While that article is not nearly as popular as my Top 5 Altcoins for 2020 or any article about Bitcoin’s price, I consider it more important for our community because it speaks to a fundamental problem. It’s a problem that probably motivated Bitcoin Bacon to post his tweet:
Most people don’t share our enthusiasm for cryptocurrency.
While that takes an emotional toll on some people, it also stifles the growth of our industry.
Because of this general apathy towards cryptocurrency, talented developers ignore it (though some don’t). Government officials have no reason to support it (though some do).
Instead of building the financial networks of the future, entrepreneurs work on other technologies. Instead of investing in a new asset class, rich people throw money into zombie businesses and undercapitalized banks.
Some of you consider this a good thing. Who needs those people anyway? Screw ’em!
But think of all that energy, passion, and investment that’s not going into crypto because nobody cares about it.
It shouldn’t be that hard
You might think this ignorance creates an opportunity. We get to introduce people to a whole new world-changing technology!
For example, we could tell them about how Microsoft, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, JP Morgan, IBM, MoneyGram, Twitter, and lots of smaller companies are developing business solutions that use crypto. Or, we could explain how The Marshall Islands created its own national cryptocurrency.
Maybe we could talk about China’s and UAE’s Blockchain mandates, or mention some of the Blockchain projects trying to improve energy markets and bring financial services to the unbanked?
Wall Street now offers crypto services and financial products. VCs have invested billions of dollars into crypto start-ups. Some altcoins have created new paradigms that are stretching the boundaries of what’s possible.
How about we talk about human rights and corruption? Better financial systems, more privacy, and lower business costs?
Cryptocurrency solves many problems. You’d think it should be easy to get people on board, right? To show them how useful it is? Why it matters?
Apparently, if it’s not bitcoin, so it doesn’t count.
No outsiders until we finish the ideological cleansing
Usually, technology does not decide its own fate. People decide what works and what doesn’t, what’s valuable and what’s not.
Projects compete and collaborate. Some win. Some lose but find niche applications. Some just lose.
We grow, prosper, and move on.
Did the artificial intelligence community argue about whether to build robots or computers? Or did some people work on robots, others work on computers, and occasionally collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects—while “the mainstream” simply used whatever they came up with?
Imagine what people would’ve said about AI if the most prominent advocates shouted “long the robots, short the humans!” or “the only true AI is robots, stop working on computers.”
When the biggest, best-known thought leaders mock every platform except the first one, talented people don’t say “oh, ok, I’ll work on your project instead.”
No, they leave the space (or work on their own projects).
Did Linux developers ban Apple, Microsoft, and IBM developers from their conferences? Did early aerospace pioneers reject engineers who wanted to develop jet engines?
Then there’s this:
A panel on ending crypto tribalism descends into crypto tribalism.
As long as Bitcoin maximalists dominate cryptocurrency, it will remain a side-show—an angry fringe community built around a niche commodity.
Great Wall of Tribalism
China built a wall to slow down invaders and keep its people from mixing with other cultures. For the same reason, Bitcoin maximalists built a rhetorical wall.
And then they wonder why nobody else “gets” it.
I asked a maximalist why developers should only work on Bitcoin. Here’s the response:
Because they could work together thousands of developers. I’m not specifically talking about Bitcoin as a Bitcoin node, but let’s take you as a Steem fan. You can simply develop a BTCSteem platform (as you call it – whatever), which will be safer than the current Steem, more decentralized and so on. Of course, there is another side of it that is not worth doing it for – you can generate billions of tokens and become a millionaire if people buy them.
I mean, nobody holds Bitcoin because they want to become a millionaire. Only altcoin developers do that.
Here’s the thing. If Bitcoin did everything perfectly, nobody would need to layer 2 and layer 3. You wouldn’t have all these people working on side chains, smart contracts, and third-party integrations.
Those developers are working on bitcoin because it has problems.
That’s the same reason developers work on altcoins—but try mentioning that at a Bitcoin convention.
Bitcoin is not good vs. evil
Perhaps this reactionism has poisoned the well and tainted our conversations?
One theme I heard from almost everybody working on altcoins and crypto financial products: outside the cryptosphere, a lot of people fear cryptocurrency will disrupt their business, enable crime, and destablize the world.
Too many maximalists embrace this message. For them, the government is the criminal, businesses need to die, and the world should get destabilized. The world is wrong and only Bitcoin can fix it.
Except, lots of people don’t think the world is wrong. They may not like everything about it, but they really fear crime, disruption, and instability.
You will never get people to engage you when you support something they fear, no matter how nice and polite you are when you talk about it.
Maximalists make a hard job harder
This obsession with Bitcoin hurts the people trying to use Blockchain for good purposes.
For example, when Peerplays founder Jonathan Baha’i talks to people about provably fair gaming, he’s already fighting an uphill battle. It takes time to explain the technology, how it solves problems with online gaming and igaming, and how businesses benefit from using it.
That battle only gets harder when cryptocurrency gets associated with the anti-establishment, anti-business forces that control the narrative.
Especially when half of the crypto community treats his project as some evil money-grab (it’s not—it didn’t even have an ICO).
Who’s to say Peerplays’ success won’t reflect favorably on bitcoin? And even if it doesn’t, why do you care?
True, some altcoins really are frauds, scams, or money-grabs. Last I checked, Bitcoin has seen a few frauds, scams, and money-grabs, too. Perhaps a little more nuanced view would make for better conversations?
Crypto will not matter until you decide to let it matter
Until you talk about things other people care about, you will never get the kind of engagement you want.
As much as you hate the entry of Wall Street and corporations into crypto, their involvement matters. For the vast majority of people, it’s the only thing that will make cryptocurrency seem legitimate.
Yes, they’re trying to make money off of crypto. If you’re HODLing Bitcoin or using it to promote yourself, you’re doing the same thing. You have kinship with these people. Find a friend.
If you resent the idea of money as a brand, search Amazon for books on digital currency and Blockchain. Bitcoin’s the brand, easily the top brand. It even has its own keyword. You already rep that brand.
When you scoff at governments trying to do crypto, ask yourself whether that’s any different than developers trying to do the Lightning Network. Or is government bad only when it’s ruled by people, not code?
Maybe you could talk to somebody in government about how bitcoin can improve governance instead of destroy it.
The next time you want to mock an altcoin, think about the consequences. You may just push an aspiring Blockchain developer to work for Google.
It’s great to care about Bitcoin. Until you care about others, too, they will not care about it—or you.
Mark Helfman is a top writer on Medium for cryptocurrency, finance, and bitcoin topics. His book, Consensusland, explores the social, cultural, and business challenges of a fictional country that runs on cryptocurrency. In a past life, he worked for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.