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Bitcoin Core’s Name problem

In response to: What did Bitcoin Core contributors ever do for us?

There’s a problem with names. They make things real, at least in our minds. It’s fairly easy to then turn around the process and say “This thing has been named, so it must be a real thing.”

Here we have the problem of “Bitcoin Core”.

In essence, it was just a simple name for an ever shifting group of people working on the bitcoin protocol.

Somewhere down the line, it became more “real”, generating a site, gathering spokespeople and becoming a container concept.

The problem is that once something plural becomes named, it tends to be seen as singular.

And when it becomes singular, it means everyone in the group gets assigned the same generalised characteristics the name is imbued with.

Thus we get the strange situation where all developers that work on the bitcoin protocol up to date need to be lumped together, even when a casual glance at their work shows it is a very diverse group.

The problem is compounded when people start to believe “Core” is actually a real thing, instead of a convenient label to describe a fluid group of people who have separate agendas. Once you refer to yourself as “part of Core” you are reinforcing its reality.

Once a name has been given, a concept reified and ossified into a strict set of defining characteristics, it’s extremely easy to attack.

It’s hard to identify and narrate about “just a bunch of people working on the bitcoin protocol”, but writing about this vaguely defined “Bitcoin Core” is storytelling gold!

It’s much easier to write a story about a “Bitcoin Core dev going against a Bitcoin Unlimited dev” than to write about “one of the developers that works on the bitcoin core going against a developer that wants a different implementation”. Core vs BU will win the page every single time, even if it tells just a very narrowly defined story.

Developers who patently don’t fit into the narrative are either ignored, or tarred with a brush that’s not of their choosing.

And most of all, accomplishments that fall out of the scope of the narrow narrative connected with the name are forgotten or never seen because they don’t fit the prevailing story.

This is a pity, because as the article I am responding to shows, a lot of work is being done without getting recognition.

And it’s not getting recognition in large part (just to hammer this point home) because of a name.

The problem facing all developers past, present and future is how to break out of the imposed mold.

A good way forward may be the Zen Koan “When you see the Buddha, kill him.”

By that same token (pardon the industry pun), it may be a good idea for them all to start going by “If you see Bitcoin Core, kill it!”

Bas Wisselink
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Bas Wisselink

Freelance trainer and speaker at Blockchain Workspace
Bas Wisselink is a freelance writer, public speaker and trainer. He is a founder of Blockchain Workspace. His expertise is in education, training and presentation skills.
Bas Wisselink
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