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#78 - Not so fast, call someone else, and craving entertainment

Description: image of newspaper moving through the printing press.  The pages are moving so quickly that they are a blur.  Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash.

(Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash)

Fast news. (A little too fast.)

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are an interesting layer of financial abstraction: they allow an investor to get exposure to some asset – that is, to be in the position to make or lose money as prices move – without having to buy it outright.

You can do cool things like define thematic ETFs which bundle a group of related stocks into a single, tradable unit. (Think “an ETF of gold mining companies” or “makers of AI gear.”) This also opens the door to trading assets that aren’t listed stocks. Like, say, Bitcoin. Can you imagine getting exposure to the ups and downs of Ye Olde $BTC without having to set up a crypto wallet? Or even know what a blockchain is?

This is why people really, really want a Bitcoin ETF to happen. But when you take the usual approval time for a new ETF, then multiply that by the delay from What Is Crypto In The Eyes Of Regulators, you’ll see why the idea of a Bitcoin ETF has been in the works for some years now.

You’ll also see why Bitcoin fans celebrated last week when they saw an announcement that the Bitcoin ETF finally had a green light.

I emphasize the word “an.” Not “the.”

The source? Crypto news site Cointelegraph. Bitcoin experienced a brief rally after Cointelegraph’s tweet (which they’ve since deleted), jumping to almost $30k before falling to $28k. Anyone who bought on the high end, expecting Bitcoin to continue its ETF-joy rally, lost out. Ouch.

To be fair, we’re all human. And humans make mistakes. What’s important is that we own up to those mistakes and make things right. Just see how Cointelegraph’s Editor-in-Chief, Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr, took time during a panel discussion to explain how this all happened:

“Yes, this [erroneous social media post] was disastrous, and this is an example of what cannot happen. But this is what happens when we are having constant pressure to be the first with every news. And this is not a problem of journalism, per se, it’s a problem of the society, that – and of the technology. I’m talking about indexation of Google, I’m talking about social media, where if you’re not the first, you’re the last. There is no second, third, et cetera.”

(Is anyone else getting a Talladega Nights “if you’re not first, you’re last” vibe from that? Just me?)

So what are the take-home lessons here?

  1. Don’t believe everything that you read. Thanks to the 24x7, worldwide, real-time connectivity afforded by social media, a single mistake can fan out to billions of people in short order.

  2. Be mindful of what you write. For the same reason as above.

  3. Have a statement ready. In the event people have torched money because you failed to heed #2, ask your PR and legal teams to prepare a statement for you.

  4. ETFs are pretty cool. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend Trillions by Robin Wigglesworth and anything by Bloomberg’s resident ETF expert Eric Balchunas.

Probably not the help you want in this case

The crypto world is full of colorful characters and equally colorful crimes. For example, we have:

And now there’s:

Wait, what?


Jimmy Zhong started off as Just Some Guy Who Got Into Bitcoin Way Early. According to his guilty plea, he also snagged 50,000 Bitcoin in a hack on Dark Web marketplace Silk Road.

This was 2012, when Bitcoin ran $10-$15. The haul wasn’t exactly Never Work Again Fancy-Retirement kind of money. But by 2018, Bitcoin’s thousand-fold price bump meant that Zhong had Living Every Day On The High Life money. (Some activities – like flying friends in a private jet and giving them shopping money – remind me of some Jho Low antics.)

This all fell apart after a thief walked off with some of Zhong’s Bitcoin. In a move very unbecoming of a Silk Road entrepreneur, Zhong decided to … turn to the cops for help. That call set off the chain of events that led to his story making it into the news.

This week’s newsletter seems to be all about take-home lessons, so, here we go:

  1. Don’t commit crimes.

  2. If you insist on ignoring #1, don’t call the cops when a fellow criminal robs you.

  3. But, seriously, just pay attention to #1. That way you don’t have to remember any special instructions.

(Big thanks to the sharp-eyed Block & Mortar reader who sent this story my way. You know who you are.)

Hollywood’s replacement

I’d originally planned a short segment on why I’m skipping the play-by-play coverage of crypto’s biggest story of the year. You know, the SBF trial. But then I stumbled across this Bloomberg article about the motley crew who’ve been waking up at dark o’clock for the chance – not a guarantee, but a chance – to be in the courtroom.

(Side note: here’s to hoping that this trial is indeed the biggest crypto story of the year. Can you imagine what kind of cataclysmic event would overshadow this three-ring circus? We’d be staring down the barrel of another Terra/Luna crash. Or maybe a meltdown at a huge company like Binance or Circle. And the field really doesn’t need that right now.)

Let’s focus on this excerpt from that Bloomberg piece:

Though the main courtroom has some viewing advantages, the overflow room is more convivial, [crypto content creator Tiffany] Fong said. The crowd chuckles when the judge makes a particularly funny joke or whispers in confusion during bizarre moments, like when Ellison was asked to point to Bankman-Fried in the courtroom and was apparently unable to spot him for an awkwardly long period of time.

Fong said it reminded her of being in grade school: “You’re coming back every day, seeing familiar faces, almost like in a classroom, watching the clock and waiting for lunch.”

When I read that, it all clicked: People. Are. Bored.

I realize the Hollywood strikes have taken a bite out of TV and movie options. Sent us scrounging for something to watch and to talk about. One friend claims to have reached the end of all of their Netflixes. I get it.

But are we that hard-up for entertainment?

As I reflect on the amount of people treating this trial as some new TV miniseries, I say: Yes. The answer is yes.

If this trial runs much longer, it will pose a greater threat to actors than AI. And that’s saying something.

I guess I can’t end this segment without some take-home lessons, can I?

  1. Be sure to get outside and get some fresh air. “Touch grass,” as the cool kids say.

  2. See #1.

The wrap-up

This was an issue of Block & Mortar.

Who’s behind Block & Mortar? I'm Q McCallum. I've spent the past two decades in the emerging-tech space. And I'm very interested in web3 use cases.

Credit where it's due. Big thanks to Shane Glynn for reviewing early drafts. Any mistakes that remain are mine.

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