WizardofAus joins me on the show to chat about the Bush Bash: an alternate model for Bitcoin conferences. To be clear it’s not ‘better’, just different. Wiz and I chat:
- How he got into organizing bitcoin meetups
- Bush Bash origins
- Attendee feedback
- The commitment filter
- Structuring the weekend
- No sponsors needed?
- Tips on replicating the model
- Twitter: @BTCSchellingPt
- Site: bitcoinbushbash.info
- Twitter: @bitcoinbushbash
- Article: Gather Your Tribe – Citadel 21
- Mentioned: Inventing Bitcoin (Free link)
- Swan Bitcoin
- Unchained Capital (code LIVERA)
- CoinKite.com(code LIVERA)
- BTCPrague.com (code LIVERA)
Stephan Livera links:
Stephan – 00:00:08:
Hi and welcome to Stephan Livera Podcast, a show about bitcoin and Austrian economics brought to you by Swan Bitcoin. Today I’m talking with my friend Wizard of Aus from Australia. Now, I’ve known him for a few years from the Australian bitcoin scene, and we’re talking today about the bitcoin bush bash, which I think is an interesting and different model for bitcoin conferences. It’s obviously a much smaller scale and we’re not attacking the other large bitcoin conferences out there. I just think this is an interesting model that might be worth considering for people around the world as to whether you might want to replicate this model for smaller events and get togethers to help grow the bitcoin community. Now the show is brought to you by Swan Bitcoin and they make a range of bitcoin education available for free. So, for example, Inventing Bitcoin by Yan Pritzker, this is a fantastic book that explains bitcoin’s technicals in a nontechnical way. You can get through this book in about an hour, maybe 2 hours, and it’s available for free at swan. Comfreebook. Swan makes a range of services available for customers, whether they want to stack sats, whether they are a business, whether they want to use the Swan IRA product, or whether they are looking to give the gift of bitcoin. With Swan’s gifting program, over at swan.com/gift. Green is blockstream’s industry leading bitcoin and Liquid wallet. You can gain access to powerful features such as multisignature security, full node verification by connecting to your own electrum server or Tor support. Blockstream Green has the option of multisignature or single signature. You can have the option where Blockstream stores one key on their servers and this gives you the ability to have two factor authentication applied to your wallet. Now you also have time locks or a third backup key to ensure you still retain full ownership of your funds. And Blockstream Green is integrated with hardware wallets such as Blockstream Jade, Ledger, and Trezor. So there’s a range of features. It’s available on multiple platforms such as iOS, Android or Desktop. So you can get this over at blockstream.com/green. And as I’ve mentioned before and on Twitter, BTC, Prague is coming up in June of 2023. I’m really excited for this. It’s going to be a huge bitcoin event in Europe, probably the biggest. They’re looking to have around 10,000 people ranging from fresh newbies to bitcoin whales, business insiders developers and everyone can get connected together for a unique networking opportunity with more than 60 world class speakers and 100 companies. To ensure this will be a very educational and also fun bitcoin event, I’m going to be one of the hosts. I’ll be in MC for one of the days and I’m really looking forward to going to Prague. It’s a fantastic city, really beautiful and a great place to travel. Very accessible for anyone in Europe and very affordable. Also, the tickets for this conference are also pretty affordable you can get them firstname.lastname@example.org, use the code Livera for a discount. And of course, there’s a further discount for paying with bitcoin. I’ll see you guys in Prague in June 2023. And now onto the conversation with Wizard of Aus. Hey, Wizard of Aus, welcome to the show.
Wizard of Aus – 00:03:07:
Thanks, man. It’s a pleasure to be here. Always good to talk with you.
Stephan – 00:03:10:
Yeah, so I’ve known you for years now, and I know you’re doing a lot of great things in the Aussie bitcoin scene and yeah, just wanted to get you on and chat about the bitcoin bush bash and just kind of what’s happening. So, yeah, maybe tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the bitcoin scene in Australia.
Wizard of Aus – 00:03:31:
Well, I guess I had the very typical bitcoin genesis story of ignoring it early on, sort of 20 the white article in what was that, 2011, 2012. We read another article later, had a look at the DAO in about 2015 or 16 or whenever, they started talking about that and was busy with running a business and raising a family and it passed me by. And then 2017, lots of media attention and moon juice and, oh, look, I can make some money out of that, buy some money. And then after about a year, I figured out that bitcoin was a bit bigger than that. The chitcoins were shit coins, dumped all the shit coins I had into bitcoin and just focused on bitcoin ever since.
Stephan – 00:04:18:
Fantastic. Yeah. And I know you’ve been obviously around the bitcoin meetup scene and a community organizer yourself and yeah, I wanted to chat about the bitcoin bush bash because I think this is a really interesting model. Obviously, I’ve had the pleasure of attending some bitcoin bush bashes myself. I think this is something that the global scene could actually maybe there’s something to learn here, things to adapt and make their own. So do you want to just tell us a little bit about the Bitcoin Bush Bash? Like, what is it?
