Conferences have become a big part of the Bitcoin community this year. Over a thousand people came to the Bitcoin conference in San Jose, and nearly every month since then we have seen some kind of Bitcoin event. We had Porcfest in June, BTC London and the Inside Bitcoins conference in July, and the regulatory compliance conference in New York in August. And this month, although it has not been nearly so widely publicized, there will be a Bitcoin conference as well, located in Amsterdam from September 26 to 28. The details for the event can be found on the conference’s website.
The organizers of the conference would like the see their event have a somewhat different character from the ones that came before it. “It’s an open source conference,” explains Matthew Wright, one of the chief organizers behind the event, “it’s not a moneygrab and tap dance of self-importance by those who seek to centralize and ‘get rich quick’”. The sentiment is common among Bitcoin users in mainland Europe that the Bitcoin community in the US is focusing too heavily on integrating with mainstream finance, securing large profits and investments and, some would add, bending backwards to regulatory authorities to make Bitcoin seem more friendly to established institutions; rather, many Europeans believe, Bitcoin’s potential to bootstrap a grassroots economy should be emphasized. When asked specifically what this anti-corporatist sentiment means in practice, Moe Levin writes:
We’re trying to be different. We’ve done market research on attendees and saw that people wanted to see more devs, more entrepreneurs, and more of the people that are not “getting rich quick”. they want to see people with good ideas, working on them, and succeeding in making the community a better place.
We have some big players in the bitcoin community speaking. No getting around that when you want to make a large event and attract attendees, but we’ve moved to invite the people that others can learn from and share experiences with, not the people that are interested in self-promotion. We have rigorous guidelines for speakers and their topics, and have asked for revisions of their speeches if they are too much of an ad for them. Think of it more of a TEDxBitcoin conference than a Bitcoin conference.
The conference certainly has plenty of big players inside the Bitcoin community, although the European side dominates to an extent not seen in London or San Jose; Trezor, Bitsofproof, Bex.io, OpenTransactions, BitPay, Coinbase and BitStamp are perhaps the most prominent names on the list. Outside of the Bitcoin community, on the regulatory front the organizers managed to bring in Wieske Ebben, a policy maker from the Dutch National Bank, and Niels Ploeger from the Amsterdam police. The other major non-Bitcoin-specific attendees are likely to come on the entertainment side; Juice Rap News, a group that releases satirical news broadcasts based on current events in a rap style and has received over 200 bitcoins in donations since they first started accepting them, is interested in attending, and Maxmin may come as well.
What is most interesting about what Levin and Wright are doing is actually not the conference itself; in fact, Wright argues, an excessive attention on “conferences” can be counterproductive. “Yearly conferences are great for publicity but not very useful in bringing bitcoin to markets,” Wright explains, “In fact, it works against it by putting it upon a pedestal as if it were some overly complicated technology that needs a conference just to understand”. Rather, the two want to build “marketplaces” in countries all around the world. “The future of the bitcoin conferences,” Levin writes. “We’re thinking Qatar. Montreal. Korea. something lite. A convention, involving people outside of Bitcoin”. These events would take place in each city every month, and would be a hybrid between weekly meetups, Satoshi Square events and traditional conferences; they would be aimed not so much at experienced Bitcoin users discussing theoretical topics in Bitcoin, but rather toward new users interested in learning more about Bitcoin, as well as new and experienced users alike actually using it in real life, and connecting people together to get things done. “We lead in with a conference/convention,” Wright explains, “but we leave the groundwork for a monthly marketplace.”
For now, though, the only thing that is set in stone is the Amsterdam conference itself; even if Levin and Wright’s more long-term plans fizzle, the conference will still be valuable to the Bitcoin community; in fact, it will be only the second major Bitcoin event ever to happen in mainland Europe, the first being the November 2011 convention in Prague. A considerably number of people will be attending, from both Europe and the United States alike. Hope you can come!