A comment on social media recently got under my skin. Like a sharp burr caught in a sock, it demanded attention with its raw, poking irritation.
Here's what happened: On a social media forum (I won't reveal which one), an author decided to share his own findings about how to reconcile Ripple's XRP Markets Report with his individual analysis of wallets on the XRP Ledger.
It was impressive: It detailed findings from a data analysis fan. He'd organized it in a logical fashion, and it followed his path of analysis as he tracked the movement of XRP between wallets. And honestly, I won't spend any time talking about his findings - I found them fascinating, and told him as much; however, that's not what caught my eye.
A few spots prior to my own response, I noticed another person had replied to him, mercilessly criticizing him, asking how much 'free time' he had on his hands, and indicating that he, instead, had a 'buy it and forget it' mentality that, while being perhaps cynical, was really the smartest approach in his view. Once again, cynicism was being conflated with wisdom.
The implication running throughout this negative response to the author was 'individuals can't make a difference."
I dismissed this point of view; I had, long ago, discovered that the opposite was true. I could make a difference, and I write my blog because of it. Even before I started blogging in 2017, I was developing my own small applications on the XRP Ledger, with a variety of personal projects.
What bothered me was that his cynicism could turn into a communicable disease; those new to crypto may mistake his opinion for true insight.
He was criticizing an author that had put enormous effort into their project. The project author had spent a lot of his personal time analyzing wallet movements, looking at the mathematics and charts, tracking down the funds with the ambitious goal of reconciliation. The analysis required dedication and effort, and yet here was a response from a random reader telling him - implying - that he was stupid to spend his time this way, and furthermore, what did it matter?
I tried not to think about it, but as the day wore on, his sinister words kept coming back to me. The person that wrote that derisive response was not only wrong: He was completely wrong.
The CryptoMarket is Small
This isn't ForEx. It's not the stock market.
Here's how big the entire cryptomarket is in comparison to a few other companies and traditional asset classes:
Note that the above graphic is from last September, when the market capitalization was higher than it is now. The cryptomarket is currently even smaller than it appears here.
Established financial markets have attracted considerable communication resources from mainstream news media outlets. Regular programs on CNBC and Bloomberg cater to investors that access traditional retail markets. Kramer's Mad Money is a great example of how major news media tends to have a much larger impact on the market than any individual, especially when it comes to stocks, derivatives, and those securities offered on Wall Street.
Crypto is a different animal entirely.
The entire market is microscopic, despite its potent 'sound and fury' on social media. The overall market capitalization is a puny $115 billion at present - on a good day.
What we've seen here is that, while fascinating to mention in brief spots, the mainstream business news doesn't spend much time on crypto; but the interest in the topic is almost rabid by investors that hold crypto positions, so we've just seen the beginnings of major news desks beginning to regularly report on it.
If you're an investor that's already in, however, where do you turn for information?
The crypto news outlets are notoriously bent on advocating for the 'bags' of the news outlet's owners. We've seen this on a consistent basis within crypto, and it's becoming something of a running joke for those of us looking for impartial information. Instead, we form ad-hoc groups on social media, with the goal of disseminating, sharing, and collectively analyzing crypto news.
It's unfortunate, but that's the reality of this new, wild-west industry. And it has the effect of elevating, not diminishing, the importance of the individual to share and analyze limited information.
Because of the tribal nature of crypto and its investors, I don't see the crypto environment evolving away from this any time soon. Having a list of influential crypto commentators that you trust is important, and it's important to widen your lens out to include those that may conflict with your opinion as well, because other sub-groups matter, and can significantly impact our small, compressed industry.
People Are Actively Seeking Out Good Information
Mainstream news media has a long way to go before its information can be considered trustworthy when it comes to crypto topics.
