ATTN: Scaling Bitcoin Participants and Sponsors
27 Sep 2017
We started Scaling Bitcoin with a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Fundamentally, Scaling Bitcoin is about bringing together elements of the
Bitcoin community that would not otherwise – many of the core contributors met
face to face for the first time in Montreal. Meeting face to face was a
fantastic opportunity to bridge divides and seek common goals; at Scaling
Bitcoin spontaneous discussions broke out which would have never occurred
online. Diversity and inclusion are key elements in pulling together different
parts of our community to have the discussions fruitfully. Fundamentally
Scaling Bitcoin exists to work towards eliminating any barrier to entry for any
person to contribute to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem.
Diversity and inclusion are complicated multi-faceted topics – at Scaling
Bitcoin, we do our best to address them from all sides. Our conference aspires
to be in a different region every time, from our first event in Montreal, to
Hong Kong, to Milan, and now, to Silicon Valley. Our participants and sponsors
come from all over the world (18 countries at the last event!), speak many
different languages, and have vastly different perspectives on how we’ll
accomplish our shared goal of Scaling Bitcoin.
We help people attend Scaling Bitcoin who would not be able to otherwise as a
part of our diversity and inclusion efforts. This help comes in multiple forms,
including discounted tickets for students, as well as travel and accommodation
assistance for those who require it. Our chief concern is getting the
individuals most likely to contribute to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering
ecosystem to the conference. We also try to help those who face additional
difficulties to better integrate into the community. In past Scaling Bitcoins,
this has included efforts and special programming through our academic
supporting organizations to better socially integrate low-income, minority, and
female participants at Scaling Bitcoin. For example, at Milan one of our
Academic partners (The MIT DCI) hosted a special dinner for the students from
their summer bootcamp (you can read about it
to get to interact with some core developers in a smaller group setting.
Bitcoin developers and scientists don’t just materialize overnight, it requires
diligent study and effort. This is an intimidating prospect for almost anyone,
and many capable developers drop out for lack of good support. Initiatives like
DGLAB’s BC2 workshop have been
wildly successful in nurturing talented Bitcoin Core Developers. Scaling
Bitcoin is simply doing our part to onboard more talent. Explicitly seeking to
onboard talent from diverse backgrounds is a critical for engineering Bitcoin
to be an empowering technology to meet the needs of users all over the world.
The last several decades of research on the subject shows that seeking out
social diversity leads to better decision-making across the board (read about
This year, as a part of our efforts to improve Scaling Bitcoin by better
structuring our Planning Committee we created a Diversity & Inclusion
Committee. This committee is comprised of individuals who were excited to help
us to continue our efforts around diversity and inclusion. One of the main
tasks for this committee is to help us review and process subsidy requests,
which are awarded based on many factors, including, likelihood of contributing
to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem, demonstrated need, and total
cost (we have a limited budget, after all). Despite now having an explicit
committee for diversity and inclusion, it continues to be the job of every
volunteer in Scaling Bitcoin to work towards eliminating any barrier to entry
for any person to contribute to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem.
Different people experience different barriers to entry to a field like
Bitcoin, thus, the kinds of support programs we offer are not always available
to everyone (we can’t afford to give everyone student ticket pricing!). The
Diversity & Inclusion Committee is there to ensure that our efforts are fair
Technology conferences like Scaling Bitcoin present a remarkable opportunity
for building community. In light of recent reports of incidents of harassment
and exclusionary practices at tech conferences, we’ve take a progressive stance
on making sure that Scaling Bitcoin remains a respectful and safe space for all
of our participants to build that community. Incidents of harassment and
exclusionary practices negatively impact people of all genders, races, and
backgrounds, as well as the conferences and their communities. We take such
issues seriously and have required all participants to follow our Code of
Conduct since the first Scaling Bitcoin event in 2015.
Part of what makes Scaling Bitcoin such a remarkable gathering is the intense
level of focus on the technology during the event. Our CoC exists to minimize
the possibility of distractions and to maximize the learning, shared
understanding and technical advancement of one of the most important
engineering projects of our time. We hope that our attendees recognize and
support that objective, and the organizing committee will as well.
