I know. It’s an internet cliché, particularly in the finance world: it isn’t about the _____, it’s about the friends we make along the way. But as one of the most important moments in my life unfolded before my eyes, I realized this tired, tried, overplayed phrase was totally accurate.
Let’s start from the beginning.
In early 2018, I started criticizing Tether and Bitfinex on Twitter. I started with two followers and a strong drive to be a satire account. My tweets often looked like this:
While this was certainly fun, it also wasn’t exactly… fulfilling. And as more people began to follow my account, I began to take my “responsibilities” more seriously. I wanted to know about Tether and Bitfinex, for real. I wanted to track the data. I wanted to converse with people who knew more than I did.
And I quickly met them. In fact, while I sought out many professionals, many professionals sought me out as a funny critic. It was kismet!
The way coiners talk about “falling into the rabbit hole” is the only way I can describe what happened to me, as well. Not the rabbit hole of Bitcoin, or even cryptocurrency, but fraud and tax loopholes. The entire concept is utterly fascinating to me. Plus, as they say in All the President’s Men, “Follow the money.” It felt like I was actually performing some sort of… I don’t know how to describe it… investigation? Like I was doing society a service simply by learning. Can you ask for more?
Meeting people online has never been “my thing”. I’ve never dated online, never even messed with Tinder, don’t spend a lot of time in forums, and wouldn’t consider myself well versed in infosec/opsec. But learning, and sharing the knowledge I acquire utterly consumes me. Because people appreciate it and they — you, all of you — want to learn as much I do. I’m so happy to share.
Within months, I received support from around the globe. I am so blessed (a word I truly f*cking hate) to have followers from the US, Canada, Japan, England, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Brazil… honestly, I couldn’t name every country. It’s, amazingly, a global following, a global list of people who want to hear what I have to say, and many of whom I learn from on an almost daily basis. It’s befuddling to someone who was making silly jokes for months and never thought any of this would balloon the way it has — from a mere two people following me out of pity, to nearly 5,000 fascinating individuals.
I’ve met with journalists from Hong Kong to L.A., done telephone interviews with people across the world, had long conversations with VCs and traders, travelled to China to look at mining rigs and find Bitfinex, and — forgive me because this is such a goddamn trope, but — made a lot of really great friends. Like, people I could actually testify to being some of the most wonderful folks I’ve ever met.
Sometime in late 2018 I became close with a group of individuals on Twitter. We DMed daily, updated each other on our lives, would call and do group calls monthly, made bets, traded together, shared interesting information related to frauds, and discussed our active research projects. It was unreal to someone who had purposely avoided being a part of this community for so long.
Soon, I was meeting these people — and not one or two of them, but four, five, six. Some flew across the country to hangout. Some drove across town. None of us have lost contact.
Cut to now.
Less than a week ago my mother suffered from a very serious stroke. She’s still in the hospital, and through some sort of miracle she’s fought back from the brink of death and may just make it out of this in one piece. That’s all I can possibly desire.
But when I was at rock bottom, dragging my feet under the crushing sea of sadness, at the point when I thought I was going to lose my best friend and the person I owe everything to, I told everyone I was taking a tech and writing hiatus:
I have never received as much support, so fast, as when I posted that tweet.
From people telling me they’re always available to talk, people saying they love me, people offering food, money, to fly out and keep me company — the list is endless. Even the simple ones where people were keeping my mother in their prayers and thinking about us — people they’ve never met, likely — was overwhelming and lovely.
My mom’s strength has forced me to continue writing and pushing forward because I know she wouldn’t want me to stop doing what I love simply because she’s had a setback. But almost as important is people telling me how much they care, and what I mean to them, and that I will pull through this, and maybe even my mom will, too. Sometimes the online “strangers” who are your friends know more than you, are stronger than you, and can help you in ways you never imagined.
I plan on transitioning to taking care of my mom full-time now. This will, obviously, give me a little less time to devote to all of this. But I’m not stopping. There will be a book about Tether. There will be interesting articles I’ll be posting here. And I’ll be back on Twitter soon.
It drives me crazy to say it, but christ almighty, it really is about the frenz you make along the way — and I’ve made so, so many. Love you all.
Stay skeptical, friends.