Wizard of Aus – 00:04:49:
Yeah, well, maybe if I tell the genesis story of the bush bash, which kicked off in November 2020. So I had the pleasure of meeting you first at Bitcoin Sydney. And when I used to travel up and down the city for work and then one of the other people, a couple of the other mates that I met there Hodloncomrades, and Sir Hughie who live in Canberra. We sort of kept in touch and got a bit closer, three of us being old dogs. And then COVID came along and we all got locked down or let out, depending on which states you were in. Except for Queensland, where I live. God’s own country. They sealed the borders and wouldn’t even let us travel to other parts of Australia, wouldn’t let anyone else in either. And then it got to about October, there was a hint that the Queensland premier was going to open the border, and I rang up Hodloncomrades. And I said, Mate, it has been far too long since we’ve had a good chat about Bitcoin in a few beers, where’s that place where you and Hugh go to get away from your wives and play golf and drink beer? And he said, Mira Rundi. Where the heck is that? And I looked at the Google Maps and funnily enough, it was about halfway between Canberra and Brisbane. And so I said, well, on the basis that the board is open at the start of November, let’s meet for the weekend on 1 November 1st. Weekend in November. And so that was the end of the conversation. We both committed to doing that. Slow me down. A couple of days later, old mates registered a website, bitcoinbushbash.info, popped up some basic information about the accommodation, small country town options and tweeted it out. And he said, we’re going to have a Bitcoin weekend. All bitcoiners welcome. Drop a note to Wiz or myself and let us know if you’re coming. And holy moly, I don’t know what it was, but I guess everyone had been locked down and starved of meetups. So I started getting all these messages from Randos all over Twitter and that was all great. And then someone about a week out, someone said, are there going to be any presentations? With went, oh, it’s a good idea. We’ve been playing with a few things and asked around and a few other people had ideas about things to talk about. And so the weekend rolled around, the first weekend in November, and about 20 people said they’d come. And about 40 people turned up, which was pretty atypical for event organizing and a whole lot of fun it was also we had a nine hour drive down from Brisbane, and that nine hour drive was the period where Bitcoin pumped from 13,000 U. S. Where it had been stuck for what seemed like months back in 2020 up to 15,000. So spirits were high and good times were there to be had. And, yeah, it was a great kickoff, but I guess the things that we started with, which were sort yourself out for accommodation and travel, we’re not here to handhold you, this is where we’ll all meet up and we’ll figure out who’s presenting in what order when everyone gets here. And it’s a little bit like trying to get a Bitcoin Core change through. We figure it out as we go along and sometimes it’s a bit of argument about it, but it all seems to work.
Stephan – 00:08:24:
Yes, I think it kind of has this decentralized spirit to it and perhaps that’s something that sets it apart from other Bitcoin events. Now, I’m not hating on larger professionally produced events at all. I think there’s space for different kinds of events, but I think this is an interesting model that might be worthwhile exploring. And you know what? It could also be that there’s a life cycle to these things as well, that things start out as more like casual style events and over time they grow and they become these larger events. But at least with bitcoin bush bash, it seems that there are a few ideas that people talk about and joke about. So one idea I recall is this joke of a commitment filter, the idea that because it’s in some random town in Australia and it takes time to get there, the kinds of people who turned up were some of the best bitcoiners. Do you want to elaborate on that?
Wizard of Aus – 00:09:14:
Yeah, that was kind of by accident at the beginning and then it’s become by design. So at that time, at the beginning of November, none of the Victorian bitcoiners could come. Their state was still sealed off and we all had such a good time that there was a definite desire for more. So I said, well, let’s hold one in Victoria in the autumn, after the summer, in March-ish, pick up and do the same thing, pick another small country town. And we did that for a number of reasons. Firstly is, it does provide that commitment filter that you talk about in the sense that you have to want to go. There is a bit of a commitment to travel. You can’t just fly in or get the train around the corner, so it filters out all the tourists and it filters out all the shitcoiners, and the people who want to come are there because they want to come. And so all of the conversations that I’ve had there, and I think this has been reflected by many others and probably yourself, they’re all high quality bitcoin conversations. There’s a lot of steel sharpens steel and a lot of people who know a lot more about bitcoin than everybody else there. And we all share and learn from each other.
Stephan A – 00:10:32:
Yeah, that’s great. And so, in your eyes, what sets this apart from other bitcoin events and conferences? The bitcoin push bash?
