CRYPTOGRAPHER - SOFTWARE ENGINEER

NIK BOUGALIS




Toxicity

I first learned about Bitcoin from XKCD which included an address in the footnote. I don’t remember the date, but it must have been sometime around 2009. I read a bit about it, but didn’t really get involved in the space until after I moved to the Bay Area. As part of my daily commute, I drove past a “Honey Badger” billboard, somewhere off of Lawrence and El Camino Real. By that time, my friend David Schwartz had also indepedently discovered Bitcoin and after contributing some code, had started working on Ripple; what we call XRP Ledger today.

Back in those days it felt that everything about this space was genuinely exciting. I fondly remember attending a meetup at 20Mission one late evening, where Chris Larsen demoed Ripple and talked about how someone was using the then embryonic network to issue DYM—an IOU that was redeemable for actual silver dimes. The place was packed and it felt electric. Oh, don’t get me wrong; even back then there were still fudsters as well as those who sought to minimize and attack those who didn’t agree with—or hold the same “coin” as—them. And maybe it’s just me looking back at it through rose-colored glasses, but things genuinely felt different back different. More innocent perhaps?

Fast forward to today. I’ve been in this space for about 9 years—or, in more concrete terms, almost an eternity—and it has grown tremendously. There’s a myriad of people, coalescing around a plethora of projects. We’ve experienced booms and busts. We’ve seen some projects thrive and others implode. And today, we have companies and people in suits and conventions at fancy hotels; we have geniuses and dunderheads; maximalists and… well… whatever the opposite of that is.

We all watched the Balkanization of the space. As factions formed (and forked) and as people realized there’s money to be made and lost, they fought with each other ruthlessly and the space became unbearably toxic.

It’s easy to say that this is something isolated to Twitter; that was and remains a cesspool, full of sock puppets, rumors and snakeoil peddlers. But it’s more broad than that and even if it weren’t, we shouldn’t just dismiss online toxicity and laugh it off as a “well, there goes the internet again!” We have people in this space who viciously attack others with abandon. There are no holds barred and everything goes. From incessant cyberstalking to ugly threats some of which are credible. And it’s not just random unidentified people. There are people doing this under their own name. Respected people, with high-level positions in companies in this space.

This toxic environment is deleterious not only to the broader space or the vision of a future in which blockchain thrives, but to each of us personally. We all have a finite capacity to absorb this kind of vitriol before we are, ourselves, corrupted.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some truly amazing people from all walks of life, forging friendships and relationships as a direct result of my participation in this community. And I’ve been unfortunate enough to lose some of those truly amazing people because of how truly deleterious this environment is. No amount of crypto will ever make up for that. No ATH will make things OK.

I’ve had enough of it.