The number of coders who have submitted new code for approval over the last 50 days has risen to 21. Jimmy Song, a partner at Blockchain Capital, has also mooted incentivizing participation to encourage coder numbers to swell on the project.
A Few Tutors Making a Big Difference
Not known for being challenged by recruitment, Bitcoin’s development has been made possible by thousands of inputs over the years from a few dozen seasoned developers. The project recently released a document outlining its priorities moving forward, a potential contributor to the current renewed interest.
There does seem to be-be a skills pool at play across the globe with Bitcoin coders advertising their services online but, for whatever reason, only recently are a growing number of capable enthusiasts joining the core team in their efforts.
Focus put into training, and various academic programs by a diverse collection of Bitcoin enthusiasts seem to be paying off at last. A professor at Politecnico di Milano, Ferdinando Ametrano, said that “Many educational and training efforts have lately helped to introduce new developers to Bitcoin Core and the Bitcoin software ecosystem.” In this statement, he was explicitly referring to ventures such as Chaincode Labs, which offers a New York residency training program for developers.
A principal force among recruits at Chaincode has been John Newbery, himself a Chaincode, residency graduate. Having now tutored 11 coders from such far-flung destinations as Hong Kong and Israel, Newbery recently commented: “It feels like we’re busier now than we were six months ago. It’s almost impossible to keep up.” Song’s Programming Blockchain Workshop has taught approximately 250 people since its launch across America in September 2017.
Song commented that after anticipating a pure developer profile to define participants in his courses, he has noted that retirees, hedge fund managers, and teenage girls have all populated his classes. From wanting to drive a stream of trained, dedicated developers through his doors, the astute developer Song has adopted a philosophical approach to the strange diversity he experiences in his students.
“One of the things that surprised me,” he said, “is what kinds of people take my class. I expected it to be all developers.” Song added that “Growing the developer team, in numbers and in quality of contributions and everything else, is important because you need a diversity of views.”
He noted that while the scenario of a few people doing everything might have built Bitcoin thus far, it’s not a sustainable model going forward. “You don’t want it to just be a couple of people that do everything.”
Another contributor, Matt Corallo, tweeted in April 2018: “The many studies indicating broader sets of backgrounds and viewpoints add a ton to the quality of decisions made in management should be pretty overwhelming evidence for anyone who cares about evidence-based decision making.” He was referring to the importance of getting a diversity of views and skills into the Bitcoin coding pool.
Bitcoin Not for Every Coder
Song also noted that an overly incestuous congregation of coders can allow bugs to slip past like-minded individuals, saying that diversity among developers is key to producing good, seamless code. Newbery attributes the recent rise in usable submissions to the project to Chaincode Labs’ and others’ facilitation of face-to-face learning spaces, the previous dearth of which has hampered legitimate learning to date. Janey Gak is a recent Song graduate, busy developing a digital wallet for users in developing countries. She has said that she felt “so welcomed” by the core development community. She also felt it shouldn’t be hard to grow the number of graduates and thus contributors to Bitcoin, saying that “The community is full of very supportive people.”
Bitcoin is admittedly a complex development space, and with billions of dollars now riding on the platform, protocols are strict and sometimes onerous for newbies. Although almost exclusively built on a volunteer basis, the coin is now enabled by the education and training initiatives establishing in the U.S.
Facilities like the MIT Media Lab, recently embroiled in a flaw spat with IOTA, which sponsors Bitcoin developers who want to hone their skills are also aiding the education of skilled Bitcoin coders.
Putting it all into perspective, a long-standing contributor, Michael Ford, said “I’m not sure finding people is a Bitcoin-specific problem. Any large open-source project will always struggle to find people who are willing to work or give up their own time for free.”
“Maybe frustration is a challenge for people,” Newbery said. “It feels like the review burden at Bitcoin Core is very high compared to other projects.” GitHub activity among Bitcoin developers has increased noticeably, as the pool of core developers slowly grows. Bitcoin is currently trading at ~$9,800.