As we start to tell the story of Qala more publicly, I’m reminded of the relationship between prominent learning and exclusivity. A shortcut to fame is designing the admissions process to yield as ratio as low as possible. This taps into the innately human pursuit of coveting and valuing that which is scarce. The mechanism is effective at creating an external perception of a good education. It’s a playbook I’ve relied on for the residency, Summer of Bitcoin, and Qala. It works. It’s also a false signal. Rejecting a lot of students has nothing to do with the quality of the program. It made no difference how many people applied to any of these programs. We were looking for a specific profile, and we made up the program on the fly.
Qala is kicking off a trend of new programs that will train bitcoin and lightning developers. But before we can do that, we need to find the teachers to inspire, motivate and unblock the new generation willing to endure the pain of learning. If bitcoin is going to be a paradigm shift, we need to start with who we are putting in the front of the room. Teaching is about as high-leverage an activity as there is, so we need to elevate the teacher’s role in our ecosystem and start with incentivizing teachers properly.
A few people reached out about my post on my Guide for Grant Seekers with some critical feedback about promoting work-for-free culture. To clarify, this guide was not meant to be an ideal vision for the future, it was meant to reflect the present and help grant seekers achieve their goals.
Over the past few years, the bar for funding has been a moving target. Prior to 2019, finding full-time funding for open-source bitcoin development was quite hard. That summer, we gathered a few brave souls in New York and went as far as hosting a demo day in the hopes of finding them financial support for their open-source work. It took months for many of them to find support. That was three short years ago and it was a totally different funding climate back then. Blockstream, MIT DCI and Chaincode were the only games in town. Xapo had one and Coinbase had one employee that worked on open-source. That was about it.
For a third year running, regular Bitcoin Core contributors received a survey to surface priorities and ensure that people feel that they can contribute effectively. Below is a summary of the results in a format similar to last year’s survey.
For a second year running, regular Bitcoin Core contributors received a survey to surface priorities and ensure that people feel that they’re able to contribute effectively. Below is a similar presentation of the results in a format similar to last year’s survey.
Corporate performance reviews are anathema to open-source contributors, especially in Bitcoin. For many who have suffered from corporate constraints, being your own boss is a goal in itself. But I’ve observed this freedom can bring all sorts of unanticipated effects as well.
I’ve fielded a lot of questions about our plans for the Chaincode residency. While an in-person program isn’t a great fit for the times, we have no plans to move it online because we felt we’d lose too many essential components that made the program special.
Working in education affords me the opportunity to meet lots of prospective contributors who are eager to contribute to Bitcoin. In Working in Public, Nadia Eghbal does an excellent job describing the dynamics of large-scale open-source projects and Bitcoin Core suffers from many of the challenges and extractive contributions captured in the book. Recently, I was talking with Jarol, an up-and-coming prospect, on how to add value to the project. It’s a natural first reaction for new contributors to feel the urge to fire up their text editor and open a pull-request. Writing code feels creative and getting code merged into Bitcoin Core delivers a dopamine hit that can keep a contributor chasing for a long time. From what I’ve observed, the best way to make an immediate impact on Bitcoin Core only has one road to success. Review.
In January, John Newbery sent out a Bitcoin Core contributor survey in preparation for the March Coredev meeting, which was later canceled due to COVID-19. Given that the year is coming to a close, I thought it might be good timing to retrospect on those responses (even though they are now somewhat outdated) in preparation for another survey in early 2021.