Quarterly Update Q1 2023
It’s just like every Spiral quarterly update, except this one includes swearing.
🌀 New year. Same bad copywriter.
We brought on nine new grantees (link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link), renewed 15 grants (no chance we’re linking all of those, but you’re welcome to in your mind), hired three full-time developers (Gursharan Singh, Elias Rohrer, Wilmer Paulino), published a very important research study about How Women Across the World View Bitcoin, released The Spiral Book of Bitcoin Mythology: Volume 2, spoke at five conferences and on four different podcasts, and streamed over 20 hours of content on the Bitcoin Developers Channel. A lot happened. And almost all of it was linkable.
We can’t promise that 2023 will be as hypertexty, but with three new devs on board, we’ve got big plans, some smart and some stupid. We’ll get to the smart ones, but in a previous post, we alluded to creating a seven-foot-tall anthropomorphic bitcoin suit that we will deploy to terrorize seminal financial institutions across New York City. If this sounds like an empty promise, you don’t know Jack.
The developers have been coding non-stop. You might say, yeah, this makes sense since this is what coders do, but we’ve got ours hooked up to defibrillators that give a modest zap whenever someone goes more than a minute without a tab or a space.
In 2022, the Lightning Development Kit, our flagship project that everybody loves, shipped nine releases and added new features, including support for phantom node payments, zero confirmation channels, onion messages, and rapid gossip sync. They’re big words, but they deserve to be: they get a lot done. The LDK website’s extremely technical blog has more on all of those. Of course, if you’re like me and can’t tell HTML from Ruby on Rails, you could spend the next 20 minutes on this instead of reading all that.
We couldn’t decide whether to make this post about this past quarter or this upcoming year, so we’re doing a little bit of both without calling out which. If you’re smart, you’ll figure it out. If you aren’t, welcome back to our blog.
Developer UX and privacy enhancements remain “top of mind” as there’s a lot of work to be done on the research and protocol level, so much so that we might start hiring applied researchers (I have received a note stating that I am not allowed to say this just yet, but I can say that it is something we are considering. And so should you.) These improvements include Bolt12, anchor outputs, taproot, a cloud backup solution for persistent wallet data such as LN channel data, multi-device access, and a complete node implementation optimized for mobile phones. Others, like splicing, are just getting started.
Additionally, we hope to see async payments becoming a thing sooner rather than later. Currently, the sender and receiver must simultaneously be online for a payment to be received. This works great for the server environment but not for mobile. Stay tuned. These wallet development tools continue to evolve.
(Three paragraphs without a single link.)
LDK’s cool cousin from the Midwest. The Bitcoin Development Kit’s focus in Q4 was on dependency updates and getting BDK to 1.0. The team is (here we go again) improving coin selection, adding new and improved lower-level APIs, and revamping wallet blockchain synchronization for better async support. HELL YEAH.
Some notable wins include @afilini updating rust-bitcoin and rust-miniscript dependencies to handle @brqgoo’s extra large taproot transaction, @thunderbiscuit and @notmandatory combining the Kotlin, Swift, and Python BDK bindings projects into one big happy repo and automating release processes, and @BitcoinZavior’s overhaul of flutter project APIs. When that much shit that makes no sense appears together in a single paragraph, you know things are getting done.
Finally, on the BDK front, @danielabrozzoni wrote a blog post about tips and tricks for contributing to bitcoin, and @parallelogos added a BDK Appendix to the next edition of the Mastering Bitcoin Book. I’m proud of what we’re doing, even if only six people understand it.
🌀 Bitcoin Design Community
Okay, this stuff, I understand. The BDC is thriving. It’s kicking ass. Last quarter sixteen teams competed in a Designathon that lasted 12 days, not for the .25 bitcoin prize but to push UX forward within the bitcoin ecosystem. (Go click that link. It’s all in there.)
Some stuff was created that even I understood. A secret panel of cloak-wearing judges determined who won the coveted .25 prize. If real-life use cases for bitcoin are something you care about, it’s well worth your time to watch the presentations. Many Designathon groups also competed in Legends of Lightning, a two-month-long, accelerator-style tournament. A few of those projects won even more bitcoin. Read the full summary here, or embrace illiteracy for the rest of your life.
