Ben Perrin, host of BTCSessions YouTube channel joins me to talk about his experiences educating new Bitcoiners. Listen to this episode to get some tips on how you can spread bitcoin knowledge in a thoughtful way. We talk:
- How Ben got into Bitcoin and doing a YouTube channel
- Taking insights from his prior career as a teacher
- Helping beginners avoid common errors
- Bitcoin tools and wallets
- Running a bitcoin node and comparing node products
- Update from Bull Bitcoin and 21x
Ben Perrin links:
Stephan Livera links:
Stephan Livera: Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben Perrin: Thank you so much for having me.
Stephan Livera: Look, it’s a, it’s always a pleasure to see you around at the Bitcoin conferences and obviously online on Bitcoin Twitter or on your YouTube channel. I know you’re doing a lot of great work in terms of helping educate beginners into Bitcoin and teach them, okay, you’ve gotta hold your keys, you’ve got to run your node, those sorts of basic steps that we need to try and educate people on. I’d love to hear a bit more about your story. How’d you get into Bitcoin and how’d you get into the whole YouTube thing?
Ben Perrin: Yeah so I started hearing a bit about Bitcoin in 2013. You know, the headlines as it started, its parabolic rise from, from the last mania. And every time I saw it I was like, Oh, I, I’ve missed the boat. You know, Oh, it was 10 bucks. Now it’s a hundred off. No. Oh, it’s a thousand. Yeah, yeah, exactly as everybody does. But when it did kind of peak out in November, December of 2013, I figured, okay, well there must be something here. It’s either like a big Ponzi scheme or there’s something to it. And so I started reading it was a little bit harder to get your hands on, easily accessible information back then as, as I’m sure many people would attest to. Yeah, so I started trying to parse through everything I could.
Ben Perrin: You know, in the early days I think everybody kinda gravitated towards people like Andreas Antonopoulos. I actually found a really good especially back then, I found a good series on, on, I think it was on udemy. And it was like how to stop worrying and, and S and love Bitcoin or something like that. And it had like a multi-part 45 minute each series on, on how Bitcoin worked and what could go wrong potentially. And so I probably spent about three months diving into everything and trying to digest as much as possible. And you know, I understood as deeply as I as I could at the time. Looking back, I really knew nothing but I was confident enough to dabble and start, you know, okay, maybe I’ll buy 50 bucks and see what happens. And so my first purchase was from a local Canadian site. It was called like quickBT and you could buy it with debit and it gets sent to a wallet. I had to download Bitcoin-QT on my laptop and took like two days to load up and yeah, it was, so it was a process. And when I finally made my first purchase the next day, Mt. Gox collapsed.
Stephan Livera: Perfect timing.
Ben Perrin: And you know, the, the messages, cause I had started talking about it to my friends and like them as just some from some my pres. I hope you didn’t buy any of this trash. And, you know, you know, my Facebook feed was littered with headlines and you know, so but I was lucky enough that I had taken those two, three months to actually read enough to understand the difference between the currency collapsing and just a poorly run business. And so I was, kind of insulated from that. So like asymmetric information, I suppose. And so I, continued and I always said to myself, well, if, if the principles that I got into this for were compromised, then I would step away. But if nothing has changed, then it seemed to be just Bitcoin being Bitcoin and the markets being in the markets.
Ben Perrin: And so I bought the two year long dip. So what I did but over the, over a couple of years, I kind of came to see that education was a spot that could be worked on. And so in 2016, I started a YouTube channel called BTC sessions and I just, I said, Hey, I’m gonna make a weekly video at the time on whatever I feel like, whatever I feel like is worth looking at, learning about basics. How do you start a wallet? How do you secure Bitcoin? How do transaction fees work? Little things like that. Bits of information that I had found useful initially. And, and I started and, and I just didn’t stop. And I’m still here. The channel has been around, you know, since beginning of 2016 roughly, and it’s gettin’ pretty close to 3 million views right now, which is insane.
Stephan Livera: It’s crazy to think about how many subscribers do you have now?
Ben Perrin: Over 31,000. So, and then there’s, you know, the transients that come in and out and, and watch, but don’t subscribe. So, you know, I’m wagging my finger at you guys hit that subscribe button.
Stephan Livera: See and that’s the thing is all like I’m always trying to drive people towards who I think are good, solid people in the space, right? Whether if it’s YouTube, then I’m trying to drive them to you. If it’s podcasts, obviously I tell them about my podcast, or Tales From The Crypt or Noded right? Because there’s a lot of charlatans, right? And especially on YouTube, you’ve got all these like crypto pumpy moon lambo boys. And so I do my best to try and drive, you know, newbies and beginners towards good solid channels as opposed to the pumpy Lambo boys.
Ben Perrin: Yeah. And then I’ve found that the education infrastructure has been built out much, much better over the past few years. Like there’s so many great quality podcasts and YouTube channels and just walkthroughs and medium articles and just so many fantastic educators have come and it’s great to see that kind of proliferating.
Stephan Livera: Right? And the thing is, there’s always common beginner mistakes, right? So shitcoining, right? That’s a common one, right? So I’ll try and get a beginner in and then at some point they will start asking those questions around, Oh, do you only buy Bitcoin or do you have some of these other coins? And then at that point you’ve got to take them down that rabbit hole. How do you approach that?