Additionally, the Program Committee, which handles talk selection, operates
with complete autonomy from the rest of the Scaling Bitcoin organization,
including the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. No one is excluded from the
conference as a result of our diversity and inclusion efforts. The main goal of
the Program Committee is to unbiasedly select talks with the highest potential
impact on Bitcoin. The majority of tickets are sold openly to the public. We
welcome any suggestions and ideas from the Bitcoin community as to how our
efforts can be more effective and we will continue to do our best to make
Bitcoin a more diverse and inclusive environment.
We’re excited to be hosting what we expect to be the best Scaling Bitcoin yet
this year. To increase our reach and impact in the community, we’re hosting a 2
Day tutorial preceding Scaling Bitcoin called Dev++. This is a wonderful
opportunity for those just entering the space to get fast-paced high-quality
instruction on becoming a Bitcoin Engineer. Following the conference, we will
have a Career Fair and an event for startups to pitch to investors. You can
read more about these new initiatives at
Scaling Bitcoin Planning Committee
With special thanks to Byron Gibson, Neha
Narula, and the rest of the Scaling Bitcoin Planning
Committee for reviewing and editing this letter, and for maintaining a strong
commitment to diversity and inclusion in Bitcoin.
My Right to Say "Fuck Nazis"
01 Sep 2017
When I woke up in the morning of September 1st, 2017 I immediately began my
morning ritual of lazily glancing through emails. On this morning, one
particular email stood out — the Fuck Nazis Virtual
Lapel Pin had been censored by the United States Government.
Let’s jump back a minute for some context.
On August 19th, 2017 I began a new project, the Fuck Nazis Virtual Lapel
Pin. The project’s goal was to raise funds to resist the
recent uptick in Nazism and other forms of violent racist extremism in America.
The Fuck Nazis Virtual Lapel Pin is a unique fund-raiser because donors
quid-pro-quo receive a digital asset in return for their contribution, I hoped
this would harness the excitement around the emerging “Initial Coin
The reception was not as positive as I had hoped it would be — earlier in
the week, I had been subject to some minor censorship by the Ethereum
Maintainers and Community Moderators.
On September 1st, 2017 at 2:40 AM Pacific Daylight Time Neustar initiated a
transfer of my domain. One hour and 29 minutes later Neustar sent me an email
explaining the transfer.
I’ve sent Neustar an email requesting that they reinstate my registration, but I’ve not yet heard back from them.
Neustar is a contractor hired by the U.S. Governemnt to operate the .us TLD.
Because they are managing a federally owned property, I beleive they are
obligated to follow the First Amendment with respect to registered names.
Otherwise, I do not think the FCC may legally continue to use them as a
contractor. To quote
[W]hile a private entity like Neustar is under no intrinsic obligation to
respect the First Amendment, the fact that they did this under government
consultation, and pursuant to a government-granted charter to operate the
country code registry for the United States, raises serious issues of
It’s not a strange expectation to hold that contractors of the United States
Government must abide by constitutional provisions. For instance, private
prisons are not at liberty to exact cruel and unusual punishments. Kimberly N.
Brown delivers a thorough treatment of this in “We the People,” Constitutional
Accountability, and Outsourcing
While there are controversial cases, it is generally clear that public actors
must hold accountable private actors that they delegate their constitutional
Notwithstanding the concern over whether it is the FCC or Neustar who is
legally culpable, we can safely assume that the FCC is bound to ensure that
Neustar respects constitutional rights in fulfilling their duties as a
government contractor, and therefore examine Neustar as a government actor.
Neustar’s management policy document can be found
The relevant sections are B-78 and B-98. Neustar claims that they will review
domains which contain the “7 Words” and possibly delete them (presumably,
ensuring that they are not violating the registrant’s First Amendment rights).
Their claim is that the domain fucknazis.us violate’s
the “7 Words” policy enforced by Neustar. (This is a reference to George
Carlin’s infamous Seven Dirty
Words skit) In this case, the
presence of “fuck” in the domain is what alerted Neustar to need to review my
domain. However, in failing to waive fucknazis.us I
believe they violated my First Amendment rights.
There are three major relevant Supreme Court cases here, Cohen v. California
(1971), Miller v.
California (1973), and
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978).
In Cohen v. California, a man was arrested for disturbing the peace for wearing
a “Fuck the Draft” shirt. In this case, the speech was found to be protected by
the First Amendment for multiple reasons. Most relevantly, the court refused to recognize
the speech as “Fighting Words”, or speech intended to elicit violence. This is because
Cohen’s voiced dissent of the draft was not intended to elicit any violence, it was simply
to voice an opinion. Similarly, the material published on the Fuck Nazis site was
clearly in support of non-violent action, e.g.
