I’m not talking about the true story of the first Bitcoin transaction, which was 10,000 BTC for 2 pizzas. Instead, I offer you a fictitious tale, but one that has real parallels to the Bitcoin community of 2013–2017.
Chapter One: Alice and Bob
Once upon time, two very good friends (Alice and Bob) decided they would open a pizzeria. There was a real need for it, as they lived in a town far away from the big cities, and there was no convenient place to get pizza. In fact, there weren’t many places to get tasty food in general. Come to think of it, there was really only one restaurant in town, “Fiat’s”.
In 2009, they opened up shop. There were difficulties in the beginning, as with any fledgling business, but within a short time, everyone was coming to the restaurant.
Now, one particular challenge was that full size pizza doughs were temporarily out of stock from the restaurant supply company, so at first, Alice decided to make 3" pizzas on little english muffins.
They were super tasty. People loved it. Although… Alice and Bob always assumed that sooner or later they would be upgrading to ‘normal’, big pizzas.
But since things were running so well, it wasn’t a priority.
As “Alice & Bob’s” became more busy, they realized they need help running the place, so they put up a help wanted sign. Not too long after that, there was an inquiry about the job.
“Hello, my name is Greg.”, said the man. He appeared to be in his 30s. He wore an unusual looking shirt with jangled geometric shapes and jarring color combinations. He also had a rather large brownish-reddish beard that covered his entire neck.
“As you can see, my credentials are impeccable. I’m an expert pizzagrapher.”, said Greg, handing them a resume.
“I can already suggest several PIPs (Pizza Improvement Propsals) for your operation. There are multiple non cost-bandwidth solutions here. And I can see your pizza oven is orthogonal to the food counter, which is sub-optimal.”
Alice and Bob were impressed. “Wow, if this guy is half as good as the way he talks”, thought Alice. Over the next several months, Greg did a fine job managing the shop.
Chapter Two: Trouble in Foodtown
All was good and well, but in the months to follow, a strange pattern emerged. Whenever the topic of “upgrading” to bigger pizzas came up, Greg always seemed to be against it. It was subtle at first.
“Why do you want to change things? Everything is running so well!”, he said in an encouraging tone to Alice, one day.
“Well, I suppose…” thought Alice aloud. “It’s just that bigger pizzas just makes sense. It was always the plan. It’s even in the original operating agreement whitepaper.”
For a while this dance continued. It didn’t make sense not to upgrade the size of the pizzas, but the conversation went the same way each time: Greg seemed to have one reason or another to give them pause. And since Greg seemed to know so much about pizzas and pizzerias, Bob and Alice didn’t really feel comfortable debating it too much. So, the can was kicked down the road.
The restaurant continued to grow, and a lot of changes began to happen.
Before work one morning, Greg said to Bob “You know, I’ve been thinking. There really aren’t that many good restaurant supply companies. I’m thinking about forming my own. And it would help the pizza place too.”
“Oh. That’s cool” said Bob, not thinking much of it at the time.
Greg decided to call his new company “Foodstream” as it would be bringing a steady supply of food and other supplies. He decided to partner up with an old food industry veteran, Madame Thwack.
Thwack had gained a tiny bit of notoriety 20 years ago after creating some kind of tomato sauce called “taste paste”, but hadn’t done much since.
Meanwhile, Alice and Bob were expanding into more locations. They had to take on new investors, which was good for the pizza chain, but suddenly Alice and Bob weren’t the only ones who made the decisions.
All major changes had to be cleared with the rest of the board of directors, many of whom happened to be Chinese. Greg had worked his way up to branch manager and somehow obtained a board seat.
One fine day in 2015, Bob was working in his office in a back room of the restaurant, when there was a knock on the door. It was Alice.
“Bob, we need to talk. This pizza scaling issue has gone on far enough. We NEED bigger pizzas and SOON. Customers are starting to complain. We’ve always promised them full size pizzas. And other restaurants are opening up all over town. We have to stay competitive.”
“Don’t worry” said Bob. I’ll bring this up with the board when we meet on Tuesday.
