Humble musings on the dark scary world that is the blockchain.
Ironic that my first blog entry as the Head of Communications of an Italian software house would start with those two words. For the uninitiated, “hello world” in the nerdy world of coders is used as a sanity test in programming to check if a computer language is correctly installed, and is sometimes used to belittle developers who seem too female and pretty to deserve professional respect.
But back to my “big entry”. I’ve been putting this off long enough, mostly because the blockchain space isn’t the most welcoming if you don’t have the tech merits that come with 10 years of computer science under your belt, or if you’re a woman (there are actually many unwelcoming spaces for women, but that’s for another post). I first came to hear of ‘the blockchain’ a couple of years ago, when I was at a digital marketing agency working in social media.
One of my then latest clients turned out to be an ICO, which was then pithily described to me to be the crypto version of an IPO (it was about 2 meetings later that I was also warned to never put those two acronyms in the same sentence, but look who’s laughing now). Having had mere weeks to get the campaign ready, I had to throw myself into the world of $crypto (thank you, Twitterverse, for non-hash hashtags), bitcoin, Byzantine Generals, consensus mechanisms and distributed ledger. Put shortly, pain I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy (ok, maybe just that guy who stepped on my pinky toe in the metro this morning).
For someone who had just resigned to her fate of “I thought I’d write novels but here I am, a marcomms professional writing/ transcreating copy for clients all day” — this was a hurdle I was less than happy to jump over. Selling things is hard. It requires a lot of thought, a lot of earnest empathy and even more research. The last thing I needed on my plate was to wrap my head around blockchain, the apparent fad that just would not die (why?!).
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m now managing the marketing, communications and branding for Mangrovia Blockchain Solutions and its market division offshoots (Prosume, Brandzledger and TimeRepublik, to name a few). It’s been hectic, frenzied even. I guess apart from not knowing where and how to start, the reason why I’m only writing this first post now is also because I haven’t had the time to take a moment to collect my thoughts: thoughts I’ve had from sitting through or participating in speaker panels, blockchain fairs, meetings that have ranged from productive to… well, slightly less productive. But I won’t be vomiting them out today, mostly because they are too numerous to list comprehensibly. Every other day I find out I don’t know enough about something else. There are copious amounts of studying to do, not to mention lots of grappling — and I’m not just talking about concepts. I’m also thinking of all the people who dump techno-speak on you when you’re asking innocent questions about things they don’t know well enough themselves (what’s the record number of acronyms thrown at you in a single sentence? I count 6), so that you bugger off to that ignorant (albeit self-aware) hole you came from — “technobabble”, as Star Trek and my friend Colin LeMahieu have so acutely named.
My point is — you don’t need to heap acronyms on anyone if you’re unsure of how to answer a question. In fact, you don’t even need to always to know the answer. It might sound intimidating to constantly discover new things you don’t know (fine, maybe sometimes it really is), but in truth, it is quite exciting. My non-sudden revelation of this whatness has taken its time to come, much like in this article, but that’s beside the point. The crux of the matter, when it comes to blockchain and technology and anything scarily incomprehensible that non-techies like myself need to remember, is this: be comfortable learning. Definitely don’t remain in your ignorance, but don’t beat yourself up for it either.
As Marcel Proust aptly puts it, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” It is in the marvel that comes with learning that one is reminded of his essence as a human being, and it is human that we must remain, in order to harness what technology can do for us. Did anyone need to understand how the Internet worked back in 1995 in order to use it? And yet, use it we did. Blockchain’s benefits (which you’ll find in plenty more articles we’ll be bringing to you via our publication, by the way) are myriad and numerous, but it would be a mistake to try to understand it or what it can do within the 10 minutes it takes to read a blockchain-explainer article on Medium. A technology’s potential is not in its definition, but in its use, and how we decide to apply what we know about it.
So read up, young Padawan.
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I work for tech firm Mangrovia, a systems integrator and software house providing consulting, development and support services for blockchain-based solutions. Originally from Singapore, based in Milan for the past 7+ years now. I speak 6 languages (7 if you count “tech talk for non-techies”).