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Blockwashing, business, and blockchain

Blockwashing is still a big issue within the blockchain space, usually coming from those in big business

On Friday, I was lucky enough to visit the MJAC 2018 conference in London. Being someone who is rather new to such events, there was a certain amount of anticipation bubbling inside me. The conference was interesting enough, yet what struck me was the variety of projects, good and bad. This problem highlights a wider issue within the space currently, known as blockwashing. Whilst we have respectable projects that have built a community from the bottom up, we also now have businesses that were never intended for the blockchain industry suddenly adapting to include blockchain.

The hype surrounded blockchain technology is excessive. Whilst there may be some use cases that could improve society as a whole, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to stick a blockchain on every single product. What shocked me speaking to some attendees of this conference is the process of doing just that. Initially, I spoke to the companies and asked them what their business is. What followed was the typical long spiel where generally the business idea sounded pretty reasonable. However, I’d then ask, “OK, why are you here then at a blockchain conference?”. Suddenly, they needed to put their idea on the blockchain and run an ICO. To be honest, I had to bite my tongue many times on Friday.

I should make it clear that this was not the case for many people at the conference. Some ideas were extremely interesting and were productive for the industry as a whole. There was a clear pattern that soon emerged, though. If I spoke to a bunch of people in suits, they were attaching a blockchain to a product unnecessarily. If I spoke to a team of casually dressed people, they were from an IT background and understood that there are specific use cases for such technology. Whilst this is a generalisation, I will continue to test this hypothesis at future conferences.

This is not a new issue. Since 2016 through 2017, there have been many people within the financial world who have dollar signs in their eyes when they read the word “blockchain”. Therefore, they pursue any idea to transform it into a blockchain idea in the hopes of cashing in. In one of the presentations that day, this idea was termed “blockwashing”. The idea is simple: create a product, stick “blockchain” somewhere in the title unnecessarily, run an ICO, and then cash in. Job done. I mentioned on my Twitter that 2017 was peak “blockwashing” with the amount of ICO scams.

What has been happening is businesses are jumping onto the blockchain train—next stop, financial independence. Unfortunately, such poor ideas being adapted for the blockchain makes the whole space look amateur in the wider world. These unnecessary blockchain products also make it much more difficult to find the true gems. Until such blockwashing from businesses comes to a shuddering halt, respect for the blockchain community will continue to be lacking.

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