Chapter Three: FoodStream
Bob expected the board would approve the upgrade with little debate. But this was not to be. Apparently Greg’s ideas about keeping the pizzas small and all the potential issues with big pizzas had crept its way into the collective mindset.
After Bob’s presentation, he waited for the reaction from the board.
“Well… we can’t just instantly jump to large pizzas. Greg says if we do that it will cause disruption” said Gang Chun, one of the members.
“We could have larger pizzas”, said another, “but we have to all be on the same page. We can’t have one branch offering 12” pizzas and another branch with 14" pizzas. We need consensus.”
The conversation went on like this for some time, with many different opinions about exactly what to do.
The following day, Alice asked Bob “So, how’d it go?”. “Well Alice, you’re not gonna believe this, but the members can’t agree on when to increase the pizza size, or how big the pizzas should be.”
“What?!” asked Alice, incredulous. “You mean we’re stuck with 3” pizzas because we don’t have consensus on how big the pizzas should actually be?”
“Apparently so. I’m starting to think that ever hiring Greg in the first place was a bad move. He’s given the members some ideas that just don’t seem to make sense any more. I’m wondering how they ever made sense to us before.”
The news media began to pick up on the story. One of the local food websites, RestaurantDesk, began covering the pizza debate and had updates on a regular basis. After a while, it was all anybody talked about.
It was around this time that something else quite strange happened. Greg’s company FoodStream announced they had raised $76 million dollars in venture capital. Strangely, they didn’t seem to have an actual business plan, nor did they have any products, services, or customers. In fact, they didn’t even have an office.
Bob wondered about this.
Why was Greg allowed to run his own corporation, with unknown objectives, and still be allowed to work at Alice & Bob’s?
But it wasn’t Bob’s call to fire Greg any more. The members had to be convinced, and surprisingly, most of them didn’t really have a problem with Greg or FoodStream. In fact, they seemed to be almost hypnotized by his very technical sounding words. To them, he was a “pizza wizard.”
Chapter Four: BreadStix
As the “pizza scaling” debate started to become desperate, Greg sent a memo to the other branch owners, announcing a pizza conference, where everyone could put their heads together and decide, once and for all, how to move forward.
“We’re going to have a frank and honest discussion”, read the memo. “But we ask everyone remain calm and open minded. No specific solutions will necessarily be agreed on.”
Alice was furious. “Is this some kind of joke? What’s the point if we aren’t going to form an agreement?”
Nevertheless, the conference took place.
As the conference began, and participants took their seats, Madame Thwack approached the podium. “Thank you for coming”, she said flatly, speaking into a black metallic microphone mounted on the wooden podium.
“I look forward to seeing the same creative spirit that was around when I created taste paste. By the way, Pizza is taste-paste extended with dough and cheese. I thought you all should know that. But enough about me, I want to introduce another colleague here at Foodstream.”
“Thanks Madame” said Pieter.
A dark haired man with a beard almost as impressive as Greg’s now had the crowd’s attention.
“So, I would like to introduce a proposal where we segregate the traditional pizza into components. We will have a cheesy piece of bread here, and then a marinara dipping sauce. I call it “BreadStix”…
In the days following the conference, many people were happy with this new idea of BreadStix. RestaurantDesk and other websites were praising it. But, Alice and Bob weren’t happy.
“What the hell is this? Breadstix?? What happened to our plan? What happened to pizzas?”
Chapter Five: Trolls
Alice created an account on one of the biggest internet forums: pizzatalk, and tried to make sense of why more people didn’t see the insanity that was going on.
Her first post was titled “Don’t people want big pizzas?” A few people agreed, but there were others who disagreed, many of them quite loud and aggressive.
“Breadstix IS bigger pizzas” one of the replies stated assertively. “You’re actually getting more dough and sauce than you would with the normal 3 inch pizza.”
The online narrative was baffling. Had people just completely lost their mind? Had common sense just been thrown out the window? As the issues received more attention, it turned out things were even worse than Alice thought initially.
Breadstix required changing a lot of the ovens, which was one of the reasons Greg said that big pizzas would be a problem in the first place. But Greg was very optimistic about the idea.
“Look, upgrading to Breadstix will be optional. Not all locations will have to do it, so there’s really no problem.”
