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6:55 PM on the 19th of May 2011 I wrote an email to my best friend in the world titled “Now this is intheresting”. I had just discovered Bitcoin for the second time.
To be honest, the first time I had read about Bitcoin, I immediately discounted it as a scam. I thought to myself, “There is no way to make digital money that can't just be copied and even if they could, you would have to trust some company to not change the rules or trust them to not run off with your money. It’s probably a scam anyway”.
About a year later though I read the clickbait headline online “Bitcoin P2P currency is the most dangerous project we've ever seen”. I read the article and instantly I was hooked.
I finally understood the genius of Satoshi incentivizing greed. Despite my limited understanding of computer science, reading the white paper made it all make sense.
What really attracted me to Bitcoin was much more to do with the political/philosophical reasons than financial.
On a personal level, for more than 12 years now, a large part of my income has been net based (which where my username comes from and predates the network). The idea of being able to cut out all the third parties was super exciting to me. Banks and credit cards and PayPal and charge-backs and companies and governments with various rules about who and where and when and how I can transact was really annoying.
Want to transfer money from yourself in one account in one country to yourself in another account in a different country?
Sorry you can't do that so we closed your account and banned you for life.
Having lived in several countries now I know first hand the issues that come with being unbanked. Do to various issues I had no choice but to live unbanked for 2 years. Without the help of kind and sympathetic locals there is no way I would have been able to have a place to live among other things. Many of us take for granted all the things that come with easy access to a financial institution. But when you can not even get a bank account everything becomes difficult or impossible. You can not get a decent job if they can not pay you and they certainly will not pay you in cash. Renting a place to live is almost impossible for the same reasons. Also you can forget about getting a credit card. That by itself means all kinds of doors are closed for you. Many utility and communication companies will not give you service without a credit card on file.
One bank flat out told me they would not allow me to open an account because I was a foreigner. Similarly despite my good credit rating, regular pay, and a decent balance at one bank I was unable to get a credit card for over 5 years due to not being a native.
Saying money is power is an understatement. Taking control of the global money supply out of the hands of people who answer only to themselves seemed like the best first step to making the world a better place for everyone. Banking the unbanked. Perhaps wars would also happen far less often if inflation were less possible. Perhaps the playing field could be leveled. Perhaps a FREE global economy less influenced by politics would be possible. Perhaps it would become impossible to seize a person's funds when a leader decrees transaction type X is no longer legal overnight. Free the market, Free the world. Permissionless. Peer to Peer. There was so much appeal to me in just the chance of achieving some of these things.
It was even more enticing after seeing interviews with Gavin Andresen on YouTube. No one was hiding the potential financial gains that could be had if Bitcoin was a success, but that was the beauty of it. Incentivizing greed. There was a little something for everyone. Those who wanted to wrestle the control of the economy away from dark back room deals could participate and use their fiat to vote for the change directly. Those that wanted to “invest” could also do so. They worked together just fine and actually even did well to enhance each other. It was a win win.... at first.
I downloaded and installed the Bitcoin wallet. Thanks to the faucet that Gavin set up I was able to actually try Bitcoin. I instantly saw how easy it was to send instant cash payments globally. Pasting an address and clicking a single button was all it took to send money halfway around the world. I can not thank Gavin enough for setting up such a great service as well as all the other things he did, especially to spread adoption.
Things were going well. I made my first actual purchase. I bought a WiFi dongle (at the bubble peak it was worth more than $40,000 US). CPU mining was built into the wallet and as my CPU core temp rose and rose and my fan screamed I calculated my chance to find a block based on my hash-rate. It was, barring some miracle, 0. Luckily, as I have always enjoyed gaming, I already had a mid-high level GPU and with a few clicks on some simple but powerful software I was contributing my hash to the network via a mining pool.
Not long after someone made a woo-commerce plug-in that allowed people to accept payments pretty easily via the Electrum wallet. I felt pretty fancy joining the sellers of organic honey, coffee beans and alpaca socks. I now had 2 sources of Bitcoin coming in.
Reading bitcointalk.org became a daily ritual. My interest and enthusiasm grew. Some exciting things started up. The Global Bitcoin Stock Exchange, more infamously known in Bitcoin history as the GBSE, was the first “exchange” I became aware of. In addition to trading, it also allowed you to “invest” in various Bitcoin related projects that would issue dividends among other things all without any regulation of course. This was truly the wild west.
