Bitcoiners Are Building The Future They Want To See: Experiences From 30 Bitcoin Meetups
This is an opinion editorial by Captain Sidd, finance writer and contributor to Bitcoin Magazine.
“When deeds speak, words are nothing.” — African proverb
Grokking Bitcoin’s potential impact on the world often starts with diving into the enormity of the problem with fiat currency. The vast moral hazards and twisted incentives inherent in any centrally controlled monetary system or market make for plenty of pains to highlight. It’s no surprise then that Bitcoiners — especially on the internet through forums like Twitter — frequently lambast institutions that seek to control markets and people in the name of fixing the very problems to which they’re often a major contributor.
Keeping us informed about government encroachments on liberty or misinformed policies that create more problems than they seek to solve is important work. I appreciate those messages and what they make me aware of, however, being inundated with these views and attitudes can become depressing and demotivating. It’s my sense that social networks are fantastic at curating the content that triggers an emotional response — which can quickly devolve toward the negative.
However, when I go out and touch grass, I am excited by the people who are responding to this changing world by doing and building strong and beautiful things: families, homesteads, movements that lead to healthier, happier people. While it is easy to see a lot of negativity in the Bitcoin community, there are also bright rays of hope about the future that I rarely see in other communities. I wanted to meet the people bringing a better future to bear, and I figured what better way to meet them than through Bitcoin meetups.
Through 11,500 miles across the U.S. during summer 2022, I visited 30 Bitcoin meetups on my Harley Davidson and spoke with hundreds of Bitcoiners. Several Bitcoin-only companies sponsored my journey and helped promote the mission of highlighting grassroots Bitcoin initiatives: dollar-cost averaging service Swan Bitcoin; multisig vault and financial services company Unchained Capital; media machine Bitcoin Magazine; and Bitcoin mining services company Upstream Data. Here’s a quick snippet of my trip:
Through this trip, I met many incredibly industrious and hopeful Bitcoiners who are going out and building the future they want to see. Each meetup organizer I met — by virtue of the fact that they are all volunteers building these meetups for their communities — is a great example of that hope and work ethic. Meetup organizers are building these communities in their spare time, often putting together speaking engagements, reaching out to businesses in their community and educating people who are entirely new to Bitcoin.
A great example of a Bitcoin meetup organizer is Justin, from Huntsville, Alabama. He has big plans to make his city a powerhouse for Bitcoin education and development. When I visited Justin’s meetup, the group stayed out until almost midnight after meeting at 6:00 p.m. A varied group of men and women of all ages came together over the night to talk about bitcoin, privacy and what makes Huntsville unique.
The Bitcoiners I met in person on this tour don’t let fear or shock demotivate them; they are doing what’s necessary to build the future they want to live in.
Here are a few examples of Bitcoiners I met during my travels and the projects they’re pioneering:
One of my first stops on the tour was Houston, Texas, where I was lucky to be introduced to @stakamoto21 and @niftynei. Stak and Nifty both have full time jobs — Stak at Unchained Capital and Nifty at Blockstream — but they also work together on a Bitcoin education company called Base58. Their flagship class is a crash course in the operation of the Bitcoin protocol, teaching students how to use Bitcoin’s command line interface and how transactions flow through the system. They not only attract individuals curious about Bitcoin, but also large corporations looking to train their employees on the inner workings of this new monetary network.
Stak and Nifty also launched BTC++, a Bitcoin developer’s conference in Austin. While I wasn’t able to attend the conference, I met a Bitcoiner (who is not even a developer!) in Denver who said he learned a ton there.
While traveling through the Midwest, I stopped in Benton Harbor, Michigan to visit the local Bitcoin meetup. Karl, one of the new participants at the meetup, invited me to stay in his newly-constructed yurt situated on his permaculture homestead — right in the sheep pasture!
Karl gave me a tour of his property, where he’s bringing life back to the land through regenerative agricultural practices, such as rotational grazing of his sheep and growing vegetation in a “food forest” style rather than conventional monocropping. We talked into the late hours of the night about how Bitcoin engenders and enhances a drive for independence; for Karl, that takes the form of growing his own food (plus a surplus).
After four years growing his homestead, Karl went from three sheep to over 50, with enough lamb, maple syrup and vegetables to start selling to others. Since regulations make it nearly impossible for Karl to sell his homegrown products to grocery stores or other distributors, he sells locally. His Bitcoin meetup is a great place to find other like-minded people looking for healthy, local food — and they are willing to pay in his money of choice: bitcoin.
Karl’s work is an example and inspiration to other Bitcoiners who may be interested in growing their own food supply, and if not, he has the surplus to provide you as well.
The Beef Initiative And Better Food
Speaking of regenerative agriculture, I also had the chance to meet a tall Texan by the name of Slim who is bringing the many problems in our food system to light. Slim went on the road this year as well, driving from Texas to the East Coast meeting ranchers and Bitcoiners to talk about bitcoin and our food.
