My takeaways from the London Blockchain Conference 2023
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 jet lag, but here are some of my key takeaways. Read more…
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 is also growing 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 the second week, even if it was all too short.
I would like to thank the COVID-19 pandemic for one thing. It killed the technocratic fantasy that we are 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 recreating that personal experience is a difficult problem, and it will be with us. too long yet. It’s the body language cues you only notice in real life; informal conversations in corridors, 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’ll 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 events will always be superior.
The crowds that returned for the London event are testament to this. Last year’s Global Blockchain Convention in Dubai saw the green shoots of a desire for normality and a return to IRL human contact, and at the London Blockchain Conference it was back with gusto.
I also love the opportunity to sit and chat with my own colleagues. It probably sounds strange to people who work in the same office every day, but there are a lot of people at CoinGeek that I rarely talk 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 picture and byline. He’s a great guy, as 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 too much about our team, but without exception they are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with.
About the event name
At this point I have to talk about the name “London Blockchain Conference” – is that a good name? Some expressed concern that having “London” in the official name was risky, in case it appeared to be a local event or in case it had to move elsewhere. Only time will tell if the name and brand was a good idea, but I hope we can pick one and stick with it – it has to be something memorable and something people will always look forward to (low key, it will also be easier for us presenters to remember when the cameras are rolling… I messed 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 casual attendees, I was surprised to find many people there who were not very familiar with BSV and some who had not heard of it at all! It is important to bring new people into the industry and let them discover the BSV blockchain for themselves. Making the name too specific would have excluded them from the beginning.
About the speakers
There were some excellent keynote speakers, including Peter Schiff (of whom I have long been a fan), Lars Jacob Boe of Bain Norway, and former European Central Bank board member Yves Mersch. There was a whole delegation from the Philippines to talk about new blockchain-based initiatives there. Most speakers also sat in discussion panels after their presentations, giving them a chance to elaborate on their thoughts.
Recording and organizing interviews for the CoinGeek channel always means missing a lot 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 of SODA and Kumaraguru Ramanujam of Intrasettle on central bank digital currency (CBDC) and Richard Baker on his new Tokenovate venture. I had already talked to 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 I’m sure I’ll be pestering them with even more questions in the coming months.
Some were anxious about the initial absence of our longtime and extremely charismatic MC Jimmy Nguyen. Who would, or even could, step into his shoes? But all fears disappeared within the first few hours, as local reporters Lucy Hedges and Victoria Scholar jumped on stage to host in style.
I’m also happy to note that Schiff is quite friendly in person, and while he’s not completely sold on the BSV blockchain (yet), he’s very open to new technology and loves to discuss it. Much debate remains.
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 rant about the general awesomeness of BSV and its conference, I want to mention that it’s not all sweet and light. Away from the main stages, you’ll still hear all the action you usually get at industry events. There are complaints about VC funding opportunities, insiders and favoritism, and gossip about politics within the industry. There are questions about messaging and image, and whether any of the companies participating are making money (or are viable). The conferences themselves are always characterized by optimism, but sometimes someone will ask if anyone outside the event notices this.
I’m happy to report that no one made a scene, intimidated or disgraced themselves in public.. At least not that I saw.
None of this is unique to the BSV blockchain world, and it matches conversations I had had at many Bitcoin and blockchain events since I entered this world 10 years ago. And the truth is that not everyone and everything is perfect. Some hot new ventures will never be heard from again; some will still exist 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.” Similarly, Bitcoin has always contained a lot of daydreaming, hope and outright imagination. 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 the London Blockchain Conference 2024.
See London Blockchain Conference Day 3 Highlights: Driving innovation, competitiveness with blockchain
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