TLDR: I have shitcoined and even defended shitcoining but I was wrong. Maybe my brutally honest account can help you on your path to becoming Bitcoin only (a maximalist). You might call this virtue signalling, but it doesn’t paint me in a good light. This is my journey, warts and all. I wrote this in an attempt to fix any damage I may have unintentionally done by providing any legitimacy to crypto scams.

Early Beginnings, Bitcoin first, then…

I discovered Bitcoin a while ago, it took a few touch points but eventually when I got around to reading the white paper my mind was blown. I went down the rabbit hole and became obsessed.
At the time there were some other coins called “altcoins” around such as Litecoin, Peercoin, and Feathercoin. Litecoin sounded good - maybe it was to Bitcoin what diet coke is to regular coke? I was interested in the ideas behind Peercoin - something about proof of stake - so without too much due diligence I bought some. BBQcoin & Dogecoin - haha, some of these altcoins are pretty funny! Some of them look a lot like junk. They’re also really cheap, much cheaper than Bitcoin. I hope they take off - then I’ll be rich.
I spent a lot of time telling people about Bitcoin with limited success. My Bitcoin teacher Andreas Antonopolous recommended instead of explaining Bitcoin to try handing some out to people instead. I did this a lot. It was quite fun to get them to download the Bitcoin wallet on their phone. Seeing the “Aha!” moment in some of their faces when they received it was an amazing experience.
Meanwhile in my friend group, I am the butt of the jokes. To them I am that dishevelled conspiracy dude in the meme with the pinboard behind him and cigarette in his hand. My mate sends me a video he took of someone metal detecting while he does a Richard Attenborough style voice over “here we have the lesser spotted Bitcoiner... mining for Bitcoin….” my other mate can be heard LOLing in the background.

Shiny objects & opportunities everywhere, who to believe?

Some early Bitcoiner has a new idea for a coin. He says to put a message on the “Bitcoin talk” forum and he will send some out for free. I got something called Ripple, it seems to work.
Meanwhile some new coins with ”advanced privacy” are being released. One is called “Dash” - it could be a good idea I think, so without much due diligence I buy some. Monero sounds like another good privacy coin, better get some just in case it takes off. Turns out Satoshi created the idea for the first altcoin when he came up with the idea for a DNS coin.
I went to my first Bitcoin conference and it was great to meet some awesome minds in the Bitcoin space. Vitalik Butterin was there with a new idea for a coin. Ethereum sounded interesting, maybe it will take off. I message a guy running a small Bitcoin exchange I signed up for and I am blown away by his personal responses to my emails. I offer to help him out and I join him running the exchange together.

Bitcoin Civil War? But I thought we were all on the same team…

The block size debate is well underway at this time. One developer does a back of the napkin calculation and reckons 20MB blocks could be a sufficient upgrade. “Well we need to allow more transactions and to keep fees cheap” I think, and he knows what he’s doing I tell myself.
There is a disagreement and some people are trying to avoid increasing the block size because they make a case that it will reduce the decentralisation. This makes a lot of sense to me and I change my mind.
The disagreement blows up, one side is reasoned debate put forward by decentralised systems engineers working on Bitcoin and the other side tells me that the Bitcoin project has been captured by a small cabal of ne'er do wells.
The block size debate concerns me. I make a website that measures the speed of the transactions coming through and the size of the blocks and shows them on a dashboard using Javascript to show the values as gauges like the speedometer on a car. I put a donation address at the bottom of the site and someone donates a half-decent chunk of Bitcoin! It wasn’t enough to pay back the amount of time I put into building but wow - that was a new model for making money I hadn’t experienced before.

Tinkering with a new world

I built another website using the copay libraries that allows people to sell goods for Bitcoin using a 2 of 3 multisig setup with me being the de-facto escrow. A few people sign up and one person uses it to sell some chilli jam to his friend. Development on the copay library slows to a halt and I decide it is best not to run a project such as this on an unmaintained library.
The Lightning Network whitepaper is released. This is the 2nd time my mind is blown. As I read it the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end. Holy shit - this is how we scale to 8 billion people. I start telling people about the Lightning Network, LOL - this goes down even worse than telling people about Bitcoin!

