The premise of Magical Crypto Friends is simple: Four crypto guys host a monthly talk show where they discuss bitcoin and the pros and cons of various blockchain projects.
But then things get… harder to explain. For starters, all four go by animal names—Fluffy Pony, Chikun, Excellion, and WhalePanda. (That’s Riccardo Spagni, lead maintainer of Monero; Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin; Samson Mow, chief strategy officer of Blockstream; and a trader and market commentator who doesn’t use his real name, respectively.)
Then there’s the intro of the show, a My Little Pony-style animation where the four animal heroes adventure through Magical Cryptoland as a catchy theme song plays:
All around me I see big block heads bobble,
The best thing to do is simply to HODL.
The show alternates between high-level technical discussion (for instance: Should we be worried about how quantum computing might someday undermine cryptography?) and friendly razzing session. WhalePanda’s cat (aka Pod-cat) makes the occasional cameo. As with any good internet show, there’s no shortage of inside jokes. So once you’re familiar with its common themes—that bitcoin is the best, that most altcoins are scams, that Spagni can’t get enough of expensive watches (or “fine timepieces,” as he calls them)—things start to make a lot more sense.
BREAKER spoke with the foursome about the origins of the show, the conference they’re planning, and why Crypto Twitter sometimes sucks.
How did you first meet?
WhalePanda: Somewhere around October last year, all four of us just happened to be in the same Twitter thread. We didn’t really know each other that well yet and someone said, “You’re like the four biggest trolls on Crypto Twitter, so why don’t you do a show?” It actually sounded interesting, so we just tried it.
Were you all going by various animal names before the show started?
Riccardo Spagni: I’ve had my name since birth [Laughs].
Samson Mow: My name’s from playing games. It was actually my Lineage II handle.
The show is still relatively new, right? How frequently are you recording it?
Panda: We try to do it monthly. It’s not easy because we’re “decentralized.” I think we’re now on four continents.
Spagni: If only we had a decentralized governance platform, that would help us coordinate our time.
Charlie Lee: Ever since our show, the crypto price has dropped.
Spagni: So that should give you some sign of how influential we are [Laughs].
Mow: Wasn’t there someone who said, “You guys need to get off air; you’re hurting crypto.”
Spagni: Yeah, that’s like every Bcash troll ever.
Why did you decide to call it Magical Crypto Friends?
Spagni: It was a complete joke. It was like, “Guys, let’s call this ‘Magical Crypto’ or whatever.” I think someone renamed the Telegram group to ‘Magical Crypto’. And Samson just barrelled ahead with all these incredible animations that were like straight out of a My Little Pony episode.
Lee: Actually, I think we weren’t even sure we were going to do a podcast yet, until we saw the intro and then we were like, “I mean, I guess we have to do it now.”
Mow: I think the point of choosing the name was just to be goofy and not take ourselves too seriously. We could do something really serious and call ourselves like World Crypto Network. But that’s not who we are.
Lee: It was also inspired by the magical internet money [Reddit meme].
There are a lot of people in the space who take themselves very seriously.
Lee: Yeah, on Twitter, we have really serious people saying that we make crypto look bad. They’re like, “I’m actually losing, like, real money here.”
But you guys talk about serious things too, sometimes.
Panda: We’re trying to educate people, at least a bit, between all the banter.
Mow: The problem is that Riccardo will go off on these soliloquies and it just kind of bores people [Laughs]. I try to bring it back to what people are interested in, like hats and swag.
Spagni: l like to go rambling on all sorts of technical things that no one cares about.
Mow: Yeah, it’s horrible.
Are there plans to do a fully animated episode?
Panda: Yes. Samson is working on that for the past last three or four months. He’s kind of a perfectionist, so he had Charlie redo his audio like five times. The idea is that we’re all speaking for our own characters.
Lee: I still have to do it one more time.
What other projects are you working on?
Mow: Well, we have Magical Crypto Conference. It’s Riccardo’s idea.
"Our conference will have more ponies than Consensus has. I think that’s the defining factor of any successful conference."
Spagni: How is it my idea? When did this become my idea? The Magical Crypto Conference will be a technical conference in New York, the same week as Blockchain Week. I have good friends who work at CoinDesk, and I mean no disrespect to them, but Consensus is utterly awful. There is nothing that I got out of Consensus, except seeing friends. There is not a single panel or a single discussion—well, maybe one or two—that was at all interesting. I want to go to a conference that has technical content that I enjoy.
