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OpenSea has been stuck between a rock and a hard place for the last six months. In that time, its first real competitor — Blur, the NFT marketplace and aggregator — broke onto the scene, siphoning off the majority of trading volume from the once untouchable ruler of the NFT seas. 

The development caused a stir in the NFT community in more ways than one; renewed discussion on creator fees (royalties) have come to the fore, complaints of market manipulation at the hands of power traders abound, and questions of just how web2 the NFT community wants Web3 to be suddenly loom large in the collective consciousness. 

OpenSea itself has finally responded to Blur’s incursion onto its previously held territory with its own pro-trader-focused marketplace: OpenSea Pro (OS Pro). It’s a significant development that touches on several hot-button issues in the space, so we’ve broken down the basics for you. Here’s what you need to know about OpenSea Pro’s origins and features, how it plans to attract and retain user loyalty, and what its entrance to the scene might mean for NFTs in the future. 

What is OpenSea Pro?

OpenSea Pro is OpenSea’s pro-trader-oriented marketplace and aggregator. Compared to OpenSea, which is aimed at appealing to retail buyers (i.e., casual NFT enthusiasts or those who aren’t looking to buy or trade NFTs on any large scale), OS Pro is set up to make high-volume trading easy and appealing for its users. 

The platform is actually a rebranding of Gem, an aggregator it acquired in early 2023. OpenSea did this as part of a response to an influx of activity by notable NFT collectors. A year later, on April 4, 2023, OpenSea announced Gem v2, which saw the aggregator reinvent itself as OpenSea Pro.

Features and functionality

The layout and design of the platform are also easy on the eyes, making Blur’s analog aesthetic look a bit mechanistic and cold in comparison. It’s easy to navigate and decently intuitive — nothing feels like it’s hiding or difficult to find. The overall feel maintains OpenSea’s Apple-esque aesthetic but gives the impression of a platform much more capable of higher-octane trading. 

Rewards for users

One of the main questions on the NFT community’s mind is how OS Pro will incentivize user activity and encourage loyalty. The obvious comparison continues to be to Blur and how that marketplace’s team is drawing in traders with staggered airdrops of its native token, $BLUR. It’s easy to find calls for OS Pro to introduce its own token under just about every tweet the platform puts out, but so far, no plans have been announced. 

Incentivizing loyalty through token rewards is fraught with risks and comes with some serious problems of sustainability. OpenSea Pro is still in its early days and its developers and team may be waiting to see more of how Blur’s strategy plays out before simply following in its footsteps. However, the platform has made it clear that it intends to reward its users with NFTs and other perks. 

Credit: OpenSea Pro

“We’re not forgetting about community rewards,” wrote OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer in a company blog post announcing OS Pro’s launch. “Keep your spyglasses ready! We’re charting a different course by featuring NFTs as rewards.” 

One of the current perks is an NFT airdropped to early users of OS Pro, back when it was called Gem. Called the Gemesis NFT, the token is a gem-like digital stone that was awarded to users who used the platform before March 31, 2023. On April 19, the rarity traits of the NFTs were revealed, with rarer traits going to earlier Gem users who bought an NFT on the aggregator. While there is much speculation as to whether these NFTs will come with some future utility, OpenSea has yet to allude to anything in an official manner.

Growing pains

OpenSea Pro’s launch has been met with mixed feelings from the NFT community. Some have praised the platform for introducing another option for high-volume traders and collectors while others have pointed out discrepancies in what the company communicated to its users and the experience they’re having using the marketplace.  

In response, OpenSea Pro has clarified its position on these two matters, claiming that the creator royalties threshold is now being enforced at 0.5 percent and that they are working to remove the 2.5 percent marketplace fee. OS Pro developer Vasa has written on Twitter that the issue stems from offers that originate on OpenSea (as opposed to OS Pro). 

OpenSea’s official fees page also states that, to protect users from inorganic volume, a marketplace fee of 0.5 percent will be instituted for listing and offers originating on OS Pro if specific conditions are met. Regarding royalties, if a listing is made on OS Pro for a collection that has no on-chain royalties enforcement method, the minimum amount for creator fees will be set to 0.5 percent. 

Is OpenSea Pro working?

While it’s still too early to tell if OS Pro is going to give Blur and other competitors a real run for their money, the platform has seen some smaller successes that it likely finds encouraging. First is the fact that, while Blur still dominates the NFT market in terms of sheer trading volume, the gap between the two has been steadily shrinking since February. However, because NFT volumes have been falling across the board in recent weeks and Blur’s customer retention strategy is showing signs of weakness, there’s no way to attribute this directly to anything OpenSea has done. 

