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The London 2012 Bitcoin Conference

Op-ed - The London 2012 Bitcoin Conference

Last November, Mitchell Bourne, with the aid of the Bitcoin Consultancy, organized a highly successful Bitcoin conference in Prague, featuring speakers from both inside the Bitcoin community, like We Use Coins creator and BitcoinJS developer Stefan Thomas and Bitcoin Consultancy member Amir Taaki, and outside of it, like Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge and digital money theorist David Birch. This year, the Bitcoin Consultancy intends to hold a conference again on 15-16 September, this time in London. The last conference was held in Prague because the venue was less expensive and it was not clear how many people would attend, but with the Prague conference behind them this time, the team is more certain that the conference will succeed, and are expecting over 300 attendees.

Hosting the conference in London will have a number of advantages. London is the home of the Bitcoin Consultancy, as well as many of the speakers that are invited to the conference, and even for those who do not live in the United Kingdom, London is much easier to reach than Prague is, with several international airports around the city allowing for direct flights from many cities around the world.

The list of speakers is already a long one, and includes a number of individuals from within the Bitcoin community. This year’s selection is heavy on the technical side, featuring Mike Hearn, developer of the Java-based Bitcoin platform BitcoinJ, once again the BitcoinJS developer Stefan Thomas, Patrick Strateman, Bitcoin Consultancy member and the chief technology officer of Intersango and Jim Burton, lead developer of the Bitcoin client Multibit. On the less technical side will be Max Keiser, in charge of his finance-oriented show on Russia Today, the Keiser Report, and Matthew N Wright, who is involved in a number of Bitcoin-related projects, including Bitcoin Magazine itself.

However, what is more impressive are the non-Bitcoin speakers. Looking at the list of speakers, the conference can just as easily be described as a Linux conference as a Bitcoin one. On the list are many developers who are focused on Linux and Bitcoin at the same time, although typically with more attention toward Linux, as Linux offers more opportunities for developers to express themselves than Bitcoin, where the technical side is already largely settled. Among these are Dennis Rolo, also known as Jaromil, both an advocate of underground economies and a developer of Linux multimedia systems, Nils Schneider (tcatm), known to the Bitcoin community for Bitcoin Watch and Bitcoin Charts but also the creator of the iPod Linux project, Jeff Garzik, a prominent Linux kernel developer who also spends time on Bitcoin development, and, most important of all, Richard Stallman, the free software advocate who created the GNU operating system that forms the basis for most of the Linux distributions that we use today.

There will also be several speakers outside of both the Bitcoin and Linux communities. Once again on the technical side, there will be Andrew Miller, co-founder of a computer vision consulting firm and contributor to OpenKinect and the decentralized file storage system Tahoe-LAFS. On the non-technical side, David Birch, who spoke at the 2011 Prague conference, will once again be attending, and from the civil liberties community there will be a new guest: Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic parliament member responsible for creating the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which introduced anti-censorship, freedom of information and whistleblower protection laws that have placed Iceland at the top of the Press Freedom Index in the world.

To the Bitcoin Community, what this conference signifies most of all is the growing integration of Bitcoin into the larger technology and civil liberties community. Even one year ago, Bitcoin was largely on its own, and the rest of the technology community was largely watching the currency from the sidelines. The only prominent individual who made a serious attempt to conceive of Bitcoin as being part of a larger philosophy of individual empowerment was arguably Rick Falkvinge. After surviving a bubble and crash and continuing to attract more attention, however, a growing number of people are realizing that Bitcoin is only one tool in a much larger arsenal, and this year’s list of speakers reflects that reality. Hopefully, this conference will prove to be of major benefit to both the Bitcoin Consultancy, desperate to recover its public image after the Bitcoinica fiasco, the Bitcoin community, as the event has the potential to bring Bitcoin considerable media attention, and the free software and civil liberties community as a whole.