by Adam Jonas


  • education
  • exclusivity

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.

Why are we bragging about rejecting people?

I’m disappointed that I’ve fallen into the trap of celebrating admissions standards more selective than {insert famous college}. The goal of these programs is to make bitcoin development more accessible, not teach the top 1%. For the 99% who didn’t get in, we’ve sent them an unambiguous signal that they don’t have what it takes. There is no way this excluded group doesn’t have a significant fraction of people worth further investment. This reflects the American high-ed model solely motivated by the U.S. News and World Report rankings to pump up absolute application numbers so that their relative ratios can appear more exclusive. This method is ubiquitous. It’s in pre-schools, sports programs, and theater. And without much consideration, it’s in the things I do too.

Teaching to the top 100%

The promise of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) was to allow anyone in the world to access the best material. This was going to change everything. But it didn’t because MOOCs don’t produce signal. There are no consequences for not finishing. There is no way to tell if a learner got what they needed from the first 10% of the course and withdrew or whether the student just quit.

Bitcoin needs a massive signal machine that can call attention to the people that are falling down the rabbit hole. Time spent on the platform, number of actions per day, and number of comments posted are useful platform metrics to measure the relationship between a user and a platform, but they don’t measure time spent on quiet reading or digesting the intricate play of the connection of power dynamics, decentralization and money in the mind.

The journey through bitcoin is different for all of us, yet you can tell by the crazed look in their eye and the rapid pattern of their speech that the bug has bitten someone. This is happening all over the world amongst talented and motivated people. And we are failing to grease the wheels on their next steps.

Web3 is winning

We are losing the talent war. We can scoff at their naivete, but it’s not their fault. It’s ours. We are losing the battle because we are losing the information war. No one can say what Web3 is, and yet, it travels better than any bitcoin meme I’ve encountered. Bitcoin’s job opportunities are dwarfed by the Web3 ecosystem. The long tale of derivative projects and copies of copies creates plenty of room for newcomers. Their tooling and tutorials are better too. But the biggest difference and why I think Web3 is winning is because the message is that Web3 is for everyone. The core message is inclusivity. It’s hard enough as it is to recruit, being branded as toxic certainly doesn’t help.

The bitcoin signal machine

I don’t know how to make this, but I want it. The best education is meeting the learner where they are at the moment they need it. That can be motivation in the form of a pep talk or the social pressure of showing up for others. That could be showing up with curated content for the exact subject that has commandeered their mind. The trick, however is to be able to derive signal from people willing to endure the pain of learning. I don’t know of a better screen for success than watching learners overcome struggle, nor do I know how to capture it en masse. (Maybe there is a better way with games, contests, or something else?)

I’ve failed me

The title of this blog is that bitcoin is for all of us, yet I’m part of the problem by broadcasting that thousands of learners don’t have what it takes to participate. Because of time and energy constraints, it’s reasonable that we increase our investment in learners as they demonstrate skills and passion. But to discard so many without providing paths that to indicate that they warrant further attention is unforgivable.