The more tangible thing OS Pro seems to have done is overtake Blur in terms of daily transaction count since it launched. The pro-trader demographic is not a massive one; most of the activity on Blur comes from only a few dozen wallets, market makers with deep pockets that display an outsized influence on collections they trade with.

The appearance of another marketplace to do business on combined with the tantalizing potential of being rewarded with airdrops of NFTs or even a potential token might just be acting as enough incentivize to lure users away from Blur for the time being. It’s also important to note that a metric like transaction count comes second in importance to volume for platforms.

Much of the NFT marketplace dynamic now depends on how OpenSea decides to juggle its dual-platform influence and how it will avoid appearing stale to the traders and collectors it’s trying to court and retain. Ironically, the cracks in Blur’s controversial loyalty strategy could end up being a lesson that OpenSea benefits from, though the company has not yet hinted at how it’s going to improve upon current token-incentivized models (or even if it wants to go that direction). 

NFT marketplaces: reshaping the landscape

The NFT ecosystem is bracing for May 1, the date when Blur ends its double-points rewards system for users. This development could result in significant repercussions in the wider NFT community, and as such, all eyes are on the two platforms. What happens next is anyone’s guess. 

Due to Blur’s impact on the market since its arrival last October, it’s become accepted that the NFT space has enough room to accommodate both retail and pro-NFT buyers. At the same time, Web3 enthusiasts don’t want NFT projects and the health of the overall market to be too intrinsically tied to pro-trader activity — market makers who can wipe out floor prices as they stumble over themselves to chase tokens designed to earn their loyalty. 

And, as always, creator royalties hang in the balance. Creatives are not particularly happy that 0.5 percent is now the new standard baseline fee for collections on platforms like OpenSea that don’t use on-chain enforcement tools. But this is all a part of the NFT landscape resettling after being hit with the comet that was Blur last fall; more time is needed to see if creatives will capitalize on the trend of creating their own marketplaces to avoid having to deal with organizations that don’t respect the creatives who built the space to begin with.

Despite the tension in the air, it’s a dynamic time to be a part of Web3. By year’s end, the landscape might be entirely unrecognizable.  

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The Best Nft Memes Of 2023: February

When it comes to memes, the NFT space does not disappoint. As a community based around blockchain art and internet culture, things can and often do change on a dime. From 48-hour long crypto crashes to celebrities aping into projects at random, there’s always something to talk about in the NFT space.

But when simply talking about cultural happenings doesn’t suffice, you can always count on the NFT community to whip up a meme or two to enhance social media discourse. So to shine a light on the unsung heroes of the weird wide world of nonfungibles, we’re bringing you the best NFT memes from every month in 2023 – and the best memes ever.

And if you want to see memes that have been sold as NFTs, we have you covered there as well.

Kevin

Pixelmon had an art reveal so terrible, ‘Kevin’ is being labeled a historical NFT chúng tôi chúng tôi 👑 (@DiscoverXnft) February 28, 2023

Ahh, Kevin. This particular meme was born in the wake of the Pixelmon reveal. Pixelmon is a project that made more than $70 million via a dutch auction sale of unrevealed NFTs. The team apparently fast-tracked the reveal even though the art wasn’t fully ready, giving us Kevin.

Vitalik The Bear

my entire net worth is in this man’s hands chúng tôi chúng tôi (@LilMoonLambo) February 21, 2023

Co-founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin was spotted on stage at ETHDenver in quite the getup. Not only did the programmer seemingly wear pajamas onstage, but he appeared in a full-body bear suit at one point. He’s been known to be playful on stage, but as the event took place during a small crypto crash, many immediately saw the meme potential.

The GaryVee Smirk

When they don’t realize you’ll be #1 in the end … chúng tôi Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) February 17, 2023

This fantastic little screenshot came to us by way of an interview Gary Vaynerchuk did with CNBC in early February. During the interview, Vaynerchuk was asked about the “problematic” nature of the crypto and NFT space, to which he gave a chuckle before answering. The screenshot quickly became a popular reaction image among the crypto and NFT communities.

Skullture

After the CryptoSkulls hype train started, it never stopped. As one of the most popular historic projects currently in circulation, it seems like every other day a different influencer is holding a Twitter Space to talk about the collection. At this point, it’s become difficult to think about anything else.

NFT Roadmaps

Before apeing into a new NFT project, it’s incredibly important to do some research into what the project is all about, who is behind it, and where they plan to take it. Many times, NFT roadmaps are all promises without any actual substance… like a beer that’s all foam.

