APOLOGIES… This post was supposed to be much longer and cover a lot of interesting conversations and quotes from the event, but I moved to Romania to work full time at Xotika and I know I won’t have the time to blog any time soon. So, I cleaned up what I had and I’m publishing it here for anyone interested.
A few weeks ago, I attended the infamous Satoshi Roundtable meetup for the second time. Last year, I attended, uninvited, with Bitcoin’s Biggest Bullies, Chris DeRose & Joshua Unseth, of the controversial podcast, Bitcoin Uncensored. I was living in Florida at the time, and they needed an extra hand with equipment and I needed an excuse to drive to South Florida to finally meet a couple of my favorite content creators.
Our presence last year was met with both excitement and vitriol. Honestly, I didn’t expect to last more than 10 minutes at the event, but Chris & Josh have an amazing ability to find ways to do their thing in the most hostile of environments. People like Paul Sztorc, Luke Dashjr, and Adam Back were happy to see us. Others, not so much. At times we were yelled at, insulted, threatened, and even forced to relinquish video footage to security. As always, Chris & Josh made the most of it by finding a convenient area to broadcast their show, on Xotika.tv, interviewing any drunken Roundtable attendee that was willing to get on camera.
Overall, the impression I got of last year’s Roundtable was that it was basically a Bitcoin meetup on steroids. It had a few people that were noobs, a few that were experts, and a few that merely imagined themselves as experts.
Fast forward to this year and not much has changed. The Bitcoin community is more focused than ever on things like the “toxicity” and “trolling” within public discourse, as well as governance, scaling, and comparing ourselves to Ethereum.
While Bitcoin Uncensored did not attend Satoshi Roundtable 3.0, I managed to get an invite legitimately this time. I had been doing some volunteer work for Bitcoin Core and the Bitcoin Foundation, which allowed me to eventually show Bruce Fenton that I’m not actually a troll and might even have something to contribute. I’m no longer the anonymous big red X I used to be, being that I now use my real name to represent Xotika as an executive and stakeholder. I wanted to attend the Roundtable this year to represent one of the few Bitcoin-pure companies out there, but mostly I just wanted to meet up with friends and some industry people I was hoping to spar with.
It was eye-opening to witness, and I personally got a lot out of attending, but I think that’s because I set reasonable expectations for myself. I’m going to attempt to share some observations here, even though I had previously decided I wasn’t going to write this post at all, for fear of it being both uninteresting to the people I respect, and offensive to those I don’t.
After some introductory comments by Bruce and a presentation on lobbying and regulation, which included a presenter giving way too much irrelevant detail about a meeting with Donald Trump. [note]My neighbor & I used this time to develop a roadmap for an imaginary organization, The Center for Decentralization, which would serve to promote and protect Bitcoin in subversive ways, such as encouraging government to learn more about the magical possibilities of “blockchain”, promote drug regulation and capital controls, and generally bar Jerry Brito from any useful information on Bitcoin. Sorry, Jerry! [/note]
“Bitcoin was built not to submit to jurisdiction in the first place. Bitcoin will not submit to jurisdiction.” ~Anonymous attendee that does not have much support in his or her jurisdiction
The above comment sounds pretty cool on first blush. However, it’s also a bit delusional. Bitcoin usage happens in the real world. It is exchanged by real people. Those people all reside somewhere, thus making them subject to a jurisdiction. The great irony? There we all sat, in a jurisdiction, trying to debate the future of a phenomenon that won’t submit. Such irony was constant throughout the meetup.
“I distrust the federal government with every fiber of my being.” ~Anonymous attendee that may or may not be on government payroll
It was decided that we should split into two groups, in two separate rooms: one for an “ICO” theme, another for a Bitcoin scaling theme. I chose the Bitcoin room, since I don’t really think I’m capable of behaving myself in a conversation about ICOs.
“The usability of the actual network itself is worse than it’s ever been! Double spends are easier to do than they have ever been! Transaction fees are higher than they have ever been! Transactions take longer to get confirmed than they ever have! It’s a big, big, big, big giant problem for Bitcoin!” ~Anonymous attendee that forgot to mention the market cap is also higher than it has ever been.
The Bitcoin conversation began with an extremely emotional and loud rant by an individual demanding scaling NOW! People in the other room were messaging me on Telegram, asking what the hell was going on. Our group spent an hour or so going back and forth about the same old scaling considerations we’ve heard for the past year. Some wanted a fork, some wanted SegWit. There was regular interruption by some attendees taking time to criticize the lack of scaling progress, demand better governance, and throw shade on the portion of the community they consider to be toxic and “bad for Bitcoin.”
“We knew this was a problem that was coming years in advance! We knew that scalability was going to be an issue that needed to be solved… All the business community came and said, “PLEASE WE NEED MORE SCALABILITY!” People literally got down on their knees and begged!” ~Anonymous attendee that was not on his or her knees at the time
I am a great sympathizer of Bitcoin’s mislabeled trolls and those who are unapologetic about their candor while criticizing those they disagree with. That’s because many people consider me to fall in that camp. Despite being blocked on Twitter by a number of community figureheads, I rarely speak with an intent to troll.
The Bitcoiner Debate Process:
Question > Reason > Blog > Troll > Meme
— John Carvalho (@BitcoinErrorLog) December 20, 2016
I find that the people most sensitive to trolling are the ones most deserving of criticism. This amounts to a faction of Bitcoiners that dread being held accountable for their ignorance, all singing a chorus, crying for a greater power to stop the madness. These people have a gross inability to defend their ideas. The best they can do is complain about the style in which their detractors communicate with them. The problem is, we can only be cordial for so long. As skeptics and critics, we grow frustrated with our targets’ inability to make or parse rational arguments. So many of us are looked at as trolls, but we’re just out here defending Bitcoin.
Govern Me Softly
“Bitcoin has huge economical problems, but they’re not necessarily economical in nature… You see, frankly, the network does not function the way we want it to function… That’s a huge problem… The underlying problem is not technical and it’s not economical. It’s social. I’m sorry to say it but I’ve never been in an open-source community this toxic… It’s about governance. It’s about resolving conflict. I’m sorry but we fucking suck!” ~Anonymous attendee proclaiming his or her influence fucking sucks
I often wonder whether the real issue behind all of the tension in the Bitcoin community is a measurable gap in intelligence, a gap so wide that no amount of communication could overcome it. It’s either that, or I’m left entertaining conspiracy theories. Pick your poison…
“I think one really interesting thing that happened last year was the DAO incident and the resulting Ethereum hard fork, and some people see that hard fork as evidence of a failure, or evidence that whatever happened there was wrong, and trying to avoid that at all costs with Bitcoin, but actually I’m not so sure the hard fork was a bad thing for Ethereum.” ~Anonymous attendee that may or may not have been trolling