Update: We migrated our blog. Check out the new Blockstack blog!
Bitcoin has gotten a surprising number of things right, but it's also gotten quite a few wrong.
Other coins like Dogecoin have experimented with subtle tweaks to their code and messaging, and if the Bitcoin community is to evolve and improve, it's important that it take notice of what worked and what didn't.
One big thing Dogecoin had had going for it: the welcoming nature of its community and the lightheartedness of its conversation. Online Bitcoin communities, most notably /r/bitcoin, have garnered a reputation for being not especially welcoming to newbies. This has to change if Bitcoin is to continue to attract and convert new enthusiasts.
But perhaps the most subtle yet powerful advantage Dogecoin enjoys is the large denominations of the currency. A single US dollar in Dogecoin is a few thousand DOGE. Because this number is so high, it feels like a meaningful transfer when you send someone even a few cents. The large numbers make you feel happy to own the coins, generous to give them, and awesome to receive them.
(You can downplay the aesthetics involved here if you'd like, but perception and psychology really do make a difference in driving behaviors.)
Contrast this with Bitcoin, where $1 in Bitcoin is approximately 0.002 BTC. "Zero point zero zero two B-T-C". How ridiculous? Even when we deal with fractions of a dollar we use the term cents instead of dollars.
Some have suggested using millibits (1/1000 BTC), but that probably doesn't go far enough, as it still emphasizes fractions and makes a $0.10 tip look paltry.
Others have suggested taking "bits" to mean one millionth of a Bitcoin and using them as the primary measurement. And it seems that this solution works quite well. Just like Dogecoin, you only need a couple bucks to feel rich in bits. The bits make you feel happy to have, generous to give, and awesome to receive. And after being introduced to the currency, you feel psyched to get started.
It is for these reasons that we at Onename have decided to use bits as our primary unit of measure when dealing with Bitcoin. We've had quite a few Bitcoin newbies sign up for the service and when they get their first Bitcoin, they just "get it" more easily and they're more grateful and enthusiastic about our service when we send them coins (we see more !!!'s).
Of course, we're not the only service to start using bits. BitPay has explored supporting bits for some time, and Coinbase recently announced support for their users to switch their dashboard measurement to bits. And perhaps at some point they'll make it the default.
So what's the point? Basically, we want to ask the Bitcoin community to join us on two things:
- Do your part to make the community feel more welcoming and encourage newbies along. Refrain from criticizing people for silly questions, offer helpful explanations wherever possible, and make everyone feel at home.
- Start supporting the switch to bits. If you're using a tipping service, set bits as your default measurement. If you're running a Bitcoin site, allow visitors to toggle to bits. If you're an enthusiastic user, contact your favorite Bitcoin site and ask them to switch.
Bitcoin adoption is on the rise, but there are a few things holding it back, and it may just be that a few simple changes will make all the difference.