It is wintertime here in Winnipeg, and in addition to the coronavirus pandemic (now in its 21st month), a strike by my union (now in its fourth week), and a stretch of some bitterly cold November winter weather, I have been fighting a nasty cold. (I know it is a cold and not COVID-19 because of my runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and sinus congestion, plus I cannot stop sneezing.)
All in all, I am in a miserable, foul and cranky mood today. So I figure it’s the perfect time for me to write one of my patented snarky editorials. My target this fine and frosty day is the metaverse.
Not all of the metaverse, mind you. I have little to no problem with the actual metaverse platforms that are already out there and operating (and more power to you; you know who you are!). And I have no issue with the bulk of these social VR platforms and virtual worlds which have thus far resisted the siren call of the blockchain*. Yes, I am even willing to forgive Cathy Hackl for having the sheer audacity to rebrand herself the Godmother of the Metaverse on Twitter:
Godmother of the metaverse? Philip Rosedale and Adam Frisby would like a word 😉 but I must admit that this is a bold, nervy, and frankly savvy move. Go get that consulting coin, Cathy!
But what I do have a serious problem with, and what I want to focus on today, is the hothouse atmosphere created by the collision of the existing crypto/NFT/blockchain hype with the newer-but-no-less-hyperbolic metaverse hype triggered by Facebook’s recent rebranding.
I have been writing this blog for four and half years now, and I have seen a lot of sketchy stuff during that time, but I have never witnessed as much absolute, unadulterated, utter bullshit out there as I am seeing and hearing right now. The number of schemes, scams, and outright cons out there, seeking to profit off of gullible investors who have not done their due diligence, is frightening. The grifters are out in full force!
I am a member of various Discord servers relating to blockchain-based virtual world projects, such as Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space (all of which, I hasten to add, I have little to no issue with, since they are all actual, working products which you can visit today). Because of that, I am inundated with DMs from people wanting to sell me on the latest and greatest get-rich-quick NFT scheme. Here are examples of two messages which I deleted (and reported as spam) just this morning:
Last night, I went and visited a couple of metaverse communities on Reddit (namely, r/metaverse and r/Metaverse_Blockchain), and I was staggered by all the johnny-come-latelies who are piling on, shilling for this or that pet project. Almost all of them involved cryptocurrency, NFTs, or the blockchain in some way or another. Here’s a couple of sample videos to give you a flavour of the overall feeding frenzy:
You get all that jargon? There will be a quiz later… 😉 Here’s another example:
My eyes rolled so far back in my head that I could see myself think! What’s worse to me, though, is the number of cryptonewbies who are asking questions and seeking advice on where to invest in these Reddit communities. Lambs to the slaughter!
These past few days, I have also spent many hours hanging out in several metaverse-related discussion rooms on the social audio app Clubhouse (or, to put it another way, rooms with “metaverse” in their title), where various people were actively shilling for any number of sketchy, dubious, and frankly harebrained schemes, seeking to part the unwary and the ignorant from their hard-earned money. No, I am not naming the names of any guilty parties in this particular blogpost, but I listen, I worry at the amount of misinformation and disinformation circulating out there, and I shake my head.**
I fear that we are going to see a LOT of people lose a LOT of money on these projects. Just because a project name-drops terms like “blockchain” and “crypto” and “NFTs” and now the latest buzzword in the mix, “metaverse”; and/or the project has an active Discord or Telegram or Clubhouse rooms full of true believers and yes-men; and/or the project has a slick-looking website all ready to accept your crypto wallet credentials—NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE ANY SUBSTITUTE FOR YOU TO CAREFULLY DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH, AND YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE, BEFORE YOU INVEST A PENNY.
And if you can’t do your own homework because you don’t know enough, then take the time to learn what you are doing before you spend any money on any scheme—no matter how wonderful it sounds. Ask someone you trust for their opinion. And then ask again, and again, and again, until you feel you know enough to make an informed decision. If you have any doubts, pull out! Steer clear of anyone who is using the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) to try and sell a project, or who appeals to your greed with rash promises of lofty returns on your investment.
For example, there are now about 600 people on the RyanSchultz.com Discord, with actual experience in dozens of social VR platforms and virtual worlds, who are my personal team of metaverse bullshit detectors! We learn from each other, we help each other, and we rely on each other to spot and avoid precarious schemes and outright scams.
I shouldn’t have to say any of this, people, but as I said earlier, I have NEVER seen so much bullshit out there as I do right now about the metaverse. So forewarned is forearmed.
*I will make an exception ONLY for those crypto/blockchain projects which already have an actual social VR/virtual world platform which you can currently visit, namely: NeosVR, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space.
**Note: I am not talking about the MetaWhat? The Metaverse Show rooms on Clubhouse, which I am often a part of, enjoy participating in, and which are not devoted to selling you on any particular projects.