Crypto Burner Wallets Helped an IT Conference Give $40,000 to Charity

Publicly-traded analytics firm Splunk gave 10,000 conference attendees ERC-20 burner wallets. Three non-profits received over $40,000 as a result.

AccessTimeIconNov 1, 2019 at 4:36 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:39 a.m. UTC
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Data analytics giant Splunk raised $40,000 for charity from 10,000 attendees at its annual conference in Las Vegas last week by gifting everyone an ethereum-based blockchain wallet, in what became showcase for the power of “big data” merged with blockchain technology.

Buttercup Bucks (BCB) was the name of the ERC-20 token created to pay for conference swag, activities and donations.

Originally designed by ConsenSys research director Austin Griffith, the open-source “burner wallet” simply requires users to be connected to the internet and able to open a web browser on their mobile devices.

“It gives users the ability to participate without having to jump through all the hoops,” Griffith told CoinDesk in an interview. “You can get right in and use it first. It’s like a Trojan horse into the decentralized onion.”

Over 2,000 individual donations were made to three different non-profit organizations including NetHope and Conservation International. The single highest donation of $10,446 was awarded to the human-trafficking awareness group Global Emancipation Network.

It was donated by Caroline McGee, a cyber engineer for IT company SAIC, who told CoinDesk she managed to raise these funds by collecting other attendees’ unused BCB tokens.

“I was standing at the exit of the conference. I was basically yelling at people to scan my QR code and transfer me their BCB. ... There were five people scanning me at a time,” said McGee, adding:

“It was a different mindset. People are hesitant to donate via their credit card especially at a cybersecurity or data science conference because of the potential risks. But because of it being cryptocurrency, there was no question.”

Scaling showcase

Part of the motivation for Splunk to use cryptocurrencies at the conference was to show the power of “big data” analytics merged with blockchain technology, according to Splunk’s blockchain leade, Nate McKervey.

Based in San Francisco, with a market cap on NASDAQ of over $18 billion. Splunk began expanding its traditional product base into the blockchain industry in the first quarter of 2019 by building data analytics tools for platforms such as IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric.

Splunk is currently planning to build even more blockchain-focused products specifically for the bitcoin and ethereum blockchains, as well as for other major public cryptocurrencies.

“People say blockchain technology is immature, it can’t scale, doesn’t have good performance or security,” said McKervey, adding:

“We want to show although that’s all true, if you harness the data behind it you can solve all these problems.”

The transaction activity generated during last week’s Splunk conference was tracked and recorded using Splunk’s “Buttercup Bucks Ops Center.”

“They had three full walls of screens solely for [BCB] analytics,” McGee explained.

Splunk’s Ops Center synthesized data about BCB transaction activity from users’ mobile devices, the conference app, the ethereum blockchain and the xDAI sidechain all in real-time.

(For context, xDAI is a blockchain network pegged to ethereum that’s able to process transactions at sub-second speeds. Normally, on ethereum, transactions take roughly 15 seconds to complete.)

“If things start to get slow and transaction latency goes up a lot, it’s difficult to understand why,” Splunk’s McKervey said. “Is it the phone network? Is it this lambda function? … The only way to solve transaction speed problems is to have the insight into all the different sources of data.”

Troubleshooting for issues on a blockchain application using comprehensive data analytics is one thing. According to Griffith of ConsenSys, the other major issue that data analytics can solve is poor user engagement.

Making blockchain fun again

During the first deployment of burner wallet at the ethereum conference ETHDenver in February, Griffith said Splunk built an analytics tool that could create a word map of the public messages people were attaching to their token transactions.

“We had this great big word cloud of what everyone was saying at the event while they were buying beer,” Griffith said. “Everybody was having a lot of fun. It was a blast.”

Provoking user engagement and promoting the user experience is the ultimate aim of Griffith’s burner wallet.

Viewing Splunk’s iterations to the burner wallet as a step forward for its open-source development, Griffith said all cryptocurrency products in the market today could improve by thinking more deeply about user experience and onboarding.

For Splunk, that process is already beginning. While Buttercup Bucks was originally intended to be a one-off demonstration of blockchain data analysis, the company is now considering extending the application for wider use cases.

“The feedback we’ve had has been tremendous,” McKervey said, adding:

“Now our community wants us to continue with Buttercup Bucks and we have had other requests to do this at other conferences.”

Splunk 2019 conference image via Twitter / Nate McKervey


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