Occasional musings on crypto from an early investor, entrepreneur, and two-bit idiot.
TBI's Daily Bit

Two Bits with Two-Bit

May 8, 2018
Daily Bit

I’m excited to share two solid interviews that dropped yesterday on Laura Shin’s podcasts, Unconfirmed and Unchained

I usually hate listening to my own interviews (prefer the written word and the delete key that it comes with), but Laura is an excellent moderator, and a natural interviewer.

First up was Laura’s short form interview on Unconfirmed. We talked about the mini-drama I covered regarding a recent spat between Pete Rizzo and Vitalik Buterin, but mostly that was parlayed into a discussion about sustainable journalism - I gave hat tips to Civil and Unlock as two promising crypto projects working on solutions - and the value of decentralized curation markets. The interview ends with some discussion of token-curated registries, and why we’re so fascinated by those as a potential solution to centralized information curation.

I thought this episode was pretty good, and should give you a sense for what we’ve been working on during this brief pause from the Daily Bit - exploring options for monetizing quality information since we are, after all, trying to put food on the table for our families. 

The other one dropped this morning, and it is excellent. 

Laura invited me and Matt Leising from Bloomberg to come on the show and chat about Ripple and its currency, XRP. 

It is almost certainly going to be controversial, but I worry the thrust of the controversy will be directed at Laura’s preamble, which to be honest, was pretty grating, and seemed to set the stage for a hit piece, which was not a goal for me joining the conversation. (You can even hear a bit of exasperation in my and Matt’s voices when Laura finishes and lobs the first question over to us.)

Basically, Laura wanted to kick things off by explaining why no one from Ripple was on an XRP-centered podcast. I understood the intent of that disclosure, but I fear the tone will undercut what was otherwise a pretty strong interview that I’m proud to have contributed to.

The discussion was balanced. I even defended Ripple a few times!

But Laura made it clear that her target for the interview was Ripple CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, and insinuated that the company had tried to pressure her into including its own handpicked representatives. 

I have nothing to say on that latter point one way or another, but a bit of context is in order from my perspective, so people understand why I joined this conversation in the first place.


Laura and I first started talking about doing an XRP podcast in late March, when I was baiting Garlinghouse into doing an interview with me at Consensus.

I’ve never met the guy, and wouldn’t know him from a guy on the street, but it’s fun to poke bears and make reasonable arguments for why Ripple, Inc. should stop aggressively marketing XRP as a speculative retail investment. If part of that strategy is to challenge the CEO’s manhood, then fine. Seems like fair game, since I’m more industry court jester than journalist, anyway. (Both speak truth to power, but only one pretends to be objective.)

I was initially reluctant to accept Laura’s offer to join Unchained because: a) I’d already given my two bits on Ripple and XRP; b) I didn’t want the distraction from the more objective work we’re doing at Messari (read our research!), and; c) It generally doesn’t make sense for me to go on another person’s platform to talk about a topic that I could just as easily fully bake, edit, and distribute myself while controlling messaging and tone. 

If anything, I wanted to chat with Brad myself and control the pace, vibes, and questions.

But Laura argued (correctly, I think) that we’d have more neutral ground to do a moderated discussion with a Ripple rep via her podcast. The company probably wouldn’t agree to a direct interview with me given a) I’m not a journalist (see above), and b) I’m not objective…I’ve been pointed in frequent criticisms of the company’s marketing of XRP this year.

So I acquiesced.

The initial plan was to host me and Matt from Bloomberg, but we agreed it would be much better to have a Ripple rep on board.

I told Laura she should try to get Brad lined up for a 1:1, but if it was someone like Cory Johnson (marketing/messaging for XRP), then that would also be great. At one point, I even offered to take XRP’s side in a debate vs. Matt if no one from Ripple stepped up. (You’d be backing up the truck on XRP if I gave my marketing pitch.)

In the last 48 hours leading up to the discussion, the lineup changed about 17 times based on Laura’s ongoing efforts to engage Ripple. 

Understandable, given their hectic schedules and Laura’s desire to reel in Garlinghouse. But when that ultimately proved impossible, we were set to do a session with me and Cory up until the day before. 

Then as Laura notes in her preamble, this tweet with David Schwartz happened, and the XRP twitter army pounced:

FWIW, David is another person I haven’t met, but I’ve found him to be decent and straightforward. He was extremely helpful in reviewing my original post (even if he disagreed with the thrust and corrected some of the nuances of the piece), but as I’d mentioned in a note to Laura, I am not a technologist, so we’d be talking past each other.

His inclusion didn't make sense as David would walk circles around me on the tech side, and the tech was not supposed to be the central discussion thrust of the episode, anyway.

I assumed Laura would say as much and we’d move on with the discussion with Cory as planned. When we reverted back to just me and Matt in the discussion the next day, I assumed Ripple had pulled out because they couldn’t get their two preferred people on the show.

I thought that was a pretty bitch move, BUT...

What I didn’t realize was that it was actually Laura who had gotten pissed at the reaction to David’s tweet and then went back to Ripple basically saying “Brad or no one.” I didn’t know that until we started rolling tape. Hence my reaction after her six minute preamble:


I respect the hustle and grind of an independent journalist, and Laura’s podcast is the industry’s best. She’s a natural interviewer, and I’m happy with the meat of the most recent Unchained episode. But I am disappointed in the tone of the first seven minutes. I think Laura let her desire to reel in a big CEO interview get the better of her in the opening. 

It doesn’t reflect the session I signed up for, nor does it do justice to the rest of the discussion we had for the next hour, where we dive deep into Ripple, Inc’s marketing of XRP as a new private central bank digital currency. 

I don’t shy away from controversy, but my intentions are usually pretty clear: if I ever want to do a hit piece, I’ll do a hit piece. That wasn’t the case here.

I think if you give this one a listen (and the shorter one, which is also really good!), you'll see it was informative and measured as well. 

My real hope is that it will encourage more of you to start demanding answers to some of these questions yourselves. Not just for XRP and Ripple, but for all tokens and their issuers.


Shameless Plugs

NYC (5/10-5/17 - Fluidity, Ethereal, Consensus, Token Summit)

My company, Messari, is hiring:
+ Front-end developer, Full-stack engineer, Data engineers, Blockchain engineers (TCR!) 
+ Volunteer analysts and summer interns
+ Content curation lead (compression algo tinkerer)

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