We are six weeks into 2019, and I’ve already been to three conferences that were all unique in their own way. I wrote about my Vegas experience at the Unconfiscatable Conference, which was billed as “Bitcoin Not Blockchain” and featured mostly self-described Bitcoin maxmillists and HODLers. I was in Mexico for an invite-only conference, which I attended as a guest but was not directly invited to, so out of respect for the rules I didn’t write about it. Finally, I just got back from TAB, which happened to take place in one of my favorite cities- HotLanta. The Atlanta Blockchain, or TAB, is an east-coast boulder in the Blockchain earth and even features their own Bitcoin Embassy. The organizers did a great job and I have to give a shout out to Michael Tidwell, who went to great lengths to accommodate all the egos and personalities who landed in the great state of Georgia.
Going into the year, I could easily say I was most excited for the TAB conference. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was invited to be a speaker. But, in reality, my fiancee and I had decided to go to the conference the minute we heard about it because our homie Dan Anderson was going to be setting up a booth there and introducing the world to Bitcorns. Sasha and I didn’t exactly meet through Bitcorns gaming but we certainly forged our relationship during the early days of the weird crypto-centric gaming platform and thus, it has a special place in our hearts. Which leads me to what you are probably thinking…
Yes, this term has been thrown around for years, but we missed the Bitcoin weirdness during the 2017 bull-run and then last year’s crushing bear market. You see, the VCs, bro-vestors and normies invaded the space and kind of ruined Bitcoin gatherings for me. Blockchain conferences became the norm and with it came scam coins, money grabs, pump and dumps and off the chart hype that fueled some of the most manic behavior I’d seen from grown people. I literally cringed at a local Washington D.C. event during the ramp up in 2017 as 40–60 year old men stood on stage and shouted with excitement how blockchain was going to change the world. As my comrade Rob — a Bitcoin weirdo himself — exclaimed, “this is like an MLM (Multi-level marketing) event. These guys are the ones who missed out on the internet pumps of twenty years ago and are certain not to miss this boat.” I’m proud to report that I believe most people in the space have sobered up or have left to go drive their Lambos for Lyft.
So let’s dive into the event…
I would reckon about 400 or so people attended this conference and Tidwell reported that it nearly doubled in capacity from last year’s inaugural event. That is quite phenomenal considering that last year in February the price of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Monero were several times more valuable than they are today. A wide range of views were set to be on display during this conference, speakers and panelists like Jameson Lopp, Chris DeRose, Dan Anderson (or as I like to say- Danderson,) Carol Van Cleef, Paul Sztorc, MikeInSpace, Daniel Krawisz, and many more were booked to give up the goods to the crowd. Of course, I also would be dropping the cryptoart jewels (toots the ham horn.)
Now, keep in mind this conference had four ballrooms and they all had panels and presentations going on simultaneously. I had to pick and choose what I saw and therefore, you are now entering my TAB silo.
The first talk I saw was around 10:30 am on Saturday morning. It was in the meme-centric Ballroom A and featured the aforementioned Dan Anderson aka Droplister presenting, “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Mob.” This presentation, although very enjoyable, more than likely had some college students in the room scratching their heads at first. There wasn’t a mention (that I can recall) of blockchain or crypto and it featured clips of Dr. Strangelove and analogies of crosswalks. But, in a true Bitcoin-weird twist it all started to make sense…I think. What I took away from the talk was that a story can be projected a number of ways and trusting in one silo to make a decision is dangerous. Don’t profess that you are “willing to die on this hill” unless you’ve truly dove in. How it related to Bitcoin for me? Bitcoin Cash, BitcoinSV, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Private and the rest of the forks all have communities that can paint the picture that their Bitcoin is the best. Proceed with caution.
The next talk at 11:00 was “Blockchain and Art Beyond the Hype Panel” moderated by Theo Goodman. The CEO of Portion, Jason, the head of the Artists’ Liberation Front Johnny, Theo, who runs theos.gallery, and I were all grouped stage-left in a tight half-moon of blue chairs you may find in a cafeteria. We all know one another, but that didn’t stop us from speaking our minds while fielding Theo’s questions. Some divergences on our thoughts in the space were that of ERC versus Counterparty tokens and whether or not physical art could or even needed to be tokenized. We got to shill some of our cryptoart at the end and that was fun. After the panel we fielded some questions and audience member Chris DeRose asked us to give our thoughts on the whitewashing (or as I like to say “greenwashing”) of Rare Pepe Trading in the space. We all agreed that it was a thing. It’s hard to write skeptically about this panel because I was on the other side but the feedback was good.