How will your conference be different?
Spagni: Our conference will have more ponies than Consensus has. I think that’s the defining factor of any successful conference.
Mow: What I want to do is have bouncers all wear furry costumes. They won’t have mouths so they can’t talk, but there will just be these animals saying, “Stop.”
Spagni: But they have to act the part. They have to say that it in whatever animal voice they’re dressed in.
Lee: It’s funny that we’re going to have a more technical conference but then call it Magical Crypto Conference.
Panda: I think you can compare it more with [conferences like] Breaking Bitcoin and Building on Bitcoin or Baltic Honeybadger. Consensus was really horrible. It was one scam ICO after the next. But like Riccardo said, it was fun to meet friends and we recorded an episode there. That was a lot of fun; doing it in front of a live audience is a new experience.
Lee: It was also very awkward when some audience members were singing the intro song. That wasn’t the plan.
Is there a certain type of person you guys are trying to cater to?
Spagni: Yes, my mom watches. I think that’s our audience. I don’t know if there’s anyone else who watches.
Mow: I think we have a mix of people who are interested: beginners, people who are technical, and just people interested in trading and crypto.
Panda: I think more like bitcoin maximalists, and some Litecoin people because they hope Charlie says something that will bump the price, and some Monero people because they hope Riccardo says something that bumps the price.
Mow: I think WhalePanda, you have traders in your circle who come and watch the show too.
Panda: Yeah, but not that much. They watch like one or two episodes and they’re like, “It’s too long.” We need a podcast, not a video.
Spagni: We definitely get some people who have deeply technical questions and then we get the mom-and-pop types who ask questions where I’m like, “We answered this three episodes ago.” So there’s there’s a nice balance.
WhalePanda, I saw your tweet about how people misuse the word “trolling” and you guys have also talked about the word “scam.” Are there any other words you all feel are getting misused?
Lee: FUD [Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt] is misused. Anything that hurts the price of a coin is FUD.
Spagni: We’ve gotten into this weird space where any amount of criticism is met with “Aw, you don’t understand; you don’t know,” and “You’re not in a position to judge.” Meanwhile, anyone who’s been in this industry for four, five, six years is absolutely in a position to judge, because we’ve seen the same things happen over and over. So we should at least have the ability to call it out a little bit.
"As a technical person, you surely have the ability—and even the right—to point out perceived technical flaws in other projects. The fact that it gets turned into, ‘Oh, the only reason you’re doing that is because it’s a competitor,’ is so silly."
Panda: When you say something about a coin they say, “Oh, you missed out; you didn’t invest in time.”
Spagni: Yeah, I’ve been told that the reason I criticize Ethereum is because I’m just jealous of Vitalik. That’s like saying, “Oh, you criticized Linux, you must be jealous of Linus Torvalds.” I mean, as a technical person, you surely have the ability—and even the right—to point out perceived technical flaws in other projects. The fact that it gets turned into, “Oh, the only reason you’re doing that is because it’s a competitor,” is so silly.
Why do you think that’s happening so much?
Lee: It’s crypto. It’s because everybody has so much money.
Spagni: It’s totally a money thing.
Lee: Right, because if you criticize their project, then you could cause the price to go down. So obviously, you’re FUDing their project.
Mow: The other problem is that most projects are really bad.
Lee: On the flip side, if you say anything good about a project, then you’re obviously shilling it because you have a lot of coins yourself and you’re trying to bump the price. It’s why Crypto Twitter is so hostile. You can’t say anything about any project.
Mow: Then you mix that with real FUD about real projects, and nobody has any idea what’s happening.
The joys of Crypto Twitter.
Spagni: Welcome to our world.
Lee: I guess that’s what our podcast is trying to do, right? Trying to explain some stuff, at least from our opinions.
Panda: The right opinions, yeah.
Do you ever get worried that people who are new to this might not get some of your inside jokes?
Spagni: Oh, all the time! I [retweeted] Charles Hoskinson the other day when he did that thing like “Do you know who I am?” to MetaMask. I retweeted it and said, “Do you know who I am?” to point out how crazy his comment was, and I had people replying as if I was [genuinely] asking “Do you know who I am?” I’m like, “How do you not read the retweet? Twitter’s not new. Come on.”
