Dogecoin was born from the association of two browser tabs: one was an article about the popularity of the doge meme, and the other, CoinMarketCap. The idea quickly gained traction on Twitter, and before long, a new cryptocurrency was born. Dogecoin gained adoption as a tipping currency, the community took part fundraising for charities and other causes, perhaps most notably sending the Jamaican bobsled team to the Sochi Winter Olympics.
We’re joined by Jackson Palmer, co-creator of Dogecoin. Though he has left the project, Jackson shares the story of how he created the most popular meme cryptocurrency as a joke.
Topics we discussed in this episode
- Jackson’s background and early interest in cryptocurrency
- The Dogecoin origin story
- The uniquely charitable nature of the community and The Dogecoin Foundation
- How the currency became widely used for tipping
- The NASCAR sponsorship and Moolah exchange scam
- The technological choices which went into early versions of Dogecoin
- Dogecoin’s unique monetary policy and economics
- Jackson’s thoughts on Doge Ethereum and the state of the project
- Why Jackson stepped away from the project and his thoughts on the crypto space
- Jackson’s other projects and YouTube channel
Sebastien Couture: We’re here today with Jackson Palmer. Jackson is the co-creator of the Dogecoin project. Hi Jackson.
Jackson Palmer: Hey, thanks for having me on.
Sebastien: So let’s start by asking a question that we typically ask people who come to the podcast. How did you first get involved in crypto?
Jackson: Yeah. I read about crypto, well specifically the Bitcoin white paper, I would say 2011-2012 when I saw it posted on Hacker News probably but I kind of dismissed it because I was in Australia back then, where I was born and raised and the internet is so bad back in Australia that downloading a blockchain even if it’s a few gigabytes was unrealistic over a poor ADSL connection back then and so I dismissed it until around 2013. And then somebody that I was working with actually was really into Litecoin and kind of pumping Litecoin when it was doing its first big pump. I think it might have gotten up towards $30 or something. And so I was like okay, I got to check this stuff out. I didn’t even know there was multiple coins and that kind of led me to coinmarketcap.com which then threw me down the whole spiral of oh my gosh. Okay. This is there’s a lot going on here.
Sebastien: And so this early interest that you had in crypto. What were you interested in? Were you just in the technology or more of the financial aspects?
Jackson: Yeah really the technology. I’ve always been you know, my background is actually in kind of marketing and data analysis, but I’ve always been extremely technical and developed side projects etc. And so my interest was really just in, so I would evaluate any other open source kind of software, whether it had legs, whether there was people that would want to use it and I just looked at it that way like I look at any other kind of tech startup really and as I kind of got into it, I started to realize that maybe it had some interesting kind of political ramifications and that interested me as well, regarding financial institutions and financial crises and things like that. So yeah that kind of kept me interested for a while. But from the very beginning I have to say I was very alarmed or skeptical of it because of the speculation and so a lot of people like to think that at one point in time I was like a huge crypto maximalist fan but that was never really the case. I always came into it with a skeptical eye from the beginning.
Sunny Aggarwal: Were there other interesting open source projects or decentralization kind of stuff that you were really looking into, I was on your Twitter the other day you said you had some guides for Mastodon and stuff so was sequential to the first open source project you started looking into or was it?
Jackson: Not really, I had been interested and kind of involved with BitTorrent for quite a while and obviously being a user of BitTorrent but looking at its applications for peer-to-peer communications and things like that, never anything that really specifically related to currency because I was like hey, we’ve already got this currency thing solved like why would I think about that? So it’s more about communication, file sharing things like that. A project that I launched I guess a year before Dogecoin. I was really into memes like from the beginning and gifs and so I created this gifbase.com which was rather popular. And actually kind of predated giphy. I really should have gone pitched this but I didn’t think about that. So yeah, I’ve always been kind of involved in software development and the memery of it all and I guess that’s kind of a nice segue into how Dogecoin came to be.
