💖 ETHDenver 2024 Recap & Thoughts on IRL Community

Checking in from the edge of my seat

Happy weekend friends 💖 

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Two Sundays without a newsletter! I’ve missed chatting with you! This week we’ll cover (in clearly marked headlines for easy browsing):

  • Recap of ETHDenver → which events I attended and short thoughts on each to get you up to speed

  • Thoughts on the week and on conferences in general

  • Bull market vibes or nah?

  • And lastly, a few takeaways

So, About Last Week

For multiple reasons, I didn't attend a single conference all of 2023 but I was determined to make it to ETHDenver this year. I’ve only been to two other conferences, Art Basel Miami 2022 and NFT NYC 2022. My previous experience with massive conferences even bigger than ETHDenver was the likes of DragonCon and local comic conventions.

I can confidently say that ETHDenver has been the best conference I’ve attended since DragonCon 2014, when I got to meet the cast of some of my favorite shows of all time, nerding out with cosplay friends for 5 days in Atlanta. That being said, let’s get into why:

Main Conference

I spent quite a bit of time in the main area at Spork Castle because I didn’t have endless social battery or resources for 20 different Uber rides a day; I felt there was adequate value curated via speakers, panels, and learning to be done at booths.

My favorite activations were IYK for quests to earn skateboards, hats, Pudgy Penguins merch, and more (shout out to Paff & team who worked so hard to delight attendees), Near with an Alice in Wonderland theme, complete with a tea party experience, and Lukso won my Best Merch award with pink hats, so had to pick up one of those!

Base had a huge Home Base activation with places to sit and chat and Base Hunt, where folks completed more quests each day for merch like a backpack, beanies, and other gear. Quests are on the rise! My short thoughts on quests here

IYK booth setup hangs! 😃✌🏻

Though I was aware of or had a baseline knowledge of almost every booth in attendance, my goal was to visit as many as I could to ask how each company explained what and why it does what it does. Then, I asked each one how it’s helping real people.

Over 50% of the booths lacked an adequate answer to these questions and clearly weren’t focused on much beyond The Tech™️, which isn’t surprising at all. If we want our industry to succeed we need to be developing tech that tells the story of how it cares for those we’re building it for, otherwise it’s all mostly useless. Many of these companies have had years to develop beyond the tech. Yet, through an extended bear market, have, with bated breath, awaited another up-only euphoric moment to ride the vibes to more vapor.

Yes, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! Yes, it was an incredible time! Are we in a bull market? … hmm, to be determined (maybe? who knows?). But the vibes are nice while they last!

So then, what made ETHDenver my favorite conference to date? For me, it was a mixture of personal understanding of the industry, the panels had adequate learning opportunities, diverse voices from both new and experienced builders, and seeing friends I’d missed for far too long.

I missed seeing a ton of people I wanted to see, but hey, next time, right?

If you missed an opportunity to see me too, feel free to hit me up, I’ll give you some insight on how we can collaborate!

A week with nerds at IRL events confirmed a thesis I’ve long held dear and something to be explored at length soon:

community is full of curiosity
curiosity rewards always
incentives for curiosity tell the future
through culture creation.

Events Attended

Silk Hacker House

  • ETHDenver, being the biggest global web3 hackathon for Ethereum developers, is also host to many hacker houses. The Silk team rented space for the week to house developers completing bounties that further their ecosystem. I was honored to interview several builders at this hacker house! Silk makes it super easy to use a secure sign-on for the web with embeddable wallets utilizing ZK, non-custodial technology.

Web3 Grill & Game Fest: The HyperPlay BBQ Bash

  • Gaming was a bit of a surprise to me, honestly, but not to be missed! I’m not normally into web3 gaming and wanted to take as many opportunities to get to know new things, see new people, and get out of my comfort zone in Denver. I am not someone who usually goes places where I don’t know anyone, but this turned out to be a fruitful event! I met the HyperPlay team and was very impressed by their Head of Community, Euthenia, who introduced me to their product, a game launcher with a MetaMask overlay integration.

SheFi Summit Denver

  • It was a joy to see so many women from all over the world gather together to learn from panels, vendors, and one another. Maggie and the team at SheFi brought us quests (more thoughts on this another time), including POAPs for each panel, checking out partner activations with merch (free stuff good), and just the right amount of breaks for networking.

A fave panel: Beyond NFT Hype: Building for Creators

Build with Variant: Coffee & Co-Working

  • I got to meet two of my favorite onchain women at Variant! Director of Education & Events Alli Pope and Co-Founder Li Jin each influence a lot of what we do and how we think about onchain activations. If, for some reason, you still have not read about Variant, run here as soon as possible!

Edge City: Guild Day

  • Two unmissable panels at this Edge City event hosted by Guild: ​Onchain Acquisition and Retention w/ Winny (Chipped/Gossip Protocol) & Onchain Reputation w/ David Phelps (Jokerace) and Evin (Disco) gave insights on identity, data, and how to bring simplicity to market.

