What Is DESK? CoinDesk’s Social Token, Explained

How to earn, store and spend our blockchain-powered answer to loyalty points at Consensus 2022 and beyond.
Updated Sep 2, 2022 at 6:56 p.m. UTC
Crypto Explainer+

At CoinDesk, we’re not just chronicling the business model transformation that digital assets and the blockchain have made possible – we’re actively participating in it.

At last year’s Consensus virtual event, we beta-tested DESK, an experiment in using tokenized rewards to incentivize engagement and community-building. The audience loved it.

Now, CoinDesk is relaunching DESK as a full-fledged on-chain social token at Consensus 2022, making it a core part of the experience at our first live event since 2019.

Below is everything you need to know about DESK and how to use it. This post will be updated regularly as we build out the DESK program, so check back every so often for the latest information.


What is DESK?

DESK is CoinDesk’s social token. It will be the experiential fuel for the Consensus 2022 festival, to be held in Austin, Texas, on June 9-12.

What is DESK’s mission?

DESK is designed to build a community around the CoinDesk brand and to reward our audience for engaging with our content.

DESK’s ethos is modeled on the founding principles of blockchain technology: openness, community, empowerment and innovation. We hope to use DESK to create a feedback loop with our users to help us build out an ecosystem together.

How can I get DESK?

In the weeks leading up to the event, we are doing limited airdrops, or giveaways, to all registered attendees.

At the event, you’ll have numerous opportunities to earn more DESK, by doing things such as:

  • Picking up your badge at check-in
  • Scanning codes displayed on screens during panels and presentations
  • Visiting exhibitor booths
  • Attending experience drops at the opening party, off-site locations, happy hours, morning wellness sessions, etc.
  • Participating in chats on the event’s virtual platform
  • Engaging in chats on our Discord server
  • Participating in special quests and discovering Easter egg airdrops around the festival

Cool, so what can I do with DESK?

At the event, you’ll be able to redeem DESK for such rewards as:

  • A drink at the bar
  • Food from nearby vendors that have partnered with CoinDesk
  • Merchandise, such as hoodies or T-shirts
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFT) from our online marketplace
  • Special on-site offers from Consensus exhibitors and partners
  • Unlocking the token-gated Discord server
  • Unique experiences, like playing "Horse" basketball with Spencer Dinwiddie or chess with Garry Kasparov.

You can also use DESK to tip other users on our Discord server, or to vote on things like best panel, best speaker, etc.

On what blockchain is DESK?

DESK runs on Polygon, a sidechain, or parallel network, to Ethereum.

Why isn’t DESK on Ethereum proper?

Polygon can handle many more transactions per second.

What do I need to do before the event to be ready to spend DESK?

You’ll need to set up a cryptocurrency wallet that works with Polygon. MetaMask and Coinbase Wallet are the easiest ones to use for beginners.

Do I need to create a CoinDesk account to use DESK?

No. A CoinDesk account provides a dashboard that links out to the entire DESK ecosystem, a trackable list of “quests” users can complete to earn DESK, and QR code functionality. Users who prefer to use the wallet-driven, standard Web 3 experience can do so.

What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

In the Web 2 era, content creators – be they writers, artists, filmmakers, publishers, media outlets or event organizers – have become beholden to the algorithms of intermediating platforms, complicating their efforts to directly reach and engage audiences. Simply put, the web ended up replacing one set of gatekeepers (major newspapers, magazines and television networks) with another (social media and search engines).

We’re hopeful, like many others, that crypto and Web 3 solutions involving tokens and new data and governance models will facilitate a more direct relationship with our audience and the expansion of a community of engaged participants that is independent of the platforms.

We believe Consensus, which moves the content creator-audience relationship out of the digital realm and into a physical space where internet gatekeepers have less influence, is a great place to experiment with new tokens and incentive models in pursuit of this goal.

We hope DESK generates a community that engages year-round in rich interaction with each other and with CoinDesk articles and other content and then comes back each year to gather in person at this cornerstone annual event.

Why do you need a blockchain for loyalty points?

Social tokens allow for community-driven tech by creating a feedback loop between product creators and product users. This will allow the DESK team to get real-time data on engagement based on DESK usage, and use that data to iterate on the DESK ecosystem, aligning it more and more to user needs and wants.

Simply put: DESK will be used to align our efforts as a media and events company to the wants and needs of our audience.

No really, why do you need a blockchain for this?

Truth be told, a blockchain isn't 100% necessary for the current stage of DESK, but we're laying the foundation for the ecosystem to grow.

Initially, the blockchain provides us with data on DESK usage. The blockchain also discourages insider deals or under-the-table giveaways because the public ledger would lay bare any such misbehavior. This means everyone who claims NFTs or physical rewards had to put in the work (engaging with our content) to earn their reward.

Will DESK increase in value?

No. DESK is not a currency, nor is it a financial asset or investment product of any kind. It is not for speculation and will not make anyone rich. This is not a vehicle for anyone’s savings nor is it a money-making opportunity.

Why doesn’t DESK have monetary value?

It is a reward token, analogous to airline frequent-flier miles, hotel guest points and the like. CoinDesk will be taking strong measures to discourage its use for speculation or trading.