Sebastien: So yeah, let’s talk about that. How did your love of open source software have a baby with a dog meme?
Jackson: Yeah, so a lot of it kind of came, you know that the person that I knew that was into Litecoin that I was talking about, wasn’t the most technical person and so that immediately gave me skepticism about a non-technical person schilling something that is that is highly technical. So it’s like this seems like gambling and so I went to coinmarket.com and I noticed at that point that maybe under a hundred cryptocurrencies out there, like a lot of the forks that some of them aren’t alive these days and I noticed new ones were being added pretty regularly. And at the same time the doge meme was kind of like taking off and Adrian Chen a journalist over Gawker had written this article basically saying doge is the best meme because it’s kind of this incorruptible face. You cannot take doge and…Doge can’t become Pepe. It’s just not going to happen, not that Pepe was a thing back then really, but I just had those two kind of tabs open in my browser and Doge and coin just kind of blended together. And so it started as a tweet. In Australia we have this thing called taking the piss, which is really just kind of throwing shade at something or just like making fun of something and I just did this piss-take tweet where I was like go and invest in Dogecoin I think it’s the next big thing, and that kind of sparked the whole thing.
Sebastien: That’s interesting. And when you took this piss of a tweet, what was the reaction taken?
Jackson: Yeah. There were a few people that like, oh my god create this and then I guess it got shared around in some crypto circles on IRC and stuff. I’m one of those people that if I have an idea, I gotta buy the domain name. So I have way too many domain names. I know there’s a lot of other people that have similar addictions to this.
Sebastien: I had the same addiction at some point in my life.
Jackson: Such a waste of money, right? Anyway, so I was like, I’m going to you know register the domain Dogecoin.com because somebody else is going to steal it so I may as well and then I just went into Photoshop and put a 50% opacity image of the dog over a google image search of a coin, and just threw it up on this static HTML page. And it just said Dogecoin is the parity cryptocurrency favored by Shiba Inus worldwide and I didn’t think much of it, it was just a joke and a lot of it was a joke between me and my friends as well because we were all kind of making fun of crypto back then and so we share it around, whenever anybody asks about Bitcoin we are like ha ha, look, Dogecoin, and then in this hyper condensed period of time that kind of got shared more and more and more and more within actual crypto circles and IRC and stuff. And then this random dude called Billy pings me on Twitter with a screenshot and is like hey, you can change the font in the Bitcoin QT client to Comic Sans. We should make this a real thing. And so that kind of you know, it was let me down the spiral.
Sunny: So Billy saw your Tweet or something and was he someone you knew or like a friend of yours?
Jackson: Yeah, so the website itself, I think had my Twitter handle on it and it got shared in IRC. And so he just, put two and two together and that’s how we got connected. And so yeah, I he he reached out to me we added each other on like a Google chat or something and then very rapidly, I think I made the tweet on the 27th of November 2013, and I think within about five or six days there was a binary released for Dogecoin.
Sunny: I see, and I remember as you mentioned to me before the show that Billy was actually an anonymous guy. Do you by any chance know at all who he is?
Jackson: Oh, yeah. No, I know who he is. And I’ve met him several times in person, but it’s very interesting actually. He’s kind of a faceless name which I think is how he prefers to keep it and he got out of the project very early on I think, he didn’t really want to create a new cryptocurrency because you know, a lot of people say I’m skeptical of cryptocurrency, he’s even more of a skeptic than I am of cryptocurrency, and then we were having a lot of these conversations when we first met online. And so it’s kind of the not shadowy figure, but he hasn’t played a role in it really outside of the first couple months of the project.
Sunny: I see. So you started as a joke, but then he’s the one who’s like, oh wait, here’s an open source code base and actually just started playing around with it.
