Longread: Money, Honey, Islamic State and Bitcoin adoption


‘Twas the night before New Year when someone suddenly wanted to give me money.

What was his incentive remains unclear. For several years, I have been running a public page containing quite recondite jokes, texts, and comic strips I created, and I never asked a penny for it. So, when someone expressed a desire to grant me money without expecting anything in return, I was pretty amazed.

The thing is that I’m not really popular; the credit goes to complexity of my content, I believe. All my projects combined have the audience of 2,000 people at most. There are only about 400 people reading the public page where the good Samaritan showed up.

So, I thought I could hold an experiment. After not-so-thorough simulation of internal struggle, I wrote incredibly detailed guidelines for my subscribers describing what to do if they are willing to make me the unchallenged owner of their donations.

I chose bitcoin as means for imaginary wealth gaining for several reasons. First, it’s no good to be an editor-in-chief for a bitcoin-related publication and not make attempts to expand the audience. Second, the payment method seemed extremely similar and easy for those who really wish to support the creator.

However, the experiment results turned out to be quite ambiguous.

First, some complained that the minimum transaction amount exceeds their intended donation. Some were troubled with belief that the whole thing was illegal. There were some liking the post in silence and doing nothing.

On the other hand, next morning I saw a new transaction in my wallet. It brought me a sum extraordinary for a donation; most probably, the transaction’s originator was the guy who had been dying to give me money.

I always wondered how my subscribers evaluated my work; and it was the best way to find out. I could use a site offering microtransaction services, but it is not what the experiment was about.

I cared about how many people would at least try to do it. There were three of them reporting they had attempted to send money, and one who went all the way in silence. Thus, there were only four people out of 400 ready to deal with bitcoin in practice, which makes it almost classical 1%. Certainly, had it been a strictly scientific experiment, rather than a spontaneous tryout, I should have considered various SMM-related metrics like how many people had actually seen the post. However, deep inside my heart I hate all that SMM stuff. Especially on the night before New Year.

The whole situation proved that one could facilitate customer schemes for bitcoin transactions as long as they wish, but bitcoin acceptance by average users who had never dealt therewith before, depends exclusively on their incentives. Charity might be a substantial incentive for some to try cryptocurrency, but there won’t be too much of them. Geeky arguments usually provided by digital money enthusiasts, do not sound convincing for the average consumer. Bitcoin’s doubtful reputation, which has become even more doubtful in the wake of the Paris massacre, does not add hitpoints thereto.

The search for the killer app resembles the quest for the Holy Grail or a philosopher’s stone. The ‘app’ is usually described as something very appealing to a regular customer, yet requiring usage of cryptocurrency. Theoretically speaking, one could come up with something like that. However, the realistic approach implies that assuming no such app will ever be there, is way more logical. Is there any killer app for cash or plastic cards? Oh yeah, indeed.

The community usually dubs bitcoin Gold 2.0 or new generation of money. The assumption that bitcoin is something special is among the reasons why it failed to garner widespread adoption so far. An average user usually lacks technological background that could allow them to evaluate cryptocurrency’s advantages. In fact, my dear, they don’t give a damn.

Promotion means for cryptocurrency employed by the enthusiasts elicit associations with a Ponzi scheme or a totalitarian sect. And if their honorable company invites the notions of ISIL going crazy about cryptocurrency (whether it’s true or not), one could understand why cryptocurrency launch no interest in the best case, or launch a paranoid domino falling in the worst case.

The community recites the statement that bitcoin is better than traditional money. However, it is far beyond what a regular customer needs right now. By offering my subscribers to make donations in bitcoin, I have shown a different thing: amongst the plenty of remittance methods existing nowadays, like electronic money, card transactions, or cash remittances, I have still chosen bitcoin. Why so?

Because it is as good as that.

By Jenny Aysgarth

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