Wizard of Aus – 00:10:40:
Yeah, there’s a couple of things. So one is it’s always in a remote and regional location, and we have three over the course of the year. One in the spring, which we’ve just had in Murrurundi in the upper Hunter Valley, one in the autumn in Beechworth in northern Victoria, and one we’ve had until recently, in the winter in Yeppoon, last weekend in July. But we may actually have up in Cairns this year, and we do that for all you poor southern socialists who get stuck in the winter and need a break of sunshine. The things that make it a little bit different, I guess, there’s no registration, so it’s KYC free, there’s no cost, which means that it’s open to everyone. There is a bit of a pain in terms of organizing to get there, but carpooling has become increasingly popular and there’s a lot of respect in terms of its Chatham House rules, so you can speak freely in the knowledge that conversations are not going to be shared outside the group at the time. So that time where we had the 44 gallon drum of KY jelly and the trench gun, we don’t talk about that. Those who were there at that time, you know what I’m talking about?
Stephan – 00:11:57:
Yeah. And I know with the chatter mouth rules thing, the other idea is that people can talk about an idea but not attribute it to that person and say, oh, look, this guy was trying to raise the block size or something, right? So I find it really interesting because that’s a really good way for the community to build and whether that’s people in the Bitcoin Sydney group and the Bitcoin Melbourne chat and Bitcoin Brisbane chat and they’ve all got their own telegram or telegram rooms or other chat groups and people are sharing and carpooling and all of this. So that’s really cool. I also find it’s very cost effective because it’s just like a very low cost event. But put it this way, the expectations are lower, right? Because instead of saying, oh, this is going to be a big conference with a video live stream and this big hall and this big, et cetera, there’s all these aspects to it that raise the cost dramatically. Whereas if we just lower our expectations a bit and keep it more as a quasi-decentralized community gathering, then there’s a benefit to that, isn’t it?
Wizard of Aus – 00:12:58:
100%. And the cost factor is close to zero. So the very first one, the Railway Hotel in Murrurundi, kindly gave us the use of the beer garden and the back part of the hotel where we held all the presentation, so it was zero cost in return. They got about 40 plus people who turned up, ate every piece of steak in the hotel over the course of the weekend, drank quite a bit of beer, but probably did they probably did more business in that weekend, especially after, you know, six months of lockdown and restrictions than they’d done in the previous month. Or maybe more. And so that generates a lot of goodwill as we’ve gone forward. We’ve needed slightly bigger, bigger places. So I think the last Bush bash we had last month, that was 70 people and about 30% of them were new. First time to the Bush bash, and that was the same in yeppoon, back in July. So about 60 people there and about a third of them were new to the Bush bash. I think the fact that no KYC or no need to use real names has attracted a lot of people who’ve not come to bitcoin meetups at all before. And there are several. I can think of people who just sit quietly and watch on Twitter and learn and read or perhaps have had bitcoin for a long time and have held it very quietly and privately, and they’ve come along and had the joy of meeting and connecting and talking with other bitcoiners without having to do that publicly. And that’s widely respected and appreciated.
Stephan – 00:14:39:
Yeah. And I think there are perhaps opportunities here for people who want to do community building, that it’s just set a lower bar. Right. So instead of thinking that, oh, we’ve got to have all these fancy things, and we have to put in all this money to pay for international speakers, and it’s like, just use the speakers you have locally, have people locally just come up with a presentation, have people locally run a workshop and really grow it, have it homegrown. I think that’s perhaps one aspect of it. I think the aspect also of going to, let’s say, a smaller, remote town, it tends to mean the food and the drinks and the accommodation are cheaper too. So that’s also perhaps a bonus factor there for attendees. So it’s kind of like there’s a commitment filtering that you have to get there, but the actual cost of drinks and food and all that is actually relatively low compared to the big cities, right?
Wizard of Aus – 00:15:35:
Very much so. And we carefully choose the time as well as the location. So the timing is to avoid university holidays, school holidays and big public events. So, for example, the next Bush Bash is in Beechworth in the last weekend in March, and that’s prior to the Easter holidays. So there’s no school holidays, so we’re not contending with big events. That means for those small towns, 50, 60, 70 plus people coming into the town, buying breakfast, lunch, dinner, sometimes the occasional frosty beverage and pushing money into the town economy is always well regarded. I think Hodloncomrades did a rough calculation from the Bush Bash in Murrurundi last month. That was that had grown to three days because Katarn kindly ran a privacy and security workshop day on the Friday leading into the Bush Bash, and there were 40 people who came to that, which was more than the number of people that turned up to the first Bush Bash. So it’s definitely growing. And his rough calculation was there was about $50,000 that went into the local economy just from the bitcoiners turning up. So the businesses that we kind of tend to go to and meet at and drink and eat at, they all know, oh, bitcoin is back in town. And so that generates a very warm welcome as well.
Stephan – 00:17:08:
Yeah, that’s great to hear. And so can you tell us a little bit about structuring the weekend? So typically there might be some talks, there might be a workshop, and then the bitcoiners will get together for a dinner somewhere, maybe the night before or the night of. Can you tell us a little bit about how you structure that weekend? So anyone listening who wants to maybe they’re in some other country and they want to replicate this approach, do you have any tips for that?