It was also the first of many times I got fucked.
At the time it was actually pretty difficult to get my hands on any Bitcoin. A small amount was coming in through my online businesses. Mining also provided what I felt to be a trickle. If there was an ATM near by I would have visited. But as far as I knew there was not. My first actual purchase of a number of Bitcoin was a very convoluted multi-step process that I will not detail here. It worked but it was far from easy. I also lost a few percent with every step. This was not the peer to peer money I craved. But at that time I was still completely at the mercy of the traditional financial system. I searched for another way to get more. My search on bitcointalk led me to a person who was proposing a very new idea for Bitcoin that assuming people were honest was actually a great idea. I invested in this very early Bitcoin company. I will spare you the details but I invested a small number of Bitcoins. At the time a small amount was 15-20 BTC. I am a bit fuzzy on the actual value of BTC at the time but I am sure that it was less than $100. It was all new territory. No one was even sure that what we were doing was legal or not, and as such, there was a degree of opsec that we all did. This makes the whole trust/verify aspect difficult. This baptism by fire was a good lesson. “Dividends” from my “investment” came slower than expected as did the evidence that promises were being kept. A smarter scammer would have kept the scam going on longer to milk me and the others out of more Bitcoin. The time frame from proposal to collection was quite short and he dropped off the face of the Earth pretty quickly. That being said I have no idea how much money they pulled in and once the GBSE was shut down it became impossible to know anyway. I saw the red flags even before putting money in. But once the scammer failed to report in on time the first time, I saw the writing on the wall and sold my stake on the GBSE at a minor loss. My apologies to whomever bought it. You had more hope than I did.
Sure enough within a month, scammer stop responding all together. I assume they made off with a few hundred BTC which at that time would probably not have been a life changing amount.
As I said before I was GPU mining. There was already some work being done in making FPGA into a usable miner. But from what I could see at the time it was not specialized enough to be that competitive. Mining however was turning into big business. You could not find certain series of ATI cards anywhere and if you could they were going for way above retail. Gamers were pissed off. Mining was so profitable that companies were starting to make ASICs specifically for hashing SHA256. Most were out of my price range. Despite how great I could clearly see Bitcoin was, I also wasn't entirely sure Bitcoin had a future BECAUSE of how revolutionary it is. There are many powerful people in the world who would resist that kind of change and it would be somewhat easy to squish it before adoption took hold. The survival of the project was/is by no means certain. Spending a bunch of money on special hardware that had no other use or resale value was scary to me too. Then came along some consumer level mining ASICs that had rosy websites that were full of glowing stats of how much money you would make. One such company was “Butterfly Labs”. My best friend and I did the math and sure enough if the math was right they would pay for themselves and make a tidy profit to boot. The problem was that all of this was a projection based on assumptions that would prove to be deadly.
1.) The difficulty was projected to be a certain amount by the shipping date.
2.) The projected difficulty did not take into account the spike that would occur when all these new fancy ASCIs they and others were making came online.
3.) The numbers also counted on Butterfly Labs being an ethical company.
As is well known now, Butterfly Labs was not ethical and did not ship on time and also did not account for all the new ASICs coming online. By the time my best friend and I got our ASICs they were no longer profitable. They shipped late and the overall network hash-rate had skyrocketed. To add insult to injury they arrived covered in dust adding proof to the accusation that the equipment we paid for was used to mine for weeks or months until they were no longer valuable enough to mine. Worse still was that we paid for them in Bitcoin meaning in BTC terms we were even further in the hole that they could never mine their way out of.
Pre-ordering a money printer seemed like a good idea at the time, but the lesson I learned was that if they do not have the gear ON HAND at the time of sale.. chances are you wont be getting them on time. In hindsight, if I had just bought BTC instead of buying ASICs and GPUs it would have been way better. As I mentioned before, at the time there were no real on-ramps for me so it was really one of my only choices unless I wanted to an international money wire..
Around the same time was when something called MT.GOX was being discussed all over. The fact that it was also in Japan and connected to Japanese banks gave me the false confidence I needed to send some BTC there to try my hand at trading.