Prayer Circle

Lately, the NFT space has been riddled with scams and uncertainty. With the world and crypto market both in disarray, many have strapped themselves in for a wild ride over the next few months to a year. If this prayer circle has any chance of working, we’ll happily re-tweet.

ISO IRL Friends

I make real friends too, if they want to be an NFT artist chúng tôi chúng tôi 👑 (@0xmj_) February 23, 2023

When you’re deep into NFTs, it’s much easier to make friends in the metaverse than it is in real life. Never getting the chance to see your friend’s face or hear their voice isn’t something to be concerned about…right?

Never Stood a Chance

I speak for us all when I say this was truly shocking chúng tôi Ayz (@jpegplug) February 23, 2023

It happens all too often. You think you have a chance at winning an auction, then a whale comes in and shatters your dreams. In this case, the Golden Friend NFT was the one that got away.

The Answer To Lactose Intolerance Might Be In Mongolia

In July 2023, archaeogeneticist Christina Warinner headed there to learn about the population’s complex relationship with milk. In Khatgal, she found a cooperative called Blessed by Yak, where families within a few hours’ drive pooled the bounty from their cows, goats, sheep, and yaks to supply tourists with heirloom dairy products.

Warinner watched for hours as Blessed by Yak members transformed the liquid into a dizzying array of foods. Milk was everywhere in and around these homes: splashing from swollen udders into wooden buckets, simmering in steel woks atop fires fueled by cow dung, hanging in leather bags from riblike wooden rafters, bubbling in specially made stills, crusting as spatters on the wood-lattice inner walls. The women even washed their hands in whey. “Working with herders is a five-senses experience,” Warinner says. “The taste is really strong; the smell is really strong. It reminds me of when I was nursing my daughter, and everything smelled of milk.”

Each family she visited had a half-dozen dairy products or more in some stage of production around a central hearth. And horse herders who came to sell their goods brought barrels of airag, a slightly alcoholic fizzy beverage that set the yurts abuzz.

Airag, made only from horse milk, is not to be confused with aaruul, a sour cheese, created from curdled milk, that gets so hard after weeks drying in the sun that you’re better off sucking on it or softening it in tea than risking your teeth trying to chew it. Easier to consume is byaslag, rounds of white cheese pressed between wooden boards. Roasted curds called eezgi look a little like burnt popcorn; dry, they last for months stored in cloth bags. Carefully packed in a sheep-stomach wrapper, the buttery clotted cream known as urum—made from fat-rich yak or sheep milk—will warm bellies all through the winter, when temperatures regularly drop well below zero.

Warinner’s personal favorite? The “mash” left behind when turning cow or yak milk into an alcoholic drink called shimin arkhi. “At the bottom of the still, you have an oily yogurt that’s delicious,” she says.

Her long trip to Khatgal wasn’t about culinary curiosity, however. Warinner was there to solve a mystery: Despite the dairy diversity she saw, an estimated 95 percent of Mongolians are, genetically speaking, lactose intolerant. Yet, in the frost-free summer months, she believes they may be getting up to half their calories from milk products.

Scientists once thought dairying and the ability to drink milk went hand in hand. What she found in Mongolia has pushed Warinner to posit a new explanation. On her visit to Khatgal, she says, the answer was all around her, even if she couldn’t see it.

Sitting, transfixed, in homes made from wool, leather, and wood, she was struck by the contrast with the plastic and steel kitchens she was familiar with in the US and Europe. Mongolians are surrounded by microscopic organisms: the bacteria that ferment the milk into their assorted foodstuffs, the microbes in their guts and on the dairy-soaked felt of their yurts. The way these invisible creatures interact with each other, with the environment, and with our bodies creates a dynamic ecosystem.

That’s not unique. Everyone lives with a billions-strong universe of microbes in, on, and around them. Several pounds’ worth thrive in our guts alone. Researchers have dubbed this wee world the microbiome and are just beginning to understand the role it plays in our health.

Some of these colonies, though, are more diverse than others: Warinner is still working on sampling the Khatgal herders’ microbiomes, but another team has already gathered evidence that the Mongolian bacterial makeup differs from those found in more-industrial areas of the world. Charting the ecosystem they are a part of might someday help explain why the population is able to eat so much dairy—​and offer clues to help people everywhere who are lactose intolerant.

Warinner argues that a better understanding of the complex microbial universe inhabiting every Mongolian yurt could also provide insight into a problem that goes far beyond helping folks eat more brie. As communities around the world abandon traditional lifestyles, so-called diseases of civilization, like dementia, diabetes, and food intolerances, are on the rise.

