into the crypto space, all highlighted in this here newsletter.
But before we dive in…..
Thank you to everyone who came to our last Off the Record — it was a great success! Shout out to our panelists Nik De (Coindesk) and Sarah Kopit (The Block) for a great conversation discussing AI in the newsroom. Couldn’t make it? A link to the recording is available in the Members Only Telegram channel.
Speaking of membership, the board made the decision to reduce the cost of full membership to $25. If you paid your 2022 dues, your membership is now covered through 2025 👏
On to the articles!
Top crypto journalism in February
Five Lessons From My First Year Working in Web3 by Ryan Wyatt, Rolling Stone
Ryan Wyatt left his job at YouTube to work full time in Web3 with Polygon Labs. Here, he shares what he believes are five important lessons he’s learned over the last year. Ryan’s take on the industry is humble and points to a (hopefully) more user-friendly future for Web3 and blockchain products.
Columbia Adjunct Omid Malekan lines up and counters the slew of crypto criticism coming from some big names in traditional finance. Omid offers level-headed counterpoints against the likes of Jamie Dimon and Charlie Munger and presents them in language that’s easy to understand regardless of previous experience with crypto.
Ethereum’s Regens Tend to Ethereum’s Public Goods by Dr. Paul J. Dylan-Ennis, Scott Moore, CoinDesk
The term “public good” has been thrown around a lot lately with regards to blockchain protocols and the decentralized, open source tools and code that make them possible. This piece looks at the community of Ethereum users called the “Regens” who are focused first and foremost on global public infrastructure, how they’re different from the money-game-loving Degens, and how the two can work together.
Solana Attempts Two Chain Restarts After Near 20-Hour Outage by Samyuktha Sriram, Unchained
The Solana blockchain had some unexpected down time at the end of February (again), and this piece succinctly explains what went wrong (as far as that is known). The chain was down for nearly 20 hours and required multiple attempts to restart. Though it’s possibly related to a new version of the chain’s code, the root cause is still being investigated.
Spotify Is Testing Playlists That Could Be Unlocked by NFT Holders by Ivan Mehta, TechCrunch
Under a new Spotify pilot program, projects can now create exclusive playlists only unlockable by specific NFT holders. Kingship, a metaverse band signed to Universal Music Group, posted a thread on Twitter announcing their special playlist for Kingship Key Card NFT holders. The pilot lets holders use their crypto wallet with the required NFT to unlock the premium content.
Secret Crawlspace Cryptomine Discovered in Routine Inspection of MA High School by Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica
This piece tells the story of how a small Massachusetts town discovered a secret crypto mining rig buried deep within a high school. Uncovered during a routine inspection, town officials worked with the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security to identify the crypto mining rig and identify a possible suspected operator, Nadeam Nahas, who is charged with stealing nearly $18,000 in electricity from the school. You can’t make this stuff up.
Coinbase’s New Base Project Will ‘Tempt Users Over to DeFi’ by Tim Craig, DL News
Coinbase announced its building Base, a layer two blockchain designed to help scale Ethereum. This piece by the relatively new DL News breaks down the basics: Base will be a non-custodial blockchain built using the same underlying open source development stack that underlies the Optimism L2 chain.
When Content Creation Goes to Zero by Evan Armstrong, Every (Op-Ed)
A perfect follow-up to the conversations around AI in newsrooms from the last OTR, this essay is a thoughtful look at how AI might impact content creation by pushing the cost to create down to zero.
Was OneCoin’s Missing Cryptoqueen Murdered by Mobsters? by David Z. Morris, CoinDesk (Op-Ed)
Ruja Ignatova, the infamous face behind notorious fraud OneCoin, has been missing from the public eye for years. New documents, reports David, suggest the scammer may have been murdered as a result of her ties to organized crime.
This Biohacking Company Is Using a Crypto City to Test Controversial Gene Therapies by Laurie Clark, Technology Review
This piece covers an odd but fascinating microsector of the crypto space. Minicircle is a drug testing startup attempting to embrace the “biohacking” approach of self-experimentation. Though registered in the U.S. in the state of Delaware, Minicircle is conducting their trials in Prospera, Honduras, an experimental region where Bitcoin is the legal tender and parties can establish their own micronations.
