What have we learnt at bitfin? a sobering experience

Dublin based Bitcoin conference Bitfin, has called time following a whirlwind appearance by broadcaster and financial pundit Max Keiser.

Dublin based Bitcoin conference Bitfin, a panel heavy event with big Bitcoiners from around the world, has called time following a whirlwind appearance by broadcaster and financial pundit Max Keiser. Enthusiastic Bitliever Billy Bambrough attended the event and reports on what he learnt from this year’s Bitfin

The speaker from the Central Bank of Ireland, market director Gareth Murphy, pours cold water on what many were hoping would be a watershed moment for Bitcoin. Murphy, an obvious doubter in a sea of Bitlievers delivers a cool summary of the situaton, telling the audience that the regulator would be catching up with them.

“Which side of the regulatory tent do you want to be on?” Murphy asks attendees, urging the heads of many Bitcoin based companies present to work alongside the regulator.

Murphy’s full speech can be read here: http://www.centralbank.ie/press-area/speeches/Pages/GarethMurphyBitFin2014.aspx

Bitcoin still has a payments problem. It is hardly news that very few people that are interested in buying Bitcoin want to use it for anything more than holding and gaining value, constantly trading and price watching, hoping to become a Bitcoin millionaire.

But while everyone knows this has to change there are scant few people in the industry that are either able to or even know how to make this happen. Buying Bitcoin is getting harder and spending it once you’ve got it isn’t getting easier despite the 100,000 merchants around the world that now accept it, including some big players in the form of New Egg and Overstock.

Having to upload a scan of your passport to buy a t-shirt online is not practical and no ones going to do it, panellist Moe Levin VP at Bitpay tells the audience. Surprisingly, even at a Bitcoin conference there is nowhere to be found to part with the digital currency.

The banks are pouring huge money into making fiat payments via mobile and the internet super simple and Bitcoin has made zero progress in terms of making the use of Bitcoin easier for the average person on the street.

An impromptu tutorial descends into confusion and is abandoned as a BTC trader attempts to teach a novice how to buy the coins on his Windows phone. “I don’t want to use the cloud,” says the novice. “I don’t trust America and the NSA.”

People insist in comparing the early days of Bitcoin to the internet in the early 90s. Bitcoin, as a revolution, is nothing like the internet. The internet has made global communication possible when it physically wasn’t before. We had a communication problem on a global scale, where communication with people beyond your country was all but impossible at either phenomenal cost to time. We are able to send money around the world far easier now than we were able to send messages in the pre-internet days and there are constant improvements being made to that system in the form of Vocalinks faster payment network and startups like Transferwise.

The feeling that Bitcoiners are all part of a crypotcurrency cult is still palpable. Dare to criticise the almighty Bitcoin and people look at you will scorn, bordering of pity. “The banks’ are evil, you know,” people whisper conspiratorially. “I now get paid in Bitcoin,” is a proud mantra that can be regularly overheard during the networking coffee breaks.

No one drives the religious frenzy like financial pundit Max Keiser who sweeps into the room moments before taking to the stage to preach the wonders of cryptocurrency while pushing his own coins MaxCoin and StartCoin in the manner of a TV evangelist collecting tithes. The thinly veiled money grubbing, disguised as righteous indignation at the current system is endemic.

The average attendee seems to be either a computer science grad interested only for the technical challenge of a global currency or an early adopting investor who can smell the wind changing, hoping it will fill their sails with virtual cash.

The “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. I think its time to take the incumbents to slaughter,” Ocean Bank VP Oleg Pokrovsky declares to a round of applause from the audience. The Animal Farm irony is lost on the hooting audience.