Open Letter on Diversity & Inclusion at Scaling Bitcoin
ATTN: Scaling Bitcoin Participants and Sponsors
This letter appeared originally at https://rubin.io/blog/2017/09/27/scaling-diversity-and-inclusion/.
We started Scaling Bitcoin with a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. Fundamentally, Scaling Bitcoin is about bringing together elements of the Bitcoin community that would not otherwise — many of the core contributors met face to face for the first time in Montreal. Meeting face to face was a fantastic opportunity to bridge divides and seek common goals; at Scaling Bitcoin spontaneous discussions broke out which would have never occurred online. Diversity and inclusion are key elements in pulling together different parts of our community to have the discussions fruitfully. Fundamentally Scaling Bitcoin exists to work towards eliminating any barrier to entry for any person to contribute to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem.
Diversity and inclusion are complicated multi-faceted topics — at Scaling Bitcoin, we do our best to address them from all sides. Our conference aspires to be in a different region every time, from our first event in Montreal, to Hong Kong, to Milan, and now, to Silicon Valley. Our participants and sponsors come from all over the world (18 countries at the last event!), speak many different languages, and have vastly different perspectives on how we’ll accomplish our shared goal of Scaling Bitcoin.
We help people attend Scaling Bitcoin who would not be able to otherwise as a part of our diversity and inclusion efforts. This help comes in multiple forms, including discounted tickets for students, as well as travel and accommodation assistance for those who require it. Our chief concern is getting the individuals most likely to contribute to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem to the conference. We also try to help those who face additional difficulties to better integrate into the community. In past Scaling Bitcoins, this has included efforts and special programming through our academic supporting organizations to better socially integrate low-income, minority, and female participants at Scaling Bitcoin. For example, at Milan one of our Academic partners (The MIT DCI) hosted a special dinner for the students from their summer bootcamp (you can read about it here) to get to interact with some core developers in a smaller group setting.
Bitcoin developers and scientists don’t just materialize overnight, it requires diligent study and effort. This is an intimidating prospect for almost anyone, and many capable developers drop out for lack of good support. Initiatives like Chaincode’s Hacker Residency and DGLAB’s BC2 workshop have been wildly successful in nurturing talented Bitcoin Core Developers. Scaling Bitcoin is simply doing our part to onboard more talent. Explicitly seeking to onboard talent from diverse backgrounds is a critical for engineering Bitcoin to be an empowering technology to meet the needs of users all over the world. The last several decades of research on the subject shows that seeking out social diversity leads to better decision-making across the board (read about the research here).
This year, as a part of our efforts to improve Scaling Bitcoin by better structuring our Planning Committee we created a Diversity & Inclusion Committee. This committee is comprised of individuals who were excited to help us to continue our efforts around diversity and inclusion. One of the main tasks for this committee is to help us review and process subsidy requests, which are awarded based on many factors, including, likelihood of contributing to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem, demonstrated need, and total cost (we have a limited budget, after all). Despite now having an explicit committee for diversity and inclusion, it continues to be the job of every volunteer in Scaling Bitcoin to work towards eliminating any barrier to entry for any person to contribute to Bitcoin’s scientific and engineering ecosystem. Different people experience different barriers to entry to a field like Bitcoin, thus, the kinds of support programs we offer are not always available to everyone (we can’t afford to give everyone student ticket pricing!). The Diversity & Inclusion Committee is there to ensure that our efforts are fair and sufficient.
Technology conferences like Scaling Bitcoin present a remarkable opportunity for building community. In light of recent reports of incidents of harassment and exclusionary practices at tech conferences, we’ve take a progressive stance on making sure that Scaling Bitcoin remains a respectful and safe space for all of our participants to build that community. Incidents of harassment and exclusionary practices negatively impact people of all genders, races, and backgrounds, as well as the conferences and their communities. We take such issues seriously and have required all participants to follow our Code of Conduct since the first Scaling Bitcoin event in 2015.
Part of what makes Scaling Bitcoin such a remarkable gathering is the intense level of focus on the technology during the event. Our CoC exists to minimize the possibility of distractions and to maximize the learning, shared understanding and technical advancement of one of the most important engineering projects of our time. We hope that our attendees recognize and support that objective, and the organizing committee will as well.
Additionally, the Program Committee, which handles talk selection, operates with complete autonomy from the rest of the Scaling Bitcoin organization, including the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. No one is excluded from the conference as a result of our diversity and inclusion efforts. The main goal of the Program Committee is to unbiasedly select talks with the highest potential impact on Bitcoin. The majority of tickets are sold openly to the public. We welcome any suggestions and ideas from the Bitcoin community as to how our efforts can be more effective and we will continue to do our best to make Bitcoin a more diverse and inclusive environment.
We’re excited to be hosting what we expect to be the best Scaling Bitcoin yet this year. To increase our reach and impact in the community, we’re hosting a 2 Day tutorial preceding Scaling Bitcoin called Dev++. This is a wonderful opportunity for those just entering the space to get fast-paced high-quality instruction on becoming a Bitcoin Engineer. Following the conference, we will have a Career Fair and an event for startups to pitch to investors. You can read more about these new initiatives at BitcoinEdge.org.
Scaling Bitcoin Planning Committee
With special thanks to Byron Gibson, Neha Narula, and the rest of the Scaling Bitcoin Planning Committee for reviewing and editing this letter, and for maintaining a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in Bitcoin.