As a first measure, and irrespective of what is most effective, I want to use
funds raised ensure that it is possible to protest these Nazis as safely as
possible. No one should permit the Nazis to intimidate them out of their
freedom to speak against them.
along with a list of other non-violent actions I would use the funds raised to
support. The court went further to find that
Finally, and in the same vein, we cannot indulge the facile assumption that
one can forbid particular words without also running a substantial risk of
suppressing ideas in the process. Indeed, governments might soon seize upon
the censorship of particular words as a convenient guise for banning the
expression of unpopular views. We have been able, as noted above, to discern
little social benefit that might result from running the risk of opening the
door to such grave results.
This makes it clear that the censorship of Fuck Nazis Virtual Lapel Pins by revocation
of the domain fucknazis.us is unconstitutional.
Miller v. California is a case of a very different nature involving the
distribution of pornographic content, but it established a simple three-prong
test for unprotected explicit speech. If you pass all three tests, then the work
is considered obscene.
(a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”
would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
Fail: Fuck Nazis is clearly non-pornographic and elicits no sexual response.
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently
offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state
Fail: Fuck Nazis is clearly non-sexual.
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary,
artistic, political, or scientific value. If a state obscenity law is thus
limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate
independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary.
Fail: Fuck Nazis is a political and artistic project, and is presented cogently.
Having clearly failed all three tests, Fuck Nazis is non-obscene protected
speech by all measures.
Critically, both Cohen v. California and Miller v. California are both rulings
with regards to the state’s ability to restrict speech. Only FCC v. Pacifica
Foundation deals with the federal government’s ability to restrict “obscene”
speech, which established the “7 Dirty Words”.
The critically relevant part of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation is that the measures
enforce by the FCC (to only broadcast during hours children are unlikely to be
awake) did not prevent adults from accessing and finding the content. In this
case, Neustar’s actions against Fuck Nazis does prevent adults from accessing
the content unadulterated (whereas the time restriction enforced by the FCC
permitted identical material to be broadcast at a reasonably later time).
Furthermore, based on Neustar’s enforced policies I would be able to register
the domain “nazis.us” (if it were available — it’s been held since 2014)
and use the subdomain “fuck” giving me the “fuck.nazis.us” domain. This makes
the case that there is zero benefit from the measure taken by Neustar, at the
expense of the significant burden of forcing me to change a domain that I have
already linked to in numerous communications. Of greater concern is the general
freedom of speech risk established by this enforcement mechanism.
Based on the above, Neustar, acting as an agent of the United States
government, plainly violated my First Amendment rights causing damages to my project
that are difficult to quantify given that the fund-raiser I was hosting on the site is
01 Sep 2017
The Ethereum Maintainers and Moderators inexplicably took actions to censor the
Fuck Nazis Virtual Lapel Pin.
When I posted the project to the Ethereum subreddit on August 26th
it faced an immediate barrage of negative attention from the Ethereum
community. I can tolerate negative reception, but I can’t tolerate
One of the negative response I noticed a few days after posting was Vitalik
Buterin (the infamous founder and lead maintainer of Ethereum) liking a
which called my project “a shameless attempt at scamming people”. I typically
interpret a like on Twitter as at least a weak endorsement (the twitter-meme
“RT not endorsement” can be taken to imply that while retweeting is not
endorsement, maybe liking is).
From my perspective, Vitalik’s implicit endorsement of a libelous
message claiming that I am perpetrating fraud with Fuck Nazis is the only
shame-worthy action! From day one Fuck Nazis’ course of action has been
focused on many charitable causes, including:
- Donations to organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
- Sponsoring guards for synagogues who are denied publicly funded police details.
- Workshops on how to non-violently oppose Nazis in cities where they are staging demonstrations.
After Vitalik liked the above tweet, I noticed that my post was censored
from /r/ethereum by the moderators (Vitalik is
also the lead moderator of /r/ethereum). This censorship occured days after it
had been on the front page, leading me to believe it was removed for no logical
reason other than distaste for the issue involved.
I met Vitalik back in 2014, in the very early days of Ethereum, so I was
willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the post removal. I shot him an
email on August 29th and again on the 31st but he is yet to respond.
His lack of response to me signals, but does not confirm, that it was him who
censored Fuck Nazis and he is unwilling to justify his actions to me directly.