Ben Perrin: It’s a tough one and I’ve tried to tackle it. It’s, really difficult to give to paint with broad strokes and say this will work for everybody because obviously everybody gets into Bitcoin for different reasons. I find that oddly enough even though this narrative gets pushed a lot, not a lot of people come to Bitcoin because they think I need something that’s faster than my debit card. So again, I tend to ask, well, what interested you about Bitcoin? What, what did you see that you thought, wow, this changes a lot. And a lot of the time it’s either the sound money aspect of it or the censorship resistance or you know, sticking it to central banks an option outside of your local currency. A lot of those narratives are what sparks people’s interest.
Ben Perrin: And so when I say, well, then why, why are you looking at whatever coin this coin? They say, well, it’s, it’s even faster. I’m like, well, was speed what you came for? Was that what really drew you in? You know, cause I mean, if you, if you tap your debit card and you’re going, Oh my God, this is incredible then wonderful. But I think we’ve come to learn what Bitcoin’s strengths are at its base layer and, and what kind of those hard promises of monetary sovereignty. You know, why people value it and you know, I think it’s time to move beyond the Roger bears of the world that are, it’s 20, 19 and they’re still doing videos of like scanning a QR code and having their mind blown by zero confirmations. Like, it’s time to dive a little deeper.
Ben Perrin: And I’m not saying that necessarily for brand new people. Yes, sure. Show them, show them a lightening transaction because it’s cool. It’s cool to see initially but I think drawing, drawing their eyes to the important aspects of why Bitcoin was necessary in the first place. So I did a medium article I at some point this year quite a bit earlier in the year. And I called it my path to Bitcoin maximalism.
Stephan Livera: I read that, that was a great one.
Ben Perrin: Yeah. Yeah. So, and it was just, it was more to outline kind of the ethos or at least the things that drew me to Bitcoin and, why I started with Bitcoin and then obviously you get started and there’s the inevitable skew into shitcoinery as everybody dabbles in certain amounts. I imagine whether it’s looking or holding or, or trading or whatever.
Ben Perrin: But then obviously the more I learned, it actually drew me back. So I wanted to draw this thing out and kind of point to the fact that Bitcoin maximalism is not closed mindedness. It’s actually the more I educated myself, the more my focus came back to Bitcoin and realized that all of these other coins are in some way not checking a particular box. And, and so yeah, I think that’s important. And so I kind of drove those arguments in that medium article. The Cryptoconomy did a reading of it. So if anybody’s not down to read a long, medium article, you can always audio that.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s great. And that reminds me a little bit of my earlier chat with Matt Odell where he spoke about how a lot of shitcoins tend to market themselves by not telling you about a certain trade off that they have made. Right. Somewhere along the way they made a deal with the devil. Right. And they did something, some way that impinges on it’s centralization and so on. So I think that’s something that you’re speaking to there as well.
Ben Perrin: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot about it. So a lot of these projects pride themselves on being able to make quick changes in the name of innovation. But really if you think about it, Bitcoin is built upon hard promises of sound money of immutability and censorship resistance. And when you can turn on a dime to change the base layer protocol and change those hard promises, then those hard promises are worth absolutely nothing. And so the, these, these snap decisions to hard fork when it comes to Ethereum or what did I see? I saw something from, I think it was a quote from Vin Armani guy.
Stephan Livera: The BCash guy.
Ben Perrin: Yeah the BCash guy, and he was talking about how he was talking about how every six months there should be a hard fork, even if there’s nothing to do, just just to prove that we can innovate. And some he said something about governance and I was like, Oh God. Like that is so missing the point we need to put in place these hard promises that cannot be screwed with. So that down the line when you get somebody in a position that wants to do something like increase the supply cap, it’s impossible for them to do it. The sooner Bitcoin ossifies the better.
Stephan Livera: Right? And so let’s say I’m a beginner and I come to you Ben, and I say, Oh, Ben but I heard there’s this other coin and it does governance better. Well, why shouldn’t I buy that coin?
Ben Perrin: Ah, well, so I typically point to the fact that that people are in perfect. And so when, you’re relying on really any government, if you give that government a lot of power over, say the money supply, sure at the time those people in a position of power may do the right thing. But what about the next guy or the next guy in power? Like it’s an inevitability that at some point down the line, somebody will do something that’s probably against everybody else’s best interests but is in their best interest. And so when I look to Bitcoin, it is incredibly difficult to get these, these changes put through. I mean, getting a backwards compatible upgrade to the protocol that allowed us to have more transaction throughput and fixed transaction malleability was damn near impossible.
Ben Perrin: Like to get SegWit through was a battle and, but that’s the way it should be. That’s good. That’s a great thing. When you, see these kinds of quick changes, again, it just, when you look at any type of governance beyond me choosing to run my own node and set my own rules if you’re pushing any of that responsibility to a third party, you’re losing power, you’re losing your own sovereignty. And so I typically say the easier it is for you as an individual to have as much power over your own money and your own monetary supply as possible, the better it is for you in the long run. And so when a coin comes along and says, Hey, look how quickly we can do things, Hey, look at our fancy governance model. I don’t think that’s interesting.
Ben Perrin: I don’t think that’s a place where I want to go. It’s difficult to convey, but it’s a unnecessary hurdle that have to, people have to get over, cause they’re so used to worshiping politicians and, Oh, that’s my guy, that’s the guy who’s going to get my vote because he’s going to do the right thing. And then, you know, they never do. And so it’s very, I mean, Bitcoin does, I suppose, have governance in a way, but it’s just messy as all hell. And that’s, that’s kinda how it should be. Right? Like you, you don’t want it to be easy. If nobody’s happy, then you’re probably in a good spot. If everybody’s, if everybody’s angry and fighting and can’t get anything through and it’s a pain in the ass to change, then we’re probably sitting in a pretty great place to be honest.
