HEN — short for ‘Hic Et Nunc’, Latin for ‘Here and Now’, the Tezos-based platform once known as the ‘Yeezy of NFTs’ — shut down on 11/11. This preceded a precipitous loss in value of the token, as well as crypto at large, which, given its fractional share of the market and cultural consciousness, is a ringing endorsement of correlation over causation if I ever saw it. Nevertheless, it left a mark with the discussions surrounding crypto burnout it sparked.
HEN garnered attention through word of mouth as an artist-first platform with a unique, gritty aesthetic and affordable gas fees, a perfect portal into the space for creators working with limited capital and collectors looking for quantity and quality. It was also the preferred platform for crypto writers. In addition to profile pictures and art pieces, there was a surplus of poems, collaborative composition projects, and even novels in the HEN feed. From the cheap, cool artwork to the endearingly buggy interface, it seemed to be the raw, authentic creator economy we’d been promised.
But HEN’s own creator, Rafael Lima, didn’t find it as endearing. Plagued by classic alpha site development issues and victim to a massive hack back in June, the founder got his fair share of criticism from the community he’d built, too. The only reasons given for the shutdown were Twitter speculation: ‘In an irresponsible act of rage [Lima] decided to leave and turn the off-switch on everything he has access to.”
I bring it up because NFTS WTF is in the process of publishing an excellent series on the history of the platform. It’s the sort of deep dive into a fringe Internet community I find so illuminating as to the lift offs and pitfalls of human progress. But it also helps bring into focus my own conflicted feelings on the crypto space.
Big picture, it’s easy to be optimistic about something supposedly paradigm shifting like blockchain technology. Smart people are saying it can change the world, and, with a little research, it’s obvious why. (Read to the bottom of this email if it isn’t yet.) It’s intoxicating to know there’s something out there with the potential to fix all our problems, and to believe it will.
But look at it closely, day in and out, as we’ve done with this newsletter (and Lima did with HEN) and you remember that, even with the technology to make meaningful change, you must trust humans to do so. But humans gonna human, or rather, chase arbitrary hierarchical shifts, dopamine hits, and micro incentives over collective progress, while whatever progress trickles in does so in painfully small increments.
I’m only projecting that this is why Lima stepped down and tried to put HEN in the ground. But it sure is why my enthusiasm flags now and again. We could well be staring up at a cloud-nine-covered peak, the decentralized utopia constantly espoused by your college-friend-turned-degen you forgot to unfollow. But for the time being, we’re knee deep in cow shit at the foot of the mountain, surrounded by those who think it’s a race to the summit. It’s sure to be a long trek with unpleasant views: VC money spent reinventing the wheel, new ways to rebrand the status quo, promising young communities burning out like the gifted child I once was.
Still, at the top, the view may well be stunning. Just look at HEN. Shortly after the shutdown, the project tweeted out its own smart contract, allowing a DAO to take the founder’s place in keeping the website operational. Tezos’ price remains in the dip, and HEN’s engagement is far from what it once was, but the interface remains, and, more importantly, the art. Nice to know some things really are immutable.