Jackson: Yeah. So basically what happened was that I kind of came up with a name and idea and then we brainstormed over the next few days. We were like how do we make this as ridiculous as possible? Because we even had the foresight we were like, he especially was like, we don’t want to make this something that people actually care about, this should be something that people don’t care about. So how do we make it as undesirable as a cryptocurrency so that it doesn’t become serious. And so, you were asking me before the show, why was the decision to fork Lucky Coin, which itself was a fork of Litecoin, which itself is a fork of Bitcoin, and that’s because Lucky Coin had this whole notion of random block rewards built in. And so our whole thing with those coins was how do we make this so that miners are going to get angry with it and not keep mining it because it can’t be profitable. I know, let’s put a random block reward between 0 and 1 million for every block. So it’s totally a gamble, right, nobody serious would ever actually mine that right, and that was supposed to be a protection system so that it didn’t become a thing. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work as intended.
Sebastien: Is that still in there?
Jackson: No, so that was eventually removed because it was causing a variety of problems and people didn’t like it. But we ended up with an actual kind of block reward schedule, but we made all these wacky decisions like a hundred billion coins all this stuff and then he did the coding work. So I didn’t touch the 1.0 and I think the 1.1, I didn’t touch the code to begin with. He did that work and then just shipped it up on Bitcoin Talk and GitHub.
Sebastien: And talk about the initial release of when this first binary came out, how did it become this thing? Because in a very condensed period of time, so you said that late November 2013 this thing emerged and then I think early December is when the network launched and I mean I was talking about this before the show in early 2014 when Epicenter was just starting, on episode 5 we did an episode where we talked about the Jamaican bobsled team sponsorship. So within the amount of eight weeks already there was enough Dogecoin going around it had sufficient value for people to be sponsoring Olympic teams without the tens of thousands of dollars. Like what happened there. How did this thing becomes such a thing.
Jackson: I think it was a right place right time kind of thing, in that you know that time at the end of 2013 that was kind of Bitcoin’s first big run up and I think it hit a thousand dollars and everybody was super excited. At that point of time there was so much interest in crypto, but the difference between say 2013 and 2017 is that all the people that were interested in it weren’t just speculators, they were developers. Right? And so I think when Dogecoin came out and it was on Bitcoin Talk, which is obviously very popular with developers and people that are more technical in nature, there was just this community of people that were like, hey finally, here’s a thing we can play around with. I think that Dogecoin didn’t have any value at that point. It wasn’t on an exchange or anything like that. And so people were like, hey this is cool a cool way that we can learn how to interface with say the bitcoind kind of json-rpc. We can do all this stuff with a real live mainnet without the worry of losing money on the Bitcoin mainnet, especially at the time because Bitcoin was so expensive, a thousand dollars, so I just think it was a right place right time thing and very quickly after it launched, Billy and I we didn’t even know, so he had an Nvidia GPU that could do CUDA mining. I didn’t have a good GPU at that time. And so he just pointed his miner at it. There was no pre minor or anything, pointed at it for like the first 24 hours after the mainnet launch and within 24 hours the hash rate was just too much you couldn’t solo mine anymore, you had to pull mine. And all these pools popped up the tip bot on Reddit popped up, in the space of about a week after it launched and I think it was just because right place right time, the developers were there and ready to go.
Sebastien: So on the topic of community, this community of developers came around the project and the Reddit Community also blew up and maybe in part this Reddit tip had a role to play with it, those coins quickly became this uniquely altruistic community within the crypto space. So we mentioned the Jamaican bobsled team sponsorship. There was some other Olympic team I think that was sponsored. Dogecoin has been involved in funding wells in Kenya and all these other things. Did you play a role in initiating this altruistic nature and the community or is it something that came elsewhere. Where did that emerge from?
