Bitcoin developers and entrepreneurs frequently endure public ad hominem attacks from others in the community. It’s time thought leaders honored their recently-signed pledge to put a stop to such unprofessional behavior.
Also read: Bitcoin: Money as a Bill of Rights?
The Bitcoin industry has always had participants who are passionate about its surrounding issues. Many have strong opinions and frequently air them in public on social media.
It’s entirely necessary. Given the technical, political and economic issues inherent to Bitcoin development, everyone expects robust debate on what direction this revolution should take in future.
Public debate is also part of Bitcoin’s open-source ethos. While industry leaders sometimes hold invite-only meetings such as the Satoshi Roundtable or Necker Island, most arguments are still out in the open for all to see.
Compare this to the clandestine actions of central bankers and the legacy financial industry over the years.
Unprofessional and Childish
When those comments descend to the level of personal insults and attacks, however, it ceases to be productive. It makes the industry appear unprofessional and childish to outsiders.
And like it or not, outsiders’ opinions can matter a great deal. They may include potential investors, Bitcoin users or those considering joining the industry. If those people perform due diligence by Googling names and see nothing but puerile online arguments, they may choose not to join in.
We saw it happen recently with attacks on Gavin Andresen – whether for his support for alternative Bitcoin protocols or his endorsement of Craig Wright as the real Satoshi Nakamoto.
It continues to happen to other community members in places where Bitcoin is popular, like Reddit and Twitter. Some big players have expressed disdain for these forums as a result and choose to ignore them.
Attacks on bitcoin personalities are sometimes disguised as humor, but the end result is still the same.
Satoshi Roundtable Pledge to Improve
Taking action against public bickering is not a new idea – several industry leaders discussed this very issue in detail at last February’s Satoshi Roundtable meeting.
All attendees at the event signed a written pledge to engage in “respectful dialogue” to curtail infighting and contemptuous behavior that could damage Bitcoin’s public image.
The pledge included the clause:
“We will also take responsibility at times when it would be beneficial to work with our fellow signatories to help them engage in a manner consistent with these ideals.”
Some company CEOs also said they would be prepared to dismiss employees who engaged in actions counter to the pledge.
According to reports from the room, it was Peter Smith (Blockchain), Brian Armstrong (Coinbase) and Sam Cole (KnC) who led this charge. Mike Belshe (Bitgo) and Roger Ver were also present, among many others, who agreed with the decision.
Bitcoin Companies Need to Watch Toxic Employees
Cole told Bitcoin.com that battles between engineers on a technical basis were actually good for Bitcoin’s inward-looking community, and even helped to produce better results.
“On the other hand,” Cole said, “personal attacks by members of the community are not well received by anyone. They really only help spread FUD.”
“I said openly in the room (at Satoshi Roundtable) that if anyone thought that me or any of my staff were behaving in anyway unprofessional that they should contact me and I would take care of it.”
Bitcoin.com owner Roger Ver said that personal attacks reflected poorly on the entire Bitcoin industry:
“If the Bitcoin industry wants to be considered by the rest of the world as reputable professionals, the CEOs can’t allow employees to behave in disreputable ways by engaging in ad hominem and other personal attacks on social media.”
To date, no employees have been fired from any Bitcoin companies and it is not anyone’s wish to see this happen.
Employees represent their companies even when making unofficial personal statements, though, and from a PR perspective it is in management’s best interest to curb negative public actions.
Rather than fire employees whose public statements could damage the company or Bitcoin industry, CEOs would be better off keeping their talent simply by advising them to act in a professional manner.
Keep the debate robust, as mentioned earlier, and let arguments on technical principles lead to improved protocols and a better Bitcoin network overall. Personal attacks, however, do little to improve the technology and do much to drive people away.
Do personal attacks make the industry look unprofessional? Are we seeing less investment as a result?
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Upstart Business Journal.