The joyful journey of building Bitcoin


It’s 11th May in NYC. Even if the end of the world did happen, the streets of Manhattan are at peace for reasons of the sacred local commodity, coffee, still being fairly available. Equipped with your own dose, you’re jumping on your keyboard to browse the busy streets of the Bitcoin hive. It’s Monday and you have a lot to get down to. There is this Core PR to rebase for the thousandth time. A weird bug showed up in your payment channels implementation making them purple and you still have to grasp this musky mailing post about curve point 1080 hard flips.

Mondays take on a special meaning if you’re a resident of the Lightning village. Every two weeks, we have our IRC meeting. Formally as a place to masterfully shape the protocol’s future, informally as a support bubble to mourn about fees shamefully spitting our plans. And the coming one is pretty compelling, there is some urgent security stuff to talk about. So you’re preparing yourself to attend when suddenly you remember that it’s, in fact, an even more special day.

Have all the cool parties been canceled? At least not one.

Let’s get out. You’re running from the lower Manhattan blocks and more or less 10 minutes later, you’re on time for the real meeting. New York has always been great for its pizza slices and art deco skyscrapers, but foremost for its marvelous Bitcoin scene. And even swung by the unexpected, you feel confident you’ll find a few magical friends ready to celebrate this most meaningful occasion. Meeting the gang at the corner of the 59th, it’s quite easy to find a quiet party spot among the deserted Central Park.

You’re enjoying the lull in the middle of the storm. In the coming weeks, the group will be quartered to the winds, few of us bounced across the oceans, jailed back behind some grey frontiers. With a little hindsight, you’re standing there in the so-called heart of the Western civilization, in those days unfathomable. A few miles away lies Times Square, one of those never-sleeping human anthills, now silent as a shrine. The fire and fury to live have been wiped out, the city is vegetating, unnerved by its dazzle.

Wait a minute, what the hell is going on in the world right now? Towards which breathtaking trials are we swept away by the waves? What marvelous countries are veiled forward, just stretching our arms further?

For the time being, let’s forget the challenges ahead. Block #630000 has just been mined. The halvening did happen. You’re surrounded with friends, a prime drink in hand, cheerfully talking about Bitcoin and future projects.

And this is what matters.

Announcing The Label

A few months later, somewhere in one of the last open dinners on the Old Continent, I’m sharing a meal with Gleb Naumenko while we’re browsing back through our years spent striding the depths of Bitcoin.

Both of us started to moonlight on Bitcoin while still being students. Him fixing privacy leaks in Core’s p2p stack, myself fulfilling holes in Rust-Lightning. A few lines of codes chained with lucky encounters, themselves triggering more lines of codes, led us both through the life-changing experience of switching continents to learn from the best at Chaincode, where we met.

Like every Bitcoiner, we started our journey bitten by curiosity and excitement, following captivating threads and digging deeper at each stage. And from one thing to another, we’ve been blessed to grow up wealthier from heaps of knowledge, travel memories, and achieved projects. Quite spontaneously, we felt it was time to reach beyond the bits and sats toward the human layer.

With Gleb, we’re glad to announce The Label, a collective of independent protocol devs committed to the long-term flourishing of Bitcoin. Grounded with some recipes from our elders, we’ll also mix in a lot of things in our own style. The art of nurturing Bitcoin is still in its infancy, as are its supporting structures.

We’ll focus on long-term Bitcoin research & development. We aim to be a supportive environment for that type of work, demanding years-long patience and commitment. Given our track records, it’s more likely it will be contributions around security, privacy, and scalability, whatever the layer of the Bitcoin stack. We hope to encourage more cross-layer devs to maintain a steady circulation of ideas, issues, and learnings across the different development communities.

At The Label, each dev member will come with its own goals, contribution flow, live wherever they feel good, and be responsible for their own funding. Inspired by some indie music records, it’s a loosely-coupled crew. We’ll team up for some logistics, learning, and research but people are here first and foremost as individual artists.

We’re lucky to have grant support for our technical contributions. Gleb is currently funded by Bitmex, and I’m funded by yet-to-be-announced sponsors. With The Label, we’re also on a path to more sustainable funding, so we’ll be available for consulting gigs. Engaging with Bitcoin builders that way is a unique opportunity to get out of our low-level development ivory tower and get closer to the user ground. In term, we aim to dedicate a minority of our time on consulting to fund the rest of our work. Zooming out, hunting, and collecting coins along the tracks of the wild cyberspace, isn’t that the best adaptation in our era?

Beyond the obvious decentralization point, we’re strongly biased towards a tiny team. This offers higher velocity and makes it easier to have room for everyone to express their opinion. Also having a first-circle of peers, and thus privileged sparring partner means that kind of high-quality commitment doesn’t scale. Once we’re out of the bootstrapping phase, we’ll cheerfully greet new members.

Born in the cloud, we’ll be happy to root our office somewhere in a stable part of the world, whatever the continent. Hopefully contributing to the budding of another Bitcoin hub. At a moment where we see new apps aiming to enhance digital communications spawning every week, let’s not depreciate too fast this thousand-year-old communication technology called ‘in-person’.

Lastly, we’re eternally thankful to the wider community which has been so generous towards us with their resources, time, and good karma. Founding The Label, we hope to give back to the younger generations of devs and bitcoiners. We pray for them to have as much joy and delight when it’ll be their turn to take the space that we held.

Bitcoin, a paradise for kids seeded in our very wearied world of adults. Let’s sweat hard to keep it young.