Jackson: I think it was actually a combination of me, but also Billy in that once we realized it was a real thing, we thought that we had set the cryptocurrency up in a way that after its launch people would get sick of it after a week and then stopped caring about it, and that obviously didn’t happen. And so at that point we were kind of like, oh crap, how do we make sure that this thing doesn’t just become another thing that people are gambling and speculating on because that was one of our biggest, you know joint criticisms of cryptocurrency and something we hated about it. And so we thought the real way to do that is to just continue sharing this message with people that the thing is light-hearted. The thing is about giving it’s not about getting rich and so I think through that kind of messaging it just bubbled up to people saying hey, we should sponsor things. Hey, we should donate these things. It might not be worth a lot of money, but maybe we can help and so there was the Jamaican bobsled team. And as soon as that happened, I had a friend back in Australia and I was working full-time job during all of this by the way, and so I said to my friend hey, do you want to help with the Reddit community and organizing sponsoring the Jamaican bobsled team. And then we did several things like that, but it was all community-driven. It was all honestly not me. It was the community and I think it highlighted the power in a way. As I said, I was skeptical coming into this. The one thing that got me interested in crypto, that Dogecoin helped further my interest, was, so you have a community of say a hundred thousand people on the Dogecoin subreddit back then that’s what it was at. And if you give those people an easy way to give 50 cents, in a way that there’s very little to no transaction fee. It’s rather instant, secure, all of that stuff. Make it easy for people on the Reddit tip bot allowed them to do this. Then you have $50,000 there that you can give to a charitable cause or something like that. And so the power of that is actually the one thing that kind of drew me in further with Dogecoin or into crypto in general, the use of it for altruism and and kind of bettering society. I thought and I had hoped that that would be the direction that it kept going in but despite best efforts, I think of several community leaders and the Dogecoin foundation and everybody to keep it to being this charitable light-hearted thing, I think the lesson we’ve all learned with cryptocurrency is that all roads lead back to speculation, price, gambling. It’s very hard to force people or force a community to not have inertia towards that. And so that’s unfortunately what, like all other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin ended up descending into.
Sunny: So one of the other people who I’m friends with in that crypto space, who’s also really into this whole altruistic nature of cryptocurrency, is Griff Green from the giveth project. And so he often tells me a lot about how he’s very inspired by The Burning Man culture and the idea of a gift-giving culture and stuff. I’ve actually never been to Burning Man myself, but he seems to love that experience and the community that’s built around that. Was this at all an inspiration for you. Are you like have you ever participated in that?
Jackson: No. Honestly, I think burners are the worst. Not really because in a way I think burnerism is a fake altruism because it’s a lot of people, you know there’s billionaires there with private jets, at Burning Man. So is it really an event for the people, probably not. No I wasn’t really inspired by that. I was more inspired by, I’ve always kind of believed in redistribution of wealth, of social causes. And so I think I came into it with that and also I just think in Australia, there is more of an emphasis on that. That was one thing that surprised me when I moved to America is there seems to be a lot of a less focus or acceptance of social systems opposed to say Australia or other European places and stuff like that. So definitely not inspired by Burning Man
Sunny: Gotcha. And so, to delve into that a little bit more. I know on your Twitter you do mention sometimes more socialistic….you have a different political philosophy than the prevalent Bitcoin political philosophy we could say and I’m not sure if you ever actually used the word communistic but I feel like maybe you use the word socialistic, and was that a version to the Bitcoin political philosophy what kind of led to this? And then also how do you see Ethereum community in relation to that?
Jackson: That’s a really good question. I haven’t always had the clearest political thoughts. I don’t think a lot of people do I think that there’s this typically political beliefs or journey that you develop over time. And I think that when you live in a country like Australia or some place that has pretty good welfare systems, but is still very much a capitalist society, you kind of fall into this kind of like centrist liberalism where everything’s comfortable, right? I like to tell people that moving to America made me a socialist because moving here, really demonstrated to me the inequalities of capitalism, which weren’t as so pronounced in a more liberal centrist community such as Australia.
Sunny: Not just America, specifically San Francisco.
