My Experience at the Bangkok Miner's Meeting
I would like to give an account of the events that took place in Bangkok, from my own perspective. I will do my best to report this from a neutral position, stating mostly facts rather than opinions.
First, there were actually 2 events that took place in the same city on the same day. My understanding was the miner meeting was organized first by Bitmain, ViaBTC and some other Chinese participants. I had received an email about it and was invited to attend.
The email said that Craig and Calvin (among others) would be in attendance.
A day or two after I read that email, I saw that CoinGeek announced that they were also holding a conference in Bangkok on the same day at the W hotel.
I do not know why there were two conferences.
In any case, a strange thing happened on the morning of the conference. CoinGeek published an article stating that the conference had taken place and miners unanimously supported "Satoshi's Vision". (On a side note, the ambiguity between the SV client and Nakamoto's-vision-as-a-concept seems confusing).
What was strange about the CoinGeek article was the timing. It was published around 8 AM local time in Bangkok, so either the conference at the W hotel actually took place on the previous day or perhaps there is some other explanation.
Onto the actual miner meeting:
There were about 50 people attending from almost all of the major mining pools including Antpool, viaBTC, BTC.com, Rawpool, Bitcoin.com, and others. There were developers from ABC,BU,XT,Bitprim, and nChain, and a number of other prominent ecosystem participants.
The agenda for the meeting included initial remarks from nChain, Bitcoin ABC, and BU in that order, followed by a coffee break, a Q and A session, lunch, and then a discussion session.
All 3 presentations were good; the nChain presentation said that we need Bitcoin to be "secure, stable, and scalable". The ABC presentation discussed the past, present, and future of Bitcoin Cash, and went into technical detail about their plan to overcome the scaling bottlenecks. The BU presentation talked about forks, "the good, the bad, and the ugly"
The nChain speech seemed to describe the "Why" and the ABC speech the "How". It felt that nearly everyone was on the same page, with perhaps the exception of Dr. Wright who had left the room immediately after his presentation with Jimmy, not staying to hear what Bitcoin ABC or BU had to say.
After the coffee break, Dr. Wright had returned. The Q&A session began and the first question (asked by myself) was directed to Bitcoin ABC, asking what would be wrong with removing the cap entirely, as some had suggested.
During the response to this question, while ABC dev Shammah Chancellor was speaking, Dr. Wright suddenly decided to leave the conference, exclaiming "Lies and Bullshit!" Shortly after leaving, he issued a series of tweets and gave an impromptu interview in the hotel lobby which I believe is on YouTube.
I honestly do not remember much of the rest of the Q&A, as this disruption was quite distracting, although other nChain representatives denied that the ABC answer was "bullshit". After lunch, Haipo Yang gave a presentation on forming an organization to help with the governance process.
By this time, I was suffering from severe jetlag and retired to my hotel room for a nap before rejoining the community for a dinner after-party, which was awesome.
There was a second day to the conference. Jimmy from nChain had stated that the meeting organizers initially had planned for one day, which is why not everyone could attend the second day; although it is unclear if Dr. Wright would have attended the second day after tweeting that meeting with ABC is a waste of time (paraphrasing). To be clear, he did not attend the second day.
Overall, the second day of the conference was not productive. A list of topics was printed up in order to try to have a discussion of the important issues. Unfortunately, nearly 2 hours were spent discussing hard cap vs soft cap vs theoretical cap, which I felt was a waste of time. I strongly encouraged others to use the limited time we had to discuss what I considered to be the top priority, which was agreement on what's gonna actually be in the November upgrade.
Most vigourously agreed that we should discuss the actual fork, but others (including some miners) were more concerned with the overall process and governance. The inefficiency of trying to have a conversation between 50 people (even with excellent moderation) became readily apparent.
nChain stated there was significant hashpower opposed to items on the ABC roadmap but they did not wish to discuss it or explain why they were opposed.
The issue was pressed however. When pushed, nChain was unable to give objections to OP_CHECKDATASIG, stating that they had not investigated it enough or that the people who could explain were not present.
Canonical transaction ordering (CTOR) was treated in a similar manner, with only the briefest explanation of objections given (that it involves Merkel insertion rather than appends) and no further discussion took place.
So many of the miners and developers said at the start of the meeting that they really wish to avoid a chain split or breaking up of the community. So it was baffling to see that the actual things needing discussion didn't get the focus and attention they needed.
At least one person observed that all the groups share the vision of having big blocks and scaling, but the 'how we get there' are technical issues and there needs to be a technical discussion... which did not happen in Bangkok.
There was little to no attempt to compromise from anyone. I posed the question to nChain if they would be willing to accept some of the ABC changes if their op codes could be given more priority; the answer was essentially "no".
Some (mostly from the nChain side) suggested that we should simply postpone the fork in order to avoid a chain split. Others disagreed with this, believing that contention should not be used to forstall upgrades, and that a fork is mandatory anyway due to the SIGHASH replay protection already in place.
Before concluding the 2nd day of the conference, there was some more discussion on Haipo Yang's idea to create an organization committee.
Part of me felt like this trip was a waste of time; however there was a very positive aspect of the conference and that was the community getting to know each other better, particular miners and developers; everyone could see where others were coming from and what was important to them.
I enjoyed meeting people that I had never met in person before, for example Steve Shadders from nChain and Jason Cox from Bitcoin ABC. Everyone (with the exception of Dr. Wright) was extremely professional and cordial.
Roger Ver was in attendance and I was pleased to see him be an outspoken voice for sensible decision making; he even offered $100,000 bounties to anyone who could demonstrate security vulnerabilities with the ABC roadmap.
A nice unexpected surprise was a cameo appearance by Vitalik Buterin. I had seen a telegram message that he was at the hotel and believed it a troll message. But minutes later when I stepped out for a coffee, there he was. I introduced myself and shook his hand before he left the lobby of the meeting area. He was not part of the actual meeting.
Unfortunately, Calvin Ayre did not attend. I think a successful compromise or agreement would have been more likely in his presence. At the very least, it would have been good for him to have the first-hand perspective of seeing the broader ecosystem in this context.
That's about it...
Obviously, without discussion of the technical issues, the chances for an agreement were diminished. Some had said that there is a difference in philosophies (locking down the protocol vs improving it in order to scale), but based on the fact that everyone had similar goals, my main conclusion is that this battle is really about influence and control over the protocol.
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