Mow: Yeah, the problem is things move fast and people can’t really keep up. I think the important thing is to not take things too seriously at any level. If there is a message from our show, then that’s probably it. By watching our show, you should understand that [there are] a lot of jokes in this space. Even if you don’t know the specific nuance and background, you should know it’s a joke.
What developments in the space are you most excited about right now?
Panda: Lightning and decentralized exchanges.
Lee: Samson’s going to say “Liquid.”
Spagni: I’m excited about the stuff I’m working on, obviously, and I’m extremely excited about some of the stuff that can be rebuilt on top of Lightning [a payment protocol designed to increase scalability]. And I’m also quite excited about some of the work that’s being done with respect to privacy technologies. Particularly things like MimbleWimble [a blockchain meant to be more scalable and private].
Mow: There’s also a lot of privacy stuff happening for Bitcoin, too.
Are you generally optimistic about the state of crypto?
Mow: I’m optimistic about bitcoin and maybe a few others but I think everything else is very over-inflated. And I think there is a risk that when that bubble comes crashing down, it’ll take the legitimate things with it.
Panda: I’m optimistic about most things, actually. Not like most coins, but cryptocurrency in general. I see a very real bright future, both price-wise and development-wise.
Lee: Yeah, I’m optimistic. SegWit got activated last year, they’re making a lot of progress on Lightning network. I think scaling, it’s not a solved problem, but it’s getting there. And price, I mean, we’ve been in this space for so long, we’ve seen the price go up, price go down. I think long-term it’s going to come back up and it’s going to be higher than it is today.
What about the culture of crypto?
Mow: I don’t think it’s a really great culture, because people are actively scamming other people. There’s a whole group that are pushing Bcash on unsuspecting newbies, using things like the official domains and official-looking Twitter accounts to basically cheat people. It’s going to take a long time to clean that up, because there’s a lot of people with bad intentions who have a lot of money behind them.
Recently some people accused you of attacking AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant on Twitter by using #LookAtMeI’mNaval to make fun of his very sincere tweets.
Spagni: I mean, look, from my perspective, it was quite clearly just satirical. I don’t hate the guy; I don’t have a problem with him; I don’t really care about him at all. I do think that some of his fortune-cookie wisdom is funny and there needs to be a parody of it. Otherwise, what’s the point? He took it way too seriously, I think, in part egged on by people who said to him that everyone was out to get him. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself, then honestly get off Twitter.
Mow: I think that’s the problem. He doesn’t think it’s fortune-cookie wisdom. He thinks it’s profound.
Spagni: I saw John [Carvalho] tweeting a couple of things and I was like, “Oh man, I have been waiting for this,” and let loose with a couple of satirical tweets. That was the start and end of it, and then next minute it was like “Why are you attacking him? You are a cyber bully who wants other people just to suffer with your cyber bullying. You are a mean person.”
Mow: You are mean, though. But it was the same for me. I just saw WhalePanda and I saw Riccardo—
Panda: Okay, so it’s all coming down to me again. I know how this goes.
Lee: They were saying we wanted to get him to rage-quit Twitter because he said something bad about Blockstream or something like that.
Spagni: Yeah, he said something bad about HODLers. I just feel like there’s a line. People that claim that we were trying to be organized. Quite honestly I don’t think they’ve actually been part of a mob or observed an actual mob. Bullies are people who abuse a position of authority and power, and I don’t think we abused a position of power. I don’t have power over Naval, at all. None of us do. And there’s a distinction you have to make, because otherwise when actual cyber-bullying happens, no one can tell.
I wanted to do like a quick speed round of word associations if you guys are up for it.
Panda: That’s dangerous.
I’ll throw out a word and then whoever wants can chime in, okay? Ethereum.
Lee: Decentralized world computer.
Panda: Pod-cat! Yay! [He holds his cat aloft.] Her name is Amy, by the way.
Mow: Lambo on the wrist. Actually, I’ll change mine: #LookAtMeImFluffyPony.
Spagni: Charlie has fine timepieces too, guys.
Lee: I do.
Panda: He just doesn’t show them off.
Spagni: What! I didn’t show mine off either!
Lee: You purposefully wore it on the wrong wrist.
Mow: To draw attention. And now Pharrell is copying you.
Spagni: Exactly. Do you know what sort of pressure that is?
Mow and Lee [simultaneously]: Moon.
Last one: Satoshi.
Spagni: Hal Finney.
Mow: Not Craig Wright.
Panda: Anybody but Craig Wright.
This interview has been edited and condensed.