We've seen inaccurate reporting on XRP, on Bitcoin, and on other crypto networks as well; the devil is in the details, and after the first few click-bait headlines, reporters typically stumble when it comes to the more technical parts of crypto reporting. They seem to not spend enough time between publishing deadlines to learn about the important aspects of what they're talking about, which results in a potpourri of useful tidbits sprinkled in with complete nonsense.
Crypto investors have long had to contend with the gaps in knowledge from these mainstream media sources, and it's one reason that, despite their obviously compromised journalistic standards, crypto news media outlets have flourished, with dozens popping up almost as frequently as new exchanges.
We know which ones are biased, and we now have a good idea of how and why they're biased as well.
Not only do some do 'content for hire' reporting, they are also specifically geared to serve as a protective wall around the investment holdings of their owners. I'm guessing that the reporters at these various outlets could offer us some compelling examples of how news stories are influenced by these interests. However, I'm only touching on this topic to make a point:
Crypto investors are constantly seeking accurate and timely information and help in how to interpret that information.
Individuals Have A High Impact
Individuals can have a massive impact on almost any topic now-a-days, due to the way that social media platforms operate. In addition to the way in which technology has enabled electronic activism, the small size of the cryptomarket, and the constant seeking of unbiased or insightful perspectives by people, serve to elevate the importance and potential of individual contributions.
When one individual endeavors to try and influence others in the cryptomarket, there are multiple paths that can be pursued. Each one caters to the strengths of individuals in different ways, and offers a way for almost any personality type to multiply the impact of their own efforts. Let's take a look at the top ways that individuals are powering adoption of crypto:
YouTubers & Podcasters
As a crypto investor, I am an avid consumer of user-created media. There are industry analysts that I listen to on YouTube & via podcast, and their commentary provides valuable perspectives on information, and helps to add context.
In the case of current events, it's wise to listen to some commentators talk about developments before jumping to conclusions on your own; the goal is not to supplant your own critical thinking with others' perspectives, but to inform your own understanding so that you can arrive at more accurate conclusions. It's important to challenge yourself in this way, and to not assume that your own perspective is the most accurate.
These YouTubers (and podcasters) are individuals that have decided to devote some part of their day to recording their own thoughts about crypto topics and developments, and then publish them on a platform - usually YouTube. If you're curious about XRP-related YouTubers, XRPTwin (Twitter avatar) has done a superb job in reviewing the more popular YouTube channels in one of his blogs:
If you doubt the influence that they have, just take a look at how many 'followers' each channel has on YouTube; they are typically measured in the thousands.
There are many high-quality examples of XRP YouTubers and general crypto YouTubers. I especially like one that is a 'cross-over' vlogger from Japan. She creates videos about the latest news impacting the XRP ecosystem, and also includes some flavor content to help viewers learn about Japan.
This is the category I love the most.
In 2017, a couple XRP Chat members advised me that the lengthy posts I was creating on XRP Chat were more akin to 'blogs' than to thread posts.
I was afraid of starting my own blog. I'd grown comfortable on XRPChat, and I liked the deep-dive style of discourse and debate where topics could be, for the most part, rationally discussed and debated at length. I overcame my fear, started my blog, and found that it was the one way that I could contribute on a consistent basis in a manner that suited my personality and communication strengths.
I love to write.
When I started blogging, I tracked my readership, and was astounded to find that over a hundred people had accessed my first few blogs! (Whether or not it captivated readers to finish each article was an entirely different question)
Over the next year, I was joined by no less than thirty other authors, many of whom are fellow authors on the XRP Community Blog site. Our articles have been shared across numerous platforms, and to an audience of tens of thousands of people worldwide. One author can share their ideas and perspective with readers around the globe. One new author that's attracted a large following in a short amount of time - no matter which platform he uses - is Big Buckor.
He originally started out on his own platform, where he continues to blog about XRP; in addition, he's an author in good standing at the XRP Community Blog, and also writes for Modern Consensus, where he's had several articles published.
Example: Big Buckor.
Social Media Posting
To promote the contest and draw in people that might be interested, he decided to fund the prize money single-handedly, putting up 1,750 of his own zerps.
