One of the best things about decentralization is that it started as an underground movement; it was driven by the grassroots efforts of Internet subculture, which I’ve been contributing to since before I could ride a bicycle. With boots on the ground, guerilla marketing, and sheer dedication, Bitcoin was hammered into the public consciousness by Meet Ups groups, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations around the world.
Unfortunately, the Bitcoin Foundation is not one of those organizations.
I don’t say this as an ignorant third party or casual observer. After trying for at least two years, I managed to write for publications like Bitcoin Magazine, Coin Telegraph, and others–I’ve even traveled the world on Bitcoin business, having finally been recognized for my efforts. That’s how I know some powerful people will be upset by what I’m about to write, but as an anarchist, upsetting the powerful is pretty much my job.
Recently, there’s been discussion on ZapChain about the Bitcoin Foundation’s expenses. Astonishingly, that figure amounts to at least 5,800 BTC, which is roughly $4.6 million USD by their March 2014 evaluation, or $150,000 per month. When questioned about this, they’ll point out the fallen price of bitcoins, but the real story is one of bureaucratic waste and excess, the opposite of what Bitcoin stands for.
Almost none of that money was used to compensate Bitcoin developers, that being arguably their most important mission. Instead, the majority went to conferences. This may sound like a good initiative–and it could have been–but it isn’t, for several reasons.
Ostensibly, these conferences are promoting blockchain technology. The main problem with that assertion is that these conferences are expensive–they cost hundreds of dollars to attend, and even more to attend “in style.” They are, to be blunt, circle jerks, exclusive affairs designed to cater to an elite class of libertarian socialites.
Obviously, the masses are not going to be educated or persuaded by this. Probably, they’re not even aware of its existence. One could argue that they’re hoping to persuade government officials, but if so, they have demonstrably failed: countries as important as the United States of America enacted BitLicense, instead, a crushing regulatory requirement that will end many start-ups. The Canadian government has been accommodating, but they were primarily lobbied by the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada–not the Foundation.
In actuality, these conferences are designed to control the network of connections in our industry: the people who could hire you, partner with you, or invest in you will be there–probably plied to suggestibility by Bitcoin drinks–and you will not. The point is to profit off of access to opportunities, and in that, they’ve been wildly successful.
This may sound like a conspiracy theory, but cartels exist in crypto, and I have seen them. At least half of the major companies in our space are wrapped up in a complex network of allegiances that prevents true free market enterprise. Without naming any names (I’m an anarchist, but I do have editors), there are a few investors in Bitcoin’s largest corporations who are also invested in related news publications, and they use this to control the conversation. It’s obvious from the pattern in what press releases will be accepted or not accepted, and most of the culprits are Foundation affiliates.
The elite are notorious for such behavior, however, and I’ve never written about it, before. The reason you’re reading this–as indicated by abysmal public approval–is that the Foundation is also incompetent, “burning” (their words, not mine) cash at a rate which can only be described as luxurious.
The high price of admission is dwarfed by their callous disregard for efficiency. You might think conferences are necessarily an expensive affair, but as the founder of CoinFest, I know otherwise. Holding a convention simultaneously in over a dozen cities worldwide cost us less than $15,000, despite purposely limiting our resources to fiat-only venues and charging $0 for admission. We shopped smart, we knew how to make deals, and we never wasted time or money.
The biggest difference, however, is that we were volunteers, which the Foundation are not. The reason they have endless meetings and we don’t is that we don’t get paid to sit in meetings. When I hit the afterparty, I pay for my own drinks. I don’t travel to CoinFest events abroad because I would have to pay for it, and it’s entirely unnecessary–we communicate via the Internet, like all Bitcoiners did years ago.
It’s for my fellow Bitcoiners that I have to write this, not myself. Many advocates reading this will have a familiar story, sleeping on couches and living on ramen despite all of their hard work. If not for Adam Soltys–the founder of the Bitcoin Co-op, who bought 1,000 BTC early on but chooses to live a subsistence lifestyle of organic farming–I would never have made it to where I am now. I am truly grateful for that.
My story is rare, however, and most people won’t have an Adam. Instead, they will the Bitcoin Foundation, and that’s a damned shame.