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Consensus 2018, A Spectacle


I’m back in my room regrouping and thinking deeply about lunch in 15 minutes after the first half day of the biggest crypto/blockchain conference in the world. A few observations:

This is an incredibly diverse audience. Yes it’s still mostly white men, but the proportion of others seems to be growing. But what I’m referring to is the knowledge level of those attending. One moment I wowed a befuddled French man with my insights (lucky him!) as we waited for an elevator, and the next I’m searching for something appropriate to say when talking to a woman who busted out some technical knowledge of layer two solutions (I settled on “not bad!”).

The diversity ranging from total Newbs to crypto badasses is astounding, and makes crafting compelling conference content tricky. One moment someone is explaining a blockchain (yawn) and the next The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo just solved the Prisoners Dilemma and is explaining the algorithm. She’s either nuts or a genius.

The exhibits are pure mania. Last year most of the booths and private exhibits were staffed by one or two freaky founders, pony tailed and not looking for social interaction. This year there is a sea of shiny happy bus dev people gushing and explaining and showing snazzy videos and handing out tshirts for space agey sounding projects and exchanges, and tokens and custodians. It made me want to set up a shingle and just hand out Clorox or pencils or credit card forms just to revel in the contrast.

Coindesk is suffering a bit from the Coinbase syndrome. The registration was a mess and an hour or two into the event hundreds of people were still waiting in line to get their badges and enter the promised land. They eyed us with a dangerous jealousy and we responded with a certain smugness. I thought an older Chinese man with a similar bald spot as mine was thinking about kicking me in the balls and stealing my pass.

In addition, the opening segment of the conference was a flub in my opinion. I’d rather have some true crypto people up front, some of the pioneers of public blockchains rather than TV-like personalities and corporate CEOs with big names and shallow blockchain expertise.

But I don’t blame Coindesk. Like Coinbase they are dealing with an absolute storm of interest and scaling is hard. I think they are doing their best, and this is a pretty damn great conference overall. It’s advancing the interests of the industry as a whole even if there are aspects that a particular attendee might find undesirable.

Overall the energy of this place is crazy good for anyone who wonders if things are going to slow down or accelerate. I’ve lived through the dot com mania as PR manager for Flash and I’ve NEVER experienced anything close to the urgent, sweaty rush for prominence and salvation and riches and progress that characterizes our freaky strange and addictive community. There is no place I’d rather be.

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