Over the last few years, the buzz generated by Bitcoin’s scaling debate has drawn unprecedented attention towards the development process that drives the evolution of the cryptocurrency’s protocol. Though open-source software projects have a long history of being subject to pressure from competing interests, of having to deal with divergent visions promoted by different development teams, in Bitcoin’s case the scope and variety of interests with a stake in the system, and therefore the motivation for having a voice in the development process, creates a truly unique situation.
In order to d eal with these challenges, large open-source projects have carefully defined the ethos, mission and principles underlying the work of their contributors. A notorious example of this is the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)’s “The Tao of IETF: A Novice’s Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force”. As one of the largest standards organization with constituents spanning the entire globe, the IETF has decades of experience organizing the development efforts of its volunteers. More importantly, its “rough consensus” approach has strong parallels with the decision-making process for Bitcoin development.
In the past, a failure to understand the practices influencing the direction of the Bitcoin protocol has led to unnecessary conflicts; now, it again threatens to stall progress despite the involved actors’ best intentions. However, we should remember that open-source development remains an all-inclusive effort. The challenges we are facing are simply an opportunity for everyone involved to funnel the positive energy of the relevant actors towards more productive outcomes.