‘Tis the season for introspection. And this year, my thoughts are on bitcoin.
As Jewish people around the world celebrate Hanukkah this week, inspired by the ancient miracle that a sacred flame lasted for eight days of battle although the oil supply was dangerously low, I’m pondering how the hell I’ll keep experimenting with this technology without burning the metaphorical candle at both ends.
I spent 2019 trying a variety of products and services to test how easy it is to actually use cryptocurrency. I ran a Casa bitcoin-lightning node, used decentralized exchanges (DEXs), moved bitcoin from mobile apps to a hardware wallet (a Ledger) then transacted straight from the hardware wallet.
Beyond just running the node, I used the Casa device to send invoices for a small product (a poetry book) to learn more about the challenges independent merchants might face. Lastly, I set up a BTCPay store, which is the stage of this experiment I’ll end the year on.
And after a year of educational tinkering what is my takeaway?
It’s this: There’s no way this technology is ready for prime time.
The most common refrain used to deflect from the technology’s obvious shortcomings is that it’s still “too early” to build for usability. Precisely because I agree it is still very early, here are some lessons I’ve learned about money that fellow bitcoiners might want to keep in mind before evangelizing “to the moon” to the masses any time soon.
1. Bitcoin’s usability relies on social capital
Let’s start with what it took to sell a few poetry books using a bitcoin node.
There was an issue with my router, which I am terrible at describing other than saying something had to be configured with a “port” of sorts although the general internet connection worked fine. I clicked all the buttons.
If I didn’t have experienced engineers in my rolodex of sources, I wouldn’t have gotten past that first hurdle. I called up two of the smartest engineers I know. We…