Stephan Livera: Right? Yeah. And I think the best on this is a tweet by our friend Michael Goldstein. He’s got that the Mexican standoff, and there’s like three guys all with like guns pointed at each other and he says, this is Bitcoin governance, right? So
Ben Perrin: 100%. It’s beautiful because everybody has power, but they don’t, it’s, this weird kind of dichotomy of yeah, I get to say how things go, but, but kind of not. It’s, it’s, it’s weird, but it works. It’s, it just works, right? We’ve, it’s coming up on 11 years and it has worked in my opinion beautifully. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And it’s also kind of, it’s lent itself to a mindset of questioning everything and, and people tend to shit on bitcoiners for just being really abrasive and in your face about their views. You know, you see the back and forth with like Wasabi and Samourai. You see teams attacking each other and calling each other out. My boss, Francis at Bull Bitcoin is, is no stranger to just shit talking all over Twitter, but it’s kind of a beautiful thing in its own right because as much as people get stressed out because of it solidifies the hell out of what Bitcoin is. And, and it’s just this bullshit averse group of people that will stop at nothing to make sure shit is fair and I love it.
Stephan Livera: Yeah. Right? Yeah. Everyone’s calling each other out to try and and look again. People have their own interests in it as well. Right. People have products to sell and so on, but at the same time, people try to keep each other honest. Another topic that I think is common for beginners, and I get this often is people who come to me saying, Oh man, it’s like, it’s, dropping a bit. I want to wait a bit to buy some, or you know, or trying to get into the whole trading game. Right. What’s your view on that and how do you explain that? When a beginner comes to you and says, Oh, Ben, I want to wait for it to become cheaper it before I buy any.
Ben Perrin: Well, so a lot of those people, they come to me and they spout the, you know, buy low, sell high. Everybody knows what they should do. Nobody does what they, I guess technically should do. And so a lot of the time when, when people come to me and they say, when’s a good time to buy? I’m like, okay, so what got your interest? What, what, why are you asking me about this now? And a lot of the time the answer will be, well, I saw the price go up. I’m like, okay, so you’re looking at it now you’re looking to buy because the price is appreciating and so what do you think you’re going to do if you buy, only because of the price has gone up, what do you think you’re going to do when the price goes down?
Ben Perrin: You are going to sell if the only reason you bought is because the price is going up, you’re going to sell when the price goes down. So I typically say your level of investment or how much capital you allocate to something like Bitcoin should more or less directly reflect your knowledge of the underlying asset. And so I say, you know, if you’re just getting started, start with a small amount, you know, maybe 50 bucks or something. And, and use that to play around with some real capital. So there’s a little bit of money on the line, but learn about a wallet test, sending it around, start to ask some questions when you come across, well, what the hell does this mean? What, what is, what’s this fee that’s attached? How does that work? Just doing that will make you ask some questions, but it also gets you learning at the same time and it puts some money on the line.
Ben Perrin: And, and I try to get people actively learning with, with a minimum amount of money into it before they start diving in. And then I say, okay, if you feel like you’ve learned something and you feel like you start to understand, maybe every time you have like an epiphany, maybe start to allocate a little bit more that if you’re comfortable. But, but take your time. And I think it’s a huge inverse to what people hear when they start shitcoining, right? Because if somebody comes out, they’re like, this one’s going to, it’s going a 100 X and there, you know, buy, please buy my bags, please God buy my bags. It’s basically what they’re saying. And, and so to hear the opposite when somebody comes to, Oh, should I, should I buy Bitcoin? And I more or less say, well not much.
Ben Perrin: Definitely not much right now. And then as you learn maybe and I think more or less that actually makes people a little bit more confident because it’s not the scammy shill fest of Oh buy this you’re going to be rich. It’s more the let’s take a reasonable approach and actually learn and I’m always confident that in doing that people will be more convinced than saying, Oh yeah, buy a ton because it’s probably going to go up. Like that’s what people want to hear. But that’s not what I’m going to tell them. I’m going to say, well, what, what do you think we’ll like why do you think this is important? And I want them to ask me the questions of why is this? Why is this not a scam? Why, won’t it disappear? Why won’t my wallet go missing tomorrow?
Ben Perrin: Why won’t somebody just steal this? So I want to hear those questions and I want to guide people towards those kind of tent pole moments where they suddenly realize why somebody can’t just go and change the ledger and change their balance. And I want them to have those, those epiphanies on their own accord, but I want to lead them in that direction.
Stephan Livera: Right. Yeah. And so let’s talk through your process with a beginner then. So what are some typical tools that you might recommend? Are there any wallets that you’d like to tell them about phone ones hardware ones where do you start?
Ben Perrin: So, so I put together a little blog posts with a ton of tutorial videos that I’ve done. Now it’s, it’s kinda geared towards, I suppose, Canadians because because some like the buying and selling videos, I can only work with stuff that’s available in my country, but so I tend to funnel people towards right now Blockstream Green.
Ben Perrin: I like that as a mobile wallet. It’s pretty simple to operate as far as a regular wallet goes, but it also has some of the advanced features for down the line. Like you can connect it to your own node very simply and so you’re running it trustslessly. But you know, I’m not, I’m not getting an individual to do that two seconds of the gate from learning what Bitcoin is. Now one of the, so I guess I’ll start with that Blockstream Green. I typically, I like to drive people towards cold card as, as a storage hardware wallet solution. But I’m also, I’m also a realist and I know that a brand new beginner is not necessarily gonna understand UTXO management, that’s not something that it took me years to even know that Bitcoin wasn’t just sitting as a balance in your wallet.