Boys Club: FROSTBYTE

  • Fully FROSTBITTEN at my second Boys Club party, it was the best of times. URL → IRL is Boys Club and this is community. There’s something very, very dear about spending time with people you’ve admired, chatted with, and learned from that makes building so special. That essence of love coalesced into a night of excitement meeting Natasha, Deana, Miranda, and all the other boys who make my favorite onchain space the most exclusive, high-signal place to be. The actions I and many others take are a love letter to what Boys Club stands for. Stop by SXSW this week for /brandnew

Onchain Communities: What’s Next

  • The event I hosted brought together a handful of community builders and marketers from finance, DAOs, social impact, and web2.5 for chats, imaginings, and musings on the future of onchain communities. I'm looking forward to doing it again at the next conference, and stay tuned for all things ‘people of the internet’ coming soon!!

Quick Thoughts on Denver

Visiting Denver wasn’t nearly as boring or terrible as people made it out to be. Denver has an eclectic art scene that reminds me of cities I grew up in, minus the bone-dry air that requires 3x the usual water intake and moisturizer. The people are super nice, Uber drivers asked questions about crypto, and the food isn’t bad; I just wish I had more time to explore and would love to come back sometime! Overall, very happy to visit. Huge thanks to Leyla and Evin for convincing me to make ETHDenver a priority this year.

What it’s like being a (queer) woman at crypto conferences

The girls, gays, and they’s were out in full force!

The ETHDenver team deserves props for offering such space for women on many main stages at Spork Castle. It’s not about women working harder to be seen; it’s about the fact that we are necessary counterparts to this industry, we are inevitable.

By some miracle, I felt accepted, not entirely invisible. As if maybe…just maybe, we were being seen and, more importantly, appreciated.

It’s taken far too long for us to see these moments when we aren’t ignored for showing up and being our authentic selves as developers and storytellers in this corner of the tech space.

Seeing successful communities like Boys Club and SheFi definitely helps!

We don’t usually talk about being queer or trans at conferences simply because drawing attention to this doesn’t (usually) do us any favors. I felt like I was allowed to exist without any problems. I often notice subtweets after events where a friend or three felt left out or like they didn’t belong. An important sleight to call out when it happens. There were many times at previous events I felt that way too. Thankfully, it was a bit different at ETHDenver.

My theory and hope is that as long as we live our authentic selves, confidently asserting our value, we are welcome in (most) rooms we enter. I know that doesn’t always work in practice, but we have to keep working at it, we have to keep showing up.

To you reading this → go be yourself! Be fearless, be smart, say smart things & live in truth.

On the flip side, the tech bro scene was HEAVY as usual, especially at some of the side events. But it was also easy to avoid bland conversations with vests.

Takeaways from ETHDenver

There is a very clear delineation between those who are building for people with care, considering who is using the tech, and those who are here to make said tech easier to use simply to make more money on new fetishized, financialized rails. The gap widens as fewer people talk openly about curiosity, and even fewer talk about and express creativity when building. These feelings cross gender lines; no one is safe from uncreativity.

As an observer, I looked up at everyone’s face. I looked people in the eyes and saw the shimmer in their sense of urgency for this technology, coordination of value, and its possibilities.

It’s time to build with curiosity, with aligned incentives, and listen to real people!

In this cycle, chaos will win. The storytellers will win because this tech needs to be marketed precisely to new users, not just natives, with very clear, actionable use cases.

If most of the tech being built at these global developer conferences isn’t inherently creative, thus coming from the soul, who are we building for exactly? Sure, we need ZK proofs, smart wallets, and account abstraction, but it’s all the same! It’s just repackaged in a different colored box! And no, I absolutely do not need more wallets to manage. It doesn’t matter how simple something is if no one cares about the outcome or understands the value it adds to their lives.

Key themes from the week: ZK, wallet UX, digital identity, decentralized infra & gaming

I'm not too surprised at the gaming booths' high crowds. Giving people something to interact with is key to their feeling like they have an incentive to participate. Maybe governance could be fun and open-source instead of the boring, confusing slog it mostly is now.

Whether it’s gaming, questing, or a social app, the key will always be rooted in adventure. The journey a user goes through, frictionless or not, is more important than the tech. If you’re building a questing platform or gaming company, your mission is to create purpose and not meaningless partnerships for the sake of sponsor money. Help people care. Help people understand why you spent time building the thing. Myself and many of my marketing/community friends are here to help!

 Key releases during ETHDenver

Collective DAO Archives (video) via lalalavendr @Optimism | link here

Base announcing further developments for Smart Wallets | read here

Top 15 Hackathon projects: check out who built what!

These are just the ones I paid attention to, I would love to hear which ones you were excited by!

Hunting and Gathering 🔗 

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