When did it become okay to shill? Once upon a time, shilling was perjorative, a word used to describe a person of little ethics that was in the game of deceit to swindle you out of cash. Even in crypto, the word shill used to have negative connotations, aka “Don’t be a shill” or “I’m not going to shill anything on this podcast.”
Wikipedia concurs on its pejorative meaning:
A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with said person or organization.
Shilling is illegal in many circumstances and under many jurisdictions because of the potential for fraud and damage.
Merriam-Webster also thinks its primary connotation is negative. The first defintion for shill as a noun:
one who acts as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler)
However, Merriam-Webster’s second definition for shill as a noun is neutral:
one who makes a sales pitch or serves as a promoter
Indeed, in crypto, the word seems to have morphed to this second definition. There is no shame anymore in shilling; in fact, it is just another part of marketing in 2022. It would not be surprising to see it listed on someone’s resume!
A quick Twitter search of #shill returns a pletora of posts every day; not to mention the people on Twitter whose names the word in their Twitter handle: @0xShill Me Harder, @Cold Blooded Shiller, @Shill Queen and, my favorite, @Shill Gates.
It’s strange though; for old school crypto folks, the word sounds like an insult. Also, it doesn’t really make sense as a “promoter.” If you are actively shilling, it should be on the down-low, right? One who shills shouldn’t be telling me he/she is a shill, but rather sneak it into conversation, like product placement in a movie or an Instagram influencer working with a brand on the sly.
In fact, where is the line between an influencer who gets paid by a brand and a shill who promotes an NFT? Is Jimmy Fallon a shill for pumping his NFTs? Would he take offense at being called a shill? Or pride?
To shill or not to shill; that is the question…