Trust in a trustless system

How to tell who’s worth following when navigating web3

Is that latest pfp project legit, or just a cash grab?

That roadmap looks killer, but you don’t want to get rugged.

One of the biggest problems faced by newcomers to the web3/NFT space is knowing who to trust. Everyone wants to find the next BAYC while it’s still underground, but most people don’t actually know how to go about doing so.

So, how do you stay safe while looking for the latest alpha?

Today, I’m sharing my playbook.

Why listen to what I have to say?

Before this, I flipped yeezys, pokemon, and mtg cards going back to 2016.

I’ve been hunting malware professionally since before this site existed.

Credentials are judged differently in this space. If you want to see my previous work, my content archive can be found here.

That being said, you should never take my advice or anyone else’s advice as financial advice. I’m just some rando from the internet. Do your own research, weigh your own risk, and make your own decisions. I’m not responsible for your actions, and I’m fully aware there’s a risk I’ll get completely rekt one of these days. I’m simply here to describe my own way of doing research in this space.

Ok, enough with the preliminaries, let’s get to the method itself.

The Five Ws

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that the things I look for follow the Five Ws:

  • Who to listen to
  • What to look for
  • Where to look
  • Wen 🌝
  • Why? (assessing a project or a person)

Let’s break these down one-by-one.

Who to listen to

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which accounts to follow and which voices to listen to in Twitter Spaces (and elsewhere). The first thing to do is a quick risk assessment on the account.

In this space you’ll see people operating under their real name, under a pseudonym (like @SnoopDogg’s NFT alter-ego @CozomoMedici), or completely anonymously. Some accounts have tons of followers, some have barely any. How do you know who to trust?

It’s ok to trust follower count as a metric of trust to an extent but keep in mind the number might be artificially inflated. If accounts I trust are following an account, I’m much more likely to follow it as well.

PFP and bio aren’t actual indicators of trustworthiness here, anybody can set them to anything. This was the case with some @CozomoMedici and @punk6529 impersonators earlier this week.

Accounts impersonating popular people in the NFT space, note the look-a-like usernames and low follower counts

In both cases, the imposters took accounts with similar sounding usernames, set their pfp, header, and bio to match the real Cozomo and 6529 accounts, and started sliding into people’s DMs. They appeared to be doing so in response to people replying to (or favoriting) tweets from the real accounts.

Just because someone has an ape or a punk for their pfp doesn’t mean they actually possess the corresponding NFT. Until Twitter implements a pfp verification system, treat all pfps as fake unless you can verify that the Twitter account is actually run by the NFT holder.

Don’t trust influencers DMing you out of the blue.

Be aware that accounts can and do get hacked from time to time. If someone you’ve followed for awhile starts acting out of character promoting random projects, think twice before aping in.

What to look for

When assessing whether or not an account is worth following, scroll back in their timeline a bit and check their recent posts. You’ll be able to do a quick vibe check and get a feel for their posting style.

Overall, consistency is key here.

Are they engaging with their audience, or treating them like bagholders?

Too many influencers treat their followers as exit liquidity, and have absolutely no problem with undisclosed paid promotions. This problem could be partially mitigated through blockchain analysis, but for now simply be aware that it can and does happen.

It’s normal to see people promoting their own projects or ones they like, so what I look for are people who are genuinely excited about what they’re building. That passion is an early indicator that someone is committed to their project, and less likely to abandon it.

Red flags for me are ETH giveaways and “like, retweet, tag 3 friends.” While legitimate giveaways do exist in this space, they’re more often used for engagement farming. Next time you see someone doing an ETH giveaway, check and see if they actually follow through or not.

Where to look

Where you’re looking matters a great deal when it comes to the world of NFTs. In fact, it just might be the most important thing to be paying attention to. If you’re not looking in the right places, you’re gonna be getting secondhand knowledge at best.

If you’re looking for alpha, you need a real-time feed of this space, and that usually means Twitter (and Discord).

Clubhouse will always be the OG of social voice chat, but Twitter Spaces is where it’s at these days.

The real-time aspect is what’s important here.

Anything beyond that starts seeing a decay in alpha simply due to the asynchronous nature of platforms like YouTube. It takes more time to produce a video than it does to communicate by text, so by the time your favorite influencooor drops a video with their hot NFT picks, someone else has already swept the floor and moved on to the next project.

If you’re only getting your intel from secondhand sources, you’re already late to the game.

Twitter is my primary tool for keeping track of what’s going on in this space, and I’ll break down my exact setup in the bonus section at the end of this post.

I have a complicated relationship with Discord. I want it to work about a thousand times better than it does. That being said, it can be useful when used correctly.

I mainly use it to keep a closer eye on community-oriented projects, which often are more fully realized on Discord than anywhere else.

On Discord, it’s possible to carve out a purpose-built space with minimal overhead. Unfortunately, this cuts both ways. The influx of bots and bad actors, coupled with Discord’s apparent disinterest in solving the problems they bring, has made the platform frustrating to use. The signal-to-noise ratio can vary greatly from server to server.

Wen Moon

Another thing to be aware of is when various projects are actually set to launch.

Some projects move faster than others. In some cases, you need to be paying very close attention, so you’re there right when it kicks off. Be sure to enable Discord and Twitter notifications so you don’t miss important messages.

For slower-moving projects, circle back to them on a regular basis to check their Discord announcement channel for progress. Discord is the place to hang out if you want to qualify for early access/premint for some projects, thanks to plugins like collab.land, although you’ll see some “drop your ENS” threads on Twitter as well.

Roadmaps are bullshit, and things rarely go according to plan the first time you launch a new project anyway. They make more sense in established projects that have shown previous commitment to followthrough. Look for transparency when it comes to delays in timelines, but watch out for getting strung along with empty promises.

Why

In the end, you’ll have to trust your intuition when it comes time to decide whether a given person or project is worth following.

In the case of CozomoMedici/Snoop, I was plenty wary at first, and kept track of subtle nods back and forth between the two accounts before I let my guard down.

When it comes to other people and projects, some things can help make this decision easier:

  • Has the creator launched a successful project in the past? This is a major indicator of trust.
  • Is the creator doing something new that takes the technology of the space further? (Dom and Loot Project come to mind here)
  • Has this person given relatively accurate information previously? Remember to re-assess this metric on a regular basis for accounts you follow.

How (to supercharge your research)

Bonus section! Advanced research techniques:

  • Switch your Twitter timeline to chronological order (latest Tweets first)
  • Curate your timeline/notifications. Don’t be afraid to mute or block excess noise
  • Explore the testnet addresses of your favorite creators to see what they’re up to
  • Watch your favorite creator’s wallets, see what they’re aping into*

*note that mindless copy trading is the ultimate degen move and an easy way to get rekt

If you’ve found this guide helpful, consider giving me a follow on Twitter.

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