The acronym crypto really needs is DPS: Drama Per Second

The crypto industry has long been drunk on acronyms. Popular ones include “TVL” for the “total value locked” in a network’s smart contracts and “DeFi” for “decentralized finance. Then there is the infamous “WAGMI” for “we are going to make it,” a rallying cry on social media.

While many of the crypto world’s letter jumbles are silly, and can even serve as way to divert from more substantive metrics, there is one acronym that will always be useful: DPS. Coined by Emin Gun Sirer, a founder of the Avalanche blockchain, its stands for “Drama Per Second.”

There is no formal definition of DPS the way there is for TPS (“transactions per second”) but it can be translated as what the kids call “vibes” and roughly correlates to levels of hysteria. For example, outsized promises are a massive boost for DPS. Did the founder of a project promise a breakthrough technical discovery years ago? That’s great for DPS. It sets the stage for a campaign of promises, arguments over how superior the currency will be… eventually. Better yet, did the first implementation of that breakthrough fail fantastically? You’re looking at off-the-charts DPS. (To be sure, I was once at the center of a high DPS event.)

DPS is the most valuable metric today because the cryptocurrency industry has largely failed to underpin anything of substance in the ten years or so that it has been professionalized. If a technical implementation goes haywire, or a blockchain shuts down entirely, or if it is hacked, there are virtually no consequences to the outside world. If a blockchain fails, the only real victims tend to be folks trying to trade tokens on top of it. In other words, the reduction to “vibes” as a proxy for success makes sense.

We saw DPS on display this week with the Shiba Inu project, the meme coin created in the wake of Dogecoin’s revived popularity in 2020, when its team’s attempt to create a Layer 2 solution blew up. The Shiba Inu team cultivated excitement over this new “Shibarium” that would facilitate applications and gaming with its lower fees and higher throughput. Unfortunately, the bits of code that would actually facilitate token transfers was a bit … welpish. The network was unusable from nearly its launch and wound up locking millions they can’t retrieve.

At least the Shiba Inu team is trying to go legit. In that sense, DPS could be thought of in a positive light: if you’re not trying, then you’re not failing. The halcyon days of promising transitions for six years and shrugging to execute those goals, like Ethereum’s transition to proof-of-stake, are dwindling as “number go up” no longer constitutes a strategy. It used to be that large projects in the cryptocurrency space could basically calcify and still attract enthusiasts through promises.

An uptick in DPS, weirdly, means an uptick in effort.

A lot of the projects that exist in the cryptocurrency space today are put together by scotch tape and technology almost solely controlled by their founders or their VC-centric board. Hacks and shoddy engineering make the space continually look like a grift to outsiders. But attempting to clean up the technology for broader appeal will require a high degree of DPS as projects are culled, often hoisted by their own petards.

DPS hit an ATH (“all time high”) this summer as a number of endogenous and exogenous factors led to strings of theft and failure in cryptocurrency markets. Right now, I think DPS means the space is maturing. And, one day, I hope that more substantive metrics will matter too.

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