Slim is working with ranchers like Jason Wrich and Cole Bolton to build a connection directly from ranchers to meat-eaters, cutting out the agro-chemical companies that have long captured the market, taking profits and decreasing quality. That work is coming through the Beef Initiative, where you can find educational material on food and bitcoin as well as ways to buy beef directly from your local rancher.
The Beef Initiative also puts on conferences bringing together ranchers, Bitcoiners, nutritionists and doctors to share knowledge and educate one another. I attended the first Beef Initiative conference in Kerrville, Texas in April 2022, and the second one occurred in late July in Crawford, Colorado at Wrich Ranches (run by Jason Wrich). At least one more conference is in the works before the end of the year.
Slim is a spark kicking off a grassroots movement for better understanding of where our food comes from and more forms of market access for both producers and consumers.
Dern And Michael Atwood Orange-Pilling Businesses
As many of us Bitcoiners know, understanding Bitcoin is often a very long and slow process. Helping others understand it sometimes takes even longer — a measure of patience and low time preference is needed. Dern from Chicago gets this; that’s why he combines his weekly shopping at the local farmers’ market with Bitcoin education. He asks vendors if they accept bitcoin often, and helps them get set up with payment solutions when they show interest. He’s having success, slowly but surely.
Bitcoiners from around the world are helping these efforts with open-source solutions like educational brochures that we can use when visiting businesses or talking to people about Bitcoin. A takeaway resource like this can be just what’s needed to turn a short conversation into a long dialogue about the workings and potential benefits of adopting bitcoin.
Michael Atwood from Oshi App is also a believer that businesses should be accepting bitcoin, if only because they can save 3% on credit card fees when accepting bitcoin instead. Plus, accepting bitcoin means attracting a whole new crowd of customers who are already on a bitcoin standard and want to trade their bitcoin for worthwhile goods and services.
Right after I purchased the Harley Davidson I used for the Bitcoin Tour across America, I met up with Barnminer for lunch. I learned that he often travels for work, and is using Twitter to find Bitcoiners while on work trips. His travels are slowly morphing into more than just for work, as he’s turning his passion for at-home bitcoin mining into helping new miners around the country get their own operations set up. Barnminer is one of many home bitcoin miners I met across America who are sharing their knowledge, whether in person or over the internet, to help new bitcoin miners enter the field.
The time given and knowledge imparted by these home miners is especially inspiring when you consider that new miners coming online technically lower the rewards for all the other miners as well because there’s more competition on the network!
Fun Fact: Barnminer was the first pleb to sit on the Bitcoin Harley, before I even had the saddlebags painted orange.
Jordan Bush was the first Bitcoiner I met after I departed Bitcoin 2022 in Miami, and our conversation left a deep impression on me. Bush was a missionary in Uruguay with his family for many years before moving back to the United States. We sat down for coffee and talked about his passion for the intersection between the tenets of his Christian faith and the operation of bitcoin as honest money. Bush even published a book titled “Thank God for Bitcoin” with co-authors that include Bitcoin programmer and educator Jimmy Song and one of the founders of the Phoenix Bitcoin meetup George Mekhail.
While we were talking about settling back into life in America, I asked Bush what’s next for him. His answer served as an inspiration for me as I embarked on my tour (and I was only on day three when I met him).
Bush remarked that he had a few plans, but was waiting for God to fill in some of the blanks and point him in the right direction.
I’m not a religious person, but Bush’s sentiment resonated with me: Sometimes we cannot force things to happen and we must wait to see what the universe has in store for us. Many of the Bitcoin meetup organizers I met, live this ethos with their meetup; they are not forcing growth, they are letting their community mature organically through word of mouth. While I met many ambitious Bitcoiners on my tour, they usually had a similar attitude about life and their projects as Bush has with his projects. Overplanning and overworking can often create problems and obstacles instead of clearing them away.
I took that advice throughout my trip, being careful to leave time for spontaneity and new directions to unfold rather than prescribing them far ahead of time. Just a few days after my conversation with Bush, my stress about the journey melted away and I started having completely unexpected and amazing experiences, like accidentally ending up in the first permanent settlement of the Louisiana Purchase while dodging a storm.
Touch Grass And Get Building
While the internet and social media are helpful for gathering information and making connections, they can often bring a downside in the form of hijacked emotional responses and drained energy. We cannot let these networks slow each of us down from building the future we want to see. Many of the Bitcoiners I met out in the real world are steadily and quietly building the futures they want to see for their families and communities.
With many of the Bitcoiners I met, each of their projects started very small: with a conversation or a piece of writing. With dedication and plenty of rest days, their projects grew to practically have a mind and momentum of their own. I am saying this as much for myself as for you: Resist the urge to let any Twitter echo chambers hijack your emotions and take energy away from your projects.
Go forth and build!
This is a guest post by Captain Sidd. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.