Movements succeed with numbers. Many people must partake to create the change we want to see.
Bitcoin has come a long way since its introduction in 2009, and we are currently in mainstream media almost daily. Both the American and Canadian Senates are investigating our beloved virtual currency. However, we still have a long way to go to dispel the myth that many people hold that Bitcoin is an underground currency used to buy and sell drugs, or is not financially viable.
The key in efficiently and effectively increasing adoption is in numbers. The more people we can reach at once with factual and accessible information, the faster adoption grows. I will call this Expedient Adoption. There’s no doubt about this: those who hate bitcoin simply do not understand it. Those who do understand it tend to love it. Some of us even drop everything in our lives for it. The key is understanding, one person at a time.
But won’t that take a long time? Each one of us talking to 1 or 2 people a day? I suppose it’s like network marketing: there’s power in numbers and introductions. Still. There must be a better way besides our valiant word-of-mouth efforts that often result in us being dismissed as “crazy” or “on something.”
How do we encourage adoption without involving the very parties that reach the masses using media, but depend on ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ tactics to keep them distracted and entertained?
I may have just uncovered one of the best ways of Expedient Adoption. This method touches people all around using the internet. It is accessible and educational – and fun! And, the best part is, it gives those who watch and participate in the process free bitcoin. Yes. Free bitcoin. Free.
Oh, did I mention that it’s also fun? Is there any better way of encouraging adoption than making it fun and profitable?
I’m speaking about Take My Bitcoins!, an online 1970’s game show-style web broadcast that explores bitcoin in an uncomplicated way. It is available for anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world, to watch, at any time.
Mike Rotman is the mastermind behind Streamin’ Garage: a company that literally began with a few cameras, a garage, a great team of people with a lot of faith and an idea — create excellent online shows. After discussing bitcoin with a few friends in an online Facebook community, Mike and his team had a collective lightbulb moment: “introduce people to bitcoin, and let them have fun with it.” His goal with the show is to “bring bitcoin to the masses.”
Here’s the really fun part, in my slightly nerdy point of view: Take My Bitcoins shows the mining of bitcoins in the week leading up to the show. There is literally a camera on this mining equipment 24/7. I know it’s like watching a cage at a zoo with a panda bear in it that never appears, because nothing active really happens, but the fact that I can pull this up online and show someone real-life mining is pretty neat. It certainly helps with explaining the mining part.
At the end of the week, one lucky participant who guesses the number of bitcoin mined by the machines will win bitcoin. “We cut [the mining] off 3 hours before show time, so guests have that amount of time to guess how many bitcoins the show has mined,” Jeff Ownby, of Butterfly Labs, explains. However, bitcoin can be won in many ways, including answering simple questions about the currency and protocol. So, people are winning, having fun and learning about bitcoin.
Mike has a strong background in television production, direction and writing, having written for major network shows. He left the television industry 5 years ago to focus on internet production and content, “especially live,” he explains. “[Streamin’Garage] live streams a lot of different events. We were the first mulit-camera live HD network on the web and want to continue to find new ways to break ground in live.”
The Techie Side
Take My Bitcoins! is no small endeavour. If you watch the show, you will see that the quality is incredibly high. Make no mistake, Mike’s team clocks hundreds of hours a week in hard work to produce this entertainment for us. “It is a lot of work,” Mike explains. “From the production side, we are using a NewTek Tricaster 860, we built an entire set for the show, we have lighting, a 5-camera HD studio, and we employ 8 crewpeople.”
Technically, the show runs a live chat room during its broadcast, where staff ask the audience questions: “Those who play along [and have an answer] are called on their phone, so it’s really a live, interactive game,” Mike explains. “We are working with a global audience, and people’s internet runs at different speeds. Some people can be 20 seconds behind, 2 minutes behind due to a bad internet connection. It’s a live show, similar to a radio game, so we call them and connect with them live.” The show itself is based on a radio-model, incorporating fun, play-along games, which can be played via cell phone. The show also incorporates social-media games, like #TakeMyMeme and a “Guess How Much We Mine!” game. “When we first came up with the concept, it was very ‘Price-Is-Right’ meets ‘Let’s Make A Deal!’”
The show really does give away everything Butterfly Labs mines that week: “The game doesn’t stop until our wallet is empty,” Mike laughs. “Everyone can see us mining, they can see all the transactions we do. Like bitcoin, it’s all very transparent. You can see our wallets are full, you can see that they’re empty. That’s part of the whole process.”
Winners will send in W-9 paperwork if American and W8-BEN if international so they comply with American federal tax law. “Our tax accountants had no idea what to do with this,” Mike laughs. “We want to cover ourselves. In the end, we are giving away currency, so we treat it like that. It makes the process and the currency legitimate and safe.” The team is very set on being transparent and upfront with the process. “The more legitimate it feels, the better everyone feels about bitcoin.”
