and cat puns — obviously

😿 Crypto-UX: I paid my non-technical friends with cats to do an informal analysis of blockchain interfaces.

Here’s what they said, what I learned, and some cat puns.

I’ve avoided making too many assumptions about why some misunderstandings occurred, since I might not be purr-fect; make your own judgements!

And I apologize in advance for the puns, but as I was feline the puns while I was writing.

On Ethereum Fundamentals

The ether gas price and gas amount thing I didn’t quite understand for a while. I get it more now after reading about it.
I tried to put my cat on the breeding market but I needed to add funds to my wallet first so there’s a transaction cost to put your cat on the market platform I guess. I tried to use the app but I couldn’t seem to find a way to log in to the app, it would only show me the market platform so I used my browser to check the kitty i received

Users don’t intuitively understand the concepts of Ethereum, Ether, gas, and gas prices. This is a well-known problem and hundreds of people (myself included) have attempted to distill the information down into easily understandable chunks, but we’re obviously not done yet. I talk more about this below in the Wall of Understanding section.

Users don’t intuitively understand the different concepts of wallets, private key ownership, etc either, and how that relates to being able to use Ethereum for more than just transferring Ether. One friend linked me an Ethereum address, so I sent them a CryptoKitty. Turns out that was a Coinbase receive address, so that Kitty is most likely trapped forever in the ether 😿

What a Cat-astrophe 😿 fur-tunately it was a trash-tier cat 😹

On Wallets and MetaMask

Ok so I need to get a metamask wallet first
What app should I use as wallet?
I’m finding this one when I type in metamask
This isn’t MetaMask. I don’t know this app, so I don’t trust it. It’s scary being on the hook for potentially disastrous mistakes your friends might make as a side effect of your instructions.
If I’m someone new to crypto and CryptoKitties, I’d be concerned if the service I just signed up for is telling me to sign up for a completely different service to make it actually work. I wish there was a way around this.
We have ‘For Sale’ which obviously means you can buy them. ‘Siring’, which I had to Google to understand because they provide no explanation.
These are cats that you pay to breed with and you keep the offspring. ‘Gen
0’ is next. I have no clue what this means. Then we have ‘All Kitties’, which
I’m assuming shows all of the cats.

On Token Transfers

Do I need to open a mail or is it straight through the site that I receive the kitty?

This illustrates a popular misunderstanding about 1) token transfers and 2) how dApps like CryptoKitties use the blockchain to store trusted state.

[My Cat] was sent by [Matt] asking me to copy my address from my profile. This is a weird way of doing trades, I wish it could be integrated into the platform directly instead of just getting my legit wallet # […] this is a pain point as far as user experience is concerned.

On Severe Asynchronicity

I use “severe asynchronicity” to describe the UX experience of:

  1. low-confidence transactions are available within a reasonable timeframe (ms)
  2. high confidence transactions are available within an unreasonable timeframe (minutes/hours)
  3. Off-chain state is uncertain due to [1], [2], block re-orgs, short-lived forks,
  4. Off-chain software isn’t perfect; it can lag behind the blockchain (if waiting for confirmation blocks), fail to replay state updates in the event of reorgs/forks, improperly handle unconfirmed transactions, and much, much more.

In many cases, the communication to the user is lacking; if the blockchain state is inconsistent with off-chain state (like being unable to buy an available CryptoKitty because the auction already ended), the user is presented with their error, but no explanation as to why that error occurred. Communicating to users the cause of an error is just as important as communicating the error itself.

With meta mask, that red box was blocking my ability to adjust the gas price. I accidentally set it too low and once that happened, the [error] box appeared and I could no longer adjust the transaction. When that happened, I had to reject and start all over. In the time it took to do that, the cryptokitty had already been sold to someone else.
Things don’t refresh instantly. So some cats are in the marketplace even after being sold.

On the Game and Marketplace

I’ve made a cryptokitty account…Which kitty should I be looking at…or how do I proceed?
Is there some kind of wiki? Like what does “Bun in oven” mean?
It was challenging to figure out the value of kitties, how much they should be worth, which ones I should buy and if I’m getting ripped off. I used a google chrome extension for CryptoKitties to help me out.
It took a bit of playing around to understand what the ‘game’ was about. Once I came up to speed on how cryptokitties worked, it became much more enjoyable.
I have no idea how much a kitty is supposed to cost and how much money that actually is.
What cats are good to breed together?
What are good attributes for breeding?
Do the cats die?
Do they age? 
What’s ethereum?
Why are they so expensive?
Who is actually buying these things?
The most difficult part was understanding the difference between cats and why some are worth more than others, there were a lot more factors in it than I initially thought. It just never really explained / steered you in the right direction for you to get started and figure out which cat to begin with.

Users quickly reached out to the internet for help understanding the game. They linked me to KittyHelper, CoinMarketCat, CryptoKittyDex,, and more.

Pretty nice landing page. It tells me nothing other than that I’m collecting and
breeding digital cats. It’d be interesting if I could immediately get a real insight as to what this is actually doing other than just breeding digital cats.

When breeding a cat:

Here’s where they explain the whole siring process. They’ve put some
default values for the start and end price, but as someone completely new
to all of this, I have no idea what this means. Are those values there as a
predication as to how much this specific cat is worth? What do they mean
relative to my wallet and the significance to the rest of the platform? Do I
increase these numbers or just leave them? I left them, and someone eventually decided to use my cat as a sire after proceeding.

When selling a cat:

I’m not sure why these values
are here or where I should be setting my values to make a worthy profit. I’m not even aware if the cat I own is of any value.

After navigating around the interface:

Honestly, at this point I was pretty confused. I read a Mashable article on the introduction to CryptoKitties, and it really cleared things up. This is again a huge pain point for any new user.
How do you change their names?[…] Nevermind, got it.

On the Wall of Understanding

I’ll talk more about the Wall of Understanding in the future, but there exists a level of intellectual gatekeeping around blockchain technology, primarily driven by ego.

Because the people who “get” blockchain have cleared this mental obstacle, they have pride in their intelligence. This results in both conscious and subconscious methods of keeping that information just as difficult for newcomers as it was to them; gatekeeping.

One obvious example of this is the absurd definition-saturation of the ecosystem. Everyone wants to coin their own term and break new ground.

Another is in the reinvention of wheels and rejection of existing standards. Why integrate with an existing network or partner with an existing product when you can build your own, be “CTO”, launch an ICO, and gamble on making millions?

The effect of this is that the idea of even getting started toward understanding blockchain technology is immediately shot down; “I don’t have that kind of time”.

I feel like this is something I need to get around to getting my head around this at some point.

As education (at both the non-technical and various-degrees-of-technical levels) progresses we’ll hopefully see this Wall of Understanding shrink lower and lower.


Thanks to Danny, Izzy, Austin, Kat, Amit, David, Kitty, Joseph, and Jade for commenting on my Facebook post.

Smash that 👏 button if you like cat puns🐱 and over-used emojis 😹.