Warinner is convinced that the Mongolian affinity for dairy is made possible by a mastery of bacteria 3,000 years or more in the making. By scraping gunk off the teeth of steppe dwellers who died thousands of years ago, she’s been able to prove that milk has held a prominent place in the Mongolian diet for millennia. Understanding the differences between traditional microbiomes like theirs and those prevalent in the industrialized world could help explain the illnesses that accompany modern lifestyles—and perhaps be the beginning of a different, more beneficial approach to diet and health.

Nowadays, Warinner does her detective work at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History’s ancient DNA lab, situated on the second floor of a high-rise bioscience facility overlooking the historic center of the medieval town of Jena, Germany. To prevent any errant DNA from contaminating its samples, entering the lab involves a half-hour protocol, including disinfection of foreign objects, and putting on head-to-toe Tyvek jumpsuits, surgical face masks, and eye shields. Inside, postdocs and technicians wielding drills and picks harvest fragments of dental plaque from the teeth of people who died long ago. It’s here that many of Warinner’s Mongolian specimens get cataloged, analyzed, and archived.

Her path to the lab began in 2010, when she was a postdoctoral researcher in Switzerland. Warinner was looking for ways to find evidence of infectious disease on centuries-old skeletons. She started with dental caries, or cavities—spots where bacteria had burrowed into the tooth enamel. To get a good look, she spent a lot of time clearing away plaque:​ mineral deposits scientists call “calculus,” and that, in the absence of modern dentistry, accumulate on teeth in an unsightly brown mass.

Around the same time, Amanda Henry, now a researcher at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, put calculus scraped from Neanderthal teeth under the microscope and spotted starch grains trapped in the mineral layers. The results provided evidence that the population ate a diverse diet that included plants as well as meat.

Hearing about the work, Warinner wondered if looking at specimens from a medieval German cemetery might yield similar insights. But when she checked for food remains under the microscope, masses of perfectly preserved bacteria blocked her from doing so. “They were literally in your way, obscuring your view,” she recalls. The samples were teeming with microbial and human genes, preserved and protected by a hard mineral matrix.

Warinner had discovered a way to see the tiny organisms in the archaeological record, and with them, a means to study diet. “I realized this was a really rich source of bacterial DNA no one had thought of before,” Warinner says. “It’s a time capsule that gives us access to information about an individual’s life that is very hard to get from other places.”

The dental calculus research dovetailed with rising interest in the microbiome, rocketing Warinner to a coveted position at Max Planck. (In 2023, Harvard hired her as an anthropology professor, and she now splits her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Jena, overseeing labs on two continents.) Her TED talks have racked up more than 2 million views. “I never expected to have an entire career based on something people spend lots of time and money trying to get rid of,” she quips.

That grimy dental buildup, Warinner has learned, preserves more than just DNA. In 2014, she published a study in which she and her colleagues looked at the teeth of Norse Greenlanders, seeking insight into why Vikings abandoned their settlements there after just a few hundred years. She found milk proteins suspended in the plaque of the area’s earliest settlers—and almost none in that of people buried five centuries later. “We had a marker to trace dairy consumption,” Warinner says.

This discovery led Warinner to turn to one of the biggest puzzles in recent human evolution: Why milk? Most people in the world aren’t genetically equipped to digest dairy as adults. A minority of them—including most northern Europeans—​have one of several mutations that allows their bodies to break down the key sugar in milk, lactose, beyond early childhood. That ability is called lactase persistence, after the protein that processes lactose.

Until recently, geneticists thought that dairying and the ability to drink milk must have evolved together, but that didn’t prove out when investigators went looking for evidence. Ancient DNA samples from all across Europe suggest that even in places where lactase persistence is common today, it didn’t appear until 3000 BCE—long after people domesticated cattle and sheep and started consuming dairy products. For 4,000 years prior to the mutation, Europeans were making cheese and eating dairy despite their lactose intolerance. Warinner guessed that microbes may have been doing the job of dairy digestion for them.

To prove it, she began looking for places where the situation was similar. Mongolia made sense: There’s evidence that herding and domestication there dates back 5,000 years or more. But, Warinner says, direct evidence of long-ago dairy consumption was absent—until ancient calculus let her harvest it straight from the mouths of the dead.

Ancient plaque shows Mongolians have eaten dairy for millennia. Courtesy Christina Warinner

Starting in 2024, in her Jena lab, Warinner and her team scraped the teeth of skeletons buried on the steppes thousands of years ago and excavated by archaeologists in the 1990s. Samples about the size of a lentil were enough to reveal proteins from cow, goat, and sheep milk. By tapping the same remains for ancient DNA, Warinner could go one step further and show that they belonged to people who lacked the gene to digest lactose—​just like modern Mongolians do.

