Respectable crypto leaders or mugshot array? Don't ask Rep. Brad Sherman... (via Nakamoto)
Bitcoin,  People

Bitcoin journal Nakamoto’s rocky start

Growing pains and hints of dissent have given the star-studded ‘pro-Bitcoin’ project more drama and attention than it hoped for

You might expect big things from a website named after Bitcoin’s founder, but so far there’s been a lot of “contributors,” only a few stories — and a Telegram group that has bombed. 

Touted as a general interest journal for the crypto community, Nakamoto launched on Jan. 4—the 11th anniversary of Bitcoin’s genesis block. The site aims to create “a venue for quality technical, philosophical, and cultural writing that is of general interest to the crypto community,” the website said.

And it had enough cryptocurrency star power to garner immediate attention. The current list of nearly 60 contributors on the site reads like a “Who’s Who” in crypto.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s contribution (via Nakamoto).

They include Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum; Zooko Wilcox, founder and CEO of Zcash’s Electric Coin Co.; Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase; Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, co-founders of Gemini; and Kathleen and Arthur Brietman, the married co-founders of Tezos. The list goes on. 

Not all of the big names listed have published anything on the site, indicating, you don’t even have to have contributed anything to be a contributor. 

The only stipulation is that you are pro-Bitcoin, which likely means Nakamoto is no place for nocoiners. The pro-Bitcoin prerequisite raised a few eyebrows due to the presence of altcoin leaders like Buterin and Wilcox, among many others. 

Unspecified drama

Sort of like bitcoin, it’s not completely clear who is behind Nakamoto. However, in August, two sources told Coindesk it was Balaji Srinivasan.

Tuur Demeester (via Twitter).

That was confirmed by Tuur Demeester, founding partner at Adamant Capital, a Bitcoin alpha fund, as he pulled out of the project after one day.

In a tweet, Demeester said that while he initially consented to contributing, after learning more about Nakamoto, he decided “I’m not comfortable attaching my name to the platform.” 

He then said, “I wish Balaji the best with his project, and I shared my particular discomforts with him.”

In a separate tweet, Demeester said he didn’t want to share specifics for fear he’d get roped into the “drama.”  

Too big, too soon

A big leaguer in the cryptosphere, Srinivasan is the former CTO of Coinbase and a former general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He also once led, one of the best-funded early bitcoin companies before it was bought by Coinbase. 

Right now, he is taking time off and focused on angel investing, according to his LinkedIn profile. That might explain why he has time to dabble in publishing. 

I am shocked—Shocked!—to find that trolling is going on in here!

Nakamoto has lofty aims of building a community beyond simply contributor articles. 

“Over time we want to build Nakamoto into a real community, add crypto-native features, and start facilitating in-person meetups to discuss these topics,” according to Nakamoto. “But our first goal is to surface important developments for a technically literate audience, and to serve as a clearinghouse for the builders and engineers in the space.”

Srinivasan’s goals may have been a little too lofty. He started a Nakamoto Telegram group on Jan 3., to let members of the cryptocurrency community share their thoughts regarding the platform’s content. 

However, it quickly went off the rails. The fast-growing group ballooned to 2,751 contributors in just two days. On Jan. 5 it was put into read-only mode, as it quickly became too unwieldy for its moderators.

The “enormous interest,” led to “more trolls and spambots,” Srinivasan posted in the group, explaining the change. He went on to say Telegram’s moderation tools are “only so-so” and that the group will probably migrate to a “paid chat with better tooling.” 

Who are all the writers?

The first question you might ask about a new media site is, who is doing all the writing? 

Apparently anyone can contribute to the site. The only stipulation is that you are pro bitcoin, which likely means this is no place for nocoiners. 

According to the site, senior contributors write pro bono “because they want to help build a journal with our values.” Junior contributors receive some amount of bitcoin, depending on the piece and how lengthy and complex it is.

It’s not clear what differentiates a senior writer from a junior one, but being a top CEO or crypto celebrity seems to be a key factor. Right now there are less than 10 stories up on the site. 

Jameson Lopp wrote a story on the “key properties of Bitcoin.” Techcrunch founder and Arrington XRP Capital co-founder Michael Arrington published a piece titled, “It Will Take Years For Smart People To Understand Cryptocurrencies.”

“We plan to add more incentives to contribute to Nakamoto over time,” the site says. 

As it does that, one of the challenges Srinivasan will likely face is that contributors who write pro bono could simply use the site as a forum to plug their ideologies and pitch their projects.

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Amy Castor has more than 20 years' experience in journalism. Her work on crypto and blockchain has appeared in consumer and trade publications throughout the U.S., including CoinDesk, Forbes, Bitcoin Magazine, and The Block.