Dirt: Kafka on the OpenSea

Cryptocurrency markets have a long way to go when it comes to UX

Dirt is a daily email about entertainment.

Lee Sachs on when spending money becomes complicated.

We complain about money, but I have to admit it’s extremely convenient. I grab a carton of milk at the store, touch my Apple Watch and walk out. That beats bartering services I could provide: cleaning up aisle 7, restocking the milk in the dairy department or fixing the user experience of the store’s website (my most valuable skill). Granted, self-checkout is a barter of sorts. 

Along comes another form of money which is totally inconvenient, fluctuates wildly in value and is incomprehensible to most people. In another era, a 9-page paper describing a new currency might not get much attention. But in this era, the same paper involving complex math and a lot of computing power, becomes the basis for an entire economy. 

The paper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was written by an anonymous person or group using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Imagine if “Adam Smith” may or may not have existed and “The Wealth Of Nations” was allegedly written by a person or bunch of people. The fact that we don’t even have a handle on who actually conceived of Bitcoin adds to the mystique of cryptocurrency. (Will the real Satoshi Nakamoto please stand up?)

I wasn’t looking for Satoshi or seeking inconvenient financial transactions but I did want to find out about crypto. I’m learning the hard way. I didn’t lose my 12 word passphrase or get hacked. The hard way with cryptocurrency is simply trying to buy something with the damned stuff.

I know how things are supposed to work online because I’ve racked up over 20 years as a hired gun doing UX (user experience) for companies like Verizon, Pfizer, Bank of America and many others. In a heartbeat, I can zero in on UX fault lines just doing a simple ecommerce transaction. So when I can’t complete the transaction, that’s a UX rathole. 

When it came to buying my first NFT (from Dirt) the problem wasn’t the design of the cryptocurrency markets (the largest of which is OpenSea) or the wallets themselves, it was all of the things that can go wrong in the course of a transaction. In terms of unfamiliar territory and all-too-familiar bureaucracy, I found myself situated somewhere between a paperback Western and a Kafka novel:

  • Coinbase says the bank has my money

  • Bank says Coinbase has my money

  • Robinhood says I can’t move my money

  • Something called gas???

In the end, getting my ‘fiat currency’ (that’s regular money) from TD Bank to Coinbase (a cryptocurrency exchange) was as simple as 2-factor authentication, account & routing number. Submit … voila! Funds in Coinbase.   

It’s one thing to spend a lot of time shopping. It’s another to spend a lot of time trying to buy something and getting a lot of error messages. This gave me plenty of time to wonder what the fucking fuck am I am even buying and why is this so fucked up?

In other words, why go through it at all? Because I had recently done something equally absurd and made 1000% on my investment. 

MSCHF is a wicked band of miscreants that mess around with branding and intellectual property. They’ve done things like the Lil Nas X Nike Satan Shoe released with Nas’s Montero album. I’ve followed them since shortly after their infamous “Jesus Shoe” dropped. I’m no sneakerhead and never bought their streetwear concepts. But I know their merch sells out fast and furious. 

One of the drops I sprung at was called “Blur.” It looked like a stack of money or an image of a stack of money. This was before the NFT craze but I still figured, “Ah, $20? Let’s see what I get.” 

Blur arrived a month later. I had forgotten about it and didn’t know what could be in the package.. Turns out, it appears to be made of hard rubber like a hockey puck. Comes in a lovely box not unlike the thin white cardboard an iPhone comes in. It’s cool. It’s weird. A nice thing on a shelf or whatever. 

But a digital photo is where Blur really shines (or blurs). Look at this thing! 

Recently, MSCHF issued a new edition of Blur in Yuan. And my original $$ stack Blur? It’s on sale on StockX for $250. What a wise investment for an idiot! 

In fact, I have to admit, despite the convenience of money, I don’t know how the hell that works either and, in my opinion, no one does. People who spend their lifetime dealing with money don’t have much more of a complete comprehension of how it all works any more than Satoshi Yakamoto … who may or may not exist. 

And that Dirty S1 Holo NFT? I was able to buy it through PayPal, real old school. PayPal took the money tied to my TD Bank checking account and I sent it this-a-way. I hope you still have a little extra cheddar to support this by linking to it or sharing because right now, that’s the only currency I have. — By Lee Sachs

The Dirt: Buying’s a blur.