So, why bitcoin? “It seemed like a perfect fit, because it’s decentralized and accessible around the world. It just makes sense that everyone [with internet access] can be involved in this,” Mike continues. Going back to Butterfly Labs, showing everyone the mining equipment during the week, leading up to the airing, adds to the transparency of the show. “We’re on camera; you can see the systems the show is using,” Jeff adds.
Bitcoiners Doing What Bitcoiners Do
Our community is unique in that we are incredibly supportive and helpful without expecting anything in return. We always seem to be dedicated to adoption. “It’s great how supportive the bitcoin community is,” Mike says. “It’s really cool to watch the adoption happen, too. We had a winner last week, and she had no idea what it meant to win bitcoin. She said, ‘what do I do?’” The team walked her through the process of setting up a wallet, and explained how and where to spend her bitcoin. We have people who say, ‘I would play, but I can’t pay my rent with it.’ We say, ‘Well, technically… you can.”
The show’s target audience is anyone who is interested in bitcoin, but they tend to attract a “bright” audience with their “snarky and smart” entertainment: “We definitely want the bitcoin audience, and they do tell us we need to ask more bitcoin questions, but we don’t want to alienate. The point of this is to introduce bitcoin to everyone,” Mike clarifies.
“We are all from the bitcoin community,” Jeff adds. “It’s just a natural progression for us to target that market first, then take it from there. The idea is to get different guest hosts in every week, some from inside the industry, some from without.” The show’s modus operandi is to feature popular hosts, who can then introduce their own fan-base to bitcoin. Samm Levine, (shown far left) of Freaks and Geeks and Inglorious Basterds fame hosted the show last week. After appearing, he was enthused about the currency: “How do I get this! Send me some! How do I use this!?” Alex Albrecht appeared on the last segment of the show to introduce bitcoin to his large (over 80 thousand Twitter followers!) fan base. Illeana Douglas is also scheduled to appear. However, the show also intends to include “bitcoin luminaries” and “known bitcoin people” to help explain the more technical side as the audience plays along.
As I explained in an earlier article, the key to adoption is through clarity of purpose, legitimacy and cooperation. New adopters are already scared of bitcoin based on the negative media the currency has received, so businesses must embrace these values if they want to positively influence bitcoin use. Mike and Jeff show these values in their business practices.
Take My Bitcoins! is building a strong audience base with their weekly shows. The producers are pleased with the word-of-mouth advertising they have been receiving, especially from the bitcoin community itself. After all, it is much easier to send someone to a fun game where they can win money than continuously beating your head against a wall explaining bitcoin to your inner circle. Sometimes, seeing it and hearing it from a third party is the tipping edge for them. As Mike says, “the best way to get bitcoin out there is to give it away.”
The bitcoin community can also help by giving honest feedback to “help frame the game.” The show is active on Twitter and very responsive. You can message them with your thoughts here.
Both Mike of Streamin’ Garage and Jeff of Butterfly Labs see bitcoin as a world-changing phenomenon. “I have been with Butterfly Labs since the beginning, but to be honest, the turnaround for me that made bitcoin into something bigger than it had been previously was my trip to New York City last year. I was leaving the conference in a cab, going back to my hotel, and my cab driver asked me, ‘What is bitcoin?’ I explained it to him, and he said, ‘So I can send this to my brother in Pakistan?’ And that changed everything for me. I realized how truly powerful this can be. I picture this taking over Western Union, and banks, and everything else. I see this now from a social justice perspective.”
Mike is no different: “It started off as a fun chat on investments on Facebook, but then I realized that we had the power to give away currency that everyone…anyone in the world can use. We always had a big international following with our show “Stupid For Movies” but this is even bigger. We have people calling in from Saudi Arabia, Japan, Israel, and now we can give them something back, rather than just content. This is a worldwide currency. We will evolve in the future to give away bitcoin to charities such as animal shelters, Autism and other good projects. We give back. We want to do good.”
A Bit of Fun
The show is ultimately transcending multiple boundaries by showing us what is really possible on the internet in terms of interaction, production quality and content. Their team are all dedicated to the cause and even take their entire pay in bitcoin.
“Streamin’ Garage really started as something small, and it grew because of a group of people who really believed in it.” And that sounds a lot like something else we all know and love.
This is a really great way to get people involved in bitcoin. Watching role models they know and follow interacting with and giving away bitcoin is a huge step towards bitcoin adoption. People relate to what they know. Part of what makes bitcoin so scary is that it is not understood. But we feel like we know celebrities. They are familiar to us. Combining celebrities with bitcoin is genius. Mike has done it again. The show has aired only twice, and will be running weekly.
So, Bitcoin, let the fun and games begin!
Bitcoiners, you can help encourage adoption. You and your network can tune in every Thursday at 8:00 PM (PT) to watch Take My Bitcoins live! Missed an episode? No worries. Catch re-runs on their site, too! Show everyone how accessible and fun bitcoin can be.
Disclaimer: I have not been compensated by Butterfly Labs or Take My Bitcoins! or any related party in any way for writing this review/article. I am simply a woman who loves bitcoin and wants to see it adopted by everyone, and I think this is a great way of introducing bitcoin to people in a fun way.