While You Were Out Partying, I Studied Bitcoin Development

Open-source software discussions were the best-kept secret at Bitcoin 2022 in Miami.

Apr 10, 2022 at 2:50 p.m. UTC
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George Kaloudis is a research analyst for CoinDesk Research.

Over 20,000 people came to Miami for Bitcoin Magazine’s Bitcoin Conference 2022 this week. I was one of them.

The speaker lineup was simply too impressive to ignore. Anyone who could be perceived as being “worth it” had at least one 15-minute slot, more if you were a more impressive individual (a particular developer I happen to share a last name with appeared on three panels back-to-back-to-back on Friday).

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Some of those speakers were household names, like tennis great Serena Williams, who spoke on a panel with National Football League players Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Rodgers. With millions of active Bitcoin users and millions more interested in the ancillary industry of altcoins that claims its roots in Bitcoin, the mainstream attention made sense. As a result, the conference was quite busy. I even saw someone wearing a BAYC hoodie.

It didn’t really feel like a gathering of cypherpunk dissidents looking to remake the financial system from scratch – unless you looked closely enough.

Open-source oasis

There was one stage in particular where open-source developers were sent (banished?) to speak. The Open Source stage. I was honestly pretty miserable until I stumbled upon it in the middle of my first day at the conference. These speakers reminded me why I love Bitcoin and what it stands for.

Panel after panel of principled, level-headed and thoughtful developers, open-source enthusiasts and designers spoke clearly about where we’ve been, where we are now and where we are going. There was no talk of price targets, no discussion of energy markets and certainly nothing about “culture.” Just open-source software and the freedom it enables.

I know investors (and casual users, really) are keenly interested in markets and price targets, mining and infrastructure, and other information that helps them make a financial return. Attendees looking for that could have found it at the conference, but they also can readily get it elsewhere. Hardly any deep, new conversations were happening in these areas (at least, those that I listened to).

The Open Source stage was special. Jameson Lopp rhetorically asked if wallets that reused addresses without deterministic address generation were a risk for users and therefore amounted to an attack on Bitcoin. Keith Mukai cleverly compared Bitcoin’s Taproot upgrade to changing Bitcoin from a train on rails to the “Google transit tab” where you could choose to use the train or you could “walk a mile, take a bus and then hop on the train to get to your destination.” Olaoluwa Osuntokun brought the house down with his keynote when he outlined the technical specifications of the Taro protocol in record speed (he speaks incredibly quickly) while holding a bag of taro chips.

From left: Developers Jameson Lopp, Bryan Bishop, Luke Dashjr (wearing gas mask) and Shinobi at Bitcoin 2022 (George Kaloudis/CoinDesk)

Bitcoin’s fundamentals

This is where the real due diligence gets done. Frequenting these types of discussions to listen to the devs and poring through their GitHub repositories (and Bitcoin Core’s) is a Bitcoin investor’s equivalent of true, deep fundamental analysis.

Although these open-source speakers work in the open, publishing everything they do to GitHub or to mailing lists, their words aren’t usually heard widely. Instead, they are usually relegated (banished?) to odd corners of the internet. Having them all in one place brought an amount of collective mindshare and pure coding talent that was honestly intimidating. And reassuring. The i’s and t’s of Bitcoin’s future are in the hands of these coders.

This is the place you went to truly understand Bitcoin technology and what is possible in the future.

We’re told to find the signal among the noise if we want to be effective investors. Anyone considering an investment in Bitcoin, or any other derivative of free and open-source software (FOSS), would be well served paying attention to, supporting and connecting with the open-source builders who make FOSS possible.

If you make it to a Bitcoin conference, spend some time listening to discussions around open-source development. There should have been more than 200 people watching that stage.

Plus, that room will be air-conditioned and cool compared to the sweltering heat of the other 19,800 people mindlessly bumping into each other.

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George Kaloudis is a research analyst for CoinDesk Research.

George Kaloudis is a research analyst for CoinDesk Research.

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