The following article is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk's 2017 in Review.
Hello, Bitcoiner – Go ahead and help yourself into the back of the car.
Don't mind the mess, just push that stuff over, and make yourself comfortable. You hungry? I've got an extra steak cooking on the engine block. It should be ready any minute now! I should tell you, I don't usually pick up hitchhikers, but, well you look like you could use some help.
A lot of people come through this car. You can see bits and pieces of what they've left behind in the back there. That's an Opendime you just sat on. Oh, and that? That's the 21 Computer. Just push that aside for now...
I picked you up because of that sign you were holding. "Heading south, will work for crypto."
That's a common message these days – you're not the first to think of it. Hell, maybe you saw someone else holding that sign and thought you'd do the same. I see a lot of that too. The trick to a good sign is to make it relatable. Lots of people are heading south. Hell, lots of people even want crypto these days. Your message stuck. Simple messages are often the ones that stick best.
Look kid, I'll be straight with you. I'm a busy guy. I have a wife at home. I have kids to feed. But these people on the road these days? They're bonkers. I only picked you up because you looked... relatable. I made note of that. Yeah. You looked like you have the same problems I've had. Your sign stuck out. Signs like yours are what help like-minded people stick together.
So, what else makes a sign stick?
Well, you have to make your message snappy. That's the first thing.
You see all these cars? Each one of them contains a busy person on the go. These people don't have much time to think. They want to learn something, and they want to learn fast. So, make your message simple. And you know what? Make it funny too. People love to laugh.
Most people are just trying to get to where they're going. We don't have time to go down every road and examine them for ourselves. See, take those people on that side of the road. They're going backwards. You know it, and I know it. They'll learn that eventually. The reason they're going backwards is that they started off reading the wrong signs. Once you get started on the wrong trail, it's hard to turn around.
As for these people on our side of the road? Well, they're people like us. And they're heading our way. The biggest problem on these highways, best that I can tell is that no one's looking out for each other. Everyone is so concerned with their destination, they don't even pay attention to the people heading there with them.
That's why I picked you up. I figured, I need to talk to more people like us. People who stare into the same far-off distance I'm driving to, and who say, "Damnit, I want to get there as well."
So, where are we going?
Well, that's the hard part. I'm just heading forward right now. I don't know where you're going to. And sure, I could ask. But what if I don't like your answer? To me, all I need to know is that we're together for the time being. I'll take you as far as I'm going, and when I need to exit this highway, well, I'll just let the next guy take you from there.
That's what I like about a good sign. It takes you forward.
A great commute is made of simple steps. That's what all the great signs have in common. They cut through the big thinking and get straight to the heart of things. They help us focus on the immediate goals.
That's another thing about signs. When they're done right, they're lessons learned from others. Hints from our future selves, to our past. Some signs are great at finding our flaws. Others for finding our ideals. And some, well, they're just for blowing off pressure.
You have to watch out for new people bearing fancy signs. Things get awfully heated when they show up. They can be distracting. People start rubbernecking down the highway. Accidents happen. People just can't seem to leave well-enough alone sometimes.
I think that's what decentralization is for. Making signs together. A way to direct traffic to your fruit stand on the side of the road. A way to tell others about the scenery at the top of the mountain. And sometimes, signs are even just a way to strip travelers of their money, in exchange for a peek at the world's largest pistachio.
And with that, I'm going to let you off.
This is my exit coming up, and I don't want to be late for my next gig. Watch out for that 21 computer there on your way out. Don't squish it. A man walked in here with that a couple years ago, and well, he got restless, too. Left that behind on his way out. All he had to do was sit still and not bother anyone. But he was so in a hurry to change the world that he ended up changing nothing.
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Hitchhiker image via Shutterstock