Stephan Livera: Right, it’s not an account.
Ben Perrin: Yeah, it’s not an account. It’s, it’s, you know, there’s, there’s UTXOs, bits, tiny pieces of Bitcoin that still remain separate until they are combined into a transaction. So a lot of users aren’t going to understand that. And, and so I suppose my tactic tends to be incremental wins. And what I mean, and people are probably not, not going to like this initial thought, but stick with me. People shit all over custodial, any sort of custodial solution. And so do I. But as a demo sometimes I will utilize that as that initial wow factor of, Oh, that worked quick. So you get something like a Blue Wallet or a Wallet of Satoshi where it’s like a lightning custodial. And they tap a button and there’s a wallet there. And then I send them a hundred satoshis and it pops up in a half a second and they go, Oh, that was easier than I thought.
Ben Perrin: And, and the difference there is that the initial sit down time to get them slightly interested was way less than, okay. So we’re gonna write down this 24 word seed and then we’re going to practice a backup and then we’re going to send a transaction and we’re going to wait on a confirmation so that you can then send back. And so it gets me in the door and that allows me to then have the conversation of, so this is a custodial wallet and you know, not as good for you know, financial sovereignty or whatever kind of angle I want to take with it. But it’s better to do it. Trustlessly on your own. And then I can go down that segway of, well, why is that bad? Well, you know, bank accounts can shut your accounts. And just kind of drawing those comparisons.
Ben Perrin: So I like to go for those incremental wins. Okay, great. You used a custodial wallet. What does it mean to hold your own keys? And then they go, Oh, so like, I actually have power for my money when I do this. And you start to guide them down that path. And some people might not like that approach of starting custodial and I don’t always, it depends on my timeframe, but as an example there’s, a good friend of mine I’ve known him for years. His name is Dave. He was actually in, if any of your viewers or have seen it, but I did a an ad for bull Bitcoin that was like an ode to shitcoiners that have been wrecked. And it’s so, it’s like, it’s a bunch of like homeless looking dudes in the streets, like holding signs after they’ve like lost their money on, like BCash and Ethereum and ripple and, and so he’s the guy in the ad.
Ben Perrin: That’s the Ethereum guy. So, if you, if you search up that, that Bull Bitcoin thing you’ll see him. But anyways, so he was one of my biggest skeptics. He’s one of the guys that emailed me after Mt. Gox collapsed and was like, I hope you didn’t buy any of this shit. And so, but he gradually came, around and so he got himself a non-custodial wallet in like 2015 and, and but then deleted it or something and, and so further cemented his, disdain for Bitcoin for another couple of years. And you know, made the beginner mistakes but gradually came around. And so now through osmosis, just from being around and having the opportunity to say like, okay, try this. And then he sees me doing something and he goes, Oh, that’s cool. What is that? Why is that better? And so he’s gone from, I have a wallet on my phone to I, you know, I bought myself a Trezor to, Oh wait, now I actually want a Coldcard.
Ben Perrin: Oh wait, now I want to play around with Electrum. Wait, maybe I should mix my coins through Wasabi. Wait, what’s that node you just set up, why is it important to have a node? And he starts asking those questions. And so he’s gone from plunking down and being convinced that he wants to buy bags of XRP and Tron to now sitting down with me setting. He’s in the process of he’s going to be grabbing a node and setting it up himself and linking his hardware and software, mobile wallets and everything to the node and having like full financial sovereignty and he’s Bitcoin only and he’s gone through this incredible transformation and education in like a year and a half. And, it blows my mind because it’s so much faster than my learning curve was in the early days. And I think it’s, the approach that has been taken of, of getting the person curious and then letting them know that there’s an incremental easy to achieve next step to be even more sovereign and be even more solid to have that base that, that like impenetrable fortress of monetary sovereignty.
Ben Perrin: And so I think people need to do to indeed go after those incremental wins. I think too often being hardened maximalists and Bitcoiners we think everybody out the gate better run their own node and be learning command line. But like let’s be real. We’ve got to think what’s the goal here, what is the goal? We want this system to be as robust and decentralized and trustless as possible. And how do we get there? If a newcomer comes in and you go over and you’re like you idiot, you can’t, you have to run a node. And like if we’re out the gate with that, we’ve already lost that person cause they’re just going to go grab a custodial wallet right away and never stray away because we’ve just inundated them with too much initially. But if you say like yo like cool, you learned how to do a transaction maybe try this wallet out instead because it’s more secure and you have more control over your money and then you know, then go down the path of you know, maybe lets look at privacy, maybe let’s look at cold storage, let’s look at, so I think there’s a path to get there and it’s incremental.
Ben Perrin: And not everybody will go all the way down the path, but I think more people will go further by attacking it that way.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, that’s a great way to think of it. I think the incremental approach is definitely a good one. I’ve in the past had difficulty where I would just sort of give a few pointers, but I wouldn’t like actively work with them and actively step them down that journey. Whereas nowadays, that is what I’ll do. If I’m working with someone, I’ll actively say, Hey, where are you at now? Okay, next step. Hey, here you go. Let’s get you on a Coldcard Hey, next step, let’s get you on a node. Things like that. Now one thing that’s a little difficult there is technical precision versus ease of explanation, right? So in the past we have, you know, there’ve been a lot of inaccurate analogies made and sometimes that’s difficult because you’re trying to simplify it for somebody, but then at the same time, that can lead them astray later on. So for example, addresses as an account, right? It’s because it’s an imperfect analogy. And that can lead to conceptual errors, privacy problems, address reuse. What’s your view around navigating that?