Bob tried to reason with the board members. Maybe they would support a pizza size increase if it wouldn’t impact the ovens too much. He stopped pushing for 14" and 12" pizzas, and asked for 10". Surely that would be reasonable?
But everyone just seemed like they had no sense of urgency whatsosever. Bob tried suggesting 8" pizzas.
“This is ridiculous. Ok what about 6” pizzas? I mean, that is still a very small personal pizza. How can anyone have a problem with that?” wondered Bob.
But the members still had to be convinced. This became the next round of debates. Would members go for the 6" pizza or BreadStix?
The online debates became even more heated. It was almost as if someone was paying some of these BreadStix supporters to post and troll. Board members that wanted the 6" pizza were accused of “blocking BreadStix”
Some of the townspeople that really wanted big pizzas created a plan called “Pizza XT” (extra large), that tried to get everyone’s agreement. It would only change the size of the pizzas if 75% of everyone agreed.
But, this plan was attacked and censored from the online forums.
Alice walked into Bob’s office and they discussed the current situation. “I still don’t understand how we got here. Why do some people assume BreadStix has this God-given right to be on the menu? In fact, why is BreadStix even an option? Who asked anyone for BreadStix in the first place. This is supposed to be a pizza chain.”
Chapter Six: Conspiracy
Bob didn’t know to make of the situation. It didn’t make sense. Something just didn’t add up somewhere. So, that night, he got on the computer and start digging…and researching… and digging even further.
What he found was shocking.
It turned out that Foodstream had contracts to produce the little dipping sauce containers. This was a huge conflict of interest! No wonder Greg was pushing for BreadStix.
Bob also discovered that the parent company of RestaurantDesk was the Digital Restaurant Group, also an investor in FoodStream. That must have been why they kept pumping the BreadStix narrative. The other big investors in Foodstream had ties to the old established Fiat restaurant.
Not only that, but the Digital Restaurant Group also had investments in many of the newer competing restaurants that were starting to spring up all over town.
It was all starting to make sense now.
Bob flew off the handle. He had always been the calm one in the business, but this was unbelievable. A true conspiracy to stop pizza.
Bob throws himself full tilt into the pizza debate. He starts talking to actual townspeople, and it turns out many of them are angry. Almost all of them actually want pizza, unlike how it appears online.
Chapter Seven: Meltdown and Rebirth
The following week, Bob attends a food conference in the greater metropolitan area. He’s surprised to find that almost everyone there is a big-pizza person. Apparently you can’t fake support at a conference.
Most of the people want 16" pizzas and are willing to pay for them.
Meanwhile, one of Greg’s buddies who had been seen popping in and out of the restaurant from time to time, gets involved in the debate.
Now this guy, no one really knows his true name; his street name is “Puke”, apparently because of his bulimic issues. He’s also a religious nutcase and fanatical about everything he does.
Puke decides to make it his business that everyone gets BreadStix.
He doesn’t care if the board voted or not, so he decides August 1st will be ‘make-your-own breadstick day’ officially known as the User-Activated Stick Festival (UASF), and he starts setting up a food cart outside the restuarant.
As August 1st approaches, things just get more and more insane.
Greg’s behavior becomes increasingly volatile. He shouts down customers asking for Pizza and tells them to go next door to the Chinese restaurant. Then, he says the Chinese are evil and worthless.
New hamburger joins open up, taking more business from the pizza store. But Greg insists that soon we’ll have deep fried BreadStix, which will be called Lightning BreadStix, which will “scale out” and magically change into 20" pizzas.
He also announces plans for confidential tacos and side fries.
Alice and Bob decide they’ve had enough. On August 1st, they will leave the old place behind, and open a new store that will serve big pizzas. Everyone else who really wants deep fried tacos and segregated BreadStix can have them.
If you’ve been following the Bitcoin scaling debate, I’m sure you got a chuckle out of this. If not, then you might not understand the satire here. I’ll spell it out for you. SegWit = BreadStick. No one actually wanted it until they were brainwashed into believing it. We no longer care. We’re moving on with Big Blocks, Massive On Chain Scaling, and Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash — the original vision of Bitcoin.