BTC Prague and the Importance of In-Person Bitcoin.

This is an opinion article written by Marek Feder, the editor in chief of Investro and a Bitcoin journalist who recently attended the BTC Prague event.

Firstly, I want to clarify that I have no affiliation with the organizers of BTC Prague. In this article, I will only share my personal experience and views as an attendee. Furthermore, I have not been to many Bitcoin conferences, so my impressions from BTC Prague might be old news for some of you. However, I do believe that it was the first “huge” Bitcoin conference not only for myself, but also for countless others from Central Europe. Therefore, it might be nice to sum up the whole experience.

A Conference Literally For Anyone

The conference was accessible to anyone as the cheapest ticket to BTC Prague was only 9 euros (about $11). Although there were some limitations to this access, the cheapest ticket still allowed attendees to enter the exposition area as well as the two stages, which was definitely worth it. This was one of the nicest touches by the organizers as they made this conference available for the masses, even outside of Bitcoin.

This was further enhanced by the fact that the programming on the “Czech Stage” was entirely about Bitcoin basics. It contained talks about what money is, introductions to Bitcoin, privacy, and self-custody, as well as an explanation of the differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum, and much more.

For two days, newcomers to the Bitcoin world could have listened to some of Bitcoin’s finest from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and received education equal to those gained from studying for hundreds of hours. I believe this highlights the importance of in-person conferences and affordable events that can help with introducing the mainstream to Bitcoin.

Industry Day Rulez!

The industry day content focused on businesses and took place on June 8, a day before the main conference and programming for Bitcoin beginners on June 9 and 10. I believe this was the best day for making connections and new friends.

During the day, there were “only” two stages with talks and keynotes (the Czech Stage was not open at that time), so there was less of an official program. This allowed people to spend more time in the well-thought-out and inspiring exposition area, where they could find dozens and dozens of companies and Bitcoin organizations. With more than 70 stalls and booths, attendees had a chance to talk to mining businesses, wallet providers, Bitcoin book shops, education organizations, and countless other Bitcoin-related businesses.

Since the expo area was not as crowded on industry day, it provided the best chance for attendees to have in-depth conversations with all of the attending businesses. Having spent much of the first day in the expo area, I was really surprised by not only the openness and friendliness of all the participants, but also their willingness to have very thorough and informative discussions with anyone who was willing to listen and ask questions.

A Top-Notch Program

The BTC Prague conference had an incredible lineup of Bitcoin experts, developers, entrepreneurs, influencers, and business people flying from literally all across the globe. Michael Saylor, Adam Back, Eric Weiss, Giacomo Zucco, Stephan Livera, Marek “Slush” Palatinus, Ben Perrin, Peter McCormack, Rockstar Dev, and many others spoke at the event. The keynotes, discussion panels, and talks were incredible.

As of this writing, only two of the on-stage presentations have been released on the official YouTube channel. However, both of them are well worth a watch. Saylor’s “The Future Of Bitcoin” and Zucco’s “Ordinals Are Retarded,” for instance, filled the main hall to the last seat as people listened to these inspiring and educational keynotes. I highly recommend watching both of them.

The talks also included some interesting announcements from the speakers, but detailing what was announced would probably take up a whole article alone. Nevertheless, the announcements by Vexl Foundation, AmityAge, Fedimint, and Aleks Svetski are worth looking into in particular.

A Plethora Of Fascinating Side Events

Before the conference, some of my Bitcoin friends had mentioned that the most important parts would be the expo area and side events. As strange as that may sound, I now understand why they felt that way. While I was not able to personally attend all of the side events, I heard only the best feedback and opinions about the likes of “dev/hack/day,” a Nostr meetup, and other events.

If attendees wanted to fully enjoy the talks and keynotes and didn’t spend much time in the expo area, side events were the perfect opportunity to engage with people in a more casual setting. From what I observed, most employees from conference stalls and booths were present and meeting with people even during side events, allowing attendees to converse with them in a more relaxed manner. Often, this was accompanied by a pint of renowned Czech beer at a restaurant serving local homemade specialties, making it even more enjoyable.

Room For Improvement

There isn’t much that needs to be changed to make this event even more spectacular. However, one small improvement could have led to even greater satisfaction from attendees, although it wasn’t related to the program, speakers or booths:

The food trucks caused some friction that could be improved in the next event. At times, extremely long queues meant that people were waiting for their food for much longer than they should have, which could cost them precious time in such a tightly packed conference schedule.

Furthermore, while Lightning Network payments were available in all food court areas except for common areas of the hall where it might not have been possible to accept Lightning payments, the food trucks often struggled with this payment option.

I witnessed several issues with accepting Lightning as a payment method for food or drinks myself. This could be due to internet connection problems, issues with point-of-sale devices or mobile wallets, or just the frustration of a food vendor who was tired of yet another “Bitcoin freak” paying with this internet currency. The whole payment-in-Lightning experience could have been improved.

Obviously, this was not a major issue and it’s hard to imagine a conference of this size being completely flawless. It’s worth noting that Lightning payments were available if vendors and buyers were patient.

Overall, this did not significantly impact the overall feeling and outcome of the conference, but if organizers want to improve the next event, this is probably where they should start.

Will You Attend BTC Prague 2024?

Speaking of the next year, the organizers have officially announced that the second BTC Prague conference will take place in Prague from June 13 to June 15, 2024. If next year’s conference is anything like the one I attended, it will undoubtedly be a blast.

This is a guest post by Marek Feder. The opinions expressed are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or blockchain.