There is no one to blame but myself. I got greedy. When the issues with people getting their money out of GOX started I should have bailed. But I didn't and paid the price. I can't blame anyone for that. Despite the messages from people “in the know” saying things were fine, I should have read the writing on the wall.
“Willy bot” made it clear that something was amiss. But I was “making money” so I didn't want to spoil a good thing. Too good to be true.
When all trading stopped I was not that surprised. I thought that banking would make getting fiat out impossible, at the end I was in BTC so surely it was sitting in a cold wallet and they could just send it to me.
Not your keys, not your coins.
I thought I learned another lesson that day.
But losing money on the Cryptsy exit scam means I did not. 4Th time's the charm?
After that I had had enough for a while. There were already grumblings of discontent in the BTC dev community. But I felt that it was above my pay grade.
I didn't have a voice in that fight.. The only thing I could do was run my own node. So I ran XT. Videos of everyone I saw other than Gavin and Mike Hearn did not fill me with confidence. Only the XT side made sense to me. I had really conflicted feelings. Things were supposed to be decentralized, yet the most logical people and the person Satoshi left the project to were seemingly losing a battle for directing the future of the project to relative newcomers who Gavin somewhat hastily gave power too. I am not sure what the correct course of action was. When Bitcoin had no real value, any helping hands capable of understanding such a complex project and that would also be willing to work on it for free were certainly scarce. Getting people on board to ensure the project survived was probably a priority. I doubt there was much time to cyber stalk these people to see what kind of characters they were or the clearly toxic behavior some of them had that would come to sabotage things in the future.
I have said it publicly before and I will say it again. Gavin's major flaw is that he is too kind and trusting. He hands out the benefit of the doubt far too easily. But I will still love and respect him forever.
There was all this talk about ASICBOOST and “evil chinese miners” that didn't make any sense to me. Anyone with money could run whatever hardware they wanted. The GPU chips that dominated the very inefficient industry were also made in China. Few thought the end of the world was near when GPU miners started. But now chip makers who invested untold millions in R&D and actual hardware were the greatest threat?
The people saying all these things were often people I had never heard of. Yet their posts were up-voted and amplified. The people online that I used to follow were at first shunned and brigaded against by the community/platforms and then finally in many cases banned altogether.
I had a really hard time understanding what was going on. This project that had so much potential and seeming unity in what we were all trying to do. Make new money for the world and if we get rich in the process all the better. People were free to talk about all kinds of things on r/bitcoin and bitcointalk. That is how I heard about Litecoin and Namecoin and merged mining and XT and well.. everything. But suddenly there was a list of things that were forbidden to talk about. Talking about scaling censorship resistant money in CERTAIN ways was now being censored. I really didn't get how this could be happening. Especially since the reasoning behind it made no sense to me and seemed scattershot at best. The reasons why these things were now not ok kept changing. A very small number of people were dictating what was ok to talk about on “their” platforms.
I didn't really understand Lightning, but I did understand sidechains and colored coins so I figured it was something similar and to some degree thought that the people who were making Bitcoin Core would surely do what is best for the coin. I was confused by everything that was happening but at the same time didn't think I knew enough to have an opinion. I was disillusioned with what was going on in general. Gox was a blow and then the silencing of “dissidents” plus the banishment of Gavin who had talked to the feds made me frustrated and lose hope. I still accepted BTC in my businesses but I sort of had the opinion that if Bitcoin survived the next few years and did not drown itself I could always come back into the community and review what had gone on in the meantime. I didn't need to read the latest news on Bitcoin everyday anymore.
In hindsight I regret this choice. Perhaps if more of us been outspoken and stood up and asked those important questions early on there would have been sensible scaling. Perhaps if more of us screamed about how bad it is to put all your eggs in one as yet unproven LN basket more people would have listened and canceled out the small block FUD.
I was probably out of touch with bitcoin for a year. It wasn't until one of my customers emailed me to complain that I was insane if I thought they should pay a fee that was higher than the price of the item itself in my store.
I had no idea what they were talking about. I assumed the plugin got messed up in an update or when I moved hosting companies or something similar. Obviously Bitcoin couldn't be broken. I never paid more than the minimum fee which was also never over... 5 cents?
