UPDATED WITH AN APOLOGY— Futurist Conference Taking Place November 11-12 in Decentraland

Please note: I have updated this blogpost with an apology (see the second update at the end).


Writing about Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, and Decentraland on this blog over the past couple of years, I have found that the blockchain and cryptocurrency marketplace tends to be a bit of an echo chamber, a reality-distortion bubble, where the crypto enthusiasts are all excitedly talking to each other, but not really speaking to the average, non-crypto people outside the hype bubble that they need to reach in order to grow the space, and mature the market.

(And yes, just for the record, I still feel that blockchain is a solution that is looking for a problem to solve. I remain a cryptoskeptic, and I refuse to invest a penny in any cryptocurrency. I just blog about and am interested in blockchain-based virtual worlds from a virtual worlds standpoint.)

A good example of this is the Futurist Conference, which apparently is currently taking place today and Thursday “in” the blockchain-based virtual world, Decentraland. (You’ll see why I put “in” in quotes in a moment.)

The Futurist Conference is described as follows in the Decentraland Events Calendar (here’s a link to the actual event listing itself):

Futurist Virtual Conference November 11-12, 2020 | Toronto, Canada Canada’s Largest Blockchain & Emerging Technologies Conference

Untraceable’s third annual Futurist Conference is the largest blockchain and emerging technologies event in Canada. It will bring together thousands of people online to discuss emerging industries that are going to disrupt our future.​This year the conference will be held from the comfort of your home. We will be bringing you an immersive experience to gamify the virtual event leading up to and including the conference days. Listen and interact with the world’s leading experts that are changing the technology landscape.

So I decided to pop into Decentraland, and pay a visit to the Crypto Valley Conference Center, where the Futurist Conference takes place today and tomorrow:

Only to find the conference centre essentially deserted, with only a handful of avatars present, and a YouTube livestream of Futurist Conference sessions playing on a large screen:

One of the conference sessions playing on a large screen in the essentially empty Crypto Valley Conference Center in Decentraland: Why bother?

And my first thought is? Why bother?

Listen and interact with the world’s leading experts that are changing the technology landscape.” Listen, perhaps, but interact? No.

This whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as the PornHub Games event which “took place” in the adult virtual platform Oasis, which turned out to be nothing but watching the six episodes of the PornHub Games on a screen within Oasis (this link is safe for work):

Basically, you’re sitting in a movie theatre, watching the individual weekly episodes of the “Pornhub Games” on a screen. It’s boring as hell, and why you would need or want to be in Oasis just to watch a video is beyond me. Why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology to do something that can easily be done on the desktop?

And so I ask the same pertinent question: Why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology to do something that can easily be done on the desktop? As far as I can see, Decentraland is not adding anything extra to the Futurist Conference, other than bragging rights that they are “associated” with the event, in much the same way as the PornHub Games were “associated” with Oasis.

Why bother advertising a blockchain conference as taking place in Decentraland when it’s not really happening in Decentraland? What’s the advantage of holding this in a virtual world when you can watch the whole thing on YouTube, and the primary means of interaction appears to be a web-based app that is not associated with Decentraland at all (other than it mentions DCL and tells you where to teleport to get to the Crypto Valley Convention Center)?

I mean, I am pretty sure that many of the speakers participating in the YouTube livestream didn’t even know or care about Decentraland; DCL was just piggybacking on the conference, for bragging rights. (Okay, so there was also some sort of crypto game taking place in DCL before the conference event itself.)

After half an hour, bored, and surrounded by only four or five other avatars in the Crypto Valley Convention Center who were watching the same livestream broadcast, I signed out of Decentraland and just watched the damn thing on YouTube, without the slightly delayed, slightly degraded audio and video quality due to the livestream being passed through Decentraland, without having to set up a DCL account and create an avatar, and without having to set up a cryptocurrency wallet. If you are going to make people jump through all these extra hoops, just to watch a YouTube video, where is the added value that the virtual world is supposed to provide?

If you are interested in the Futurist Conference, which runs all day today and tomorrow, here is their website and their web app (which requires you to set up an account separate from your Decentraland account, if you already have one).

UPDATE 10:12 p.m.: Artur Sychov, the founder of rival blockchain-based platform Somnium Space and a speaker at the conference, confirmed that the Futurist Conference was NOT actually taking place in Decentraland, other than the livestream at the Crypto Valley Convention Center. Artur tells me that a livestream of the conference is also happening in Somnium Space (which, of course, would be easy enough to do, since it’s a public YouTube livestream; all you would need is a proper video display panel). I couldn’t find any mention of it in their events calendar, though. And, once again, I ask myself: why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology when all you have to do is open YouTube on your desktop or mobile device? Where’s the added value to this?

UPDATE: Nov. 12th, 2020: Well, I did get some feedback on this blogpost from the community on the official DCL Discord server, and a possible explanation as to why I found the Conference Center so empty.

Matty of DCLBlogger told me:

You got kicked to a different realm that had 3 people because the main one was full with 100. I was approached by Tracy from Futurist and we’ve been organizing it to be in DCL, it’s not exclusive but it definitely was not piggy backing. Right now, yes, mostly the appeal is the crypto crowed but as this space moves out I’m sure there will be better onboarding to the non crypto crowed. Getting there.

So, yes, Decentraland supports instancing to handle larger crowds of avatars, and yes, Decentraland worked with the Futurist Conference.

So I am going to apologize: first, to the staff and users of Decentraland for being so negative, and second to Artur Sychov (for quoting/paraphrasing what he told me on this blog without his prior consent, as I had previously promised him).

I fucked up and wrote a blogpost when I was feeling cranky yesterday, I admit it, and I’m sorry.

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