Ben Perrin: It, is a tough one because the inclination is to use the easiest explanation at the time to get through it and it, and it’s a tough one because there’s no one size fits all for this. You need to look at the individual and, and almost this sounds bad, but almost gauge how stubborn they are. Cause like if you tell somebody one thing and they’re going to be like, okay, this is what I believe and I’m just going to stick with that and they’re not going to be capable of being like, Oh, I have more information and so my views can now be altered and I can move forward with this new information and, and, and adapt to it. If they’re not going to be capable of that, then then you might need to say, okay, we’ll tackle this a little bit, give them a bit of information, but if it starts being too much, you need to have that finesse and that know how to say, okay, your eyes are glazing over a little bit.
Ben Perrin: Don’t worry. I know this is too much right now. So focus on this little bit of information. So like when somebody says, Oh, why, why did my account change when like a new address pops up? And you’d be like, well, it’s not exactly like that. Think of it like there’s a master account and for privacy sake, every time you receive money, it’s like having a new temporary account address, I suppose. And, it’s not a good idea to reuse those because you could compromise how much money you’re holding and, that’s enough. They don’t need to realize that every, every received transaction is sitting as a separate sum that can be combined or, or, you know, split into separate UTXOs. So you don’t need to dive into that yet. Just say, you know, it’s one master account, you’re going to see all the Bitcoin that you have here, but there’s a new address every time.
Ben Perrin: And it just helps with privacy. You don’t need to dive that deep right away. And so again, it beckons to that incremental approach where, how much can somebody handle in one sitting? And it’s not a lot. So I should, one thing I want to say is, a lot of the reason for my approach is because of a bit of my, my background prior to Bitcoin. And so before Bitcoin I used to teach school children how to break dance. So, let me, let me explain why this actually lent itself to this kind of where I am now. So the first time I started teaching dance to kids I went in with some like jam packed, super intricate choreography. And I was like, well, if I just teach it slow enough, they’ll pick it up.
Ben Perrin: And even though the dance is fast, I can just, I’ll just like slowly go through the moves and then when I play the music they’ll be fine. And it was an absolute train wreck and it was like the worst. It was a terrible job. And so over the years I learned that you really need to break things down to their lowest common denominator. It has to be bite size has to be way slower than you think necessary. And the transition from teaching dance from teaching school age children complex dance moves to teaching adults complex technology is actually a lot more similar than you would think. Cause as long as you have an understanding of what’s underneath and you have an understanding of people’s thought process and what they can handle in a single sitting and what you have realistic goals of what you want to accomplish, you’ll have a much better time making progress than if you just try to blow through it all in one sitting. And I think not enough Bitcoiners realize this. So start small, start easy, start incremental. And that’s kind of what has guided my way of explanation.
Stephan Livera: Right? Yeah. I love that approach. And I think there’s, definitely a lot of parallels there. One other kind of related idea is sometimes in Bitcoin there are what we might think of as application level controls versus more Bitcoin and cryptography, right? So the app might have a pin on it, but that’s not necessarily related to the underlying 24 word seed and passphrase. Right. And for a beginner, again, that can be super difficult, right? Because they think, Oh, I just remembered my pin, that’s all I need. Right? But it’s like, no, no, actually you need your passphrase and the seat to have the backup. So how do you navigate that?
Ben Perrin: Yeah, I mean you could say, I mean, I guess there’s a few different ways you can analyze it. You can say that obviously your, your path your your 24 word or 12 words seed is kind of like the master key to, to your, and I know people don’t like the word account, but I always allude to that because it’s some, it’s something that people are familiar with. So I say, well this is, this is the key to your account. You’re more or less your account even though it’s not an account with, with a company or anything. Just imagine there’s like this giant safety deposit box in the sky and this is your key to the account. So you need this. It’s, it’s just like a key, you can create a copy of it.
Ben Perrin: But if you only have one copy of this key and you lose it, nobody else is going to be able to get into your account, including yourself ever again. When there’s a pin number in addition to that, I could say like, well that’s the pin number just to get in the door to get access the safety deposit box. On your phone. But again, it’s just, I think it’s easy to separate out the pin number for the app versus the actual, you know, the actual 12 word phrase. I’ve never had too much of an issue with that. I just say, well, you know, if, if somebody gets your phone and they, you don’t want them to get into your app very easily, you put a pin on it, right. That’s the security there. But if somebody has your passphrase, they can still swipe your account.
Ben Perrin: They don’t need the pin number. That’s kind of universal. I can, when people start asking about, well, what, I don’t understand that this, this app holds my money. It doesn’t, it’s more like a browser. You know, there’s, there’s Chrome, there’s Firefox. A browser gives you access to the internet. This application is one option of many to give you access to the Bitcoin network. And so when I started explaining it like that, it tends to be a little bit clearer, but you got to attack it from whatever the problem the person is having.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, no, I love that. That’s great advice. And you mentioned this earlier, but there’s this question around whether beginners to Bitcoin will be brought in via lightning just directly into lightning or whether they come into Bitcoin. Now, there’s a couple of different things to think about here because obviously if you bring up lightning now you’ve got to think about channel management, submarine swapping, inbound liquidity. Are you running it off your own node? I mean, there’s all of these things that you could explore. So what’s your view about getting somebody in into lightening straightaway or into just standard on chain Bitcoin transactions?