After the morning panels and a quick lunch with the wifey, it was back to Ballroom A for me. Most people who aren’t in this space would definitely consider the morning panels I attended weird. Well, shit was about to really hit the fan in the afternoon. Insert mindblown.gif here…
The infamous Chris Derose was up next with “Dont Just Stand There And HODL, Do Something!” Of course not being one to back down from anyone and their opinion, I went into the room proudly sporting my HODL dad-hat. (The HODL meme is a whole other debate about how people define it’s meaning- maybe a new article coming soon?) Chris has the ability to really ruffle feathers and probably has collected more blocks on the Twitter Blockchain (a pun about crypto people blocking on twitter) than any other meme-ber of the Bitcoin society. I’d bill him as a meme philosopher, twitter troll, shameless promoter and a polarizing and thought-provoking Bitcoin leader. When I was mulling around this space a few years back I discovered “Bitcoin Uncensored” with Junseth and Derose and it really was the craziest podcast/youtube from the crypto-sphere. If you’re over 21, admire 1990’s style comedy, are not afraid of fart jokes and want to learn Bitcoin then you have to check out the old episodes. I’m not as up-to-date on the newest content but it doesn’t seem to matter as Chris, according to his presentation, is going to start doing more live trolling and IRL debating. He is sick of the saturation of social media and his “block-chain” on twitter is limiting his engagement. He repeated a famous Gil Scott-Heron line a couple times, “the revolution will not be televised” and it really resonated with me in terms of the arm chair social justice-ing going on all over the internet.
Oh yea, he took the stage in a train conductor’s jumpsuit then a few minutes into his talk he proceeded to strip down into a mankini looking wrestling outfit. Bitcoin-weird 10/10.
“Is Bitcoin Car Talk Fake News?” was the next panel I caught. I felt like I was having deja-vu (because as a fan I’ve seen all of the episodes) throughout the half hour long laugh fest but I loved it. You see, Mike basically video-archived his way through his presentation with a self-promoted display of clips and episodes from his youtube series of short funnies called Bitcoin Car Talk. This was shilling at its finest and the room was in hysterics as his unique brand of humor cut right through the divided room of Blockstreamers, Craig Wright admirers and Roger Ver fans. Mediation through comedy could be the answer to making Bitcoin great again and I nominate Mr. InSpace to write the plot.
Next up was a panel that featured a man with a bullet-proof vest, the self-proclaimed “Emperor of Bitcoin,” a self-described “toxic, Bitcoin extremist” and a Bitcoin Cash ABC evangelist. Bitcoin is fucking weird and this panel, “The Battle for Bitcoin” was only missing Jose Canseco to clear all of the bases. Quotable after quotable spewed from the panelists and I really don’t know where to begin or how to describe this panel as it was both entertaining, gut-wrenching, thought provoking and interesting to hear the arguments made in favor of the Bitcoin Cash chains. BitcoinSV was the dominating topic as Daniel Krawisz and Kevin Pham — who rocked the kevlar vest — were the most charismatic of the bunch. The Bitcoin extremist, Zack Voell, ended up mainly moderating the panel and that left Collin Enstad to defend his Bitcoin Cash fork against the two SV supporters. Kevin, who only a couple months ago was a Bitcoin maxmillist and Vitalik Buterin’s number one hater, has now pulled a Hulk Hogan and gone to the New World Order side of this twitter-finger wrestling league. He claimed he is “public enemy #1” and was wearing the bullet proof vest to prove a point… I think it was about the dangers of speaking out against the elite and how high stakes this space is getting. He mentioned how he was amazed that he was considered a leader in the space since all he discovered he’d been doing was parroting ideas from his oracles. If Zack is a BTC extremist then Daniel is a BSV extremist and said, “the reason ppl care about the name BTC is because the name is all they have” and “Bitcoin is a social order.” He added that the exchanges are Bitcoin’s enemy because Bitcoin will take over the world and exchanges won’t be needed. Collin mentioned that Bitcoin’s decentralization was a spectrum and “Bitcoin is defined as money.” The idea of marketing was the only thing really splitting up Daniel and Kevin’s viewpoints. Kevin and Collin think marketing the name is part of the process and Daniel thinks marketing is bad because it’s just people wanting to use the marketing to sell one’s own Bitcoin. The whole panel was a real mind bending Tour de Bitcoin forks and although entertaining and somewhat educational it didn’t seem to sway many in the room to the dark side of the forks. At the end of the panel they took a vote by having the audience raise hands of which Bitcoin chain was the “real” Bitcoin and the BTC ticker was still the overwhelming victor.
