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Long Reads Sunday - Issue #77

Long Reads Sunday - Issue #77
By Nathaniel Whittemore • Issue #68 • View online
Happy New Year!
A slightly different edition this week. Because of the short week, I’m actually publishing an essay instead of the traditional curation, this time discussing the big stink around I’ve also curated a bunch of my end of year content, including my week-by-week look at the Best of LRS 2019, so scroll down for that. 
For those of you who missed its launch announcement on Friday, Nakamoto describes itself as a “new general interest journal for the crypto community.” Their mile-long contributor list includes some of bitcoin and crypto’s best thinkers and doers, with the first pieces released being written by folks like Zcash’s Zooko Wilcox, Jameson Lopp, Scalar Capital’s Linda Xie, Michael Arrington and former CEO Balaji Srinivasan, who is also the coordinator of the project. 
The interesting part of the story wasn’t so much the publication itself, however, but the response. It was less than 24 hours before bitcoin Twitter absolutely went off, throwing accusations of fraud and scam at the publication, and creating yet another cycle debating the semantics of these terms. 
So, what the hell is going on? 
First, this is a stark case study in the state of the narrative - at least on Twitter. Nakamoto went to pains to describe itself as pro-BTC and declare that all contributors must be “pro-BTC.” I see this as a reflection of the BTC dominance not just in the crypto market cap but in crypto mindshare. 
What I think triggered people so much, however, was the use of the name Nakamoto. For many bitcoiners, this basically elevated it from “a publication I probably wouldn’t care about” to a straight up affinity marketing scam. This was exacerbated by 1) people’s pre-existing feelings about the people involved (and their affiliation with non-bitcoin cryptos); and 2) the fact that the majority of the first pieces didn’t have much to do with bitcoin itself. 
Watching the debates over the last day or so, I found myself having a few reactions. 
The first was something of an eye-rolling exacerbation. At the end of the day, I think people are more or less free to do whatever they want, register whatever domains they want, and publish whatever content they want. I tend to think that the best way to snuff out content one doesn’t like is to deny it the oxygen of attention, rather than create controversy which is nearly guaranteed to drive traffic. 
I also tend not to think that bitcoin and bitcoiners need to be intimidated by people writing about other cryptos. I think that at this stage, by and large, the people who are interested in bitcoin or crypto in general have a pretty good ability to sift through what’s out there and make decisions about what they are and aren’t going to care about and what is and isn’t worthy of their attention. We’re not in a bull market with retail investor sheep flooding into a space they don’t understand in the same way we might have been before. 
From a purely practical standpoint, I also sometimes worry that the intensity of these debates crowds out space for bigger, frankly more important topics. Take, for example the fact that we are as close to war as we have been since Trump took office. I expected to see dozens of conversations about the implications for bitcoin (and the implications for bitcoiners inside Iran). But nope, we decide to argue about the name of a fucking blog all weekend. 
Yet, the reality is that even if I find myself frustrated with it sometimes, I do think the Bitcoin Social Defense Corps is one of the most unique and powerful things bitcoin has going for it. The willingness to engage - intensely and persistently with any and all threats to bitcoin - be they real or perceived; be they about control of the network or control of the narrative - is a big part of what keeps bitcoin independent, decentralized, and impossible to capture. 
So yeah, I’m pretty over the Nakamoto name debates. And (likely unsurprisingly for you, dear LRS subscribers) I’m a fan of more content to engage with and am excited to read what they publish (even the stuff I disagree with). 
But at the end of the day and in spite of myself, I can’t help but appreciate this weekend’s dust up as an indicator of the willingness to fight that bitcoiners have.
Still, if you want to talk about Iran and the implications of global geo conflict for bitcoin, HMU. 
Happy Long Reads-NLW

From @Coinicarus -
From @Coinicarus -
2019 Recaps + 2020 Predictions
At this point, you’re likely sick of reading end of year lists, but on Wednesday, I put out a 2019 week-by-week LRS retrospective, flagging the top content and most important events from each week. The full list is copied below, or you can check out my show with BlockTV where I went through 5 weeks that I thought were most exemplary of the whole year. 
I also did a series of interviews on my podcast The Breakdown, which is distributed every day by CoinDesk. Each interview had two questions: 1) what was the most important narrative of 2019; and 2) what’s one prediction for 2020.