Ben Perrin: It depends on our timeline. Like at the time of recording this I think both are probably fine. Lightning would have the wow factor of it’s instantly there and instantly spendable. So if that’s kind of, if you just want that cheap thrill that sometimes lights up the eyes of a newcomer, then yeah, that’s, that’s wonderful. That’s great. But right now a regular Bitcoin wallet that is a full, you know, you have your backup phrase and everything and its main chain. I think that’s fine. Right now. We will hit a point where it’s not, and then we’ve got to consider what is, what’s the onboarding method. Now there are some great non-custodial lightening wallets on, on mobile. So one awesome one and TFTC Mount Odell did a video on this one, Breez.
Ben Perrin: So it’s non-custodial, it goes through neutrino. So you’re actually running a lightning node on your, on your phone but they also give you inbound liquidity right away. Now, I don’t know how scalable that is, but while they’re still doing that, that’s a great solution and hopefully more solutions like that will pop up. So it’s instantly usable and you get inbound liquidity, but it’s non-custodial. I’d love to see a lot of that popping up. So then if there’s not those options, if that’s not scalable, then for onboarding newcomers, we’ve got to start to look at the realistic picture of, of how do we get these people started? Do we get a newcomer in? And in an instance where channel management hasn’t been abstracted away, is that realistic to start with? Especially if on chain is too expensive for quick demo transactions because the last thing we want to do is demo with shit coins because, you know, because they don’t have as much on chain traffic.
Ben Perrin: And so the fees are still cheap. We don’t want to set that precedent for onboarding people for demos because it’s just, it’s, it’s, you’re, you’re going to drive that person towards shit coins when you’re just trying to get a quick demo. And so what’s the trade off? Do you do a demo with Litecoin or do you do a demo with a custodial lightning wallet? So it’s, again, and it’s going to be different for everybody. There’s going to be some people listening to this and they’re already sharpening their pitchforks at the mention of a custodial lightning wallet. But in a world, again, where on chain is too expensive for a demo transaction and where lightning requires a channel management before even getting set up, what are you going to do? So hopefully I’m really hopeful that by the time there’s another crazy mania, we will have some solutions that have abstracted a way that channel management or where there’s auto in incoming liquidity provided by some of these companies like breez. So I guess we’ll see. It’s, it’s ever changing. It’s so difficult to say how you’re going to teach this stuff in the future. And that’s, that’s the challenge of being a bit corner, right? You got to adapt to whatever the hell is out there and say, okay, this is what I’m going with for now. And then you gotta be ready to inform the people of why that might’ve changed later on.
Stephan Livera: Yeah, right. Yeah. So I think a couple of points there. So firstly, yeah, Breeze is great. Example I interviewed Roy Sheinfeld on episode 94 for any, listeners interested and I’m also, there’s an interesting one by ACINQ coming out called Phoenix. So I think that one is going to be a really interesting model as well. So what it is is a phone, quick set up model, and you would do I think one on chain payment to the address on there and it will automatically submarine swap it into a, I think it’s got like a route hint to a channel that doesn’t exist yet for this newbie. And it will say, do you want to create a channel? And then boom, it’ll like take that money and make it into a channel and it is non-custodial with incoming liquidity and somebody else, like now you would have to fund that channel.
Stephan Livera: So if you work with a beginner, you would maybe send them $10, right? Well maybe they would give you $10 and you would just open a channel to send them a $10 on chain. You know, obviously again, as you said, this relies on the chain fees being low, but that’s an option. But I guess just more broadly, even if we were to abstract, like not worrying about the abstracting away the technical part of it, what’s your view around driving the lightning adoption versus teaching more of the HODL mentality before getting them even in? What’s your view there?
Ben Perrin: It’s interesting because lightning inherently is very transactional. You just, you want to use it right? Like you want to, Oh, I gotta give this guy a tip. I’m gonna like you’re just dicking around opening channels and sending back and forth. Just cause it’s fun. Like it is a fun thing to do. And again, I think it is dependent on who you’re talking to. What is, why are they here? What drove them to come here? Are they the, the sound money screw central banks. I mean, I think everybody eventually kind of leans towards that if you’re into Bitcoin anyways. So I mean, there’s going to be an element of that. I think where I’m leaning towards is your, longterm HODLings end up being like on chain, you know, your Coldcard that kind of where it’s like this is my vault and then my day to day is like a breeze wallet or you know, if you’ve got like a Casa or something there’s your day to day spending, easy Satsapp, stuff like that. I think there’ll be two. And, in doing that it becomes this illusion to today’s like checking and savings accounts, right? Like except for with no negative interest rates.
Ben Perrin: So I think that’ll end up being at like, here’s, your cheap to send, easy to purchase. You know, you want to buy a coffee, here’s your coffee chain and you know, and then here’s your, Oh, you want to actually save and, and it’ll lend itself to that over time too. If that’s the way some people are holding because if on chain is a bit more expensive, then it also encourages you to be a little bit more careful for when you use those. On chain, like longterm holdings and move them around, and you’re a little bit more conscious of that. So you just have a well-connected lightning wallet and you’re like, Oh, here’s my, my spending cash. And when you pull money from lightning and settle and put it into a Coldcard, when on chain is a little bit more onerous. You’re less likely to spend those savings in the future. So it’s almost like this layered approach is as if Bitcoin didn’t already encourage saving enough, this approach will further encourage it in my opinion.
