How do we turn crypto-skeptics into crypto-advocates?
It can be quite fascinating to hear people who are involved in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies talk about the time they first heard of the whole phenomenon, about their first impressions, and about how their opinions changed. You will find it is not always a tale of love at first sight.
What is your story? What did you think of Bitcoin and crypto in general back when you discovered them? How have your thoughts evolved since? And most important, for those of you who find cryptocurrencies have taken over your life: what sparked off this passion?
Anyone who wants to help cryptocurrencies find wider adoption and go mainstream should be actively discussing these questions. We need to understand what makes people go from being skeptics, to believers, to (hopefully!) fully-fledged crypto-advocates.
When we know how the process works, we can make it work better.
Here are the key questions:
1) What really wins people over to crypto?
2) How can we make these crypto-epiphanies happen faster and more often?
Please share your story in the comments. What made you realize once and for all that Bitcoin and crypto were not merely “interesting” or “a good investment”, but so mind-bogglingly world-changing that you just had to get seriously involved?
I have one answer, one angle, that I am sharing below. I look forward to hearing yours.
Laugh at my early crypto days, and learn from them
My own proper crypto-epiphany only came after quite a while and after I had almost lost interest in Bitcoin a couple of times. Shocking? Hardly.
As with any revolutionary concept, there is an element of luck to getting really passionate about crypto. You need to come in contact with the right ideas from the right people, expressed in a way that resonates with you personally. I knew I was really and truly hooked when I found myself braving a clatter of cutlery for over an hour to listen to a lunchtime Bitcoin refresher course by Andreas Antonopoulos.
But the first thing I thought when I heard of Bitcoin in late spring 2011 was simply: build a computer, mine some digital money and sell it off for the real stuff. You're probably laughing already.
That was the graphics card mining boom, of course. The price of bitcoin was rising steadily (mining difficulty too) and the investment potential was becoming clear. At that point, I figured I understood Bitcoin: it takes power away from governments and banks and a single bitcoin might be worth a million bucks one day.
I thought Bitcoin was pretty neat stuff.
Except that I hadn't really begun to grasp the full potential of blockchain technology, distributed autonomous communities and the world-changing implications. Unfortunately, Bitcoin hadn't yet completely blown my mind.
When the price famously crashed from a high of $32 and eventually dropped to $2, I didn't load up on BTC. I sold off my mining hardware for parts and made a few copies of what was left in my wallet.dat file in case it might be worth something some day. You know, just maybe.
For a good while, I was interested in Bitcoin on and off to varying degrees. At times I was enthusiastic, at other times I felt the wind was taken out of my sails. I still cringe and kick myself for not getting more involved earlier on. And yet it happens all too often. People find cryptocurrencies interesting, but don't really get touched by the magic.
This is a problem we must solve.
I believe a powerful way to get people hooked on crypto is to show them how crypto-technologies can help tackle issues they are already passionate about. That's how we turn skeptics and the mildly interested into Bitcoin users and crypto-advocates.
Crypto can do that?
When I started to realize Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies could actually offer concrete solutions to all sorts of issues that mattered to me, the idea of “price, investment, hodl and stick it to the Man” suddenly seemed quite shallow and relatively uninteresting.
I had first-hand experience of life and its challenges for people in rural Guatemala and still have friends there. These people have mobile phones - many even use Facebook on community-owned computers - but most have no bank accounts, so hearing Andreas Antonopoulos talk about empowering people at the fringes of the world struck a chord with me.
That was the turning point, my moment of sudden clarity. I dug deeper and discovered more fascinating things that crypto was good for, from electronic voting projects and the idea of accountable politics and democracy, to funding art and music, all the way to LTBCoin and ways to bootstrap new projects and monetize content. One idea suddenly began to lead to another, to another, forever. And many of these were things I cared about very much.
I'm sure my experience is far from unique. Most of us are not fascinated by cryptocurrencies simply because of the pure mathematical genius or elegant problem solving behind the technology. What really drives our passion is the fact that crypto can do stuff we want to see done.
Likewise, in order to reach the masses and get them hooked on Bitcoin and crypto, we need to talk to them in terms they can understand and relate to. Maybe we need to shift the focus away from the technology as a marvel in itself, and towards the world-changing practical applications. People take a much deeper interest in something they think will help them achieve their own goals. That is one of those obvious things we tend to forget.
Instead, we crypto-advocates all too often sound like the hardware store sales guy who keeps going on about the wonderful new lawnmower they received this week, ignoring the fact that you live in an apartment block and just need some fittings to hang a shelf.
People already have their passions, their wants, their needs, their troubles, their fires that they want to stoke. Instead of trying to get them to care about cryptocurrencies just because, maybe we need to pour a little crypto-scented oil onto those fires and make them burn hotter and brighter.
You are reading the first post on the Crypto for Change blog I am running on the Let's Talk Bitcoin Network. The aim is to reach out to people who want to make change happen and show them how they can use crypto-related technologies to achieve their goals.
If you are passionate about changing the world and improving people's lives, watch this space.
If you think you might want to write for Crypto for Change, please drop me a note at [email protected] and let's talk.
In any case, learn to look out for people's personal fires and see if you can make them burn brighter with crypto. Don't sell the tech. Sell potential solutions to issues people care about. Approach people from their own point of view. Make it easy for them to see why crypto is valuable to them.
Now think about what got you crazy about crypto and maybe share your story in the comments. Then go out there and get some people hooked!