Bitcoin excites me. The way I see it: Bitcoin is the first ever way of transferring value on the web that is native to the internet. Other online money services like PayPal, or Google Wallet, are third parties whom you borrow credit from and they will eventually settle your payments in the old, slow, non-internet system. Bitcoin, by comparison, is money that’s already in the web and your transaction is settled by you when you make a purchase. Wow. Not only that, but this money is open source, border-less, pseudonymous, and distributed… just like the internet itself. While bitcoin excites me, its proponents do not.
Some in the bitcoin community are a bit turn off, more so than other early adopter communities. Now, I understand that new technologies have to get a core userbase of sometimes extravagant and sometimes unsavory people to get the project ready to cross the chasm and achieve mass adoption. I get it, really I do. I’ve been an early adopter on so many new technologies. I’ve been using Linux since university over a decade ago and I was able to work with the neckbeards and held my nose at LUG’s before Linux started to run AWS and Android. I was using Git for years before my company, my favorite FOSS projects, and any of my private clients switched to it, then I taught bunches of new users about git. I’ve been driving an electric car for years and am used to fighting for timeslots around car-chargers with other long-haired hippies. I’ve been dealing with the early adopter crowd for a long time. Early adopter communities can be rough.Trust me, I get it. But holy hell is the bitcoin community a piece of work. Let me tell you how.
Early adopters must be idealists in order to put up with the shortcomings of a new technology: people who can tell themselves “it suck now, but I’ll use to to create a better future”. I’m an idealist too, so I can relate to early adopter communities. The early adopters of the bitcoin community have a very peculiar idealism though. Bitcoin’s early adopters sometimes believe that a systemic banking collapse is imminent and that this digital gold will be the only unit of value to survive. Bitcoins early adopters sometimes revile the centralization which comes with corporate services as being some kind of evil force that must be raged against viciously. Bitcoins early adopters include people with religious beliefs that bitcoins must never be spent but only be “hodled”. Bitcoins early adopters sometimes have a fixation about price, where most every piece of news gets filtered through the lens of market movement. Bitcoins early adopters are sometimes so ridiculous in their “to the moon” mentality that they are easy fodder for trolls (and outright bullies) who publicly congregate in a forum called buttcoin. Bitcoin early adopters are much much much more unhinged than other early adopter communities I’ve seen before. This leads me to worry about the future of the technology. But wait there’s more.
A toxic community is not such a bad thing in and of itself. A community that self-immolates is another matter. Some bitcoiners try to silence those whose ideological view of bitcoin is different from theirs. This is blasted as “censorship”. For example, there’s a technical debate about ways to scale bitcoin and the number of proposed solutions explored is still small. But already some people are entrenched in one way or another so they try to remove proponents of one method from the conversation, or remove one company from a listing because that company agrees with one method not another. Even though that company (coinbase) is fricken awesome. Another example is companies like FoldApp and Purse.io which are on the edge of opening up something awesome. They’re growing towards online exchanges where you can buy goods at a discount through an intermediary (something which is only enabled through an internet-native currency) but frequently the community response to the mere mention of their early efforts is cries and wails of fraud and money laundry. Apparently the only proper way to use Bitcoin is to spend it on drugs on the dark web, or something. These, and more, are self-destructive habits of the community that repeat themselves ad nauseam.
If the way that you think about a new technology is influenced by the petty anti-patterns I described above then you may not realize the full potential of the thing that you’re trying to explore. As you can tell: I love bitcoin and I think it’s the coolest thing since gold. I want to dive deeper into bitcoin and I want to bring new people into bitcoin and explore the ways in which the onboarding experience is being improved. But in order to do that I will stay far away from the bitcoin community. Furthermore, I will keep any people whom I introduce to bitcoin as far away from the community. It’s been fun everybody. But this is goodbye.