CoinDesk Wins a Polk Award, One of Journalism's Top Prizes, for Explosive FTX Coverage by Nick Baker, Marc Hochstein, CoinDesk
In a major win for the discipline of crypto journalism, CoinDesk journalists Ian Allison and Tracy Wong won the prestigious George Polk award for the scoop that toppled FTX and their ensuing coverage of the collapse.
Bitcoin’s Future Depends on a Handful of Mysterious Coders by Paul Kiernan, Wall Street Journal
Though slower to upgrade than other blockchains, development and maintenance for Bitcoin remains ongoing. This piece looks at the small handful of Bitcoin Core developers and their role in the blockchain industry.
Coins of War: How Crypto Keeps Feeding Russia's War Despite Sanctions by Anna Baydakova, CoinDesk
Among the complexity of following where crypto really goes, Coindesk’s Anna breaks it down masterfully. In this piece, she explains how crypto donations are partially funding Russia’s war thanks to organizations like NACC, the Novorossia Aid Coordinating Center. These groups continue to use crypto to provide supplies to Russian troops while Ukrainians and others around the world continue to hunt and report Russian fundraising wallets with the hopes of having the assets seized or frozen.
Setting the Record Straight by Wylie Aronow, Yuga Labs (Op-Ed)
Yuga Labs, makers of the popular collection Bored Ape Yacht Club and titans of the NFT industry, have had a rollercoaster year culminating in legal accusations of Nazi imagery in the project’s art. Aronow rebuffs the claims one by one, hoping to put this water under the bridge for his company once and for all. This op-ed caused some controversy in crypto circles, as a different op-ed with a more cynical view of BAYC imagery had been taken down from Coindesk shortly before.
Jump Crypto Just Counter-Exploited the Wormhole Hacker for $140 Million by Jon Rice & Dan Smith, Blockworks
Jump Crypto, the crypto arm of Chicago-based Jump Trading, lost 120,000 ETH in an exploit on the Wormhole protocol in 2022. After receiving a court order from the High Court of England and Wales, Oasis (who deployed the MakerDAO front end) made a change to their smart contracts in order to repossess the funds from a vulnerable vault. Blockworks covers this story with refreshing original analysis from their in-house research team.
MakerDAO’s Plan to Enable MKR as Collateral for DAI Draws Comparisons to UST by Owen Fernau, The Defiant
One of the oldest DeFi protocols, MakerDAO, recently proposed a change that would allow users to use the platform’s governance token MKR as collateral to mint the DAI stablecoin. Borrowing DAI against MKR has been compared to the same mechanism behind Terra’s UST and which caused the ecosystem to collapse. And what better place to read DeFi news than The Defiant’s fledgling DeFi coverage.
And now — on to some research!
Top crypto research in February
US Federal Income Tax Analysis of Liquid Staking by Proof of Stake Alliance
This white paper from the Proof of Stake Alliance gives an overview of liquid staking, the mechanism by which users of a blockchain protocol can deposit (“stake”) tokens with a given product and receive receipt tokens in exchange and whether those tokens should be considered as taxable income in the United States.
US Federal Securities and Commodity Law Analysis of Liquid Staking Receipt Tokens by Proof of Stake Alliance
This white paper (from the same group as before, but it’s worth it) takes a closer look at Receipt Tokens, cryptoassets received which represent a given share of tokens “staked” (deposited) with a blockchain protocol. The paper examines whether receipt tokens should be considered “investment contracts” or “notes” under U.S. securities law, and/or “swaps” under U.S. commodity law.
MEV: Maximal Extractable Value Pt. 2 by Christine Kim, Galaxy Digital
Part Two of Galaxy’s series on MEV takes a detailed look at the MEV supply chain and covers Searchers, Builders, Relays, and Validators. Christine also explores two major pain points with MEV: relay censorship and builder centralization.
Backrunning Private Transactions Using Multi-Party Computation by Robert Annessi, Flashbots
This research from Robert Annessi at Flashbots proposes a possible approach for backrunning transactions while keeping data confidential among parties, allowing for value to accrue more democratically across the MEV supply chain rather than only with builders and searchers.
