UPDATED! Cryptoland and the Streisand Effect: the Craziness Continues

The Streisand effect is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American singer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project’s photograph of her residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew greater attention to it in 2003.

—Wikipedia article. Streisand effect

Since my original blogpost about one of the bat-shit craziest NFT projects which I have seen to date (and trust me, in the current environment, that’s saying a LOT!), there have been so many new developments in the past 24 hours, that I decided it was time to start a new blogpost, rather than keep updating the original one!

First, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the cartoon portion of the original promotional video for Cryptoland (the complete video was taken down from YouTube, but you can find it via PeerTube, where it has racked up an impressive 12,000 views in just 2 days). Honestly, even if you aren’t up to speed with all the crypto lingo, this is one of the most cringeworthy things I have ever witnessed:

Among other things I mentioned in my first blogpost, the creator of the seagull used in this cartoon has publicly stated that the creators of this cartoon did NOT have her permission to use this asset to promote this NFT project. The team behind Cryptoland then promptly blocked her on Twitter, as they have many other people who have commented on and criticized this project:

Molly White first alerted me to the existence of this video via this epic, hilariously snarky Twitter thread, which you really should settle down with a cup of coffee and read through, to bring you up-to-speed as to what’s been going on over the past four days.

So, what’s been going on lately? Glad you asked 😉

Yesterday, the people behind Cryptoland send the following threatening message to Molly, which she was only too happy to share via Twitter:

Needless to say, this announcement provoked an outpouring of hilariously sarcastic comments (you can read through them here).

One commenter stated, “How about your attempt to scare someone for exposing your bullshit? Impersonating a lawyer is a felony. Keep digging that hole, guys.”, which prompted the so-called “Cryptoland Legal Team” to respond with this gem:

A lawyer using the phrase “Perfectly legit tool”? And “Cease and decease”?!?? Well, you can imagine how this went over. Eventually, heavy hitters like Keith Olberman (with almost a million Twitter followers) retweeted both the original threat and the Cryptoland team’s response far and wide. If Cryptoland had expected their efforts to extinguish the firestorm, their bully tactics backfired rather spectacularly!

Witness the Streisand effect at work: dozens and dozens of people, who had never heard of Cryptoland before, started looking for and watching the original video that prompted this back-and-forth on Twitter! A video which the Cryptoland team is now apparently trying really hard to erase from the internet, without success.

And there is now a small cottage industry of YouTube reaction videos to the original Cryptoland promotional video. I shared three as updates to my first blogpost, but here’s a fourth one I watched last night (I roared with laughter at points!):

But wait, there’s more! In a now-deleted tweet (still viewable via the Wayback Machine), they responded to a question about the age of consent on Cryptoland (a perfectly reasonable question, given that a cartoon was created to promote the project) as follows…

…which (of course!) just poured gasoline to the fire. The YouTuber in the video I linked above talked about this tweet, referring to the Cryptoland island as “Epstein Island”, and even non-crypto folks started to weigh in:

Cryptoland’s responses to this storm of controversy? Well, they’ve been busy trying to spin their self-inflicted wounds into some sort of organized, diabolical conspiracy to discredit this truly hare-brained scheme, as Molly has only been too happy to report on:

So, at this point, me and literally thousands of other people are like:

Stay tuned!

P.S. It turns out that Cryptoland is not the only NFT project involving a real-world island! VICE reported in an article about both projects:

As The Next Web pointed out in its dive into the island and Wikipedia editor Molly White in a Twitter thread sharing her research into the project, there are a few problems that stick out even beyond Cryptoland’s wild marketing video. Take the fact that the island mentioned in its “Why Paper”—an island in Fiji named Nananu-i-cake— is still for sale on at least two websites, despite the project’s website claiming that it has secured an “island purchase agreement.”…Cryptoland did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

Cryptoland isn’t alone. Satoshi Island is another crypto utopia supposedly in the works, featuring a 32 million square foot island (approx 1.1 square miles) in Vanuatu—an archipelago of islands between Australia and Fiji. It’s slightly larger than Cryptoland, but has substantially less information available on it.

