Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Research update #1


Late Monday I returned from the 2nd International Conference on Complementary Currency Systems (CCS) that took place in The Hague, Netherlands. I met with many researchers and practitioners, several of them I quote in my thesis (such as Thomas Greco or Hugo Godschalk). Almost everyone knew about Bitcoin and I took the opportunity to explain how it can be used benficially for the people normally involved in CCS. My impression was that most didn't like the inelastic money supply. They do not like that banks are privileged to create money and would prefer that everyone can create money, including credit forms. Some even didn't like that the control over the balance is with the end user, arguing that this promotes crime. Both during my panel and the rest of the time (the conference took five days) I tried my best to explain that Bitcoin is a voluntary system and the technology can be used to construct other monetary systems (indeed, my co-panelists were Marco Sachy from freecoin and Jorge Timón from freicoin) and even for other areas which have to do with property rights, such as finance, banking, legal and property rights enforcement. And, of course, that it makes it more difficult for the banks to create money.

One thing however that I must say that I was pleasantly surprised about was that there appeared to be a unanimous support for a easy regulation and displeasure with the treatment Bitcoin has received. The legal troubles that have affected Liberty Reserve, or before that Liberty Dollar, and the recent public announcements from the regulators are not specific to "libertarian" alternatives. Many of the complementary currencies have suffered from regulatory pressure too, one of them being Bangla Pesa, which was recently shut down in Kenya. The conference organised a petition for the ending of the prosecution of people involved with Bangla Pesa.

I also was able to attend the Utrecht Bitcoin meeting as it was nearby, and finally meet Koen Swinkels in person. Koen is similarly as me interested in deep fundamental economic questions related to Bitcoin and we discussed the topic online several times.


As I now conduct Bitcoin research full time, and am accepting donations for my research, I decided to make my research more open. First of all, I opened my research bibliography and notes. Zotero is a collaborative tool for helping in research, I've been using it since I started my research, now I just made the data public. It contains over 400 entries (books, articles, lectures, ...), notes I made for them, such as quotations that are interesting from the point of view of Bitcoin. You can directly export a Zotero library into bibtex, and plugins are available for MS Office or Libre Office.

Last but not least, I want to make the spending of the donations also publicly auditable. So far I haven't spent anything, but it's difficult to finance my research just from savings. So here is a list of intended uses for the donations:

  • Server hosting. I rent a dedicated server that gathers data from the blockchain (it runs a full node and I recently added several altcoins) and Mt Gox. I plan to add other data sources in the future. The server doesn't do anything else and costs 32 EUR per month
  • Zotero storage plan. I mentioned Zotero above, I have an extensive bibliography (now public) and the storage required exceeds the free hosting plan. I currently pay 20 USD per year.
  • Books and articles. I am not affiliated with any research institution and need to pay full price for any publication that I want to read. Of course I try to get them for free but this is sometimes difficult. I also created a separate Amazon wishlist which includes items I find relevant for my Bitcoin research, so you can "donate" also by directly gifting me a book from that wishlist. I prefer kindle editions to paper books but not all are available in electronic form.
  • Potentially also travel and accommodation costs for conferences. Even though I take part on conferences that I find relevant for Bitcoin, not always do the organisers cover my costs. The Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments in San Jose cost me about 1100 EUR for travel and accommodation and the CCS 2013 about 600 EUR. I'm not counting other costs associated with the conferences such as food as I eat regardless of whether I am at a conference or at home. These two conferences already happened so I am not going to use the donations to cover the cost for these two. The other two conferences that I've been invited this year (Cryptocurrencycon and Future of Money 2.0) will cover my costs so it's less of a problem there, but there could be other conferences in the future.
I'll publish the expenditures on a separate page once they occur.

Let me know what you think, and if you have any comments on the donation spending.