But a quick search showed me that bitcoin was actually indeed broken. How could Satoshi let his project be broken? Why didn't he come back and say “you fools! The solution is simple!” But he didn't. I had to conclude that he was dead or in jail.
How did this happen? The price was finally rising which meant people were moving coins on and off the exchanges. I assume people were also moving coins into and out of cold storage. What used to be beer money was now car money. This all ground the network to a halt. I too decided it was time to move some coins.
I started reading bitcoin talk again. I started reading reddit again and I joined in crypto twitter.
It was a shit show.
I had questions. But anyone who asked those questions or raised reasonable concerns were treated as heretics and cast out. Even if I didn't already sort of think raising the block size was a good idea, what was easily and instantly understandable was if given a choice between a side that celebrated free speech and open discussion or a side that has a top down decree of what is and isn't OK to discuss I will side with free speech.
The argument was of course that a subreddit and a domain are private places “owned” by individuals. Sure, fine.
But what I didn't hear was any small blocker speak out against the lack of free speech or transparency. I took that to mean that they also agreed that XT and BU and big blocks in general should not be discussed. I can not say that I noticed anyone take the stance that big blocks were a bad idea but the censorship was also bad. At least not in a meaningful way. Some of the bigger names took a sort of “censorship is bad but whatyagonnado” stance about the whole thing. It was lip service really and really disappointing. Either people were motivated to squish debate. Or in their view their way forward was the only realistic way. Perhaps a bit of both. But that really goes to the heart of the issue doesn't it. What we think the important points of Bitcoin are diverse. Some of us have very strong ideological reasons. The others view any change (even removing temporary band-aids) as an assault to their store of value, their financial future, their legacy. It seems a tad bit selfish/greedy to me. But that was the beauty of what Satoshi created. He turned greed into a means of security. I think he perhaps underestimated how far people will take their greed or what people will do to protect their wealth/power. He had no way to know how much of a success his project would be though.
I heard rumors of the New York and Hong Kong agreements etc so I thought level heads would prevail.
I read about Segwit2X. It seemed like the best solution to me. It was sensible scaling. It took the fee pressure off and allowed adoption to continue. It also allowed the development of Lightning which many people said was a magic bullet despite no real world use to back it up. Lightning by itself was reckless. 2X was also a compromise. It would have allowed to community to stay together. But when I learned that it was not going to be a simultaneous activation and that the Segwit part was coming first I knew that it was a bamboozle. I, for the second time, thought the entire Bitcoin project was in jeopardy. Adoption was going negative and big names were even saying that spending bitcoin was a bad idea. I no longer understood the point of the project. Saying “store of value” is the same as saying Satoshi created a “new investment platform”. The P2P and the cash part of the title were now wrong.
The bitcoin.org site took out the “fast” and “free” part of the description. The purpose and narrative of bitcoin was changed. But they deny to this day that the focus has changed. Clearly it is I that remember it wrong.
I have no problem with the bitcoin project changing. I have no problem with when the majority of people find a particular aspect of something more useful, for development to focus on that part. What I do have a problem with is massive focus changes happening and at the same time people restricting discussion about it while at the same time saying “no nothing has changed Mr. Crazy, you must be crazy now get out of here crazy talk isn't welcome.”
Nintendo started as a playing card company. Facebook started as a sleazy “hot or not” site. Nokia was a rubber boot company. Shell oil was a seashell import company. Even PayPal started as a company meant to send money between handheld PDA devices. None of the above companies pretend nothing changed. They changed and they owned those changes.
The fork was an interesting time. I was in the 2X camp but it seemed pretty clear that there were issues at the start. Bitcoin Cash seemed to come out of nowhere. But it was what ended up getting the most community support of the big blockers. 2X never really got off the ground.
I think a lot of us were hoping that Satoshi was going to emerge and take a side. I hoped that there was going to be some kind of clear message from him, a tie breaker if you will. A message from heaven saying “my project was meant to go this way!” Perhaps he wanted to see if Nakamoto consensus would actually play out. Perhaps like a parent he decided his project should be free to take its own path. Perhaps he is no longer with us to express an opinion even if he wanted to. If Satoshi had signed genesis and said “follow core” a lot of us would have had a much harder time choosing BCH. But he didn't. The fork happened and the big blocks we wanted started to be mined. The community was now not only divided in opinion but in hash and economics as well.