Jackson: Well specifically San Francisco is the ultra version of that right, you have people riding around on thousand dollar hoverboards and scooters and they’re dodging homeless people. It’s absolutely nuts. But I think Bitcoin actually did, I felt early on was more aligned with some kind of anti-capitalist anti institution kind of belief systems. Like I used to know a lot of people that were in crypto, some of the people that were in early Dogecoin as well came from the Occupy Movement in New York, and there’s this person Ben Doernberg who is really into Dogecoin, was great and had a lot of these beliefs and actually I think was held with a chapter of occupy. Those people all kind of got, not shouted away, but disheartened where Bitcoin moved because there’s two ways of I think of looking at institutions and all of this and I think unfortunately Bitcoin has trended a lot more towards being this kind of an cap, you know, like very hyper capitalist, still anti-state but also hyper capitalist system and I don’t think a lot of people that are subscribed to that belief really realize that the big institutions, that part of the system that they’re promoting. So it’s an interesting dynamic but yeah, definitely identify as kind of this socialistic student of marks.
Sebastien: I would tend to agree with you there. I was recently discussing this with someone who comes from that side of Bitcoin and I guess like an early Bitcoiner and and this is somewhat represented. I think sometimes in memes between Bitcoin and Ethereum where, and I don’t want to cast judgement on anyone but where Bitcoin is seen as this very rightly right-wing libertarian flavor, I guess of libertarianism where it’s highly individualistic but highly capitalistic and maybe Ethereum is somewhere else on that spectrum. I wouldn’t say totally left wing idealistic and libertarian, but there is very much a difference there in terms of political ideology that shines through quite a bit. And Dogecoin maybe was more I guess on the altruistic side and less on the capitalistic side or maybe even not on that spectrum, but somewhere else on another axis.
Jackson: Dogecoin has its own like z-axis. But no you’re absolutely right. Like I think Ethereum and the people. This is one of the reasons I really like the Ethereum community and typically why I like communities that aren’t maximalist in nature, people that are like open to any crypto currency is really because they typically have a broader more educated belief system and and I think Vitalik, Vlad, a lot of the people I met from the Ethereum community I definitely aligned or certainly agree with politically more so than I do like the Bitcoin maximalist that only eat meat, you know, because there’s this strange thing where all those carnivores seem to have a very certain set of political beliefs as well, which is kind of strange. That one’s diet would represent their political beliefs. But yeah, it’s an interesting dynamic and it’s something that I feel is only and maybe it was always there but I feel like it’s something that’s maybe being more polarized or kind of just come to light more in this whole like boom and bust cycle. The bear market is people’s true colors, the factions have kind of become very clear.
Sebastien: You mentioned the Dogecoin Foundation a few minutes ago. Tell us what’s this all about? And what’s the story behind this foundation?
Jackson: So the Dogecoin Foundation was an extremely loosely organized group of people, community volunteers who just tried to steer the community. It was basically the Reddit mods saying hey we have a community of people that want to throw small chunks of money at good causes. How do we give it a boost? And so those are bunch of volunteers that Ben Doernberg who I mentioned previously was one of them. He played a very big part in that and then what happened after that was that there was kind of a lot of turmoil, so we did a bunch of altruistic things. We did the Jamaican bobsled team. We did another thing which is probably what I’m most proud of which was called doge for kids and that whole project was all about raising money for training assistance dogs for blind and autistic children, which is honestly I think the best thing that Dogecoin ever done to give back to the world and then we did doge for water which was working with Charity water to build wells in Kenya, Eric Nakagawa who actually created ICanHasCheezburger.com was the one that ran that so lots of meme overlaps and beyond that then you probably have heard about the NASCAR right? Like that’s the thing that I actually don’t like to talk about a lot because that was when we started to see this influx of more people concerned with price fluctuations, people getting greedy and there was this third party kind of company that latched onto the Dogecoin Community called Moolah and a lot of people probably know the full story there but in a nutshell the whole thing was a scam and they unfortunately were one of the biggest funders of the NASCAR and tried to co-opt the foundation Co-op to the community, take all that goodwill and instead try and point it towards funding their scam. And so that kind of blew up in the face of the Dogecoin community and that’s when I and many others just kind of walked away and was like, you know, we don’t want involvement with this anymore. This is nuts, especially because we’d warned the community before all of this happened not to trust this company, but you know people don’t listen.