Samples of the microbiome from in and around today’s herders, Warinner realized, might offer a way to understand how this was possible. Though it’s estimated that just 1 in 20 Mongolians has the mutation allowing them to digest milk, few places in the world put as much emphasis on dairy. They include it in festivities and offer it to spirits before any big trip to ensure safety and success. Even their metaphors are dairy-based: “The smell from a wooden vessel filled with milk never goes away” is the rough equivalent of “old habits die hard.”

Down the hall from the ancient DNA lab, thousands of microbiome samples the team has collected over the past two summers pack tall industrial freezers. Chilled to minus 40 degrees F—colder, even, than the Mongolian winter—the collection includes everything from eezgi and byaslag to goat turds and yak-udder swabs. Hundreds of the playing-card-size plastic baggies new mothers use to freeze breast milk contain raw, freshly squeezed camel, cow, goat, reindeer, sheep, and yak milk.

Warinner’s initial hypothesis was that the Mongolian herders—​past and present—​were using lactose-​eating microbes to break down their many varieties of dairy, making it digestible. Commonly known as fermentation, it’s the same bacteria-assisted process that turns malt into beer, grapes into wine, and flour into bubbly sourdough.

Fermentation is integral to just about every dairy product in the Mongolian repertoire. While Western cheeses also utilize the process, makers of Parmesan, brie and Camembert all rely on fungi and rennet—​an enzyme from the stomachs of calves—to get the right texture and taste. Mongolians, on the other hand, maintain microbial cultures called starters, saving a little from each batch to inoculate the next.

Ethnographic evidence suggests that these preparations have been around a very, very long time. In Mongolian, they’re called khöröngö, a word that’s derived from the term for wealth or inheritance. They are living heirlooms, typically passed from mother to daughter. And they require regular care and feeding. “Starter cultures get constant attention over weeks, months, years, generations,” says Björn Reichhardt, a Mongolian-​speaking ethnographer at Max Planck and member of Warinner’s team responsible for collecting most of the samples in the Jena freezers. “Mongolians tend to dairy products the way they would an infant.” As with a child, the environment in which they’re nurtured is deeply influential. The microbial makeup of each family’s starters seems to be subtly different.

After returning from Khatgal in 2023, Warinner launched the Heirloom Microbe project to identify and catalog the bacteria the herders were using to make their dairy products. The name reflected her hope that the yurts harbored strains or species ignored by industrial labs and corporate starter-​culture manufacturers. Perhaps, Warinner imagined, there would be a novel strain or some combination of microbes Mongolians were using to process milk in a way that Western science had missed.

So far, she’s found Enterococcus, a bacterium common in the human gut that excels at digesting lactose but was eliminated from US and European dairy commodities decades ago. And they’ve spotted some new strains of familiar bacteria like Lactobacillus. But they haven’t identified any radically different species or starters—no magic microbes ready to package in pill form. “It doesn’t seem like there is a range of superbugs in there,” says Max Planck anthropologist Matthäus Rest, who works with Warinner on dairy research.

The reality might be more daunting. Rather than a previously undiscovered strain of microbes, it might be a complex web of organisms and practices—the lovingly maintained starters, the milk-soaked felt of the yurts, the gut flora of individual herders, the way they stir their barrels of airag—that makes the Mongolian love affair with so many dairy products possible.

Warinner’s project now has a new name, Dairy Cultures, reflecting her growing realization that Mongolia’s microbial toolkit might not come down to a few specific bacteria. “Science is often very reductive,” she says. “People tend to look at just one aspect of things. But if we want to understand dairying, we can’t just look at the animals, or the microbiome, or the products. We have to look at the entire system.”

The results could help explain another phenomenon, one that affects people far from the Mongolian steppes. The billions of bacteria that make up our microbiomes aren’t passive passengers. They play an active—if little understood—role in our health, helping regulate our immune systems and digest our food.

Over the past two centuries, industrialization, sterilization, and antibiotics have dramatically changed these invisible ecosystems. Underneath a superficial diversity of flavors—​mall staples like sushi, pad thai, and pizza—​food is becoming more and more the same. Large-scale dairies even ferment items like yogurt and cheese using lab-grown starter cultures, a $1.2 billion industry dominated by a handful of industrial producers. People eating commoditized cuisine lack an estimated 30 percent of the gut microbe species that are found in remote groups still eating “traditional” diets. In 2024, Warinner was part of a team that found bacteria in the digestive tracts of hunter-gatherers living in the Amazon jungle that have all but vanished in people consuming a selection of typical Western fare.