Stephan Livera: Hmm. Yeah. A lot of great points in that. Let’s talk about nodes now. So there’s a lot of different node products and it’s obviously also possible to just run your own command line, et cetera. So, you know, there’s Casa node, there’s mynode, there’s nodl, there’s there’s there’s other guys, Raspiblitz, Raspibolt, lightning in a box. There’s a couple of others. What’s your view? What are you using for yourself and what’s your experience been like with teaching a beginner how to run the node?
Ben Perrin: Yeah. So when I first jumped into Bitcoin, I had to download QT. There was at the time when Apple had banned all Bitcoin wallets from the app store, and I had an iPhone, so I was like, Whoa, it looks like I’m running Bitcoin on my computer. And, and QT was like, what you did? I suppose Electrum seemed scary to me at the time. So, and that, you know, that syncs the entire blockchain. I didn’t even know I was running a cop, like I didn’t understand what was happening at the time. Now, I have a Casa that I use. I have the SatsApp set up. You can, I took off the autopilot on the channel management and manually set up some channels myself. But then more recently I also grabbed a download of myNode and I’ve been playing around with that.
Ben Perrin: Damn. That is some impressive shit for some, for like, it’s free software. So like I bought a Raspberry Pi 4 and just like a one terabyte drive. And I got these beautiful clear cases for them and yeah, they’re, purring behind me as we speak. And, yeah, so I set those up downloaded the software and it was actually, I did a tweet on it and, and said all the things, I was like, Oh I downloaded this and I connected my Electrum and booted up an Electrum server and I connected my whatever. Well, you know, my Blockstream Green to my node. And so I did this whole description and, and then I think it was Alex Miller, the guy who originally did the don’t buy Bitcoin cause it’s going to crash video, which was like some viral like making fun of people saying that it’s always going to crash because it keeps on crashing up.
Ben Perrin: He commented, he was like, really is it that easy? Cause it was just like ridiculous, long, complicated tweet. So it sounds more complicated than it was, but really it was a fun, easy project honestly, for those that dive in and I appreciate them for what they are separately, like Casa is such a breeze. When it comes to somebody that gets to the point where I, you know, I have my own wallet I have my own hardware wallet and I want to play with lightning, but I’m curious and I want to get my, get my toes wet cast is fantastic for that because it’s not scary. It’s so not scary. You plug it in and then you go to like casa-node.local on your web browser and it’s just there and it’s just working and you can autopilot things and it’s, it’s pretty seamless.
Ben Perrin: Like it’s not a difficult thing to wrap your head around. And what they’re doing is, it’s really beautiful for those, like I said, those incremental steps and that’s kind of what it was for me too. Like it was, it was, Oh, I’m going to get some hardware, some dedicated hardware. And Casa was just like this beautiful step. But then I, you know, I get, I’m a curious guy, I like to play around. So the, the myNode thing, it’s, I’m pretty blown away by it. Like it has everything like, so it downloads an entire copy of the blockchain. It has like a quick sync function as well so that you can get started before the blockchain is completely finished downloading. It runs a lightning node, you have ride the lightning, LNDhub, you can run an Electrum server, which means you have your own Block Explorer and a lot of people don’t realize like how much information you could leak just by going to a Block Explorer on the web and looking up a transaction.
Ben Perrin: But like you’re leaking your IP address and then you’re looking up a specific transaction and if you’re looking up other transactions that are linked to that address, then somebody might get a pretty good picture of all of the Bitcoin that you own. And so having, like just so many things built in and they actually, they just added, I think they just added a BTCPayServer.
Stephan Livera: Oh they’re going to, so they’ve added docker, I think Taylor is trying to do it in a sequential or incremental approach, so have first got Docker. And then he’s going to look at some of these things that require Docker such as BTCPayServer and Dojo by Samourai Wallet.
Ben Perrin: Which is again like this one stop shop for all of these things. And the dashboard is so nice and compartmentalized and you can go in and play around with settings and it’s just, it’s great. And until you see that in front of you, you don’t realize like this incredible software stack. You don’t realize how much of the, that responsibility you were pushing to third parties, how much of that information was just being routed through other people. And it’s like this liberating feeling of, Oh, I, this is me now. I am doing this. And, and I mean, you can dive even further. Like you can, you can, you can be running every like something like a Raspiblitz and you’re like doing command line. And I’m starting to learn a bit of Linux. And so for me it was like the next incremental step and, and learning some command line and Linux is kind of my next step. And yeah, it’s beautiful. So like there’s, there’s like you were saying, there’s a ton of options out there.
Ben Perrin: The nodl guys are great. I got to meet them in Riga and they’re doing amazing things. I love that they’re incorporating like the dojo stuff. Yeah. So there’s no shortage of either plug and play or DIY solutions for running a node. And honestly, if you’re listening to this right now and you feel like you’ve gotten to that cusp of, you’re totally comfortable with your non-custodial Bitcoin wallet, you have a hardware wallet and you feel like you’ve kind of stagnated with where you’ve been learning. Run a damn node, like start just grab whatever, pick any of these projects. If you’re really timid, get a Casa and they basically handhold you through everything. And there’s like a great team there that can you know, Brian God, I’m forgetting his name.
Stephan Livera: Lockhart.
Ben Perrin: Brian Lockhart. Yeah, he’s awesome. He’s super awesome. And you give him a shout out on Twitter and, and he’ll point you in the right direction.
Ben Perrin: But there’s, there’s a lot of great guys there that, that will help you along. And like the, the, the dude, God I’m forgetting, but myNode-
Stephan Livera: Taylor.
