It's a fine time for crypto evangelists who spend all of their lives on Twitter. A “radical” crowdfunding service is set to deliver thousands of dollars to Ethereum fanboys who retweet bullish Ethereum news and get into protracted arguments about cryptographic stuff.
Pseudonymous Twitter user Antiprosynthesis, for instance, has raised around $15,000 for work he describes as “aggregating Ethereum-related news, fighting information asymmetry and fine-tuning/signaling a consistent narrative for Ethereum (and ETH).” You can admire his oeuvre here.
Or take the equally pseudonymous Twigwam, whose domain stretches beyond Twitter and into Reddit, where she moderates r/Ethereum. Her work consists of “scrap[ing] many sources and feeds for developments to share with the wider technical community as well as influencers to repackage.” She’s made around $900 so far. (Update: Twigwam says she never cashed out.)
The money was raised through Ethereum-based platform “Gitcoin Grants," which permits people to solicit donations via their Ethereum public addresses. Donations are then matched, using funds drawn from $75,000 worth of “media grants” provided by Gitcoin*, a platform for freelance developers. The matched funds constitute a percentage of the $75,000, in proportion with the recipient's popularity.
So, if a person raises 50 percent of the private donations for the media category, they will be entitled to a media grant worth half of the $75,000: $37,500. The concept behind the funding mechanism is called “Quadratic Voting,” and is the brainchild of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, and Buterin’s friend, the economist Glen Weyl.
It’s proven somewhat lucrative. Using the service, a who’s who of influential Ethereum grandees has already pulled in thousands of dollars for a range of services that include learning resources, newsletters and, of course, tweeting: Among the beneficiaries are Ethhub’s Anthony Sassano and Eric Connor; ConsenSys’s newsletter impresario, Evan Van Ness; blogger David Hoffman; and Ryan Sean Adams, who tweets epigrammatic, Pomp-like daily affirmations.
Notable “Tron influencer” and self-described troll Udi Wertheimer is rug-biting mad. He believes that, because Gitcoin is funded by ConsenSys, the Brooklyn-based Ethereum incubator (and funder of Decrypt!), the shill-kickbacks effectively come from that company.
“Consensys and the Ethereum Foundation are openly spending like $70,000 to compensate ETH twitter trolls every quarter,” Wertheimer rage-tweeted last weekend. “I’m doing a *much* better job for Tron and I’m paid much less.” (Wertheimer later told Decrypt he was joking about being paid for his vile tweets; they are a free service he provides humankind. You’re welcome!)
In an interview, Gitcoin’s founder, Kevin Owocki, said that no money passes through ConsenSys’s hands. And in an email, Joseph Lubin, ConsenSys’s CEO, said he, too, was unaware of this to-do.
“It’s not ConsenSys,” Owocki said. “No one from ConsenSys finance will touch it.” He declined to disclose the source of the $75,000 in matching funds, which he said came from a single entity. He also said that other documents which might appear to show that the grants are funded by ConsenSys are unrelated, and part of an entirely separate grants program.
Initially, Ethereum supporters were annoyed that Antiprosynthesis had somehow managed to out raise everybody in a matter of hours, despite being a lesser known tweeter.
Antiprosynthesis, speaking to Decrypt, seemed to take this as an extraordinary slight on his character and integrity. “The donations are for my sustained activity on Twitter, which is a lot more than people take for granted,” he said. “I aggregate a LOT on my feed.”
He added: “I'd say ‘grant for tweeting’ is a derogatory spin.”
Besides, he said that the complaints have become irrelevant: others are now out raising him and his portion has diminished to a paltry $15,000. (Which is still the largest figure raised overall.)
So what does it all mean?
“Shilling” is crypto’s favorite insult, and is lobbed to discredit believers in alternative coins. Hilariously it’s often true: late last year one Twitter user, “Tommy Mustache,” admitted he’d been paid by Justin Sun, the CEO of the Tron cryptocurrency that Mustache openly and enthusiastically supports. And Wertheimer himself has been offered compensation by Sun, but, as mentioned, said that he takes no payments for his tweetery.
The pay-for-publicity practice is hardly limited to Ethereum—or Twitter. Bitcoin Cash enjoys the services of Bitcoin.com, a propaganda site funded by diehard supporter Roger Ver. The billionaire Calvin Ayre bankrolls the operations of Coingeek.com, a website that features Bitcoin "Satoshi Vision," which Ayre heartily supports. Long have there also been rumors that the terrifying "XRP Army," which consists of several divisions' worth of rabid Ripple supports, is paid upfront by Ripple itself. (The company has obviously denied this.)
Perhaps it’s a necessary evil. Cryptoland is a full-fledged, late-stage Shill Economy. Shilling is essential in making number go up. Indeed, done properly, it pays for itself.
But the ever-trolling, Ethereum-hating Wertheimer believes there is something uniquely insidious about Gitcoin Grants. “Everything about Ethereum is people chasing grants and investments from EF and ConsenSys," he tweets. "There’s literally nothing else going on there."
Pfft. Coming from a Tron shill.
*Do Americans not know that "git" refers to a curmudgeonly, senile old man?