The writing contest ended up motivating sixty-nine authors to submit their short stories to the contest in hopes of winning the first, second, or third place awards; while the contest was ongoing, the stories were shared on social media, and prompted readers to use their imagination to visualize what the future might look like in a post-adoption world.
The event drew enormous interest, and included some contributors outside of the XRP Community due to the prize money.
As a result of the contest, those creative works of fiction are available to the public on XRP Chat for those interested in reading.
If you're a developer that's also into crypto-assets, you may be wondering "can I actually create an application that gets used?"
It's a fair question to ask, and given some of the projects I've worked on professionally as part of an enormous team, I've asked the same question about the potential of applications developed by one person.
The surprising answer?
Yes; it's possible to develop a project independently on the XRP Ledger and receive real usage & traction. The shining example of this is, of course, the XRP Tip Bot.
WietseWind started developing on the XRP Ledger in 2017, and my first interaction with him was when he coded up a fun application on Reddit called the XRP Tip Bot. It was an interesting, compact application that allowed me to tip other posters (and be tipped) when I felt the content was truly exceptional. I was one of the first users, so I ended up depositing a few hundred zerps into my account to start things off.
It received a warm response on Reddit, but it wasn't until Wietse expanded it to Twitter that it was truly apparent what he'd stumbled onto.
Organically, the application started to spread like wildfire, until thousands of accounts were sending zerps back and forth to each other. As of last count, over 117,000 tips has been sent back and forth, transferring value of 161,000 XRP:
In addition, the application caught the eye of Stefan Thomas, the Founder of Coil, and now Coil is using the XRP Tip Bot accounts to establish payment pointers, conveniently using the XRP Tip Bot customer base to build Coil's initial Coil-enabled account list. A person with a Coil-enabled site can simply use the payment pointer that Wietse provides to them free-of-charge as part of the XRP Tip Bot application, and then update their Coil account with that information, so that Coil-enabled browsers that use their site will automatically send a small payment their way.
The XRP Tip Bot is a prime example of what one developer can do with a single, popular application.
Blockchain technology - and its cryptoasset creations - are new to all of humanity, and their like has never been seen before in digital form. The closest physical counterpart - gold - has been used as a no-counter-party for thousands of years.
But until now, we've never seen a digital equivalent.
Academics should - and some do - take this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate, either by contributing to the technology, or by analyzing the other societal and business impacts from this innovation. Trustless, decentralized, no-counter-party assets have the potential to transform cross-border value flow.
- The Internet of Value - the notion of sending value as easily as we can send a packet of data - is very close to becoming a reality for us.
- Smart contracts can enable entire new derivative markets and bring contracts into use for purposes that may not have been economical before.
- Micropayments are just getting started, and Coil's use case to monetize the Internet is gaining traction among early adopters and content creators.
- The sharing economy is now starting to use crypto-assets as a form of payment for international participants, silently acknowledging crypto's true status as an international medium of exchange.
- A decentralized credit network and exchange exists today on the XRP Ledger.
- The Interledger Protocol can connect different crypto networks together, along with ILP-enabled bank ledgers.
Those in a university setting can take one or more of these concepts represented by XRP ecosystem participants and add their own ideas and insights into the mix; perhaps analyzing the global economic impacts of these potential innovations will help others move the entire industry forward and find its way faster. Or maybe a graduate student will observe a possible connection or impact that nobody has given attention to yet. Academics are revered by those of us in the cryptomarket, as their research and work represents fact-based insights that are sorely needed in an industry that is hungry for impartial information.
Example: In 2017, one academic from Perdue, Pedro Moreno-Sanchez, studied how the XRP Ledger could actually support anonymous transactions using an approach he called "Pathshuffle". Up until that point, nobody knew that the XRP Ledger could support anonymous payments.