State of Polygon Q4 2022 by Nicholas Garcia, Messari
Messari’s Q4 overview of Polygon gets you up to speed on one of the top ten largest chains by market cap and serves as an interesting backdrop for layer 2 activity in 2023. The report looks at dApp trends, TVL, transaction volume by sector, and smart contract activity.
Mining Stock Roundup: January Monthly Numbers by Anthony John Power, Compass Mining
With Bitcoin’s declining block subsidy more prominent than ever with rising energy prices and an extended bear market, checking on sector performance is important for understanding the crypto mining markets.
This white paper from TRM labs focuses on how the illicit crypto ecosystem has changed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how crypto has maintained a central role in the ongoing conflict.
Chainalysis 2023 Crypto Crime Report by Chainalysis
The latest Crime Report from Chainalysis, this edition covers why 2022 set a record for crypto exploits, the impact of international sanctions on the ecosystem, and the latest crypto tactics used by cybercriminals.
This month’s op-ed is anonymous. We hope that it reaches the right audience, whoever you are and wherever you are (not) working right now.
I started writing this for me, but then it became for you.
The one who finished top of their class, got those jobs and then those promotions, diligently jotted out five-year plans each demi-decade to the next.
The one who liked the challenge of a “tough” interview panel because: meritocracy.
The one who wanted to work at the bleeding edge of technology, or even believed in it.
The one who was logged on from dawn to wee hours, jet-lagged, caffeinated, over-stretched, under-staffed, lonely.
The one whose computer system shut down out of nowhere.
The one who gasped for air that didn’t seem to be there.
The one who suddenly thought “How” — “How do I tell my family, my friends? How do I ask for help? How do I pay my mortgage or my rent? How can I support or start the family I dreamed of? How do I do this (again)?”
The one who thought “What” — “What do I do? What is wrong with me? What more could I have done?”
The one who thought “Why” — “Why me? Why not them? Why am I thinking ‘why not them?’ Who have I become?”
There are few leaders of successful companies who would be able to survive their roles while maintaining the necessary empathy to feel what we feel, and to understand how you feel. We are asked to assume the culture, to wear the colors, to live it (I have a water bottle that says so!). But we are just numbers on a bottom line, as expendable as a sentence before the hungry backspace key. And that’s hard - it’s hard when you’re like us. (Human).
I’ve read a lot of top line articles about the recent layoffs, which have heavily hit the tech and crypto sectors - though no one is entirely immune. These layoffs have been rampant and seem to only continue with each day - creating a broader sense of fear or dread before any “event” actually takes place. It’s terrible for morale, it’s worse for the efficiency it portends to promote.
I’ve read a lot of LinkedIn posts by impacted and unscathed employees alike. But I haven’t seen anything that speaks to just how devastating it feels, or anything that offers tools to muster the strength to keep going. I think that’s because we’re conditioned toward politeness if we’ve been screwed, and to feign humility if still employed. I read a couple of posts and blogs from colleagues who talked about their own lay-off journey, but as is common in the tech space, they’re latent with aggressive (“build” “believe” “bro”) sentiments that didn’t resonate with my own complex set of emotions, and when penned from the place of privilege (i.e. having a job) felt condescending at each sentence and scroll. These layoff moves by firms are reported as a necessary decision to contend with “macroeconomic pressures,” but we don’t stop to question their efficacy or what we can truly do for those impacted. Their prevalence has turned us from people to data points, caught as much in the zeitgeist of a #twittertrend as economic realities.
I will say this. People are generally kind. The fastest email response rate I received was when I asked for help (despite delaying and dreading doing so). But what happens on the back end of the kindness reflex, and what do we really need? How can we patch together our self-worth, confidence, and clarity to move on and to do so with levity and optimism? I don’t have all the answers as I’m still “in it” myself, but I wanted to offer some tools that are helping me through because I’m writing this for me as much as I am for you.
1. Separate Fact from Fiction
I must completely credit this to my executive coach who is a brilliant, strategic badass. I’m in my head a lot - always have been. It can be a fun place, an inspiring place, or a dungeon of self-disbelief. It’s trended toward the latter lately.