Here they are, in order that they came out:
On Friday, I released my first regular 2020 episode of The Breakdown, looking at YouTube and Apple’s recent censorship of crypto related content; Tron’s acquisition (or big deal, at least) of DLive; accusations of Tron blacklisting projects; and a big hairy question: are decentralized social network alternatives just a pipe dream? 
The Breakdown comes out every day. If you like it, you can subscribe via your favorite podcast service here or get it via email
Best of Long Reads Sunday 2019
Long Reads Sunday #77 - 2019 Week by Week. This is the final recap of a year that saw IEOs, SEC action, Libra, gov’t digital currency efforts, DeFi, and so much more. Let’s take a trip back through LRS world. 
A note on reading this: each week, I’ll post the week and LRS # along with a few words on the vibe or key events of the week, plus the highlight content. The content was chosen based on how clicked it was + my personal bias! 
[LRS28 - Jan 6] Like any year, 2019 kicked off with a bevy of prediction posts, and among all of them it was @arjunblj that stood out. What’s notable looking back is how much crypto black swan events like Libra just weren’t on the horizon
[LRS29 - Jan 13] Yellow Vest protests raged across France, setting the scene for a year characterized by dissent. That said, it was an analysis of a 51% attack on Ethereum Classic by @hosseeb that stood out as the week’s top content
[LRS30 - Jan 20th] One of the most buzzed about launches of 2019 was Grin with their no presale, no premine “fair launch.” @wheatpond wrote about the launch in his Proof of Work newsletter
[LRS31 - Jan 27th] Sometimes the biggest content in a week isn’t the best recap of an event, but a piece that simply sets the tone of the conversation, like it or not. That was @VladZamfir rallying cry for a new crypto legal system
[LRS32 - Feb 3] February kicked off with some debates about tribalism and other heady thoughts. No piece, however, saw more discussion than the thought experiment from @lrettig on “if ETH has failed in 5 years, why?”
[LRS33 - Feb 10th] This might have been the first truly insane week of the year, with the Quadriga X scandal breaking, @Jack taking the LN Torch, and the emergence of privacy as a central issue for 2019
[LRS34 - Feb 17] The theme across so much of the discussion this week was power - to print money; to make decisions; to surveil transactions. @AriDavidPaul was prescient in calling crypto fiat a future battleground
[LRS35 - Feb 24] An undercurrent throughout the year was more substantive research across the crypto space and the development of new models. Take for example these new BTC investor sentiment models from @TuurDemeester
[LRS36 - March 3] This week absolutely *dominated* by the furor around Coinbase’s acquisition of Neutrino - the same team behind authoritarian support squad Hacking Team. @davidzmorris had the best piece on it
From that same week, I also wanted to call out @TaylorPearsonMe’s excellent “Markets are Eating the World.” This is exactly the type of content that I started Long Reads Sunday to highlight.
[LRS37 - March 10] This was the research-y-est of research weeks, with excellent content from @Delphi_Digital and @hasufl & @zhusu but the @ElectricCapital Dev Report stands out
[LRS38 - March 17] It was the 30 year anniversary of the World Wide Web and a time for reflection. It makes sense then that the top piece of the week came (again) from @hosseeb
[LRS39 - March 24] This week we saw another one of the big narrative trends of the early part of the year: IEOs. @lawmaster wrote up his reflections on a week in Asia on a topic he would come back to regularly throughout 2019
One more from that week in March that deserves to be called out: @AriDavidPaul’s connecting the dots between MMT and Bitcoin as an inverse twin reaction to the same phenomena is something I keep coming back to
[LRS40 - March 31] Two other key 2019 narratives - governance and staking - were on display this week as Coinbase announced Tezos staking and MakerDAO governance support. Piece of the week came from @Melt_Dem
[LRS41 - April 7] Ohhhh baby, BTC had peaked above $5k and people were starting to get excited. @Travis_Kling penned a piece for @TheBlock__ that hit on some of the key themes for the rest of the year
[LRS42 - April 14] In one of the most memorable episodes of the year, the crypto community temporarily laid down arms against one another this week to rise to a larger challenge and declare: We Are All @Hodlonaut
[LRS43 - April 21] This week was amazing for content that hit some of the most important narratives of 2019. I might even take a couple tweets for it. Let’s start with @AriannaSimpson and @UniswapExchange
Second, @Melt_Dem wrote what was maybe her best piece in a year of best pieces, puncturing one of the most enduring mythologies around privacy
Third, @EpsilonTheory captured the seething frustration of us frogs being boiled in the pot with his epic “This is Water.” Like I said, great week for content
[LRS44 - April 28] The conversation shifted (as it seems always to do) to Tether, with @davidzmorris connecting the dots between Tether, Quadriga and Crypto Capital.
