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Bitcoin Dev Culture | Carla Kirk-Cohen

Feb 5, 2024

Bitcoin Dev Culture | Carla Kirk-Cohen

Bitcoin Dev Culture | Carla Kirk-Cohen

Key Takeaways

The episode of the What Bitcoin Did podcast delves into the intricacies of working in the Bitcoin development space, covering personal anecdotes, the role and culture of Bitcoin development organizations, and the challenges faced by developers in the ecosystem with guest Carla Kirk-Cohen.

Personal Anecdote

The episode begins with a light-hearted story about the host buying multiple hats while shopping with his son, which leads into an interesting conversation about how seemingly trivial choices can garner attention and become a topic of discussion.

Bitcoin Development Organizations:

The discussion brings to focus organizations like Chaincode Labs, emphasizing their significance in the Bitcoin development landscape. Chaincode Labs is highlighted as a place that fosters innovation by allowing developers to work on projects that interest them and are beneficial to Bitcoin.

Culture of Bitcoin Development

The podcast touches on the unique culture of Bitcoin development which is described as rigorous, slow, and sometimes frustrating due to the high stakes and security requirements. The culture is shaped by the decentralized nature of Bitcoin and the absence of a central authority or product manager directing the work.

Recruiting Developers

Recruiting developers is a nuanced challenge; it's not about the quantity but the quality and commitment of individuals to the project. The episode suggests that while Bitcoin can attract developers, it competes with more lucrative opportunities in tech giants and needs individuals who are genuinely interested in contributing to the ecosystem.

Challenges of Open Source Development

Developers working on Bitcoin face unique pressures, including dealing with public criticism on platforms like GitHub, managing expectations vs. reality, and the mental toll of working in a sometimes hostile environment.

Lightning Network Development

The podcast touches on the challenges of developing the Lightning Network, specifically in high fee environments, and how the network has to balance being user-friendly while maintaining the principles of privacy and decentralization.

Best Quotes

  1. On the Significance of Chaincode Labs: "It's a place where we get good work done, and we get to do a lot of education stuff, which I find very rewarding. Having come from that track, it's very nice to be on the other end of it and help people find this magical career in bitcoin open source."
  2. Describing Bitcoin Development: "Bitcoin engineering has to be the best engineering in the world because it can't fail. Like, if you had a catastrophic bug in like a rocket, people die. Bitcoin has to be the same because if you have a massive catastrophic bug, it can destroy the entire confidence of the whole system."
  3. On the Challenges of Open Source: "You pick up an issue and then you have to just not give up. That's kind of all that working in bitcoin open source is. It's not giving up on a bunch of hard stuff for a very long time."
  4. Regarding Developer Recruitment: "We aren't as exciting as the other coins, and we don't pay as much as the big tech companies. So it's really still the people that find bitcoin interesting who are brave enough to take the leap."
  5. On Personal Struggles with Banking: "It's bizarre to me that there isn't a company or a piece of software that you can just say, 'run my lightning node for me.' Needing to care about channels and all of these things, it's not what people want to be able to do."


The episode provides an in-depth look at the world of Bitcoin development, highlighting the passion, dedication, and resilience required to work in this field. It paints a picture of the complexity and the challenges faced by developers, from the technical hurdles in projects like the Lightning Network to the cultural and psychological aspects of contributing to an open-source project under intense scrutiny.

The overarching message is one of cautious optimism—while the path is fraught with difficulties, the commitment to building a better Bitcoin ecosystem is unwavering. The episode also brings to light the need for greater support and structure within the Bitcoin development community, including mental health considerations and better onboarding processes for new developers.

As the conversation about Bitcoin's future continues, this episode underscores the importance of understanding and supporting the individuals who are at the forefront of its development. It serves as a reminder that while the technical achievements are remarkable, the human element remains central to Bitcoin's ongoing evolution and success.


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