Its website states that the island is owned by Satoshi Island Limited, but there’s no information on who runs the company or how beyond a Team section listing some individuals involved. It also claims to have “a green light from the Vanuatu Ministry Of Finance and all approvals in place.” Motherboard reached out to various Vanuatu offices to confirm this, but has not heard back.

Hear that? There’s TWO projects out there! This just keeps gets better and better, people!

Buckle up; it’s gonna be a wild ride to follow these projects!

UPDATE Jan. 10th, 2022: VICE has just published a follow-up story on the Cryptoland debacle, covering many of the same points I covered here, plus a few new developments I hadn’t yet heard about:

Even Carlos Matos, the face of the infamous Bitconnect scam that Cryptoland features a memorial and casino in honor of, threatened legal action against Cryptoland for using his likeness in a tweet. “This is the first time I see this and whoever is using my name, brand,  or image here is using it without my approval and authorization,” Matos tweeted on January 5. “I will definitely look more into this and bring this dudes into justice. They may want to get in contact with me before they hear from me.”

In case you have no idea who Carlos Matos is, you need to watch this truly iconic video of him shilling BitConnect, a cryptocurrency which turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme (Wikipedia article) :

You know your project is in serious trouble, when someone who is literally the face for blockchain scams threatens legal action for using your name and likeness!

The VICE article concludes as follows:

In response to all of this and other criticism, the project’s Discord has been in the midst of an ongoing purge. Criticism is labeled as spreading “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt) or “bullshit,” and a new update posted to the Discord warns that members should not “engage in negative conversations with any of the trolls who enter the discord.” Instead, if you “suspect that someone is spreading fud or negativity, please report it to any member of the team and we will handle it from there.” Links to the Wayback Machine, where Cryptoland’s age of consent tweet is archived, are blocked in the Discord, Motherboard confirmed.

All in all, things are going poorly at Cryptoland it seems. It hopes to be the future beating heart of the cryptoeconomy, but is currently beset by a myriad of questions about how it’ll work, where the funding will come from, and whether its handling of the wave of criticism makes it a viable and responsible project.

I leave you with yet another wonderfully snarky YouTube video by KiraTV, who makes it his business to rip crazy NFT projects to shreds, and is absolutely scathing in his latest update on the Cryptoland project:

UPDATE Jan. 12th, 2022: Callum Upton has dropped a new commentary video about Cryptoland, and the tea is piping hot, so enjoy:

InWith: the Metaverse in a Contact Lens?

A prototype of the InWith contact lens (source: Forbes)

The 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES for short) starts in Las Vegas a couple of days, although many would-be attendees are changing their plans at the last minute, thanks to the highly-infectious Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus! (You wouldn’t get me on an airplane nowadays if you held a gun to my head.)

Among the companies who plan to present products at CES 2022 is the Irvine, Calfornia-based engineering firm InWith, with a first-of-its-kind contact lens. A press release sent out today states:

InWith Corporation is showing at CES 2022, potentially the most advanced platform for viewing the coming Metaverse; an electronic soft contact lens platform designed for the masses to wear comfortably, enabling easy transition from real world to Metaverse, at will. InWith is planning to achieve FDA Breakthrough Clearance this year and to put the futuristic contact lenses on the market shortly thereafter.

The first applications of the technology will be “tunable vision” via mobile device and “augmented vision” coupled with mobile device control. These markets have been called multi-billion dollars by themselves, but the ultimate application may be fully immersive Metaverse viewing, offering users a super lightweight, virtually invisible way to go back and forth from real world viewing to the Metaverse…

InWith is the only company thus far, to publicly display this capability to integrate component circuitry into modern, soft contact lens materials. InWith is working with top Fortune 50 companies presently, to secure and introduce the first viable iterations of this technology in the market with the backing of several hundred patents in 2022.

