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Long Reads Sunday - Issue #75

Long Reads Sunday - Issue #75
By Nathaniel Whittemore • Issue #66 • View online
The end of year retrospective is coming strong and fast now. This week, a huge amount of Crypto Twitter’s mental space went to debating a piece by Jill Carlson published on CoinDesk arguing that crypto’s most important use case was allowing people to engage in censored transactions. 
There were plenty of people who agreed with her - particularly the set of the community interested in how people evade repressive situations. On the other hand, there were many fiercely opposed to the argument of the piece. 
This second sentiment is interesting to me because I think it reflects a narrative that is emerging and trying to push itself into the mainstream of early 2020 - which is a return of interest in token project experiments around how tokens can be used to coordinate and align networks differently. 
This entire part of the crypto space - the one that Erik Torenberg called “tech crypto” - got so caught in the ICO madness that many of the theories and ideas haven’t had the chance to be tested. I’m seeing more and more folks trying to carve out space to make it safe for projects to talk about using tokens in this sort of alternative network building way again. Feels like there is some serious pent-up energy. 
One announcement while I have you - I’ve rebooted my daily crypto analysis podcast as The Breakdown. It is now being distributed by CoinDesk. If you haven’t yet, I’d love if you subscribed - or keep your eyes on the CD homepage each afternoon for the latest. 
Thanks and happy long reads - NLW 

Long Reads Sunday #75
Long Reads Sunday #75. In this edition, we continue to plow through end of year content, digging deeper into the battle to shape the story of 2020, as well as check in on some of the key happenings of last week, including a bit of regulatory rancor! Strap in friends, it’s long reads time. 
2/ First, a quick announcement! My daily podcast analyzing the key crypto narratives is BACK, rebranded as “The Breakdown,” and is now being distributed by @CoinDesk. Check out Friday’s episode breaking down comments on stable coins from the ECB president
3/ Friday’s Breakdown also dug into the absolutely most interesting debate of the week in crypto, which was the response to @jillruthcarlson EOY piece for @CoinDesk, which argued that perhaps crypto isn’t *DESIGNED* for mainstream adoption.
4/ As you might expect, a piece with a point that…well, pointed…was going to bring up a lot of response. Many agreed. @TheStalwart had himself gotten into some fights a couple months ago making basically the same point.
5/ Others, however, were somewhat less enthused. The critiques I saw tended to fall into a few categories. Some felt like it was a pretty bitcoin specific conversation that perhaps ignored much happening in other realms such as DeFi
6/ Others interpreted “most useful for censored activities” to mean “most useful for illegal activities,” although @jillruthcarlson was very strong on the point that that is not necessarily the case.
7/ Interestingly, when Jill did a poll rephrasing the argument slightly (and steering clear of the legalistic language) 61% of the 5700+ voters agreed with it.
8/ Themes of the piece are actually echoed in another from @CoinDesk’s end of year series by @gladstein, who writes that many more dissidents could be taking advantage of bitcoin but don’t know what it can do for them.
9/ The reason I think this is worth spending so much time on is that I believe it gets at the heart of two important emerging narratives. The first is this notion of bitcoin (and DeFi like DAI, depending on who you ask) as a tool to overcome repressive circumstances that has been a key part of 2019’s story. 
10/ The second, however, is a narrative that I see trying to claim its place heading into 2020, which is a return of the idea of experimenting with tokenized networks for use cases other than money. @yanivgraph captured this in a thread debating Jill’s piece
11/ My sense is that there is a significant amount of pent up energy in experiments that got their intellectual start during their ICO days, but basically haven’t had narrative room since then because of how warped the token landscape got.
12/ This tweet from @Arthur_0x gets at it: “We shouldn’t forget that a well designed crypto economics is an extremely powerful tool of aligning incentives of network participants.” That was the theory of 2017 that really never got to be tested
13/ One last note on this point, last week not one but two of the biggest 2017 vintage token projects resurfaced. First, Coinbase announced that it would be listing the token for Orchid’s decentralized VPN project. Check out @Timccopeland’s recent profile
14/ Second, after a huge amount of waiting and anticipation, the decentralized file storage project @MineFilecoin announced that there testnet was live. All this taken together and I smell a new narrative brewing
15/ Okay, that was a whole lot of narrative talk, so let’s do some quick hits on more news-y items. First, crypto got a rare cross over into mainstream media this week, although unfortunately it was for arrests in a $722 million dollar Ponzi scheme.
16/ Another bit of regulatory action came from the SEC as it charged the Shopin CEO with fraud surrounding their $42m ICO. It turns out that the consequences of all those “partnership” announcements are more than just seeming annoying on Twitter.
17/ Over in the world of central banks, new European Central Bank head Christine Lagarde caught crypto Twitter’s attention with her comments on the need for the ECB to explore stablecoins.
18/ On the other hand, running counter to what we’ve seen from central banks over the past several months, after a study the Swiss government has said that a digital Swiss franc would actually do more harm than good. More from @Dan_Z_Palmer for @CoinDesk
19/ There was also a fair bit on the topic of mining in the conversation. Reuters wrote an article about miners using derivatives to hedge against fluctuations in the hashrate - a surprisingly in depth look from MSM
20/ @Binance CEO @cz_binance captured attention when he said that “Mining is highly encouraged in China now” - saying that it’s effectively a tool of control for the government
21/ Speaking of attention, much attention was on an extended conversation with @mcuban on his skepticism around bitcoin - particularly around its ability to capture consumer interest. @PhilJBonello hones in on a key point
22/ One person who is doing their damndest to tell that story in understandable ways is @rhythmtrader, who this week published a piece titled “Bitcoin Is A Hedge Against Your Government”
23/ A couple new resources for you to keep in mind. @sassal0x compiled a great list of DeFi tracking tools and @spencernoon is launching a new newsletter/community around on-chain metrics
24/ Lastly, @jack continues to show why he’s one of the most interesting thinkers on the internet. Twitter is creating a new skunkworks-style lab to support or develop open protocols for social media, akin in some ways to @sqcrypto but looking at the architecture of social media itself
25/ And there we have it! Another LRS in the books. As always, you can get this via email at and finally..
26/ Please please subscribe to The Breakdown! Over the next few weeks I’m going to have some absolutely awesome guests who will be joining the conversation to share what they think the narrative of 2019 was, and predictions for 2020
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Nathaniel Whittemore

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