By providing a system where users can contribute to the functioning of a collective, digital system, the blockchain lays the foundation for a new type of organization: the tokenized community. We've seen examples of this over the past few years with NFT communities and distributed autonomous organizations (DAO). To highlight this blockchain use case, we decided to focus on activating and expanding social utility to create community value, instead of focusing on monetization.

Can I mine DESK?

No. DESK can only be earned as a reward for engaging with CoinDesk events and content, or as a tip from fellow users.

Can I stake my DESK to earn more tokens?

No. See above.

Is CoinDesk using DESK to raise funds?

No. We're not selling the token at all, just distributing it to audience members as a reward for their engagement.

How will the revamped version of DESK differ from the one that debuted at Consensus 2021?

Most importantly, the new DESK will be easier to use and you’ll be able to spend it IRL, not just online, thanks to arrangements with local vendors and our partner Flexa, which is aiming to bring crypto payments mainstream. As mentioned, the relaunched DESK will also allow users to unlock our token-gated Discord server, and to vote on their favorite panels, speakers and so on at Consensus 2022.

On a technical level, the beta version of DESK ran on Rinkeby, a testnet, or experimental environment for software development on Ethereum. As mentioned, the revamped DESK will live on mainnet, or in the wild, albeit on the Polygon sidechain.

Wait, if the token is on mainnet, then what’s to stop anyone from listing it on an exchange or trading it?

Listing, buying or trading DESK is against our terms of use because we want the rewards and value to come from inside the ecosystem. We reserve the right to ban accounts and blacklist wallet addresses that violate our terms of use.

Banning? Blacklisting? That doesn’t sound very decentralized. What gives?

It’s important to remember that not all blockchain assets are fully decentralized or claim to be so. Ether, the native currency of Ethereum, is completely user-controlled, but ERC-20 tokens built on top of the network may or may not be, depending on how the issuer designs it. For example, a number of regulated stablecoins are ERC-20 tokens, and their issuers have the power to freeze funds of suspect addresses to comply with law enforcement requests.

So, no, DESK is not decentralized, nor does it purport to be. It is not competing with bitcoin or ether.

OK, but if DESK has no monetary value why will taco stands or bars in Austin accept it during Consensus 2022?

Part of the value DESK provides is what CoinDesk injects into the ecosystem when we want to reward our users for engaging at a deeper level. This means being able to use your DESK to redeem food and drinks at establishments that CoinDesk partners with on the ground.

Are there gas (on-chain computation) fees for using DESK?

No. The DESK ecosystem is 100% gasless.


CoinDesk is covering the gas costs on Polygon.

What if I got DESK last year at the virtual Consensus? Can I still use it?

Because DESK has transitioned from testnet to mainnet, DESK collected last year is no longer usable. That being said, we value the feedback and effort from DESK's beta testers, so look out for a reward coming your way.

Who are the 'Piranhas'?

Piranhas are the fledgling community that formed around DESK during Consensus 2021. They started their own Discord channel and created memes about the token. The phenomenon was a clear validation for CoinDesk of the concept.

At Consensus 2022, the official hub of the DESK community will be CoinDesk’s new Discord server, where we welcome the Piranhas and newcomers alike.

Who built DESK?

CoinDesk did, with the help of several key external partners.

As mentioned, Flexa is handling the merchant integrations at the event in Austin.

Also, we partnered with Coinvise to help us create the token contract, quests and airdrops.

NFTify provided our gasless NFT marketplace, where users can buy and sell curated NFTs using DESK.

Which wallets support DESK?

As mentioned, MetaMask and Coinbase Wallet are easiest to use, but any wallet that works on Polygon can be used.

How do I buy an NFT with DESK?

Attendees with a CoinDesk account can access our NFT Marketplace via the DESK Dashboard or the url https://coindesk.nftify.network/. Attendees using the wallet-driven, standard Web 3 experience can access the market using the url. All users need to do is make sure they're on the Polygon network, then connect their wallet. They can then buy an NFT using DESK.

How do I connect my DESK wallet to my CoinDesk account?

Navigate to the DESK dashboard. Select "Create or Connect Wallet" and approve the transaction in your wallet.

Can I send DESK to another Consensus 2022 attendee?

Yes! As mentioned, tipping fellow conference goers is an early use case. Users can send DESK to each other via their wallets or through tipping via Collab.land bot.

Are DESK transactions anonymous?

Depends. CoinDesk can associate identities with wallets only when users create accounts on desk.coindesk.com. We will not use this data for anything other than authenticating users when they sign on or distributing DESK rewards, we will never sell it, and we will protect user information assiduously. (See our privacy policy.) DESK transactions will appear on DESK's page on the Polyscan block explorer, but only the wallet addresses will be displayed.

Do I need to report DESK transactions on my taxes?

DESK has no inherent monetary value, but, whether or not you live in a jurisdiction where utility tokens are deemed taxable, you should consult a tax professional if you have concerns.

How do I keep up with DESK updates?

We’ll keep a record of airdrops, product developments and other updates critical to DESK’s roadmap and tokenomics in our DESK product blog.

You can also keep abreast of DESK updates in our Discord server.

What’s the future of DESK?

After Consensus 2022 in Austin, we plan to expand the DESK ecosystem so it can be not only a reward for engagement but a tool to empower our audience to share their thoughts as we reimagine crypto media and events together.

This article was originally published on May 23, 2022 at 3:11 p.m. UTC


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

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