Closing thoughts from Randy Ginsburg on NFT.NYC: why the community is what makes web3 special, why the space needs more mature voices, and why he'll see you there next year.
Many days removed from the NFT.NYC festivities, it’s time for an honest, unfiltered opinion of last month’s headline conference. All in all, it was a mild success, in that it achieved its goal of bringing more awareness, education, and excitement to the broader NFT community. Over 15,000 people attended the main event, with thousands more branching out to various satellite events across the city. That’s over three times more than the 5,000 attendees who signed up last year, even with the NFT market in the gutter.
To throw an event of this magnitude and scale is no easy task, and from what I could see, the execution was seamless. Ticketing was smooth, free food was readily available, and there were plenty of staff members to answer questions whenever needed. Bravo, bravo. Of course, others like Anonymous had different experiences, particularly with respect to the pre-event planning, so it’s important to note that this is just one subjective opinion of how the week unfolded.
Similar to last year, the satellite events were largely the highlight of the week. It was amazing to see the creativity, scrappiness, and true community demonstrated by many companies, projects, and protocols that were no more than a pipe dream a short twelve to sixteen months ago. The parties were lavish, well-catered, and widely broadcasted across social media.
But still, despite all the good that came from the event, there was even more that left me confused, disappointed, and even a bit frustrated.
First and foremost, my personal view is that the event itself did not deliver $700 worth of value to its attendees. Thank goodness I had a media pass because if I had paid full price for a ticket, well, our trusty editor would be filtering out a hell of a lot of swear words. While this is only one perception of the week and it’s likely there were many excellent events I could have attended, there are a few crucial areas that those affiliated with the conference need to address to give NFT.NYC some much-needed credibility, beyond a good excuse to get wildly inebriated with a crowd of internet friends and strangers.
The event featured over 1,500 speakers, some of whom admitted to only joining the space a few months prior. A tenth of the people attending the event were speaking. There was a clear emphasis on speaker quantity over quality, likely driven by the goal of squeezing as much partnership and sponsorship revenue out of the event as possible.
Of course, there are not 1,500 experts out there qualified to speak about NFTs. Furthermore, letting anyone speak heavily dilutes the credibility of the few noteworthy speakers who are deserving of their spot on stage. It also defeats the purpose of the event as an educational resource, whilst the sheer amount of programming at conflicting times left some panels widely unattended. A waste of time and effort for all.
In one of the classic quotes of the week, as reported by CoinDesk:
“The programming this year sucks, the panelists have no idea what they’re talking about, I’m never coming back,” one attendee was overheard saying to another in line for an after-party. “There are panels?” the other responded.
I rest my case.
Most of the speakers were targeting an audience either of corporate executives or NFT novices, rather than the true builders in the space. Unfortunately, very few panels contained anything of substance. No new insights, statistics, or forecasts, just buzzwords and promotional underpinnings.
We need more deep thinking about what is actually useful in the space, and fewer abstract, regurgitated scripts about how 'NFTs will serve as a way to bypass centralised third parties and transform ‘X industry’ by unlocking new ways for brands to connect with their true fans'. Indeed, nearly every panel featured a spokesperson from a company or an NFT.NYC sponsor – sometimes both – who was not-so-subtly trying to shill a project or platform. There were very few panels I attended where there wasn’t at least one collective groan from the audience over some cringe-worthy, or just wildly inaccurate, comment made by a speaker.
This isn’t so much for the event, but rather the space as a whole. Simply white men, everywhere; the space has a lot to do to onboard women and people of colour to the space.
But I want to end on a positive note and give some much-deserved praise to the people I met, the highlight the event. Never before have I been surrounded by a more intelligent, welcoming, and ego-free group of people. After over a year of Twitter communication hidden behind cartoon PFPs, it was amazing to connect with newfound friends (and strangers) from all around the world and bond over something as silly as NFTs.
I heard a great quote during a panel featuring Autograph co-founder Dillon Rosenblatt. He compared the loyalty of NFT holders to that of sports fans, and to a large degree, it’s true.
Think of your favorite football team. If you saw someone wearing its jersey in a bar, you’d likely go out of your way to make conversation with them. The same applies to those in the NFT community, especially those who hold the same NFTs as you do.
While there is an undeniable sense of false positivity amongst the NFT community, there was a sense of genuine positivity — despite the thousands of dollars that have been lost by many in the most recent downturn. It was very clear to see the people who were truly driven by the potential of the technology, and who was there, by contrast, just to pump their bags or make their boss happy. And for those who find themselves in the first group, I salute you and look forward to what’s to come. Until next year.
While there is an undeniable sense of false positivity amongst the NFT community, there was a sense of genuine positivity.
Randy is the founder of Digital Fashion Daily and Third Wall Creative, a web3 marketing agency. Straddling the worlds of retail and emerging technology, Randy has worked with many companies including nft now, Shopify, and Touchcast to create compelling and educational web3 content. Previously, Randy worked at Bombas, developing the most comfortable socks in the history of feet.
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