The Ethereum Foundation and affiliated contributors have no legal requirement to grant me
free speech as a private organization.
That said, they do have a moral responsibility to protect free speech and to be
inclusive of many different kinds of people within their community. By actively
censoring my post on Fuck Nazis, they have chosen to signal their alignment
with a racist agenda and cause a chilling effect on future social impact
projects on Ethereum.
Their attempted censorship runs counter to the philosophy stated on
Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications
that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime,
censorship, fraud or third party interference.
While certainly Reddit doesn’t attempt to make the same censorship guarantees
as Ethereum, it’s difficult to imagine that if the leader of the development
team behind Ethereum is engaged in censoring causes spitefully on Reddit that
he will lead the team to fulfill the promises laid out in their statement.
Vitalik (and others in the Ethereum Foundation) must make clear their strong
intention for building inclusive and tolerant community with explicit actions
to improve the situation. Until sufficiently addressed, the entire community
must continually push leaders of the Ethereum community for more information
on how they plan to treat similar issues in the future.
This isn’t about getting an apology for censoring the Fuck Nazis thread, it’s
about not building technologies that put power into the hands of hateful
people who will use their power to infringe on your human rights.
Overall, this is the least of my worries currently: the Fuck Nazis Virtual
Lapel Pin project is currently facing ongoing censorship from the U.S.
Goverment as well. But I figured
it was worthwhile for me to write up this post so that the Ethereum community can
25 Feb 2017
One of my major pet peeves in presentations about the blockchain is that most
people seem to draw the arrows/pointers in the incorrect direction.
Pointers should point from newer blocks to older blocks. This is because in a
blockchain, each block is immutable so it would be impossible to update older
blocks to point to newer ones. This is also in line with most singly linked
list representations. Because it can be confusing, it’s always best to include
reference heights for extra clarity.
09 Feb 2017
|This post got backlogged, so just putting it up unfinished. Will backfill pictures when I find them later.
I took a few day reprieve from Tokyo to visit the Kansai prefecture.
While there, I visited Osaka and Nara. I was feeling a little bit unwell so
I skipped Kyoto/Kobe, but will be looking forward to visiting when I’m next
Getting to Kansai
I decided to take an early morning Shinkansen (i.e. a bullet train) from Tokyo
to Osaka on Tuesday morning. Because my hotel stay was officially over, I
stayed the night in a “Manga Kissaten”. For the uninitiated, a Manga Kissa is
basically a somewhat skeevy 24/7 pay-per-hour library with free drinks and
private booths. I had heard that they were a reasonable place to stay – I
think I had a particularly bad one, the air was smoke filled, the drinks were
just OK, there was no shower in the morning, and they didn’t dim the lights
past midnight (these are all problems I’ve heard higher-end Manga Kissaten do
not suffer). Blearly eyed, I made my way to the train station and purchased a
ticket, and boarded the first train to Osaka.
Upon arriving in Osaka I made my way down to a place called Spa World in an area
called Dotonbori-Mae. Unfortunately, they were overbooked/expensive so I looked
elsewhere nearby. After comparing the offerings across the street, I found a
really nice backpacker’s hostel where I was able to secure a private room
(Japanese style) for about $13 USD a night.
From the hostel I decided to just walk the length of the city, starting from the
hostel all the way to Umeda. As a straight shot, this is about 4 miles, but I
wandered around so it was longer.
For lunch I ate okonomiyaki (a Japanese “pizza” that’s a little closer to a
omelette). It is served on a hot griddle, yum!
Later that night I went to the Don Quixote. DQ is like a wacky Walmart/Spencer’s
Gifts hybrid. It has everything from groceries to a sex shop. A few floors up
there was an (unrelated?) arcade/casino. I bought some chips and started playing
games. After playing for about an hour (and not doing very well), I went to cash
out my remaining tokens. I found out that tokens are not actually exchangeable
for anything. I asked some other players if they could help me exchange, and
they agreed because they thought you could cash out too. When they found out
they couldn’t, they seemed to be a little off put, but I gave them my tokens so
they were happy. What was weird is they even had a bank for the tokens…
I really enjoyed my visit to Nara. The deer are so kawaii!
In Nara you can find the Tōdai-ji, or a temple featuring a huge bronze Buddha
(the largest bronze statue in the world and the largest Buddha in Japan). The
Tōdai-ji temple is also one of the largest wooden buildings in the world.