barn raising

In Summer 2016, I’d been interested in Bitcoin for a little over a year. I’d been slowly becoming more and more enchanted by this strange and wonderful technology, and I’d finally made the step of quitting my job of eight years with the intention of finding a way to make a living by working on Bitcoin. Matt Corallo’s announcement of the first Hacker Residency was very happy timing. I no longer had any work responsibilities and the circumstances were exactly right for me to fly to New York and dedicate four weeks to diving into the deep technical details of Bitcoin with some of the most prolific and established developers in the space. I applied, and to my astonishment I was accepted onto the residency a few days later.

The program itself was everything I hoped for. I finally had the chance to be around people who were as enthusiastic and passionate about this bizarre social experiment as I was, to talk for hours about forks and consensus and security models, and to make my first contributions to Bitcoin Core. It’s fair to say that the program had a profound impact on my life. At the end of the four weeks I was offered a full time job by Chaincode Labs. A few months later I moved permanently to New York and now have the privilege of working full time on Bitcoin.

Announcing the second Chaincode Hacker Residency

That’s why I’m so delighted to be coordinating the second iteration of Chaincode’s residency program with Matt. The first program set me on the course to be a contributor to Bitcoin Core, and having spoken to a lot of very smart and technical people with a deep interest in Bitcoin, I know that there’s a real hunger out there for a program of this type. I’m hoping that we find some of those people and help them share in something that has given me so much pleasure over the last 12 months.

We’ve decided to slightly change the format of the program this time. Instead of a single four-week session, we’ve split the program into two two-week sessions. We hope that this will make the residency accessible to more people — even those who are currently in full-time employment.

The first session, Security Concerns and Adversarial Thinking is aimed at technical professionals who already have experience working on Bitcoin, perhaps on wallets, exchanges or applications, and who want a deeper understanding of the security assumptions and threat models behind the system. By the end of the two weeks, participants will have a deeper understanding of the security trade-offs behind the decisions we make, and have the vocabulary and conceptual basis to contribute to discussions on Bitcoin’s direction and future.

The second session, Becoming a Bitcoin Core Contributor is aimed at software developers with an interest in Bitcoin Core, but who have not yet made contributions to the project. We hope that by the end of the two weeks, our residents will be comfortable contributing to the project autonomously — opening pull requests, reviewing, testing and so on.

Doing both sessions back-to-back is also a possibility for residents who can dedicate four weeks to working on and learning about Bitcoin.

Wednesday night meetups

I’m really hopeful that we can build a stronger developer community for Bitcoin, both here in New York and more widely. I know there are people who’d like to participate in the residency program but who can’t take two or four weeks off to focus exclusively on Bitcoin. To make sure we’re able to reach them, we’re starting a second initiative to help people who want to get involved in the Bitcoin developer community.

On Wednesday evenings leading up to the residency, we’ll be opening our doors to a small group of developers who want to participate and contribute to open-source Bitcoin projects. We’ll go through some of the material from the residency program and be on hand to help with pull requests and Bitcoin projects. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who’d love to get involved, but just need a few pointers from established contributors. This program is for them.

If either of these programs sound interesting to you, please check out the Hacker Residency website for full details and consider applying. If you have any questions, comments or just want to talk about the Bitcoin community, please reach out to me on twitter @jfnewbery.

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