“People have the feeling that they eat a much more diverse and global diet than their parents, and that might be true,” Rest says, “but when you look at these foods on a microbial level, they’re increasingly empty.”

A review paper in Science in October 2023 gathered data from labs around the world beginning to probe if this dwindling variety might be making us sick. Dementia, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers are sometimes termed diseases of civilization. They’re all associated with the spread of urban lifestyles and diets, processed meals, and antibiotics. Meanwhile, food intolerances and intestinal illnesses like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel disease are on the rise.

Comparing the microbiome of Mongolian herders to samples from people consuming a more industrialized diet elsewhere in the world could translate into valuable insights into what we’ve lost—and how to get it back. Identifying the missing species could refine human microbiome therapies and add a needed dose of science to probiotics.

There might not be much time left for this quest. Over the past 50 years, hundreds of thousands of Mongolian herders have abandoned the steppes, their herds, and their traditional lifestyle, flocking to Ulaanbaatar. Around 50 percent of the country’s population, an estimated 1.5 million people, now crowds into the capital.

In summer 2023, Warinner’s team will return to Khatgal and other rural regions to collect mouth swabs and fecal specimens from herders, the last phase in cataloging the traditional Mongolian micro-biome. She recently decided she’ll sample residents of Ulaanbaatar too, to see how urban dwelling is altering their bacterial balances as they adopt new foods, new ways of life, and, in all likelihood, newly simplified communities of microbes.

Something important, if invisible, is being lost, Warinner believes. On a recent fall morning, she was sitting in her sunlit office in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography on Harvard’s campus. Mostly unpacked from her latest trans-Atlantic move, she was contemplating a creeping, yurt-by-yurt extinction event.

It’s a conundrum vastly different in size, but not in scale, from those facing wildlife conservationists the world over. “How do you restore an entire ecology?” she wondered. “I’m not sure you can. We’re doing our best to record, catalog, and document as much as we can, and try to figure it out at the same time.”

Preserving Mongolia’s microbes, in other words, won’t be enough. We also need the traditional knowledge and everyday practices that have sustained them for centuries. Downstairs, display cases hold the artifacts of other peoples—​from the Massachusett tribe that once lived on the land where Harvard now stands to the Aztec and Inca civilizations that used to rule vast stretches of Central and South America—whose traditions are gone forever, along with the microbial networks they nurtured. “Dairy systems are alive,” Warinner says. “They’ve been alive, and continuously cultivated, for 5,000 years. You have to grow them every single day. How much change can the system tolerate before it begins to break?”

This story appears in the Spring 2023, Origins issue of Popular Science.

Why P2E Nft Games Need To Double

When Brazilian game developer Mark Venturelli virtually took the stage at Brazil’s International Games (BIG) Festival on July 8, he was ostensibly set to give a talk on his vision for the future of game design.

Instead, Venturelli used his platform to deliver an impassioned speech to the festival’s attendees on why NFTs vis-à-vis play-to-earn (P2E) games are wholly incompatible with his personal vision for how game design should strive to progress in the coming years. A brave move, to say the least, considering that blockchain gaming platform Lakea was among the festival’s corporate partners.

A cynical view of Web3

Venturelli kicked off his presentation with a broad definition of what blockchain technology ultimately represents to society, calling it “a brilliant solution to the wrong problem.” According to the English version of his slides from that evening’s talk, Venturelli argued that blockchain tech enables users to “[keep] a secure ledger between a group of people that have absolutely zero trust between one another.” Pushing this point further, Venturelli claimed that these technologies encourage users to distrust central authorities, laws, institutions, and other people. Without this trust in place, Venturelli argued, society wouldn’t be able to function.

But is this actually the case in practice? Do Web3-first communities really not trust each other? Considering how NFT projects have consistently proven to be excellent channels for community-building efforts, this particular point rings somewhat hollow. For instance, collectors of VeeFriends NFTs shelled out a pretty penny for the digital collectibles when they launched back in 2023.

Why? Their overall utility. These NFTs didn’t just serve as tickets into internet mogul Gary Vaynerchuk’s exclusive community, they also serve as passes to events like VeeCon. Just this year at chúng tôi people even willingly (and happily) trotted around the streets of New York City in goblin masks, proudly repping the Goblintown community. None of this could happen without trust.