The things keeping me up at night, those flinging my heart higher in my throat and fogging my mind with malaise are the stories I tell myself. Stories of how I’ll be perceived, of what this portends for my future. Of what’s possible and impossible. I believe these stories and they drag me down into the mud with them. If you’re the same as me, do what my coach instructed me to do (yay, homework!)
Stop. Write all these beliefs down. And then separate fact from fiction.
We are grieving - the loss of income, of colleagues, of a sense of purpose. But what we can control is how clearly we think. Stories that aren’t true drudge up the dirt and cloud the waters. We deserve so much better and we do have the tools to get through and to begin to see clearly once more.
2. Buy Yourself Flowers
Ok, so maybe Miley Cyrus’ Flowers came on in the coffee shop where I’m writing this. And yes, while authoring under anonymity I have just outed myself as a millennial woman. For those unfamiliar, the premise of this (breakup) song is that she can do the very things that she did in her relationship (dancing, flowers, that kind of thing), by herself and for herself. It’s not a bad metaphor for how we can seek to heal.
If you’re like me, you loved your previous job because it came with a great team — the best — and that’s why this all hurts so much. But to the company itself, you weren’t a teammate, you were an asset. Let that be a lesson to take care of yourself first - now, and in future. This doesn’t mean assuming callousness in the next role you take, or holding onto this feeling for longer than you need to. Put the feelings down and acknowledge them for what they are.
It does mean that you need to do what makes you happy, fulfilled, stable, or whatever you’re seeking next. It also means that you need to remove feelings of obligation to your previous team (and this was very hard for me). I always want to ‘finish the job’ (cc Joe Biden and his 2023 State of the Union slogan). That’s hard when your computer shuts off mid-sentence of a crucial project. It’s inconsolable when you work yourself raw only to be signaled that you don’t matter. It’s confusing when your team talks about how desperate they are without you. Remember though who you’re taking care of at this moment: you.
And if it brings you joy - go ahead and buy some flowers too.
3. Take a Vacation
White sandy beaches, a cabin in the woods, a dreamy day of fresh snow to shred. Or simply a mental health vacation. The former, may be possible for those privileged to do so, but if traveling isn’t in the cards, you’ll quickly notice how much time you suddenly have. If you’re anything like me, you’re desperate to come up with a solution on what to do with it.
Here’s a simple formula: Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective.
You don’t have to venture far and wide, but try as much as you can to get into nature - whatever that looks like where you live, and get off your phone (definitely off professional social media). Here’s my playbook - and yes, I fail to execute most days, but feel so much better when I do:
1. Write at night. Empty your mind so that you can let it rest and truly dream.
2. Wake up and meditate. It can be a few breaths or a full guided practice. But get your mind clear (you don’t have Slack to respond to right now, you don’t have calls across the globe, you only need to worry about you).
3. Get some sunlight and move your body. Yes, I listen to Huberman, but I also have a dog. Instinctively each morning he sits in the sunspot, face forward. It sets your circadian rhythm and does more to wake you up than that cuppa Joe or matcha. Sunlight naturally charges you up.
4. Schedule time to job search. This time needn’t just be working with headhunters or spent scouring job boards. It’s also a time to list what’s important to you and weigh those priorities, creating clarity in what it is you want and need next.
5. Explore your second shift. We’re so much more than our jobs. What do you love? Photography, writing, coding, athletics, family? Spend time in that - not only will it generate happiness in the moment, it also reminds you that life (and you) are so much more than a job.
Above all - don’t forget your brilliance. You are uniquely and wonderfully made. You have done, and will continue to do great things. Don’t listen to those who say “this doesn’t define you.” This may define you. Because it builds an indomitable resilience that they can’t understand. I do. And I believe in you.
Reach out to Molly Jane or Anthony on Telegram if you have some ideas for our next op-ed of 2023. We actually have a small op-ed waiting list!
Top crypto unhinged tweet in February
Subscribe now! It’s never too late — in crypto, there’s no such thing.
Join the ACJR
Becoming a member is now only $25 — that’s practically the cost of two cups of coffee! (If you live in New York…). Dues-paying ACJR members get more access to ACJR stuff, like a secret members’ only chat, discounts and conference things and invites.
If you want to become an official member of the ACJR, please reach out to any of the current board members on Telegram, or Joyce Pavia Hanson: @JPHanson.