Wizard of Aus – 00:17:33:
I don’t know if they’re tips. I can tell you how we do it. So the thing that I think is really important is that the presentation sessions only half of the value. So much of the value is just meeting other bitcoiners and hearing and sharing your own stories and asking your own questions. There’s a certain amount you can learn from podcasts and reading. I think I remember the first time I met you, Stephan, I said to you, so I’ve been reading about this Austrian economics thing, but if it’s a fixed supply, then how does pricing work? And you explained that to me. So that ability to ask specific questions which often devolve into far bigger conversations is a very large part of the value. So we don’t tend to kick off. We tend to kick off at about 10:00 in the morning, run for two to 3 hours depending on how much waffle there is, how much we keep schedule and how much conversation gets interesting. Generally have one and a half to 2 hours for lunch and then afternoon try and wrap up sort of 5:00 ish and then on to dinner. But I don’t think in all the Bush Bashes and we’re in our third year now in any of the Bush Bashes we’ve run with scheduled dinners or anything like that. Now, I got a great opportunity this year to finally go to Bit Block Boom in Texas, which was incredibly well run by Gary and his lovely wife and just extraordinary. You’ve been there, it’s a wonderful event, but just as you said, just a completely different structure. The Bush Bash, we ask for speakers if anyone’s interested, and they often reach out to hodloncomrades or myself, and we’ll put those into a rough schedule. And then sometimes we tweet it out beforehand, which is appreciated, and other times life gets in the way and we actually do it on the morning of the Bush Bash and I’ll read out a list and then we’ll figure out who has to leave when and schedule the talks that way. So generally there’s no problem filling two days worth of presentations. We do a mix of presentations and panels and sometimes just some straight Q and A things like what is bitcoin to you? Or what’s the most important thing to bitcoin as a conversation opener in the group, particularly when there’s lots of new people in the group, it allows them to get a feel for everybody else in the group and who thinks what. And not from a judgment perspective, but just from an understanding perspective. So we’ve also done workshops, practical, hands-on things like get some old laptops, pull the backs off, pull the old hard drives out, pull the WiFi card out, put it all back together, plug it in, boot it with a Tails USB, okay, let’s fire up Tails. Let’s fire up Electrum. Let’s generate a key offline using Electrum, okay? That key has never touched the internet what do we do now? We can take the x pub the z pub? We can move that across onto an Internet connected computer. Okay, now we’ve got a good hoddler vault. The keys have never touched the Internet. Just simple, practical things that extend people’s knowledge and skills in bitcoin, which makes them more confident and gives them new ways of transacting, saving, and securing and thinking about things.
Stephan – 00:21:18:
Yeah, great points. And I think as we compare, let’s say, the Bitcoin bush bash with some of the larger conferences, typically what we see in some of the larger conferences is almost like people will use the time together because they want to go out and network and chat with people because it’s an opportunity to actually meet. And so often it’s a common thing. People even will not be watching the talks because they know they can watch them later, they’re recorded, they’re live streamed and so on. And I’m sure you’ve seen that dynamic yourself when you’ve attended some of the larger events, whether it’s Bitcoin Bush Bash or let’s say Baltic Honey Badger in Europe. Coming up is BTC Prague, that’s coming up in June. So that’s going to be another big one. But comparing bigger events with, let’s say, the bitcoin bush bash, I guess because it’s a smaller event, you can just kind of have more of that time for the networking and just getting to know people. And as you mentioned, that interactivity, right, because it’s one thing to listen to a podcast, it’s another to actually talk about those ideas and to debate and question and challenge each other and actually learn in that way. So there’s a value to that also. So I think one other angle there is in terms of finding the right kind of location. So can you maybe tell us a little bit about how you pick the right location to host this kind of event? I guess maybe start with the town and then actual venues or hotels.
Wizard of Aus – 00:22:42:
Yeah, so the towns, I don’t know how we picked the the first one, Murandi, was kind of picked by Hodloncomrades. The next one in Victoria, we wanted something regional and we picked Beechworth because it’s within 40 minutes of the New South Wales Victorian border. And at that stage, there was still quite a bit of uncertainty about borders being snapped closed and opened. And by making it close to the border, anyone who came down from New South Wales, if we got short notice about the borders closing, then it was an easy solution to that problem, as unpalatable as it might be. Then for the Queensland one, obviously the most important one on the agenda given us the state island. Again, we wanted something outside of the capital city and in the middle of July, or late July is, of course, middle of the winter, then that meant that people coming from the southern states were going to have to fly up too far to drive generally, although someone did drive up a couple of days drive. So we needed an airport or a regional airport. Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns, they all became candidates. We didn’t have one by the beach at that point. So, yeah, we decided to give you upon a go in terms of the venue. So we started in the back of the pub in Murrurundi when it came to Beechworth and subsequently to Yeppoon, and then back to Murrurundi. We’ve actually taken the step of hiring a community hall or a church hall for the weekend, and that’s not expensive. That’s tended to be $300 for both days. And generally the church group is very happy to have the income and we’re very careful to leave it exactly as we found it, or in better condition, but very neat and tidy, which means we’re always welcome back the subsequent year and the first while or so the organizers just shelled out for that wasn’t expensive. And then very quickly, people who were attending offered to volunteer and pay, which was wonderful. A couple of exchanges stuck their hands up, often competing for it, which was lovely, but we didn’t really want to go down the sponsorship route. And thankfully, that’s when the Bitcoin Moon Fund, which is an Australian bitcoins charity fund, was started and they’ve kindly offered to pick up the hosting for that in terms of paying for the venue, which again hasn’t changed the expense. It’s not a big drain on their funds, but it’s greatly appreciated. And it means that we don’t have any funds within the organization, there’s no formal structure, there’s no incorporation and therefore no money to manage. Which also means that for everyone coming, there’s no cost outside of their own travel and accommodation.