Found a random @goblintownwtf goblin at @NFT_NYC … 🧐 what conference talks does a goblin attend? 😂 chúng tôi chúng tôi (@JaySerpens) June 23, 2023

After this segment of his talk, Venturelli then proceeded to dive into his exact reasons why NFTs should not be a part of the future of gaming.

The purported ills of speculation

Venturelli argued that economic activity, let alone speculative economic activity, has no place in gaming. Part of Venturelli’s working definitions of crypto and NFTs is that, as a whole, they are essentially just speculative economic activities: high-risk, high-reward bets. Venturelli, like most other Web3 critics, then proceeded to liken investing in these digital assets to participating in a pyramid scheme.

Never mind the fact that not all NFTs exist as for-profit ventures for their prospective buyers. In fact, for non-profit organizations, the nature of these digital assets gives them the opportunity to grant donors unique value propositions not commonly found in traditional fundraising efforts.

But what of the people who do view NFTs as an avenue to make a quick buck? These types of people, Venturelli argued, pose the biggest threat to core gaming audiences should more games adopt a P2E model. These people, Venturelli suggested, would likely go on to form “dedicated groups operating in scale with ever-shrinking margins,” ensuring that players who lack either the time or resources to organize in such a way would only see minuscule financial returns for their time invested in a game.

Venturelli then pointed out that these types of people have already poisoned a fair share of online game communities in the past. Gold farmers, bots, and other bad actors have ruined the experience of MMO gamers as far back as the OG web-based Runescape from nearly two decades ago, bending the in-game economy to their will.

Play-to-earn’s roots in core gaming

One of Venturelli’s strongest arguments against the presence of P2E elements in games was that, ultimately, there is no ‘play’ in ‘play-to-earn.’ But is this true in practice? Looking at Valve’s multi-player titles since TF2, namely Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 this doesn’t seem to be the case at all. You can make a lot of money from selling skins for these games — or even playing them at a high level, as evidenced by The International’s multi-million dollar prize pool — but is that why millions of people around the world play them day in and day out?

Ultimately, Venturelli’s talk got one thing right: games that primarily serve as P2E experiences have no place in the future of game design and development. Games should be fun, first and foremost. The portrait Venturelli paints of a gaming landscape dominated by games that prioritize financial rewards for its users over fun is bleak. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

How To Remove Alt+Tab Blur Background In Windows 11

If you have opened multiple apps on your Windows 11, you can switch between them by using the Alt + Tab shortcut. The Win + Tab shortcut is also used for switching between multiple apps opened on a Windows device. When you use any one of these shortcuts, Windows shows you all the opened windows and blurs the background so that you can easily switch to the app you want. If you do not want the blurred background on Windows 11 while using the Alt + Tab or Win + Tab shortcuts, you can remove it. In this article, we will show you how to remove the Alt + Tab blur background in Windows 11. The same setting also removes the blurred background for Win + Tab.

How to remove Alt+Tab Blur Background in Windows 11

Below, we have explained the step-by-step process to remove the Alt + Tab blur background in Windows 11. The steps will remain the same to remove the blurred background for Win + tab. You can use any of the following methods to remove blurred background while pressing the Alt + tab keys:

Windows 11 Settings.

Enabling the classic Alt + Tab interface.

In Windows 11 22H2 Update, Microsoft has changed the Alt + Tab interface. Now, users see the opened windows in a box when they press the Alt + Tab shortcut keys to switch between the opened apps. Also, the Alt + Tab background in Windows 11 22H2 Update is not blurred (see the above screenshot). But if you use the Win + Tab shortcut to switch between the opened apps, you will still see the blurred background. Hence, you can follow the steps provided below if you want to remove Win + Tab blur background.

If you have Windows 11 version prior to the 22H2, you will not see the boxed Alt + Tab interface. Instead, the Atl + Tab background remains blurred.

Read: How to change Transparency Level of Alt-Tab Grid Box in Windows

Remove Alt + Tab blur background in Windows 11 via Windows 11 Settings

The following steps will show you how to remove the Alt + Tab blur background in Windows 11 via Windows 11 Settings:

Open Windows 11 Settings.

Turn off the button next to Transparency effects.

After performing the above steps, the Alt + Tab and Win + Tab blurred backgrounds will be removed.

How to Enable the classic Alt +Tab interface in Windows 11

You can also enable the classic Alt + Tab interface. This method activates the old Alt+ Tab interface found in old Windows versions, like Windows XP. After activating the old Alt + Tab interface, the blurred background will be removed. Let’s see how to do that.

This method involves modification in Windows Registry. Therefore, before you proceed, we recommend you create a System Restore Point and back up your Windows Registry.