Ben Perrin: Taylor again, he’s awesome and he’s done this like, it’s free to download. He has like an extra thing that you can subscribe to get some additional features. But I mean, the amount of power and the, the incredible hardware or software stack that you can get just running your own without having to pay anything is incredible. Or if you want them to build it for you, you have that option too. And it’s just, I think it’s getting easier and easier. And so like, I dunno, I dunno about yourself. You’ve, you’ve done a lot of playing around with this kind of stuff too, like do you gravitate towards one or the other?
Stephan Livera: Yeah, so for me, again, it’s different strokes, different folks, right. I think of Casa, I like all of these options. I have a Casa, I have a myNode, I have a nodl, I have like a separate laptop node, I have a BTCPayServer, let’s not forget BTCPayServer is a node as well. So I’ve just got a range. But again, people like you and me are in the scenario where we need to be familiar with these because we’re trying to teach people. Yeah. So for me personally, I typically recommend them to go down, usually the Casa or the myNode or nodl depending on what sort of person they are and how much money they’re willing to spend and how advanced they are. I think myNode is great for like an enthusiast, someone who’s going to put in the time and the work and then then they can learn a bit more as they do it. And then if they really want to get even further advanced, then you start looking into, okay, I’m going to learn, come online, I’m going to learn Raspibolts, I’m going to do those setups. But for you, have you had any difficulty communicating why someone should run a node, especially if they’re a beginner level person. And then have you had any experiences trying to guide them down that pathway?
Ben Perrin: You know what? I always tell them the story of NO2X. So if somebody asks and they’re like, why are you doing this? And I’m like, all right, gather around children and tell you a story. And so I tell them, I’m like, listen, this is the power that a node gives you. Every major company in this space now, like 90% of all of the Bitcoin miners, like all of these massive companies, all of these like supposedly super important people and like all of the hash rate like everything was against us and everybody came together and said, Hey, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to fork Bitcoin, we’re going to change it. We’re going to change the underlying rules, which was like a direct compromise of like the hard promises that we had been banking on and we’re going to install our own group of developers that will take the project and whatever we place, which could be to your benefit or could not be.
Ben Perrin: We’ll see and it was unprecedented. All people did was say, Hey, I’m running a node and whatever you do, it does not matter. I will not listen. It’s like this intolerant minority changed the course of the most important technology that will hit in our lifetimes. And that kind of power is it was the single most bullish moment in all of Bitcoin that I’ve seen so far. Like to see all of those companies, all of those people that thought they had that kind of power back down with their tails between their legs and say, Oh, our bad, whoops. Thought we could get away with it. Guess not. You know, it’s, so not running a node is like letting somebody else tell you what Bitcoin is. It’s like if you had money in the bank and you were like, I’ve got $1 million, and then the next day the bank was like, you got a million, but it’s actually a million Venezuelan Bolivars.
Ben Perrin: And like, and you were powerless to say no. And they’ve just said like, no, but this is what dollars are now. And you’re like, but I didn’t consent to that. Well, you kind of did because you left the responsibility with us. And so by running your own node, you’re saying, this is what Bitcoin is and I’m not going to budge. And nobody can tell me different. And a lot of people, they allude to it like voting, but it’s not, it’s not really voting. It’s like if you’ve voted in an election and no matter who won, you still got to go by the policies of the person you voted for.
Stephan Livera: I like that. That’s a good analogy. Yeah. Sometimes you need stories and things to help motivate people, things for people as well. So look, we’re coming to sort of roughly the end of time, but I just wanted to get a quick update from you. What’s the latest with Bull Bitcoin and 21X as well?
Ben Perrin: Yeah. So yeah, Bull Bitcoin chugging away like mad. So those unfamiliar, it’s up here in Canada, basically an online broker where you can buy, sell Bitcoin or spend Bitcoin on Canadian bills, things like that. We just launched a product called Bull Bitcoin prime and that’s for like people that are buying more than $25,000 worth of Bitcoin. It’s like a personally tailored service where you make a purchase and you have somebody like hold your hand all along the way. You get like preferential settlements. There’s help with dollar cost averaging. So a lot of great things there. We just did a rebrand of Bitcoin Outlet which is like, our dope ass merch. So if you haven’t seen it, it’s like I love, it’s slowly replaced my entire wardrobe. I only wear like only wear Bull Bitcoin stuff now.
Ben Perrin: But yeah, so it was called Bitcoin outlet. We’re gradually moving towards a, it’s 21X.io Just a little bit more of, we found like an edgy feel to it I suppose, but yeah. And lots of fun stuff kinda going on in the background with, with bull bitcoin Cyphernode a little project that Francis and some of the devs have been working on open source project for, for a full Bitcoin software stack continues to chug along. So if you haven’t checked that out cipher node.io is another cool thing that you can look at. But yeah, things are great. And the, and then the channel. Yeah, the channel has been been super awesome. There’s been I’ve started to notice like an uptick of new people checking it out.
Ben Perrin: And so I, I now I do the educational stuff, but I still do like, I do look basically like daily news, like whatever I found interesting. So it’s very Bitcoin centric. But if there’s like a funny shitcoin story, I’ll throw it in. And I always do like the side chat, so as I air it as a premiere, but then all jump into like the chat as it airs for the first time and, and get to talk with people about whatever’s going on. So, yeah, it’s been, it’s been super awesome. I’m having a blast.
Stephan Livera: Fantastic man. Well, look we’ll put all the links in the show notes and look, thank you very much for joining me today, Ben.
Ben Perrin: Yeah, thanks so much for having me, man.