[LRS45 - May 5] Tether [all 74% backed of it] continued to dominate the conversation, along with IEOs. Multicoin Capital meanwhile dropped their epic 3 Mega Theses for Crypto
[LRS46 - May 12] This was the week where you heard “re-org” more than you ever thought possible and where @katherineywku dropped the first of her now-famous crypto legal annotations
[LRS47 - May 19] Coming off of NY Blockchain week, there was a lot of chatter about institutional interest. @lawmaster showed some positive data while @real_vijay asked questions about their approach
[LRS48 - May 26] IEOs continued to dominate the conversation (even though I recently argued they were the biggest nothing burger of 2019). See this thread from @jdorman81 and a snarkier take from @cryptohayes
I also want to make mention of @MiguelCuneta’s powerful injunction to “not use my country as your narrative.” This was extra important in a year when we started talking more about the relevance of bitcoin around the world
[LRS49 - June 2] Oh god, this was the beginning of “Defend Crypto,” a weird, slightly solipsistic, definitely opportunistic campaign. In another dimension entirely, @jessewldn flagged a theme I expect to see more of in 2020: DAOs
[LRS50 - June 9] In MAJOR foreshadowing of what was to come just around the corner, @balajis suggested that the choice for many tech companies was increasingly going to be “decentralize or be nationalized”
BTW, bookmark this @Naval tweet from that week as it will be referenced, reiterated, and straight ripped off from now to eternity.
[LRS51 - June 16] This was it. The biggest turning point in the year. Of course, it was the announcement of Facebook’s Libra, an event that has fundamentally up-leveled the significance of this industry on a global stage
[LRS52 - June 24] As will be the case for some time, the conversation was dominated by Libra (with a side of Algorand auction). @udiWetheimer discusses the privacy dimension
[LRS53 - June 30] As Libra sunk in, more and more mainstream conversation turned to crypto and Bitcoin. @TylerCowen wrote that the volatility of the world provides a continuously renewing mandate for BTC
[LRS54 - July 7] One of the big debates of 2019 was: is bitcoin a macro asset? Is it a flight to safety asset? @BMBernstein set the context and @jillruthcarlson asked the question
Hey another quick sidebar mention. As you can tell, a lot of the content I’m focused on has to do with the larger market narratives, but this thread from @gakonst on sidechains is pure education
[LRS55 - July 14] The SINGLE MOST SEEN bitcoin tweet of the year goes to @realDonaldTrump himself in the lead up to the Libra hearings. Meanwhile, @EpsilonTheory had some choice words
[LRS56 - July 21] In some ways, the Libra hearings were the most significant week of the year. They were weird, sometimes distracted, but also revealed new allies, such as @PatrickMcHenry
And of course, the biggest of shoutouts to @Melt_Dem who not only testified and tried to educate Congress on the differences between Facebook and Libra but who summed it all up too
[LRS57 - July 28] For the first week in a while, the chat wasn’t all about Libra. There was a fair bit of talk about crypto-based games but the content of the week was @nic__carter’s piece on settlement assurances
[LRS58 - Aug 4] In the wake of Libra, the crypto discussion took a distinctly macro turn. @RaoulGMI was on @HiddenForcesPod and @stephanlivera and this thread from @hussmanjp dominated the conversation
[LRS59 - Aug 11] Speaking of @RaoulGMI, he owned this week with his thread on “Bonds. Dollars. Bitcoin. Gold” There was also more on privacy vs surveillance in the context of encryption backdoors
[LRS60 - Aug 18] Staying on the macro theme, this week @TheStalwart explained inverted yield curves and @KyleSamani gamed out a theoretical battle between the PBOC and the Fed.