Because we were part of the event, Sasha and I were invited to have a VIP dinner with the speakers and panelists. A sweet 5 course meal consisting of salad, salmon, steak, chicken and pecan pie on top of a ten story rooftop overlooking Atlanta was a great way to finish the day. We sat next to Jameson Lopp, Wayne Vaughn, Paul Puey, Brian Hoffman and James Poole so the conversations were less meme-centric than the TAB silo I had been in earlier in the day. I listened mostly as lightning, side-chains and wallet security was discussed and then proceeded to have a nice chat with Lopp about Lightning and how people need to learn Bitcoin before we see a Lightning network effect with payment processors.
The afterparty was lit, I heard it involved shots, shots, shots and a few edible lollipops. Sasha and I went home because we were running on fumes and she had a to finish up her big presentation that was scheduled for the following day.
On Day 2 of the event we arrived a bit later and Justin Wales was the first presentation I saw. I’d seen Justin speak a few weeks prior in Tampa and really enjoyed his points and hot takes that seemed to differ from some of the other panelists. He is a first amendment and blockchain lawyer with Carlton Fields and his presentation “The First Amendment as Applied To Bitcoin and its Lightning Network” was a real interesting dive into Bitcoin as speech. He hammered home some interesting points and I’d say it was probably my favorite hour of the conference in terms of learning new things. For instance, Bitcoin’s Lightning network can allow people to transact 1/236th of a penny- capturing a whole new way of expressing payment. My man Cryptograffiti just did an interesting art experiment with Lightning by selling the cheapest artwork in history. To be clear, this is stuff that is not doable without Bitcoin. Justin drove home a point that regulators need to be cautious of how far they go because some of the experimentation going on could be ground breaking. He really explored Bitcoin as speech. The forks kind of painted a picture for him that “the bitcoin network is, at its core, an association of individuals” and if you don’t agree with something in the protocol then you are free to run a new or different version. I recommend everyone watch the video of his presentation when it drops.
Lunch was way better than I expected. I inhaled a small ocean of curried fish, and got busy on some turkey sandwiches, chips and salad.
“Blockstream and Bitcoin” was the next panel and I got a nice summary of what Blockstream is doing from the Product guy, Allen Piscitello. Lightning, Liquid side-chains, Green Address wallet, Schnorr signatures and Bitcoin via satelite were the main points he discussed. All super interesting topics and Allen was thorough with his delivery. Before he started the presentation he pointed out that he had a hater in the crowd- MikeInSpace, which I translated as he had been trolling the Blockstream boys lately. The basic narrative I left with was that Blockstream is trying to make Bitcoin more secure and that they’re all about improving financial privacy.
The final panel, “When Howey Met Forman- Questioning The Appropriate Legal Classification for Crypto-Art” was my favorite. I may be biased but it was presented by Sasha Hodder who happens to be both a supporter of mine and a cryptoart enthusiast. (Oh yea, she’s agreed to marry me as well.) Her talk started off with a new and edgy video, “DJPEPE vs. The SEC” (notice how it’s never written as DJ Pepe folks,) in which DJPEPE (a carboard cut-out) jokingly schools the SEC “officers” (played by Tatiana Moroz and Sasha.) She proceeds to make the argument that DJPEPE and many more cryptoart projects possibly should fall under the UCC’s definition of a tangible good and not the SEC’s definition of an investment contract. Her performance even earned her a new CORNLAWYER asset for Bitcorns.com by a farmer named Bench.
The conference featured a couple dozen booths for sponsors and vendors outside of the 4 Ballrooms. The most popular booth seemed to be the Bitcorns booth as it was set up to display how assets could be used in idle gaming using the Bitcoin blockchain. They had hand-painted artwork of corn memes, Upper Deck-quality trading cards made by Roger Fliporian, stickers and more all on display. I got a taste of the new Haven mobile app by OB1 and Brian Hoffman. One of my favorite cryptoart projects Snark.art was set up outside Ballroom A and talking to attendees about owning fractions of a video that is on display in the MOMA in New York. Bitpay, Bitcoin.com, Johnny Dollar, Monero and many more all had quality booths set up as well.
All in all, this was a great experience and the bear market blues were not anywhere in sight as high level chats took place all over. Bitcoin is weird and wonderful and I look forward to next year’s event.
stuttering air horn sound*
My TAB Recap- Making Bitcoin Weird Again (That’s A Good Thing) was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.