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Some NFT influencers want you to ignore the hype

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They want to teach the tech, not the riches

Illustration by Mengxin Li / The Verge

When he started a YouTube channel in 2019, Jesse Hall decided not to tell his wife and kids until he’d gained a small following. Within a few weeks, he had a few hundred people subscribing to his coding tutorials — a success, in his mind. But it wasn’t until he started exploring NFTs that his audience exploded, quickly growing from thousands of subscribers to hundreds of thousands.

“I’m by nature very much an introvert, and this has really brought me more out of my shell than I ever have been,” Hall said. “And I’ve learned that I really like to teach.”

The crypto space tends to be dominated by enthusiastic boosters promising huge returns to anyone savvy enough to buy in — even as headlines fill with stories of crash after crash. But look beyond the hype, and you can also find a contingent of creators providing something rare: practical knowledge and reasonable expectations for newcomers to the space.

“I honestly think we are in a bubble,” Aprilynne Alter, another NFT YouTuber and influencer said. “And I hope it bursts soon so that we can stop paying attention to the ‘finance bros’ who just want to make money.”

Hall and Alter work hard to not be one of those NFT creators. In fact, they worry that the people hyping up the profits make it harder for NFTs to actually be taken seriously as a new technology for trade and commerce. Alter believes these videos are part of the reason that ordinary people see NFTs and cryptocurrency as a fad.

Instead, Hall and Alter focus on explaining how their viewers can create, build and grow their own NFT collections. They hope to show that the technology behind NFTs can be transformative — as long as the people creating NFT content are willing to forgo the flashy “get rich quick” marketing and settle for content that actually teaches people about how the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and ledgers really work.

“I’m always asking myself, what can we do to help NFTs get to the point where when somebody says NFT, they think, ‘My serious documents can be an NFT,’” Hall said. “And they’ll be safer as NFTs.”

Hall and Alter make NFT tutorials for general audiences — people with little knowledge about coding who want to mint their own collections. They also make videos on how to create communities around NFT collections and sell NFTs. In Hall’s case, his knowledge comes from trying to figure this all out for himself.

“I actually created an NFT collection before I ever even bought one,” Hall said. “It’s kind of like I did everything backwards. I just kind of jumped headfirst into this whole thing.”

This approach, Hall argues, makes it clear that he is not claiming to be an expert on anything. Hall, just like everyone else, is trying to learn as much as he can about NFTs and will make mistakes along the way.

Alter has even less coding experience than Hall and takes a similar approach to her videos. She’s realized this is one of the reasons people keep coming back to her content.

“I saw a lot of comments that said I was the first person who explained NFTs without any jargon,” Alter said. “They liked the fact that I wasn’t a coder or an engineer.”

It was videos like these that made it possible for Max Houser, a software engineer from Seattle, to make his first-ever NFT collection in 2021. Houser saw that kids as young as 13 were making and selling NFTs, and decided to try and figure it out for himself. After sifting through a few tutorials, he finally found a video that explained every single step of the NFT-making process and was able to make multiple NFT collections, including ones to support pediatric oncology research. He’s also a blockchain engineer now, thanks to the online tutorials he watched.

“It was an invaluable on-ramp,” Houser said. “If I hadn’t gone down that route, I don’t know if I would be doing this professionally.”

Hall and Alter say there are other complications they have to be aware of when making NFT videos. NFT transactions can be expensive, so Hall uses the Polygon blockchain in his tutorials — which has typically been cheaper to use than Ethereum — so that viewers don’t have to spend a fortune to follow along. And Alter says it’s tricky to accept sponsorships from crypto companies, without falling into those same traps around NFT hype that she warns again.

“I’ll have the sponsor be featured as an example as to what a good NFT collection might look like,” Alter said. “But I won’t tell people to go buy it.”

All the disclaimers and warnings on creators’ videos can’t prevent these tutorials from becoming irrelevant or just plain wrong. Blockchain tech and the services around them are rapidly evolving, so Hall often has to update disclaimers below his videos to let people know that his instructions are out of date.

“The first video that I put out there, the one that went viral, became irrelevant the day after I put it out,” Hall said.

The first video now has an updated description and pinned comment letting viewers know that the steps may be different for them. But these changes are just like software updates, according to Hall; they mean that cryptocurrency and NFT space is improving.

“We know that there’s so much about the technology that is in its infancy, and there’s going to be growing pains,” Hall said. “But we have to ask where we need to go instead of complaining about where we’re at now.”

Correction June 7th, 3PM ET: an earlier version of this story misspelled the last names of Aprilynne Alter and Max Houser.