[LRS61 - Aug 25] When Bank of England governor Mark Carney proposed a “Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” at an official Fed meaning, it became clear that Libra was bringing up questions around the USD bigger than itself
In that same week, @allenf32 wrote one of the most viral threads of the year on the cocaine binge-esque nature of the modern economy
[LRS62 - Sept 1] To close out the summer, I asked an array of guests to answer what we learned, what happens next and what we’re not talking about enough. Scroll to the bottom to see how folks did with their EOY price predictions
[LRS63 - Sept 8] In this weirdly gloomy BTC-at-$10k week, @DoveyWan opined that there was a “BTC bull disguising an alt coin bear” while @nic__carter brought the fire with his piece on the “most peaceful revolution”
[LRS64 - Sept 15] If it wasn’t clear by this time, actions this week from world governments around digital currencies validated @el33th4xor point that Libra “awakened the sovereigns”
And if you want to zoom out to the realm of philosophical and theoretical, this post from @erikcason was one of the most interesting of the year
[LRS65 - Sept 22] And now we get to the Repo Markets. Need a primer? @moorehn FTW Need a sense of how crypto was reacting?
[LRS66 - Sept 29] As the bitcoin price receded, crypto twitter started to get a little gloomy. Thankfully, @Ikigai_Fund’s new gem @hansthered was here to look at data to show the strength of the fundamentals
[LRS67 - October 6] In some of the biggest regulatory news of the year, the SEC announced that it had settled with Block One over their $4B year-long ICO. As we had come to expected, @katherineykwu was there with the annotation within hours
Before leaving this week, I must point to @SarahJamieLewis passionate and eloquent thread on privacy as a human right. This was one of the most important themes of 2019 and will be again going into next year
[LRS68 - October 13] Libra was back in the news, and not at all in the way they would have liked, as most of the major financial institutions vacated the Libra Association. Nick Szabo’s back and forth with @davidmarcus was fascinating
[LRS69 - October 21] As he is wont to do, @TheStalwart enflamed at least half of the bitcoiners on Twitter by suggesting there is an inherent tension between the goal of censorship resistance and the financialization of BTC
I’m highlighting that point because I think it’s an important conversation that just gets higher and higher stakes the more these big financial institutions get involved with bitcoin. 
Meanwhile, that same week, despite the bad news around PayPal and others leaving Libra, @mikejcasey suggested it was too early to call them done for
[LRS70 - October 27] This was the showdown everyone was waiting for - Zuckerberg testifying about Libra. There was a ton of great content, but @twobitidiot’s “Then They Fight You” stood out.
BTW, this may have been my favorite single tweet of the year
I’d also like to especially call out @DoveyWan right here. If Libra got the world engine revved, China’s response to Libra really raised the stakes on digital currencies. 
As that has happened, @DoveyWan has been the go-to translator - both metaphorically and literally - as crypto Twitter tries to understand the China context of digital currencies. 
Her thread during this week was one of a million examples, but they deserve to be highlighted as a whole!
[LRS71 - November 10] Outside of Libra and the macro context of bitcoin, probably the biggest crypto narrative this year was DeFi. @ercwl writes why it ISN’T a fad
I would also be remiss not to highlight one of my favorite bits of original thinking from 2019, Adamant Research’s piece connecting the conditions for reformation to the context of bitcoin today
[LRS72 - Nov 17] This week @mayazi gave us the perfect term for a phenomenon we’ve been talking about in growing fashion all year: #DissidentTech. @PeterMcCormack’s Defiance podcast launch was reflective
This week also saw one of the biggest, most extensive pieces of research and trend watching of the year in @CoinSharesCo Mary Meeker style “Crypto Trends” report
[LRS73 - Nov 25] Honestly, this week was a lot of people trying to figure out why number go down. One side bar was a growing conversation about mining, reflected in this thread
[LRS74 - Dec 8th] Just like the Starbucks Xmas drinks arrive earlier each year, so the EOY trend pieces start early too. Still, this look from @LucasNuzzi at BTC technical development would be great any time of year
[LRS75 - Dec 15] I think when the dust settles, one of the most controversial pieces of the year will have been @jillruthcarlson questioning for @CoinDesk’s Year In Review about whether crypto is SUPPOSED to be mainstream
[LRS76 - Dec 22] Finally, we wrapped the year with a summary of the EOY trend reports. There were great ones from @BlockchainCap and @Soonaorlater, but I have to give it to @TwoBitIdiot for his/@MessariCrypto’s monster
Did you enjoy this issue?
Nathaniel Whittemore

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