From the very early days of Bitcoin, the community has been its main driving force. Even more: it was the only one.
Without any marketing or PR, it was the community that helped transform the anonymous 9-page whitepaper from a vague cypherpunk list into the working Bitcoin software we use today. It was the community that pushed Bitcoin around the world, spreading knowledge and engaging all kinds of people and businesses who recognize the need for better money.
Bitcoin is a global phenomenon now, but its community is still the center of gravity that drives technological development and adoption. It also represents something else: an elusive but valuable quality that binds very different people from all walks of life, political preferences, age, profession…
Indeed, the Bitcoin community shares not only a love of memes, but also a unique blend of libertarian principles, entrepreneurial spirit, and readiness to change the world.
Bitcoin events were instrumental in creating this particular mix of values and expanding the community around the world. To try to define this magic sauce that holds Bitcoiners together, I’ve collected testimonies from many people who attended eight European Bitcoin-only gatherings, both large and small.
From the urban booths of a 10,000-person Bitcoin Amsterdam to the forest scenes of a 100-person BEF in Brittany, these experiences couldn’t be more different. However, they were also in some ways similar, and sometimes – even complementary.
BTC Prague and Bitcoin Amsterdam stand out as the biggest Bitcoin events in Europe, attracting thousands of attendees, major Bitcoin-related companies and of course an impressive line-up of speakers. The latter can also include people outside the strict Bitcoin circle, often freedom fighters and businesses active in the broader crypto spectrum.
On a smaller scale with hundreds of attendees, Bitcoin surfing in France’s Biarritz shared the same ethos, although this year’s edition was marred by a number of problems.
For the most ardent Bitcoin maxis, Baltic beekeeper in Riga is perhaps the most OG Bitcoin event, staunchly defending its Bitcoin-only stance.
The majority of people attending these events are already orange and well versed in the intricacies of Bitcoin. One can cross miners, cypherpunks, programmers, economists, freedom fighters, investors and a large number of influencers of all kinds.
These events represent an opportunity to promote a wallet, mining platform, payment solution, association… or yourself. This commercial dimension, although not explicitly mentioned, is certainly one of the important aspects of major Bitcoin conferences, along with extensive networking opportunities.
In the opposite range, many small – even intimate – Bitcoin events are occurring around the world. However, don’t be fooled by their size. These intimate gatherings, often no more than a hundred people, bring together some of the most active members of the Bitcoin community, both known and unknown to the general public.
Such events rarely advertise and often prohibit any on-site recordings to protect the privacy of attendees. The Chatham House rule applies, meaning that anyone who comes to a meeting is free to use information from the discussion, but is not allowed to reveal who made a particular comment.
Beyond the sheer size, privacy rules and abundance of beer, such events often involve shared life and unique experiences.
BTC Azores included scenic hikes in this beautiful Portuguese archipelago. It was also characterized by the absence of a predetermined agenda: attendees created the program themselves, submitting the topics they would like to discuss.
The BEF (Bitcoin Economic Forum) brought French bitcoiners to a deep forest in Brittany for a series of discussions, talks and barbecues.
The upcoming B- Only in the Annecy region of France will unfold in the majestic setting of the Alps, encouraging fireside conversations over a tartiflette. Scheduled for November 3-5, it will be one of the latest additions to this type of BTC rally and also one of the last this year.
These small-scale events feel more like a friends and family retreat than a business conference, and in some ways, they are. Human connections become especially strong through new experiences, shared tables and shared lives.
Bitcoin is still at the heart of the event, but the atmosphere and goals change noticeably compared to traditional conferences. People are much more approachable and conversations more inclusive, which is especially conducive to brainstorming and introducing new ideas.
There is another type of Bitcoin event – one that focuses on integrating Bitcoin into local communities.
This idea is not possible everywhere in the world. In most places, Bitcoin still faces resistance from government officials, and many public and private companies are wary of its negative image that the mainstream media has so thoroughly created.
Switzerland stands out in this regard as one of the most cryptocurrency-friendly countries, and it is visible in its Bitcoin conferences, which are more institutionalized than elsewhere.
Bitcoin example, a relatively small event held in the Swiss canton of Neuchatel, invites not only Bitcoiners but also municipal and industry leaders. Together, they discuss ways to use Bitcoin in the region’s watchmaking industry, the university’s curriculum, and other local endeavors.
Plan B is another worthy initiative. For a few years now, the city of Lugano in the Swiss canton of Ticino has been educating and encouraging the city’s merchants to start accepting Bitcoin as payment. The Plan B conference is part of that effort, but in the best Swiss traditions, the usual set of Bitcoin supporters here is rounded out by bankers, officials, lawyers and financial regulators from various parts of the world. Although not a Bitcoin-only conference, Plan B helps Lugano share its experience with thousands of attendees.
From the Portuguese islands of the Azores to the Latvian city of Riga, European Bitcoin events are as varied as Europe itself. From a stage deep in a French forest to the shore of a Swiss lake, they can exude very different vibes, but at their core they are the same.
In fact, they are even complementary. I witnessed cases where a new technological solution was invented and brainstormed at BTC Azores and then found funding and support at BTC Prague.
By taking a closer look at these events, we can also discern trends that mark the community.
First of all – no “on the moon” talks. In fact, the BTC price, which is one of the most popular Bitcoin-related topics in most media, is hardly ever mentioned. And for good reason: Bitcoin’s nominal value in dollars and euros is secondary to its role as independent money.
Personal freedom is still a huge topic and Nostr is now regularly highlighted at Bitcoin events. While not exactly Bitcoin technology, its decentralized and censorship-resistant mission aligns perfectly with the worldview of Bitcoiners, making it increasingly popular with the community.
On the technology front, this year has been marked by heated debates between proponents of Ordinals and proponents of a more conservative approach to Bitcoin.
Finally, family takes center stage, both figuratively and literally. While the term “fam” has already become a common term of address in the community, the real family is becoming more and more visible at conferences, as participants bring their intimates. There were mostly kids at Honeybadger and BTC Prague, the latter also featuring a whole talk from a 12-year-old Bitcoiner. The next generation is here and it is no stranger to Bitcoin.
Overall, while large Bitcoin conferences are still essential for business and network development, it can be noted that the community is also becoming stronger by decentralizing its events and creating stronger connections with local communities.
A special thanks to Aurore Galves Orjol from Leonod, Franck Pralas from D.Center and Cyrille Coppéré from B-only for their testimonials.
This is a guest post by Marie Poteriaeva. The views expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.