Now, copy the following path, paste it into the address bar of the Registry Editor, and hit Enter.

HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorer

Restart the Windows Explorer. The following steps will guide you on how to restart Windows Explorer:

Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc keys to open the Task Manager.

Select the Process tab.

Scroll down and locate Windows Explorer.

After restarting the Windows Explorer, the classic Alt + Tab interface will be restored. Do note that, this method only removes the Alt + Tab blur background and does not work to remove the Win + Tab blur background. If restarting Windows Explorer does not work, restart your computer.

If you want to remove the blurred background while using the Win + Tab too, you have to disable the Transparency effects in Windows 11 Settings.

If you want to restore the newer Alt + Tab interface again in Windows 11, delete the AltTabSettings Value from the Registry or change its Value data to 0. After that, restart Windows Explorer.

Read: How to Sync Settings across devices in Windows.

How do I get rid of Alt Tab blur in Windows 11?

As said earlier, there are to ways to get rid of Alt Tab blur in Windows 11 – using Windows Settings and using Registry Editor. Open the Registry Editor and navigate to this path: HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorer. Create a REG_DWORD value named AltTabSettings and set the Value data as 1. Then, restart the Windows Explorer process using Task Manager.

Read:

How do I get the old Alt Tab in Windows 11?

If you want to restore the classic or old Alt Tab interface on Windows 11, you have to modify your Registry. Before doing that, it is recommended to create a System Restore Point and backup Windows Registry. We have explained the process to restore the classic Alt + Tab interface on Windows 11 in this article.

Read next: How to use Snap Bar in Windows 11.

How To Answer Common Hiring Manager Interview Questions

Data shows that most hiring managers prefer to stick with more traditional questions in job interviews.

Off-the-wall questions may reveal a job candidate’s candidness or some personality traits, but more common questions are better indicators of their suitability for the position.

Candidates should practice their answers to common interview questions but be prepared to answer one or two unusual questions as well.

Some hiring managers like to ask off-the-wall job interview questions, such as “What color crayon would you be?” or “How would your archnemesis describe you?” to see how the job candidate reacts under pressure. However, new research finds that most interviewers would rather ask straightforward questions that apply to relevant work experience and skills than questions designed to throw unsuspecting candidates for a loop.

According to a 2024 study by LinkedIn, at least a couple of the questions asked in almost every interview are among the most common behavioral or accomplishment-based questions overall.

It makes sense: While some of those oddball interview questions serve to show a potential employee’s willingness to be candid, more traditional questions paint a more complete picture of the candidate’s suitability for the position. LinkedIn cited these traditional interview questions:

“Tell me about yourself.”

“What is your greatest strength?”

“What is your greatest weakness?”

“Why should we hire you?”

“Why do you want to work here?”

“Tell me about a time you showed leadership.”

“Tell me about a time you were successful on a team.”

“What would your co-workers say about you?”

Although job candidates can’t predict every question they’ll be asked during an interview, they are best served by practicing their answers to the most common ones, according to Bill Driscoll, district president for staffing firm Accountemps.

“Knowing your audience is crucial,” Driscoll said in a statement. “Learn as much as you can about the company and position by conducting research, reading relevant news and reaching out to your network for insights.”

To appropriately prepare for interviews, job seekers can use the data from LinkedIn and Accountemps to categorize senior managers’ favorite and most commonly asked interview questions – and to glean insight on what they are trying to learn by asking them.

Company or position

The interviewer has the candidate’s resume and cover letter and has likely already scoped out their social media accounts. However, the goal of the interview is to determine how good a fit a person is for a position. In all likelihood, every applicant has relevant experience and could be a strong candidate on paper. These hiring manager interview questions give you an opportunity to connect the dots on your resume, explaining, for example, why you chose to attend a specific university or left a previous position.

Questions:

“Why do you want to work here?”

“What do you know about this company?”

“Why are you interested in this position?”

“What makes you a good fit for this position?”

Example answers:

“I want to work here because what your company does aligns with my values and interests in …” Explain these interests in a few short sentences.

Tip

Concise but meaningful answers are often best in job interviews.

Whether you are currently seeking a new position or do not intend to go into interviews for quite some time, understanding the reasons these common questions are asked – and being prepared to answer them thoroughly and confidently – will benefit you.

Remember that an interview goes both ways: You need to find out if the position and company will be a good fit for you as well. As such, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own, to request clarifications, or to return to an earlier question if the relevant information didn’t come to you in time. Interviewers are human too, and they understand that no one is perfect, especially in stressful situations. Good luck out there.

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