I think the vast majority of new people who came into the space looked at BTC as primarily an investment that was soaring. A hard fork would change the status quo and to some degree was “risky” despite the lack of evidence to support that narrative and the constantly changing narratives as well.
People's once in a lifetime investment bubble was making dreams come true left and right. They viewed a hard fork as a direct attack not on “bitcoin” but on their investment and by extension their future or their children's future.
Greed started out as an incentive to secure the network. It ended up paralyzing it.
People that hoped Bitcoin could be something more than gains went to BCH, so that is where I ended up focusing my efforts as well.
The first BCH conference ever was held in Tokyo. I live about 500km away in Osaka, which is not that far. I felt that it was important to attend even though I was not selling/buying/shilling anything. I wanted to see some of these outspoken people in real life. I wanted to look into their eyes while they spoke and see if any of the presenters were “scams”.
Overall I was impressed by the people I saw speak and I was impressed by the people I met. That is not to say everyone was impressive. There was a tiny minority of people there who were clearly out to shill their ICO and find investors. I was approached by people who had many a very wide variety of ideas. Most of those pitch people did not seem to care about BCH in general. They were just looking for whales. When people started talking to me they would ask when/how I got into Bitcoin. At first I would tell a very short version of the above. But when people heard I had mined BTC in 2011 you could actually see dollar signs flash in their eyes as they assumed I was a whale (I am not) and the pitches would come on strong. I heard about an AI controlled sports betting on the blockchain ICO. I heard several lending schemes which I didn't understand and really made no sense given that they could not compete with the crazy parabolic returns that were going on. I was also quite surprised to talk to at least 2 people who were not only pro BTC but very much anti BCH. “Lightning is going to solve scaling!” (that was more than 18 months ago ma dudes). The flip side of that was of course listening to and talking to people who were more or less on the same page as me and wanted to make new money. To be quite frank, I was there to listen. I wasn't there to network or make friends. I wanted to learn. Nonetheless it was a life changing experience. I understood for the first time that part of the true beauty of a permissionless system was that you don't need to be approved to participate. There were people from all walks of life building things and doing things. I understood the words before. But somehow without seeing it in action it was unrelatable.
If you want to build an app. Go ahead. There is no official playbook. There is no company to license IP from. There is no foundation to add you to the approved list. Just build it and if it works well and people use it you have succeeded. Have you noticed there is no BCH meetup in your town? Guess where you can apply to start one? No where. Just start one and make it happen. Not only do you not need approval but there is a whole network of people and businesses who will help you, for free, if you want.
That first conference is also where I met Yumeno at the first day's after party. We were surprised to find out that we both lived in Osaka and we both came on our own with nothing but curiosity as fuel. We decided to touch base again later when we got back to Osaka. Both of us were clearly inspired by the conference and Yumeno suggested we start a meetup here in Osaka. I had some reservations given the amount of trolling that goes on online.
About a month later we were hosting our first official Osaka BCH meetup. We have had a few bumps along the way. There luckily has not been anyone who is openly hostile or has come to just ruin things for everyone and I am glad to say that even a few BTC maximalist people have come full of curiosity and to ask questions and get an idea what the BCH fuss is all about. The most recent of which was a Japanese man whose, like many people, main issue with BCH being the colorful characters that were formerly pro BCH. He had a much more positive BCH stance now that certain people forked off.
Several months ago we decided to start having 2 meet ups a month on different days of the week to give people with different evenings off work a chance to attend. In October we had the first BCH/ETH event after DEVCON in an attempt to raise cooperation between our communities. It was our biggest event and I think it was a great success. It is also where it dawned upon me where I think there is a big hole in the BCH space. A hole I think I can fill.
I could go into detail about all the projects and great things going on and that excite me in the BCH world like SLP tokens and cash fusion and on and on but that is not really part of my story… yet.
In the tradition of the HODL typo, I am glad to have had my own personal one with “Now this is intheresting”. I hope you found reading 1 person’s journey “intheresting”.
So I will end it here. Thank you for taking the time to read my Bit-bio. At the moment I am working on my most ambitious project ever. If it works out I will have a lot more to say about and contribute to BCH in the future.