Stephan – 00:25:50:
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Great. Yeah. So I think those are a few good tips on cost effectiveness and so I think what can happen on some events, this is commentary. I’ve heard people say, or even people are saying, oh, look at the production size or the value of this event. But then the amount that sponsors are having to pay for a booth or things like this, it just becomes like a really big production. Now, to be clear, these are different models and different these are at different.
Wizard of Aus – 00:28:51:
Levels of size 100% 100%. So I’ve had the joy of going to both Baltic Honey Badger a few times and to Bit Block Boom and they’re incredibly well run professional conferences with just a stellar lineup of international speakers. Both technical, philosophical, economics, investment projects, just fantastic high signal and the breadth and depth. I mean, Baltic Honey Badger this year, two stages, eight to 10 hours a day, new speakers every 30 to 40 minutes. It was an absolute avalanche of information. And yes, I spent plenty of time outside the halls talking with people because they were only there for a limited time, like me. But I can always go back and rewatch some of the recordings. So it does keep everything very simple by not recording and live streaming. It also means that there’s no cost component and also no privacy challenges. Certainly the big conferences typically require quite a bit of cash and finance behind them in order to book the venue. You’ve got issues of security, insurance, and then sometimes support for speakers attending and a large amount of organization. And both Baltic Honey Badger and Bit Block Boom do an absolutely stellar job at that. This is just a different thing. And part of what drives the ethos of the Bush bash is that Bitcoin is bottom up. It’s community driven, it’s grassroots. So this is all of us doing the best we can with what we’ve got and learning from each other. I remember that first Bush bash in Marandi. I’d been playing with Hodl Hoddle Lending and I’d been playing with Liquid and a few other things. So I just did a little presentation on what I’d learned. And it certainly wasn’t for everybody, but a few people were interested, and that’s how we learned. And then other people, JP technology from the Sydney Group, he brought the Block stream satellite, which we set up in the beer garden. And Katarn got all that hooked up. So there we were. We had a computer hooked up to the satellite and used the Lightning messaging to send messages through the satellite and receive it on the satellite. These were all things that Australian bitcoin has came along, demonstrated, contributed, and that’s how things grow. It’s not sophisticated, but it’s effective. And so many people coming have made the comment that I found my tribe. There’s often a feeling of being, are we crazy? Am I crazy? Now? That may be, but you and I are in the same tribe Stephan and so we’re at least crazy together.
Stephan – 00:32:10:
That’s right. And I think the opportunity as well is that let’s say somebody comes to the Bitcoin Bush Bash and then they take that learning and lesson back to their hometown and then maybe in their home meetup. Now they’re able to help educate somebody else, or they’re able to help coordinate another kind of meet up where maybe, okay, we’re all talking about hardware devices and how to secure our Bitcoin, or whether it’s how to run your Bitcoin node or whether it’s how to be private with Bitcoin. And there’s all these different angles that people can take because of the connections that they made meeting someone at Bitcoin Bush Bash or things like this. So I think it’s very useful for people to think about that. So I’m not attacking the large conferences or anything like that. This is more like this is a separate model. And it could be leveraged around the world in a very cost effective way for local communities and local countries to build their own local scene so that they can have coverage across other topics and areas that maybe they would not have been exposed to if they were looking only in their local hometown meetup let’s say.
Wizard of Aus – 00:33:13:
Yes. So a couple of things there one. We created a Bitcoin Bush bash Telegram group, which is a private group, and you’re welcome to be added to that if you come to a bush bash. So the only people in that Telegram group are people that you’ve met or who have been to one of the other bush bashes that you may not have been to. So the quality of signal in the group is extremely high and the level of Bitcoin knowledge is sensational. So people can definitely lean into that group with questions they’ve got. And they don’t tend to be noob questions, those tend to be more in your general telegram chat groups. But within, if you are going to run something like this, I’d recommend taking that approach. It means you get no spam bots, which is almost unheard of, and you can keep in touch with people that you met. Sometimes, certainly for this old gray head, sometimes it’s a little bit confusing to keep track of the face, the Telegram handle and the Twitter handle and figure out which ones belong to which, which is always great fun. But certainly people in who’ve been to a bush bash have leaned into the group about starting local meetups, which is fantastic and something I’m very supportive and passionate about. At the end of the day, it only takes two. It’s you, it’s you and one other person. That’s how the bitcoin Brisbane meetup started. And that’s a regular monthly thing, just like we have a cadence with the Bitcoin Bush Bash and that’s one of the key things, I think.
