London Blockchain Conference 2023 is over—long live London Blockchain Conference 2024! The event was a blast, full of high energy and enthusiasm. For me, it was my once-a-year dose of the real world, full of very-real and talented people who all share my passion. My brain is still fried from the long flight home and jetlag, but here are some of my main takeaways. Read on…
This is the third time I’ve attended a BSV blockchain conference in person (fifth, if you count the 2017-18 Satoshi’s Vision events). Each one was bigger than the one before it. BSV blockchain is both a niche and a big tent, and the variety you see at these events also grows each time. The venue was perfect, right in the heart of London with Westminster Abbey and the Elizabeth Tower (often mistakenly called “Big Ben”) right outside the window. As someone who works from home on the other side of the world for 51 weeks of the year, it was great to see everything come to life for that other week, even if it was all too brief.
I’d like to thank the COVID-19 pandemic for one thing. It killed off the technocratic fantasy that we’re ready to switch to 100% virtualized interactions. Sure, the experience of working and socializing from home via video chat and even 3D “VR workplaces” has come a long way and will continue to improve, but replicating the in-person experience is a hard problem, and it will be with us for a long time yet. There’s the body-language cues you only notice in real life; casual conversations in the hallways, session audiences, and smoking areas; chance encounters with new people you wouldn’t have met otherwise. Many of these contain a lot of value you’d never get from a virtual or online meeting, and until the day we’re all brains in vats living our entire lives in the VR Metaverse, real-life events will always be superior.
The crowds that returned for the London event stand as proof of this. Last year’s Global Blockchain Convention in Dubai saw the green shoots of a desire for normalcy and a return to IRL human contact, and at London Blockchain Conference, it was back with gusto.
I also love the chance to sit and chat with my own colleagues. That probably sounds strange to people who work in the same office every day, but there are lots of people at CoinGeek I rarely speak to or have never met at all. I finally had the chance to hang out with Gavin Lucas from Belfast, one of our most prolific writers and someone I’d only ever known as a profile pic and byline. He’s a great guy, and so were all the members of our Editorial and Production teams from Manila and London, people I usually only see in email groups. I won’t bore you by gushing about our team too much, but without exception, they’re some of the best people I’ve ever worked with.
About the event name
At this point, I need to talk about the name “London Blockchain Conference”—is it a good one? Some people expressed concern that having “London” in the official name was risky, in case it appeared to be a local event or in case it needed to move somewhere else. Only time will tell if the name and brand were a good idea, but I hope we can choose one and stick with it—it needs to be something memorable and something people will always look forward to (low-key, it’ll also be easier for us presenters to remember when the cameras are rolling… I messed it up once or twice and I long for the day we can just say “LBC”).
“London Blockchain Conference” is definitely a better choice than “CoinGeek Conference” or anything with “BSV” in the name. Whether it’s “conference” or “convention,” I’m not fussy. From conversations I had with random attendees, I was surprised to find many people there who weren’t very familiar with BSV and some who hadn’t heard of it at all! It’s vital to bring new people into the industry and let them discover BSV blockchain for themselves. Making the name too specific would’ve excluded them from the outset.
About the speakers
There were some excellent keynote speakers, including Peter Schiff (of whom I’m a long-time fan), Lars Jacob Boe of Bain Norway, and former European Central Bank Executive Board member Yves Mersch. There was an entire delegation from the Philippines to talk about new blockchain-based initiatives there. Most speakers also sat on discussion panels after their presentations, giving them a chance to expand on their thoughts.
Recording and organizing interviews for the CoinGeek channel always means missing many of the presentation sessions, but it also gives me a chance to meet other presenters up close and ask them a bunch of questions. Likewise, I had the chance to moderate a couple of panels, and I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with people like Chris Ostrowski from SODA and Kumaraguru Ramanujam from Intrasettle on the central bank digital currency (CBDC) issue and Richard Baker on his new Tokenovate venture. I’d already spoken with guys like James Belding (Tokenized), Niels van den Bergh (mintBlue), Bernhard Müller (Centi), Professor Latif Ladid (IPv6 forum), Lorien Gamaroff (Centbee), Bryan Daugherty and Greg Ward (SmartLedger) and Nathan Cropper (Vaionex), but guaranteed I’ll be annoying them with even more questions in the coming months.
Some were anxious about the first-time absence of our long-time and extremely charismatic MC Jimmy Nguyen. Who would, or even could, step into his shoes? Any fears dissipated in the first hours, though, with local reporters Lucy Hedges and Victoria Scholar leaping on stage to host in style.
I’m also happy to note that Schiff is pretty friendly in person, and although he’s not quite sold on BSV blockchain (yet) he’s very open-minded on new technology and loves to debate it. There is still a lot of debate to be had.
We don’t all have to love each other or agree on everything in BSV.
Before anyone thinks it’s my job to sit here and write a spin about the overall awesomeness of BSV and its conference, I’ll mention that it’s not all sweetness and light. Away from the main stages, you’ll still hear all the gripes you tend to get at industry events. There are complaints about VC funding opportunities, insiders and favoritism, and gossip about intra-industry politics. There are questions about messaging and image, and whether any of the companies attending are making money (or are even viable). Conferences themselves are always infused with optimism, but every so often, someone will ask if anyone outside the event notices this.
I’m happy to report no one made a scene, ranted, or disgraced themselves in public.. At least not that I saw.
None of this is unique to the BSV blockchain world, though, and it matches conversations I’d had at many Bitcoin and blockchain events since I entered this world 10 years ago. And the truth is, not everyone and everything is perfect. Some hot new ventures will never be heard from again; some will still be around in another decade. Alliances and allegiances will be formed and broken. Some will give up, and others will persevere. To quote the old line from “Death of a Salesman”: “A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.” Likewise, Bitcoin has always contained a lot of daydreaming, hope, and outright fantasy. But that’s part of the reason I’m here. I like open books and unpredictability. We’re here to write the story, not read about it when it’s all done.
Hope to see you all again, or for the first time, at London Blockchain Conference 2024.
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