Announced Thursday, exchange OKCoin is awarding its largest individual grant so far to Bitcoin Core maintainer Marco Falke, the second-most prolific contributor to Bitcoin Core in the software’s history.
OKCoin is awarding Falke an Independent Developer Grant, which is the “equivalent of a developer salary for the year,” though Falke requested that the exact amount not be disclosed for the sake of his financial privacy.
With his grant, Falke will continue his work as maintainer of Bitcoin Core, the key software underpinning Bitcoin, which he’s been heads-down on since 2016. His work helps to ensure that changes to Bitcoin Core are merged, helps to organize developers that are spread out over the globe, and runs tests to ensure the code is working properly, among other tasks.
When asked about his personal accomplishments, Falke emphasized that Bitcoin Core is a team effort, with developers from around the world making it what it is. “I am proud to see what Bitcoin Core is today and how everyone’s contributions shaped Bitcoin Core for the future,” Falke told CoinDesk.
Falke is one of a handful of Bitcoin Core maintainers. Maintainers are sometimes described as the leaders of sorts of Bitcoin’s code. But, while maintainers are crucial to Bitcoin, the role isn’t as authoritative as has been painted.
“Some of my days are surprisingly unexciting maintenance work,” as Falke put it.
Testing ensures code works as intended. He spends a lot of time keeping tests of the code in line, ensuring that any issues they expose will be fixed. “On top of that, I am running my own nightly test runs, code coverage runs, benchmarks and fuzzers,” Falke said.
In addition, he reviews proposed code changes and merges them into Bitcoin Core “when they have been sufficiently vetted.”
Read more: Hard Fork vs Soft Fork
Helping to speed up this maintenance process is what he believes is his “most useful” contribution to Bitcoin Core.
He created a little bot for GitHub, where Bitcoin Core’s code is stored, and where developers propose code changes, and discuss them. The bot, called DrahtBot, “does all the automatable things that I used to do,” Falke said.
Many Bitcoin Core developers are working on the code at the same time. It’s easy for little code clashes to arise. Once a change is approved and “merged” into the code base, it might impact other people’s code. DrahtBot notifies developers of these conflicts. “The bot will also list all future conflicts, assuming a pull request was merged, to aid maintainers planning ahead,” Falke added.
DrahtBot also “builds” the Bitcoin Core code into binaries that bitcoiners can run on their devices, among other tasks.
This bot frees up “a lot more” time for Falke to focus on other more difficult tasks, which can’t be automated and taken over by a robot.
One reason Falke is happy to be receiving this grant is that he is leaving Chaincode, a startup in New York City that funds developers and researchers dedicated to improving Bitcoin.
He decided to move back to his farm in Germany. “Given that I grew up on a remote farm, away from big cities, NYC was definitely a new, lasting and exciting experience. Nonetheless, I couldn’t see myself settle down in NYC long-term,” Falke said.
Then, coronavirus hit, making New York City an even less attractive place to live for Falke.
“Even before COVID, I saw many of my friends and colleagues leave NYC. Then with the COVID situation happening, and seeing politics and immigration policy becoming increasingly hostile towards immigrants and visa holders, it convinced me to move back to Germany,” he said.
Chaincode only employs people who live in New York City. When Falke decided to depart, Chaincode’s head of special projects Adam Jonas helped him find new funding at OKCoin.
“I’d like to thank Adam Jonas from Chaincode for reaching out to various companies in the space and showing them the importance of supporting Bitcoin developers,” Falke said.
OKCoin: Funding Bitcoin Development
With a global health crisis that’s far from over and a feeble world economy, 2020 has been a disaster of a year. The sliver of a silver lining, though, is that 2020 has been the best ever in terms of funding developers tinkering to make bitcoin better after a long dearth of funding.
These sorts of grants have been growing in popularity. Many open source Bitcoin developers work on the code as a side project, essentially improving the digital currency for free, despite their contributions helping everyone in the industry, including the companies profiting from it. But now, more exchanges and other bitcoin organizations are beginning to support this work financially.
“We are inherently incentivized to invest in Bitcoin, which is fundamental to the growth of our industry,” said OKCoin CEO Hong Fang in a statement. “Supporting Marco’s work on strengthening the testing framework in addition to his general responsibilities as a maintainer is important to continuing quality development.”
OKCoin has awarded a number of grants this summer, including to Bitcoin Core contributor Amiti Uttarwar and to open-source payment processor BTCPay.