Stephan – 00:34:58:
Yeah. So how are you thinking about things like the free cost of time? Right? So for example, a speaker is coming, that speaker, he has to prepare slides, a deck or something. And even for yourself as the organizer, for yourself and for Mr. HodlonComrades, there’s some organizational time and effort involved, right? Whether maybe you’re setting up a website, you’re doing a bit of organization, a bit of coordination. How do you think about that time cost for the organizers or for speakers or workshop facilitators?
Wizard of Aus – 00:35:29:
Yeah, it’s all voluntary, so people are contributing that time because they want to. And to some extent you can think about it as kind of a sunk cost fallacy in some parts, but also it’s just utilizing what’s already going on. Right? I’m thinking about Bitcoin all the time, so I might as well just pop some of it down on some slides and maybe someone else will get some value out of it as well. But also, as you try and distill information in a way that can be effectively communicated, that really forces your own head to be very clear about what it is you understand. And I’m sure you found this experience from podcasting over the years, is that when you’re trying to teach something, it really forces out the things that you don’t really know, that you thought you knew. So it becomes a learning exercise in in and of itself, at least, at least it has been for me. And I think that, I think for many others. And then those those collection of slides are happily shared around and they become resources for others to leverage, butcher, manage, improve, fix, extend and carry forward. And that’s, I think, the essence of Bitcoin is bottom up. Having said all that, from an organizer’s perspective, I actually apologized to everybody for the lack of organization on the last one. Life had been a little bit busy and a whole bunch of people stood up and said, hey, we can help with this, we can help. And so there’s people looking after the agenda for the next bush bash. There’s people helping with the Bitcoin Bush Bash Twitter handle, and there’s people scoping out venues and accommodation so that we’re a little bit more organized there, which helps all your attendees. So sometimes you just need to be smart enough to ask for some help.
Stephan – 00:37:30:
And so that also brings us to that other idea around, scalability. Right. Now, of course, this started as a very small thing. As you said, it’s just two guys, right? But how do you think about the scalability of this? And does this only work at a small scale? I’m curious what you think.
Wizard of Aus – 00:37:44:
I don’t know, Stephan. I know there’s been some recent discussion about doing a Bitcoin Bush Bash in the city, which was quite interesting. There was a lot of pushback on that. There has been a couple of other groups that have sprung up from this idea. One is the Western Australian Bush Bash, which spun up as its own thing. They held their first bush bash in, I think October or November, October last year? No, this year. October, yeah. For those of you who don’t live in Australia, western Australia is a long way. It’s a six hour flight from the east coast, so there are people who come from the west to the east. Pete Winn, who’s part of the Fedi team, he’s been across and talked about Fedi and Fedimint at the Bush Bashes a couple of times, which is fantastic. And I’m sure there’ll be a few people from the east who will go across to the Western Australian Bush Bash if it continues. The Bitcoin beach retreat in the UK is also another one that came from this idea. Kind of came from an article that I wrote after the first Bush Bash, which you and I were at Stephan, and it was a nine hour drive home, and I got lots of time to think. And then I just sat down and wrote that article for Citadel 21. It’s called Gather Your Tribe, and it’s constantly amazed me, in bitcoin. Sometimes you do these things or you tweet something out or you write an article or you present a topic and it has all sorts of ripples that you never see or only occasionally see. And yeah, the guys in the UK reached out and asked about running, how the Bush Bash ran, and then they kicked off their own thing. And I’d love to go to the to the beach retreat, which I think is held in Wales sometime in their summer, in northern summer. So scalability. Does it get bigger or do they just get more of them in different places? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but we’re going to find out, I guess.
Stephan – 00:39:49:
Yeah. And you know what? Maybe that is the more bitcoin, decentralized way is to just sprout up more of these in different states, cities, areas, regions, such that it just remains a small thing, but it is actually more decentralized in that way. So what’s the feedback been from attendees? I know maybe you touched on this a little bit, but if you could just explain from a high level sense what’s the feedback been from attendees of bitcoin bush bash?