Time to make a decision

By this time, I’ve made my mind up about the block size. Rather than do a dangerous hard fork to change the code, a soft fork to allow more flexibility for the block space for transactions is proposed.
I read up on the difference between hard and soft forks. Segwit sounds like a good compromise. The Bitcoin miners don’t seem to like the idea, and don’t signal their intent to upgrade. I hear about a grassroots movement known as a User Activated Soft Fork (UASF). It’s a pretty daring idea - if enough users decide to switch to a different rule set (Segwit) any miners that don’t also switch will have their blocks ignored as they don’t follow the new rules.
To join the movement I upgrade my node to the new version of the rule set and use the command line to add “USAF” to my Bitcoin node to signal that I will be following the new Segwit rules.
My business partner on the exchange disagrees. He thinks the big block solution is the better one and he adds the new trading pair to the exchange. I go along with it - the market will decide. We receive abusive emails for this decision. I learn more about the importance of decentralisation. I sell my Bitcoin Cash “altcoin” as soon as I possibly can.

If it looks too good to be true…

Soon enough the ICO craze kicks off, Bitcoin and altcoins are ballooning in price. I started doing some basic due diligence on the altcoins. A lot of the altcoins being invented have very dubious and spurious use cases. Some claim to have whitepapers, but when I read them I am massively underwhelmed. They mention token issuance schedules and developer teams and partnerships. Most of the whitepapers are not even white! At some point I hear the term “shitcoin” for the first time. I start telling people I know that 99% of these altcoins are shitcoins.

Time to clean house

I look closer into some of the shitcoins I hold. Wow ripple, what a dumb idea. A centralised pre-mined token on a spreadsheet dressed up as a decentralised system. I get rid of all my Ripples.
Turns out Dash had a pretty sketchy initial issuance start, and you have to use some kind of masternodes to make transactions. Doesn’t sound very decentralised either. I get rid of my Dash.
Turns out Litecoin was a bit of a pointless change to the Bitcoin code and relaunched as a new token, there is nothing “lite” about it. However counter-intuitively it does turn out to be quite useful as a live value Segwit testbed. I get rid of them anyway.
Turns out Peercoin uses proof of stake which means that the larger token holders get more tokens for holding their tokens. This doesn’t sound like a good system, so I get rid of them.
The coin ideas get worse and worse - “food on the blockchain”, “kittens on the blockchain”, “blockchains on a blockchain”. LOL. As a developer I start getting hit up with significant contracts to join some of these projects. Hard pass, thank you. Ethereum seems to be facilitating a lot of these new ICO scam coins. I start telling people I meet that 99.9999% of shitcoins are scams - can you see where this is going?

A change of direction

The bank closed down our exchange bank account suddenly without much notice. and the rest of the other banks refuse to even talk to us let alone bank us. We poured a lot of time and energy into running the exchange for years. Just as the exchange started to become profitable the banks “pull the rug” on us. We make the tough decision to close it down and hand out all of the funds we hold on behalf of our customers back to them through our personal accounts.
I started running meetups in the small town I live in. I don't know any Bitcoin maximalists. The ones I hear on twitter are sometimes pretty rude to people! To get a bigger number of people to come down I created a “Bitcoin and Crypto meetup group”. There is a lot of discussion of different tokens and the discussion is mainly about number go up.

History doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme

The decentralised exchange (DEX) craze kicks off on Ethereum. Maybe there is a use for Ethereum other than generating further tokens with spurious use cases after all?
The idea is that you can have “decentralised” exchange between two tokens by interacting with a smart contract. The funds that you wish to exchange must be locked up into the contract in a pair (staking) by someone else who owns both tokens.
The exchanger can interact with the smart contract by dropping some of one token in and receiving the other token back automatically. On the face of it this sounds pretty good, if you put aside the fact that Ethereum nodes by nature of their extremely high processing and bandwidth requirements are not actually very decentralised, making the D part of the DEX a bit of wishful thinking.
The second and more important issue is that if you provide the liquidity in the trading pair staked into the smart contract and the price of the tokens changes significantly you receive what was first termed “impermanent loss” but due to the fact that the loss is actually real it was re-termed “divergent loss”. To compensate for this issue the solution was formed to reward the staker with another token (the DEX token) generated out of thin air and gifted to the stakers in proportion to their stake.
If this sounds convoluted then to summarise, two tokens on the Ethereum network can be “staked” at the owner’s loss to “earn” a 3rd token which, in a circular fashion, can then itself be “staked” into more trading pairs (at the owners loss) to earn more made up tokens created out of thin air, and so on. Why do this at all you might ask? Well if you’re lucky and be one of the few people who snipe the dex launch and stake early you will be rewarded with more of the made up token than late comers. Hmmm… sounds familiar.
Ethereum switches to a proof of stake consensus model. One thing that hit me is how it seemed trivial to achieve agreement for such a major change in the Ethereum community. While Bitcoin’s significant changes sometimes are messy and argumentative I don’t really hear much dissent about this decision. The Ethereum “upgrade” goes through unimpeded.
Proof of stake is where if you “stake” your tokens you get to do the “mining” and get more tokens. This is said to work because “if you mess around you lose your staked tokens”. Notably Ethereum’s initial issuance was a 70% “pre-mine”. That means that 70% of the tokens were created out of thin air and distributed by the developers (mainly to themselves). Someone points out that a system whereby the people who have all of the money are able to create more of the money is the system we already have. I also remember reading a long time ago a Bitcoiner wrote “the problem with proof of stake is there is nothing at stake”. Can’t really argue with those points.

