Hi, welcome to your Weekend!
It was a tough week (and month and quarter) for people in tech. And that goes double for folks who work in crypto, which has seen a calamitous drop from its pandemic-era heights.
Many might feel a hint of schadenfreude about the humbling of crypto. Certainly, its leaders seem worthy of comeuppance, after pumping the space with enough hot air and hype to power a fleet of Hindenburgs. But so far, it’s not the leaders who are experiencing the worst consequences of the downturn. As always, it’s the retail investors and the rank-and-file workers who are getting burned.
For this week’s cover story, my colleague Margaux spoke to dozens of the more than 4,000 crypto workers who’ve been fired since April. They are not a monolithic group, and Margaux received a wide variety of responses from workers. But all of them are grappling with whether to trust their careers to the fickle gods of Web3 again, and most seem to have turned permanently away from the industry.
Even if you’re not emotionally or financially invested in crypto, the voices of its workers are worth listening to. They offer lessons about the human costs of hiring fast and firing faster.
Now onto our stories...
the big read
Once a bastion of opportunity, the cryptocurrency market has lost a trillion dollars in value since November 2021. In turn, its industry-wide hiring spree has given way to a firing squad with more than 4,000 casualties. Margaux checks in with dozens of laid off crypto workers, each weighing a nearly existential choice: Go back to more stable jobs in finance, media or the tech establishment of Web 2.0? Or double down on the blockchain-powered wilds of Web3?
‘You Don’t Know This Nerd Is a Silent Killer’: A Raging Martial Arts Scene Finds a Home in Silicon Valley
What do Mark Zuckerberg, Alex Karp, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman and AWS vice president Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec all have in common? Aside from the obvious (they’re all tech execs), they have all taken to the Valley’s newest hobby: Martial arts. In her first Weekend story, Arielle Pardes comes out swinging, examining the burgeoning martial arts scene giving tech leaders an exercise in discipline, resilience and, for some, machismo.
After Annie heard both shouts and murmurs about Feeld—a dating app built for adults interested in “ethical nonmonogamy”—she decided to sit down with the company’s CEO Ana Kirova. To date, the app has been downloaded 5.3 million times worldwide, and its significant pandemic-era growth has been almost entirely self-funded. Kirova explains why the app appeals to the tech crowd and how it plans to expand its audience beyond threesome-seekers.
With most tech companies mandating at least a partial return to the office, The Information is conducting a welfare check on our subscribers. How much are you sleeping these days? How productive do you feel? Are you drinking more or less than in 2020? Please take this five-minute survey, the results of which will be published in this newsletter in a few weeks.
Playing: A “Guitar Hero” for trombones
Hear that? Those toot-toot sounds herald the revival of the humble trombone, the instrument at the center of “Trombone Champ.” The PC game has earned “Angry Birds”-level virality alongside rave reviews from PCGamer and Kotaku. It falls within the “rhythm game” genre pioneered by “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band,” but the genius of “Trombone Champ” is that it’s also partly a satire of those over-serious and over-commercialized titles. Even when watched on Twitter, its impossible not to LOL at players’ appalling renditions of “Hava Nagila” or Beethoven’s Fifth. –Abe
Reading: Big Brother infiltrates college campuses
As college students continue to use social media to voice concerns about their universities and, sometimes, to plan protests, schools are turning to digital surveillance to tamp down on discontent. An extensive investigation by The Dallas Morning News and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism revealed that college police departments have been using taxpayer dollars to pay for Social Sentinel, which tracks social media-usage. Some departments have used the tool to “mitigate” demonstrations, a tactic that may soon become more pervasive, as Social Sentinel moves into university email tracking next. —Annie
Noticing: A grocery store bags its scanning app
Cleanup in the checkout aisle! Wegmans, a Rochester, N.Y.-based supermarket chain, announced it is scrapping SCAN, the self-checkout app it launched in April 2020. The stated reason: SCAN led to rampant theft. Rolled out as a way to cut down on social contact during the pandemic’s height, the tech also helped Wegmans pare back labor costs. Other grocery stores have tried similar technology, of course, including Amazon Go’s experiment in cashierless bodegas. But in Wegmans’ case, its customers couldn’t always live by the self-checkout honor code. –Abe
Makes You Think
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.
Weekend Editor, The Information