Wizard of Aus – 00:40:14:
Overwhelmingly positive, very friendly. I think I’ve made lots of friends from going to Bush Bashes. People are generous with their time and their input and that makes for a very warm reception in the sense that people have been prepared to travel and therefore they’re committed, therefore they’re interested in having those conversations and learning and teaching. So I guess the overwhelming key thing is that sense of finding your tribe, finding people that perhaps aren’t in your small town or even in your city, you don’t know other bitcoiners, and now you’re in a big group of bitcoiners and for the whole weekend they don’t want to talk about anything else except the corn. They just want to talk about bitcoin. And it’s like that’s manna from heaven. You don’t have your spouse or your friends rolling their eyes going, oh my Lord, here she goes again. Oh my Lord, here he goes again. We’ve heard it. Can’t we just talk about the footy or something else? No, no, let’s talk, let’s talk more about bitcoin. It’s not late just because the pub is shut and it’s 1:00 a.m. In the morning. Someone’s got a bottle, someone’s got a bottle of something. Let’s go, let’s continue talking and drinking and solving the problems of bitcoin in the world. So I think that sense of belonging, not being crazy, well, not being completely crazy or at least having other crazy people to hang out with is a very powerful thing because ultimately bitcoin is a social revolution. It’s a social movement as a technical and a financial revolution that only succeeds through people, and people only succeed through learning, education, understanding, conviction. And that’s where I see the bush bash has been effective. And I think many of the other bush bashers would probably echo that and many other different aspects. Certainly. It’s been a joy to have some great presenters come along. I mentioned Pete Winn before about Fedi and Fedimint, which is all very new. And we got we got some very early explanations about how it was, how it would work and why it could be good. And, you know, a very long, active Q and A discussion about the trade offs and downsides and the potential risks and very good, strong, open conversation we had. Young Nick Farrow Coinjoiner on Twitter, presented the first main net frost multisig transaction back in Beechworth this year, which was pretty impressive because they’d only been testing it on tesnet late the night before. And to his credit, he just stood up and he said, I’m going to demo this. It’ll probably work, but we’ve never tried it on mainnet before. Let’s give it a go. Fantastic. All worked like a treat. So there are there are lots of people doing lots of important things, whether they’re building applications like vault pay, tallige on Twitter, he’s he’s built essentially a merchant application on mobile for accepting bitcoin payments and keeping track of inventory. Whether it’s the exchanges themselves, we haven’t really encouraged to stand up and talk because they’re services and we’re not really interested in having sponsors or pay to play speaking slots. But there’s usually people from most of the exchanges there and always happy to answer questions and they, of course, themselves are bitcoiners and just as interested in talking about bitcoin as anybody else.
Stephan – 00:44:12:
Yeah. So maybe the point you’re getting at there also is that it requires some level of curation, and that’s down to the organizer or the organizers to do that role of curation to sort of say, okay, this might be an interesting area. Well, let’s get this person to talk, this person to talk. And then could you just elaborate on what kind of benefits you see for each local community coming out of that after the bitcoin bush bash has occurred?
Wizard of Aus – 00:44:35:
Yeah, I think one thing that would be great to see is more orange pilling of the merchants that we spend money with in the various towns. And I don’t think we’ve been very effective in that yet, usually because we’re too busy eating and drinking and talking bitcoin and presenting. I think the economic benefit is probably the simplest and most straightforward one because we do try and pick a period that will be economically quiet for the town of the region. And that means that we fill up for Beechworth, for example, we usually fill up all the accommodation in the town, and the restaurants are well patronized and the pub is even more so.
Stephan – 00:45:19:
Yeah. And then in terms of each bitcoin meetup, let’s say, as an example, do you believe the bitcoin Sydney, bitcoin Melbourne, bitcoin Brisbane scenes also grow as a result of bitcoin bush bash?
Wizard of Aus – 00:45:31:
Yes, certainly. And certainly to some degree. We’ve certainly had people who turn up at the bush bash who’ve never been to a meetup. It was one conversation I had in Yeppoon. Old mate walks in, sits down, and I’m looking, going, yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen you before. And I’ve been to all the bushmasters and I went up to him, shook his hand, welcomed him, and I said, oh, where are you from? And he told me, and I said, did you fly up? And he says, no, I drove. That’s a long drive, mate. He goes, yeah, it took two days, okay? And I said, first bush bash. He goes, first time I’ve met other bitcoiners. First time I’ve been to any sort of bitcoin gathering at all, okay? And that’s not a unique story. And so that sense of connecting bitcoiners and giving them other people that they can connect with has been immensely valuable, has been part of that feedback.
Stephan – 00:46:31:
One other area, I think you’ve got some great insight to add for people and you’re touching on this before around when you take on the role as a presenter. So I know, for example, when you came down to bitcoin Sydney back in those days, you actually did a presentation on the Lightning Network. And funnily enough, that same meet up, we also had Rusty Russell there as well. So for people who don’t know, you could arguably say he’s one of the architects of the Lightning Network today. He’s worked at Blockstream. He’s been on the show multiple times. So I guess at some level you might have been a bit, maybe you were nervous or might be a bit embarrassed if you get something wrong in front of Rusty there. But at the same time, I do want to point out that I think there are a lot of times where we as bitcoin is probably you if you are listening to this show, there’s a lot of things, you know, that average. Like the average person has no idea, there’s no clue. So there’s a lot of benefit for people like us to be presenting even about things that seem kind of obvious to us, but to the broader world, they have no idea. And so that’s why there’s so much value in people who are just being a presenter, even without necessarily being a world’s foremost expert.
