Consensus’ $DESK Token Takes on Life Beyond Conference

A testnet token created a full on mania at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2021 virtual conference last week, in one of the latest signs even valueless coins can spur engagement and help unite communities. 

CoinDesk’s $DESK token had been claimed by more than 1,371 addresses by the end of the conference on May 27. Each wallet claimed an average of about 25 tokens and “purchased” three NFTs on average, meaning around 4,000 NFTs were acquired in total. While no money was exchanged and the coins could only be used within the conference’s ecosystem, it still inspired holders to band together in messaging app Discord, create memes and seek to collect as many tokens as possible.

“We wanted to make the virtual event experience more fun and engaging for attendees,” said Aaron Stanley, managing director of events content at CoinDesk. “We realized that by the time Consensus rolled around, people would be pretty tired of Zoom webinars, so we needed something new that could make the experience more interesting for attendees, speakers and sponsors.” 

And that rang true for attendees too. “Yah know, even though it sucks watching a conference from home, $DESK made it somewhat special,” said Discord user Folktale. 

Ethereum Testnet

The crypto news site’s token is an ERC-20 riding on Ethereum’s Rinkeby test network. Ahead of the conference, it was sent out to past attendees of any Consensus conference and those registered for Consensus 2021, and during the conference, it could be claimed during daily airdrops in the conference chat. The tokens could then be used to acquire exclusive Consensus NFTs, including collectible moments, experiences and swag. 

Over the four-day virtual conference, CoinDesk experienced what can only be compared to the full on mania of tulips, Beanie Babies, and well, let’s be honest, cryptocurrency. Attendees obsessed with $DESK became like junkies, demanding more drops and joking about needing their fix before the next session. 

Meme created by $DESK Piranhas Discord user @Mona 

Side note: I worked on the content at Consensus 2021 and hosted the interactive workshop sessions called Unlocked, so saw all this first hand. 

Pressure Off, Hype On 

Besides increasing engagement, the token also served as a way to on-ramp users into crypto, said Colin Platt, CEO of, the NFT platform that built $DESK and the Consensus NFT marketplace.

“The way this was setup was as user friendly as possible while still being blockchain-y enough to get people started,” Platt said. “It helped people that had never played with NFTs or crypto or ethereum in a meaningful way experience some tools.” 

It’s true, while some might roll their eyes at the community that quickly sprung up to defend and promote a testnet token, it was teaching n00bs how to use the technology, without the peril of losing their life savings or spending god awful amounts on gas fees. 

The NFT marketplace was a legitimate dapp, accessible with the Torus non-custodial crypto wallet, running on an Ethereum network and interacting with the InterPlanetary File System, or IPFS, a distributed file sharing protocol created by Protocol Labs.

So users of $DESK were full crypto

How It Started/How It’s Going

NFTs were created on an ongoing basis during the conference. 

Some of the NFTs were mere collectibles – like the How It Started/How It’s Going images of David Portney – while others offered real utility. There were NFTs that allowed holders to claim experiences, like lunch with Tron founder Justin Sun, and others could be redeemed for swag like airpods and hardware wallets.

And despite CoinDesk and Unifty insisting the token had no value, there were plenty of users hodling their stash. One Discord user going by the handle Posted ended up with 108,000 $DESK at the end of the conference.

$DESK Piranhas 

At the end of the first day, as attendees were feening for more $DESK, I made a joke in the chat that the attendees were acting like piranhas. Several $DESK fanatics accepted the term and created their own $DESK Piranha Discord channel (naming me PiranhaMama).

Similar to the $XRP Army, $LINK Marines or other crypto denizen groups, the $DESK Piranhas are a community of people insanely passionate about their new bags and as such, probably a bit annoying to anyone who doesn’t have bags.

But unlike those others, the stakes, as a testnet token, are zero. And as such, there’s a playfulness to the community that feels a bit like Dogecoin back in 2014. 

The Discord channel has about 100 members and the official Telegram channel continues to inch up, recently eclipsing 450 members. Inside the Discord, people already have big plans and are excited to work with CoinDesk to grow $DESK. 

Moving to Mainnet? 

There’s been talk of moving to mainnet, writing a whitepaper (dubbed piranha paper) and creating a DAO. And there’s interest from CoinDesk as well. While Consensus was the proof of concept for $DESK, CoinDesk’s Stanley said the company will be looking for ways to integrate the token across the business. 

“I’ve been jokingly saying that $DESK might be the most innovative thing to happen to the events business since the invention of the expo booth. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in two to three years this became standard practice in the events world,” Stanley said.