In what was perhaps the most amusing act of protest to occur during testimony by one of the world’s most powerful central bankers since ECB President Mario Draghi was glitter-bombed by far-left activist Josephine Witt two years ago, an anonymous bitcoiner trolled Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen by holding up a hand-made sign that read “Buy Bitcoin” during Yellen’s testimony before the House financial Services Committee on Wednesday.
Though the attendee and a friend who accompanied him were ultimately asked to leave by a staffer, the moment quickly went viral on twitter, sparking a community-wide hunt to uncover the brazen bitcoiner’s identity and bitcoin wallet ID so they could send him donations as a sign of solidarity.
The community’s response to the still unnamed man's act of defiance yielded dozens of tweets, memes and, to date, more than $15,000 in donations to a bitcoin wallet purportedly belonging to the young troublemaker.
Bitcoiner @cryptoethan, an 18-year-old trader who claims to be a close friend of “bitcoin sign guy” satisfied the community’s demands by posting a photo of sign guy holding another sign that advertised a bitcoin wallet address where donations could be sent. As of press time, the wallet has received more than six-and-a-half coins – equal to more than $15,000 at the current bitcoin price of about $2,340 per coin. Readers can check out the wallet in real time on blockchain.info.
Crypto Ethan, for his part, insists that he isn’t sign guy, and that, by posting the wallet address, he was merely helping out a friend.
Only posted Sign Guy's address because some people asked. Don't send it you don't trust me or don't want to.— Ethan (@CryptoEthan) July 12, 2017
The moment provided a moment of levity for the bitcoin community, which is facing a day of reckoning that could ultimately split the network in two. On July 21, the bitcoin core development team will release its SegWit2x proposal. The software update would increase the amount of transaction data that the network can process every ten minutes, while also allowing the network to shift some of the transaction data onto side networks. As Bloomberg explains, Segwit2.0 has been made viable by a defection of miners to the bitcoin core camp. Previously, miners, many of whom are based in China, had presented a nearly unified front in opposition to SegWit2x.
Bloomberg goes into more detail about the conflict here:
“Behind the conflict is an ideological split about bitcoin’s rightful identity. The community has bitterly argued whether the cryptocurrency should evolve to appeal to mainstream corporations and become more attractive to traditional capital, or fortify its position as a libertarian beacon; whether it should act more as an asset like gold, or as a payment system.
The seeds of the debate were planted years ago: To protect from cyber attacks, bitcoin by design caps the amount of information on its network, called the blockchain. That puts a ceiling on how many transactions it can process -- the so-called block size limit -- just as the currency’s growing popularity is boosting activity. As a result, transaction times and processing fees have soared to record levels this year, curtailing bitcoin’s ability to process payments with the same efficiency as services like Visa Inc.
To address this problem, two main schools of thought emerged. On one side are miners, who deploy costly computers to verify transactions and act as the backbone of the blockchain. They’re proposing a straightforward increase to the block size limit.
On the other is Core, a group of developers instrumental in upholding bitcoin’s bug-proof software. They insist that to ease blockchain’s traffic jam, some of its data must be managed outside the main network. They claim that not only would it reduce congestion, but also allow other projects including smart contracts to be built on top of bitcoin.
But moving data off the blockchain effectively diminishes the influence of miners, the majority of whom are based in China and who have invested millions on giant server farms. Not surprisingly, Core’s proposal, called SegWit, has garnered resistance from miners, the most vocal being Wu Jihan, co-founder of the world’s largest mining organization Antpool.
‘SegWit is itself a great technology, but the reason it hasn’t taken off is because its interest doesn’t align with miners,’ Wu said.
Still, after previous counter-proposals championed by Wu fell through, miners last month agreed to compromise and support SegWit, in exchange for increasing the block size. Wu says the plan will alleviate short-to-medium term congestion and give Core enough time to flesh out a long-term solution. That proposal is what is known as SegWit2x, which implements SegWit and doubles the block size limit.”
Chris Coney, host of the Cryptoverse podcast, featured the photobombing as the main topic in his daily podcast. Coney noted a key detail that went unnoticed by much of the media coverage surrounding the incident: The fact that the kid raised the sign just as Florida Rep. Bill Posey was asking Chair Yellen about what the Fed's biggest fears are.
Coney sent the kid about 0.4 bitcoin, equal to about $96, live on air, praising bitcoin sign guy's "creative" ploy to try and entice more people to join the bitcoin community - an act Coney described as "pure gangster": “do yourself a favor, do me a favor, do the bitcoin network a favor, do the bitcoin community a favor and send this kid a tip."
So, what’s Yellen’s biggest fear, anyway?
She responded to the Florida Congressman’s question by saying the growing mismatch between workers’ skills and those needed to succeed in an increasingly tech-oriented workforce iss one of her biggest concerns.
“The kinds of jobs that will be available and the types of skills to use those jobs…to my mind education and training are absolutely central for the new kinds of workers who will fill these types of jobs…”
That's right: It's Jobs, jobs, jobs...
Perhaps the world's under-educated workers can take a page out of bitcoin sign guy’s yellow legal notepad and start committing absurdist acts of protest in the hopes of earning the patronage of hundreds of strangers on the internet... for what it’s worth, it looks to fun – and may end up being lucrative, just avoid getting arrested.