On Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 4:02 PM, Gregory Maxwell wrote:
> The Scaling Bitcoin Workshop in HK is just wrapping up. Many fascinating
> proposals were presented. I think this would be a good time to share my
> view of the near term arc for capacity increases in the Bitcoin system. I
> believe we’re in a fantastic place right now and that the community
> is ready to deliver on a clear forward path with a shared vision that
> addresses the needs of the system while upholding its values.


One of the interesting take-aways from the workshops for me has been
that there is a large discrepancy between what developers are doing
and what's more widely known. When I was doing initial research and
work for my keynote at the Montreal conference (
http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/irc/bitcoin/scalingbitcoin-review.pdf -- an
attempt at being exhaustive, prior to seeing the workshop proposals ),
what I was most surprised by was the discrepancy between what we think
is being talked about versus what has been emphasized or socially
processed (lots of proposals appear in text, but review efforts are
sometimes "hidden" in corners of github pull request comments, for
example). As another example, the libsecp256k1 testing work reached a
level unseen except perhaps in the aerospace industry, but these sorts
of details are not apparent if you are reading bitcoin-dev archives.
It is very hard to listen to all ideas and find great ideas.
Sometimes, our time can be almost completely exhausted by evaluating
inefficient proposals, so it's not surprising that rough consensus
building could take time. I suspect we will see consensus moving in
positive directions around the proposals you have highlighted.

When Satoshi originally released the Bitcoin whitepaper, practically
everyone-- somehow with the exception of Hal Finney-- didn't look,
because the costs of evaluating cryptographic system proposals is so
high and everyone was jaded and burned out for the past umpteen
decades. (I have IRC logs from January 10th 2009 where I immediately
dismissed Bitcoin after I had seen its announcement on the
p2pfoundation mailing list, perhaps in retrospect I should not let
family tragedy so greatly impact my evaluation of proposals...). It's
hard to evaluate these proposals. Sometimes it may feel like random
proposals are review-resistant, or designed to burn our time up. But I
think this is more reflective of the simple fact that consensus takes
effort, and it's hard work, and this is to be expected in this sort of
system design.

Your email contains a good summary of recent scaling progress and of
efforts presented at the Hong Kong workshop. I like summaries. I have
previously recommended making more summaries and posting them to the
mailing list. In general, it would be good if developers were to write
summaries of recent work and efforts and post them to the bitcoin-dev
mailing list. BIP drafts are excellent. Long-term proposals are
excellent. Short-term coordination happens over IRC, and that makes
sense to me. But I would point out that many of the developments even
from, say, the Montreal workshop were notably absent from the mailing
list. Unless someone was paying close attention, they wouldn't have
noticed some of those efforts which, in some cases, haven't been
mentioned since. I suspect most of this is a matter of attention,
review and keeping track of loose ends, which can be admittedly

Short (or even long) summaries in emails are helpful because they
increase the ability of the community to coordinate and figure out
what's going on. Often I will write an email that summarizes some
content simply because I estimate that I am going to forget the
details in the near future, and if I am going to forget them then it
seems likely that others might.... This creates a broad base of
proposals and content to build from when we're doing development work
in the future, making for a much richer community as a consequence.
The contributions from the scalingbitcoin.org workshops are a welcome
addition, and the proposal outlined in the above email contains a good
summary of recent progress. We need more of this sort of synthesis,
we're richer for it. I am excitedly looking forward to the impending
onslaught of Bitcoin progress.

- Bryan
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