Despite the repeated namedropping of the Metaverse (with a capital M), it seems pretty clear from this press release that accessing the metaverse via contact lens is still a far ways off into the future. Still, somewhat intrigued, I went to take a gander at their website, sporting a opening page with a definite new-age meditation vibe, where you have to click on the VISIONARIES WELCOME button (get it?) to get to the actual content:

Image course: the InWith website

ULTIMATE XR PLATFORM

Imagine a patented technology that enables computer circuitry to be embedded into name-brand soft contact lenses like those already worn by millions of people. This makes our platform the ultimate discrete wearable XR technology.

(Not sure if they actually meant “discrete”, meaning individually separate and distinct, or if they meant “discreet”, meaning intentionally unobtrusive; I suspect they meant the latter, since the device is similar to a “hidden” hearing aid. It just absolutely drives me up the wall when people confuse these two words with very different meanings!)

A MULTIVERSE PLATFORM

Our patented platform enables a multiverse of applications within a single contact lens, from XR to tunable focus, to Biosensors, these are just a few examples.

They have a partnership with the contact lends maker Bausch & Lomb. Charlie Fink wrote about it for Forbes:

InWith co-founder and CEO Michael Hayes says the unique marriage  marriage of highly biocompatible materials with 3-D flexible microelectronics embedded into molded hydrogel devices, which InWith calls “smart biology,” may be on the market “in the near future.” 

With InWith’s technology, the augmented lens is just like the soft contact lens 150 million people use every day. Except they’re connected to your phone. They harvest energy from the normal blinking of the eyes. Check your blood sugar. Send alerts and notifications. “This opens the door to hundreds of new devices: blood chemistry for cancer and virus detection, drug delivery, artificial organ parts with electronics for movement,” said Hayes in an interview. “This is the next big wave; the merger of the mobile device into the human body for full monitoring of your health. It will lead to less disease and longer lives.” 

Some of the elements of the InWith contact lens (source: Forbes)

There’s really very little additional information on the website, but that might change after any announcements the company makes at the CES trade show. Stay tuned! However, I wouldn’t throw out your virtual reality headset just yet… 😉

To learn more about InWith, visit their website or follow them on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Skittish: A Brief Introduction

Skittish is what you’d get if you crossed Animal Crossing with Clubhouse.

Taylor Hatmaker, TechCrunch

Skittish is a web browser-based virtual world with a whimsical spin: you can choose from one of 45 different animals as your avatar, and you can host conferences, festivals, meetups, parties, workshops, etc. in a playful cartoon world with spatial audio, where you can create virtual worlds with a drag-and-drop editor.

You wanna be a cow? You’re a cow! Just pick a starter avatar and you’re all set to go!

In fact, Skittish’s high-quality spatial audio chat uses an API from High Fidelity, the company run by metaverse pioneer and Second Life founding CEO Philip Rosedale. TechCrunch reports:

Skittish grew out of a $100,000 grant awarded by Grant For The Web, a fund created by Coil, Mozilla and Creative Commons to support projects that incorporate micropayments for online creators. [CEO Andy] Baio began prototyping Skittish last July, imagining it as a pop-up space for events rather than a persistent virtual world.

Skittish spaces initially accommodated up to 120 mixed voices in a single room, but the audio capacity is even higher now. Though he’s still testing what the new limits might be, Skittish is getting closer to Baio’s goal of hosting 1000-person events. Skittish rooms can now be password protected, invite-only or public, and Baio imagines special “cozy” 3-5 person spaces in the project’s future.

Here’s a one-minute video overview (you might need to turn your sound up a bit to hear the narrator):

Skittish reminds me of a similar product I wrote about last year, called Remotely, only in that case, instead of an animal, you were an astronaut! I can see the appeal of this if you, like me, are fighting a serious case of Zoom fatigue (although I’m not quite sure how much uptake there will be among the educational and corporate sectors!).

To learn more about Skittish, visit their website, check out their YouTube channel, or follow them on Instagram or Twitter. And, of course, I will be duly adding Skittish to my sprawling list of social VR, virtual worlds, and metaverse platforms (which I hope to reorganize and recategorize sometime soon!).


Thank you to both Dr. Fran Babcock and Rainwolf for the heads-up!