Wizard of Aus – 00:47:39:
I think that’s very true. And yes, I remember that evening and then finding out that Rusty Russell was going to follow along. I was like, oh, Lord. But thankfully, the presentation that I did about was really about the basics of Lightning Network understanding nodes, channels, transactions, how channels get opened and closed, the different types of nodes, what is essentially the basics of how Lightning works without getting into any of the technical details of HTLCs and all sorts of other technical plumbing. Because if people have an understanding, they’re often more confident. And I certainly found that early in my bitcoin journey, I labored through mastering bitcoin from Andreas Antonopoulos. And then I subsequently read Inventing Bitcoin by Yan Pritzker, and that book Inventing Bitcoin which explains how bitcoin works in a nontechnical way, is one of the most valuable bitcoin books for people like myself. Who have come from a technical space and therefore want to know how it works. And knowing how it works answers a lot of questions that inevitably come up. So the value of presenting even on things that you think are basic is often new information for many people who are sitting in the audience, and sometimes you get challenged and that’s great and that opens up the conversation. So I think the most valuable sessions in the Bush bashers are the ones where there’s audience participation and there’s plenty of Q and A, and I always try and encourage that.
Stephan – 00:49:25:
Yeah, I think you make a great point there. And I think the other aspect of it is in the work that you do to create the presentation or a workshop, we end up learning a lot ourselves, and so it actually does benefit you, the presenter also. So I would encourage people out there. If you haven’t done a presentation, think about it. Like, just go to your local meetup. If you’re at the local meetup and you’re saying, hey, why don’t I do a presentation next time, next month on Lightning or on Privacy or whatever, whatever thing about bitcoin, and you might find you actually learn a lot in that process. So, yeah, I guess do you have any other things that you think people should be doing in terms of their local bitcoin communities? Any other, I guess, closing thoughts for people?
Wizard of Aus – 00:50:08:
Yeah, a few. I think if you don’t have a local meetup, consider starting one. There is a little bit of there’s lots of upside. You get to talk with other bitcoinists. That’s always fun. The way we did it in Brisbane was to we had a regular drinks meetup and we had it on a consistent day, I think, the first Thursday of the month. And we did that for about six months and there was a consistent group coming along and then we added in an education component for people in Australia. Your public library usually has a room or a presentation space, and as long as you’re not selling anything, that’s free to use. So that’s where we exploited to have sort of educational content, and then subsequent to that, then walk down the street and went to a rooftop bar and continued sort of more informal conversations. The sessions don’t always have to be PowerPoint slides and presentations. They can equally be just off the cuff conversation, panel discussions or practical things. We had one Brisbane bitcoiner, brought in an S9 miner, and we set it up from the beginning. Got an anonymous email on Proton Mail, signed up to Slash pool connected to the minor, plugged it into the wall connected to WiFi, and then ran it. Thanks, prison city council. I don’t think we actually mined any sats, but briefly they were contributing to the global hash rate of bitcoin, which makes my heart happy. So it doesn’t have to be sophisticated and flash out. Certainly wasn’t and we’ve got a little bit we’ve all learned a little bit more about making organizations effective. And those things are typically cadence communication and doing what you say when you’re going to do it, and that gives people the opportunity to plan simple. When you’re single, when you’ve got small people running around and busy jobs, that tends to take a bit more scheduling. So that forward schedule and regular cadence is really helpful. Give it a go. Downsides,just be aware if you’re going to stand up and essentially stand up and out yourself as a bit corner in public, as, you know, being I’ll be the dude wearing The Citadel dispatch hat in such and such a pub at such and such a time and place, that does make you that does make you stick out. So it’s a little bit of a balancing act to be had there, but it quickly becomes a group and within a group, there’s quite a bit of safety. As most schools of fish will tell you, you don’t have to be the fastest, just don’t be the slowest.
Stephan – 00:52:50:
Great. Well, I think that’s a great point to finish up. And where can people find you online?
Wizard of Aus – 00:52:56:
My Twitter handle is BTC shellingpoint. So S-C-H-E-L-L-I-N-G-P-T. Yes, I do too much shit posting. But Twitter is a wonderful resource to be used and abused as appropriate.
Stephan – 00:53:12:
Great. And also bitcoin bush bash that’s bitcoinbushbash.info. So, yeah, thanks very much and hope to chat again soon.
Wizard of Aus – 00:53:20:
Thanks very much, Stephan. Been an absolute pleasure.
Stephan – 00:53:23:
So what do you think? Is there some value to this idea of doing smaller, more decentralized and low cost events? I’m curious to hear what people think and to see if this model could be used in other places around the world. Of course, not detracting from any of the larger conferences. I definitely see a role and a place for those also. So let me know what you think, get the show notes at stephanlivera.com/episode/440 and I’ll see you in The Citadels.