Everything else is a distraction

I finally get the chance to go to my first ever Bitcoin-only event. I decided to defend shitcoining to find out the business end of the argument for Bitcoin Maximalism. As you’d expect, this goes down like a lead balloon. One guy tells me “Ethereum is the shitcoin mothership”. I think back to all the ICOs and DEX coins and I guess it makes sense.
I meet some really cool Bitcoiners at the meetup. They are friendly and helpful and the chats are excellent. I had the most amazing time. At this point I am feeling pretty fucking sheepish for defending shitcoining. I immediately buy tickets to more Bitcoin-only events.
I became good friends with some of the Bitcoiners I met and we eventually get onto the topic of shitcoining, I pondered - “surely Monero isn’t a shitcoin, they are trying to make the most private money” I ask. “Monero’s privacy is so good, you can’t verify the total issuance” is the level headed reply I receive. Damn, this means that if there is ever a bug in the code it could be exploited to increase the supply and drain the value and if done carefully, no one would be able to know.
I mentioned to them that I don’t know any Bitcoiners in my town and so I created a “Bitcoin and Crypto” meetup group. One of my Bitcoin friends tells me “Rob when you invite the crypto guys the quality of the conversations you have are way more boring”. It clicks. At that moment I realise then that by including “Crypto” in the meetup I’m facilitating this peddling of all these coins that are misguided at best, but mostly complete scams.
I swallow my pride and admit I was wrong. I sell what little shitcoins I have left for some more Bitcoin. It has been an expensive learning exercise, I wonder if I’d have a whole Bitcoin now if I hadn’t shitcoined so much.
I now know I’ve fucked up, I’ve been party to this gambling on number-go-up coins when deep down all along I knew there was a coin that was fair, actually decentralised and had the most important job to do - to free us all on the individual level.
Turns out anything you need to do with value can and should be done with Bitcoin - probably not on the base layer, but on the layers above and beyond. Bitcoin is the empowerment of people against the tyranny of mega corps and authoritarian states. Bitcoin is the future I want to see, and I'm 100% in on that vision.
That to me is Bitcoin maximalism, and everything else is a distraction.
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The world only needs one base layer of money. Shitcoins are counterfeit.
"Fragmentation means that (...) [Bitcoin] cannot fulfil the social role of money. Ultimately, money is a coordination device that facilitates economic exchange. It can only do so if there are network effects: as more users use one type of money, it becomes more attractive for others to use it." (Bank for International Settlements)
I mainly was in shitcoins to get a programming career started. After 6 months last half of 2021 I got in real close in two dev teams, and epically confirmed that all shitcoins essential characteristic is a doctrine and mind control system and that is fraud all by itself, let alone the ponzinomics of most of them. For me this was 6 out of 6, over the period since 2015, that I had worked on.
After 6 months on shitcoin dev wages I decided that, first of all, I was somehow susceptible to this manipulation, and schooled myself on manipulation techniques, even wrote a little mnenomic system to remind myself.
Then, as I had been steadily spending more time on Twitter during the exchange crashes starting in April I sorta just gradually drifted towards the bitcoin maxis, especially the ones who were hard core about exposing the scams mechanisms, Cory Klippsten the most notable one.
I had been involved in Bitcoin since late 2012 and my prior focus was around privacy and Tor, the two things dovetailed together in the dark web, which to me was an epic FU to prohibition, one of the major bees in my bonnet.
In late 2022 I had the lightning pill and realised an old idea I had around making a monetised, peer to peer distributed virtual private network system became viable with LN as the payment rails, satisfying the anonymity requirement, specifically in the case of using keysend and AMP, meaning it could be adapted to become a mechanism for anonymous payment for relaying session data allocations and access to hosted and hidden services.
Bitcoin is the only money. Lightning could almost scale up tomorrow to replace all the small payment clearinghouses back end infrastructure. We need privacy during the next decade most especially because of the ever looming threat of automated totalitarian spying and their control instrument, the CDBC.
Of course, like all bitcoin maxis, you know that bitcoin has the Lindy and that's just gonna be the end of that. Over 20k of shitcoins proves that nothing can improve on it or replace it and everything else is less secure, and that layers are the way you scale and interconnect.
That to me is Bitcoin maximalism, and everything else is a distraction.
100% Well said sir! I am glad you found the light.
disagree with bitcoin maxi's premises. reminds of a school bully who clearly has some self-esteem issues. yesterday I made a post on SN about a video Bitcoin University put out about blockchain size of Monero v. Bitcoin. I think he called me retarded like 4 times without actually making any points. Toxic bitcoin maximalism will trick noobies out of fear with herd mentality , but eventually I think the better tech wins out. if you can't be too self-critical, you are relying on network effects only which isn't really sustainable long-term?
Also Monero's supply can be audited it just takes really long to do so
You can Audit the issuance seemingly but not if there is a bug elsewhere inflating the supply.
I am also not a fan of toxic people in general
the bug was patched 6 years ago, verified no printing occurred. can check yourself.
"A" bug was patched...
Great post! Any chance it might be available on nostr?
Thanks man. Really well written piece. I love the way you've got those headers in there, really makes it easy to follow your journey. Nice job!
Before the headers it was just a waffley ramble hah
I got around to reading the white paper my mind was blown
I had the same.
Litecoin sounded good
Litecoin "sounded good" - because so many people like me were burnt to the ground with monkey businesses of early ASICs companies... f...k, how I regret sending these bitcoins to bitcointalk Cointerra 2TH/s group buy...
Meanwhile some new coins with ”advanced privacy” are being released. One is called “Dash”
It was Darkcoin then in fact - and I was sure it will be rebranded, btw ;)
The Lightning Network whitepaper is released. This is the 2nd time my mind is blown.
Yet another: I had the same.
Yes, every single holder should have at least 90% portfolio in Bitcoin, if not 100%. That's my first advice when I talk to newbies. And only if someone really likes gambling - use this tiny rest for gambling. For one purpose: to increase your own bitcoin stash. (imagine the Bitcoin dominance level on Coinmarketcap in such a case :)
Excellent writeup Rob!
Bitcoin maximalist is your friend
Appreciate the passion but i think you can be a maxi without adhearing to all of these rules
Rule 15 is very helpful - I have been thinking about this for over a week.
Well said. I have oft echoed the sentiment everything besides Bitcoin is at best a distraction and at worst an impediment to global adoption.
I find myself trending towards Bitcoin maximalism. Not 100% there yet, whenever I make my monthly buys for the past year plus I've gone 50/50 BTC+ETH, but I hold some other ALTs . I dont really plan to sell them but dont have any interest in adding to them. Toyed around with lightning network very recently, ie this is my first post here, that recent, and was amazed at how many cool things are being built (Fountain, SN, etc) that is already more compelling than any alt/DeFi ecosystem, it really making me rethink my past decisions! Probably gonna spin up a node here soon!
"Monero’s privacy is so good, you can’t verify the total issuance” is the level headed reply I receive. Damn, this means that if there is ever a bug in the code it could be exploited to increase the supply and drain the value and if done carefully, no one would be able to know."
Any further info on this? I'd love to read about it
This is the way.