Being a leader is not all fame, glory, and accolades. Before anybody gets to that point, there is usually a rough road of detours, obstructions, and resistance to change that necessitates creative solutions and persistence.
Such is the case with KingBlue, the person that has championed the use of the XRP Tip Bot for charitable purposes.
In early 2018, KingBlue (Twitter avatar) saw the potential of fundraising using the XRP Tip Bot. It was an idea that seemed too good to be true. The XRP Tip bot was so easy to use, that a person could tip another random Twitter account - any account - even if that account was not an XRP owner.
The XRP Tip Bot application was configured to automatically create a linked account for each Twitter user, if that user received a tip but didn't yet have an account.
Because of this ingenious approach by WietseWind, it's possible to tip anybody - or any organization - that has a Twitter account.
KingBlue suddenly realized that if he tipped St Jude Children's Hospital - one of his favorite charities - that their corporate Twitter account could receive this amount via the XRP Tip Bot. He publicized his efforts, and worked with WietseWind to examine the pros and cons of using it for fund-raising.
There were logistical challenges, but they were not insurmountable. He developed strategies to help other people use the XRP Tip Bot for charitable giving as he addressed one issue after another methodically and ethically, transparently publishing his approach and sharing it with others.
Soon, instead of the initial suspicion he was met with, he found himself fielding requests for assistance in helping others with using the XRP Tip Bot for charitable giving. He helped others, forming a new organization called the "Good Souls Group," which I've profiled in another blog. All the while, he never lost focus on fund-raising for St Jude, and at last count, the XRP Community had contributed over 41,000 zerps to the cause:
If you were to ask KingBlue if he regards himself as a hero for organizing the fundraising for St Jude, he would undoubtedly and self-deprecatingly tell you to look at the people that have generously donated their zerps, such as @CDUBXRP and @Hashy80 (Twitter avatars), as well as multiple mystery contributors.
But we know different: He is a real-life hero for championing St Jude Fundraising and for helping others do the same with their own charities.
You Can Make A Difference
Look inward and ask yourself what brings you joy. What interests you?
YouTubers are here among us; if you are one, then record your opinion and start a channel. We are here to listen and provide you with feedback. And maybe, if enough of us like hearing what you have to say, you may end up with a following in the thousands, monetizing your content as a nascent YouTube vlogger star in crypto. More than one career has been launched because of an individual's talent for communication skills demonstrated on video.
Maybe you are an artist, and would like to make history by creating unique works of art tailor-made for crypto. There is an entire community of people waiting to see what you create and provide praise for your singular vision. Leave your fear at the gate, and let yourself create whatever you'd like; contribute according to your chosen medium and see what happens.
Like me, if you are a student of storytelling, there are unwritten pages awaiting you, and many who would like to share your journey. Start a blog; or better yet, write a book about the early days of crypto to document not only your adventure, but what you're observing. This is history in the making.
For the tinkerers reading, the XRP ecosystem was designed to enable full-scale development by single individuals. When it comes to XRP, Codius, or ILP, all you have to know is one language, and you're on your way to building whatever creation you can visualize. Would you like to run your own XRP Validator and test out a home-grown application against it? Github awaits. If you manage to code something truly amazing, watch what happens; it could be your ticket to forming a new company or selling your product.
If fund-raising for charities inspires you, then perhaps you can work with the Good Souls Group to establish one and then prove that your project is worthy to be included in their community fund-raising activities. The XRP Community is caring and generous, as is evident from the thousands of dollars raised so far; using a digital asset allows you to raise money with very little overhead, no matter where your contributors reside. Use XRP - and your imagination - to help worthy causes.
All of these personal efforts benefit not only the individual, but the entire XRP Community. It's a win-win, and it's an ongoing demonstration that active participants in the community have much to gain, from making new friends, contacts, and business associates, as well as to showcase their own talents.
When you show what's possible for yourself, you may just inspire somebody else to step forward and try something that may change everything.
Cover Art: Thank you to Michał Parzuchowski