Maybe just a coincidence, but since we started a writers room in the BDC Slack group, the amount of written documents submitted there has 1) increased dramatically and 2) saved me a lot of time. The first case study went live and summarized the design sprint for onboarding the Blixt wallet. In addition, several members now post status updates. Mogashni (Mo) dropped a blog about her UX research toolkit, Stephen DeLorme posts his updates here, and Christoph Ono publishes here.
If 2023 is going to be anything like 2022, ugh, don’t watch the news. But besides that, last year the Bitcoin Design Community HOSTED 174 MEETINGS, most of which were recorded and uploaded to YouTube. We’re excited to watch the community grow and expand at virtual and possibly… in-person events?
Finally, it wouldn’t be the last paragraph of a section without “finally,” the Bitcoin Design Guide, also made big contributions to the Stratum V2 mining protocol and launched the most rabbit-centric and therefore best website in bitcoin, the Taproot activation tracking whentapproot.org.
🌀 New Grants and Renewals
Our grant program is still growing. Know someone with the know-how and ambition to improve bitcoin but without the time and resources to go full-time? Send them our way: email@example.com
Here’s who received a grant or had one renewed last quarter.
🌀 Grant Spotlight
We carefully pick our grant recipients using dice, Ouija Boards, and burning sage. It’s a complex process, but occasionally, a grantee arises who goes above and beyond even our transcendental reasons for giving them a ton of money. This quarter, the spotlight is on Mo Naidoo, a UX research evangelist within the Bitcoin Design Community. Mo’s newer than some to the community and the grant program, but she’s done so much over the last six months that we started an unofficial Mo fan club (Haley wrote this joke in, but I want to go on the record to state that I, the voice of the brand, condemn it).
Mo is passionate about building human-centered bitcoin products that connect people to how they’re used. In case you didn’t know or think bitcoin’s future is about number go up, this is what the future is really about: UX, UX, UX, UX, UX. Mo is the Bitcoin Design Community’s Queen of Usability; hence, she deserves this spotlight as much or more than anyone.
Though we noted that Mo is new, she’s already helped organize the Designathon and contributed to Wallet Scrutiny and Bitcoin Core. She is also building a UX Research toolkit consisting of tools that open-source projects can use to conduct user research and improve their wallets. (By word count, this might be the longest section of this newsletter.) Mo also helps with the Bitcoin Design Community newsletter, one of the more practical and better-looking newsletters in this space, and adds more UX Research resources to the Bitcoin Design Website, such as case studies and user personas.
🌀 Conference and Media Appearances
People are always asking your favorite Spiral developers, PMs, and social media managers to appear at events, podcasts, and whatnot. We rarely do them. But when we do, we post about them here.
February 11, 2023
BDK is hosting a workshop at Bitcoin Park in Nashville, TN, that will work with interested developers interested in learning BDK.
March 2 & 3, 2023
Spiral Team Members Conor Okus and Elias Rohrer are leading a hands-on workshop at Advancing Bitcoin in London to teach developers how to integrate LDK into mobile applications.
Africa Bitcoin Conference
Conor Okus spoke about his road to a career in bitcoin (starts at 2:00:23) alongside Abubakar Nur Khalil, Femi Longe, and Dread.
Matt Corallo did a quintessentially Matt Corallo presentation about Lightning and How It’s Broken AF (but we can fix it).
BITCOIN DEVELOPERS CHANNEL
Improving bitcoin’s P2P Transport Protocol
In this episode, bitcoin core developer, Dhruv Mehta, shows us how to enable opportunistic encryption by running a v2 node.
Deploying an Eye of Satoshi Lightning Watchtower
Watchtowers help to prevent channel counterparties from stealing funds while a user is offline. In this episode, Sergi Delgado shows us how to deploy our own.
Steve Lee spoke on the Genesis Digital Assets Podcast about the current state of the bitcoin mining market, Stratum V2, BCEI, and what’s in store for the futu
Stephen DeLorme and Mo Naidoo joined a roundtable discussion about hurdles faced by Bitcoin UX Designers on the Bitcoin Review Podcast.
See you in April,
The Spiral Team