Sebastien: Well, maybe can you talk a bit more about that? Because I’m not fully clear on what happened there.
Jackson: Oh, wow. Yeah. So it’s a story. So there was this company called Moolah that kind of came out with essentially kind of a Shopify like an e-commerce experience, very lightweight, very buggy that accepted several cryptocurrencies I think but mostly Dogecoin was the market they went after and it had this kind of mysterious figure at its helm who went by the name Alex Green, what a fake name right, and it was obvious he was very active on the Reddit community, on the IRC ,several places and back in 2014 they announced this thing called Moolah Pie, which was basically it’s kind of like ICO in a way, you would basically send them Dogecoin and you would get like a gpg signature that was then your stake, your holdings in that company. So obvious scam to any rational person but a lot of people to the tune of about $750,000 if I remember correctly, sent money to this the scammers and at first I was a little bit skeptical as I was like this is bad and we got super skeptical when they started sponsoring events, like throwing around huge sums of money, people started saying they were getting dividends so they would get paid back money. I’m like, oh gosh like classic Ponzi, right? Like it’s clear what’s going on here. But because these people were giving back dividends and they go into like the IRC channels and they’d shower everybody in Dogecoin tips, the community loved them. As soon as you know, myself or anybody else was like hey guys, maybe practice some healthy skepticism with this they like how dare you, you know, leave Moolah alone. They’re great people yada yada yada So eventually I and others got shouted out of the community, people just like shut up Jackson you don’t know what you’re talking about, Moolah is the best and Moolah did the NASCAR, which they also got their logo on which a lot of people don’t like to talk about and then flash forward a few months. This is actually really interesting story. So then Ben and myself, as all this was going down, basically tried to get them on a Skype call so we could see this guy’s face because nobody had ever seen this Alex Green’s face, right? And so we finally convinced him to get on a Skype call and he’s like threatening us basically saying, you guys should stop questioning me, because you know what typical scammers are like, like the Craig Wrights of the world, they’ll they’ll threaten to sue you etc etc. Somebody in that call, I don’t know who it was it actually wasn’t me, recorded that call and posted it on YouTube. And so everybody knew all of a sudden what this guy’s face was like, still nobody knew who he was unfortunately. Flash forward a few months after that call and surprise surprise Moolah announces that they’ve gone bankrupt, they got hacked or something. The guy lost the keys, you know the typical thing. Sorry all your money’s gone and they’d actually bought an exchange at the time as well called Mint pal and run off with all the money from that exchange as well. And I could have come back and be like told you to so guys, humble pie and all of that, but I didn’t. I kind of waited in the wings and so TechCrunch surprisingly ran a news article that was just about this Moolah going bankrupt because it was a pretty big deal, a few million dollars missing, etc.. And I guess because TechCrunch didn’t have any other images of this guy they went to this YouTube video of the Skype call and screen shotted his face. Because of that some ex-girlfriend of this the scammer in the UK randomly emails me out of the blue and is like that’s not Alex Green. His name’s Ryan Kennedy and he’s a serial scam artist. He had a whole encyclopedia dramatica page written all about him. He was running Magic the Gathering scams, of course, right, so on brand with Bitcoin and so there was a whole bunch of info and so this all got shared out and Ben and I were like, hey folks, maybe you should look up the name Ryan Kennedy and then Moolah employees started coming out and saying oh, yeah, we knew his name was Ryan Kennedy and I’m like, how do you not know that’s a scam. So all of this happened and it imploded the community as you would imagine and at the same time, I wasn’t really welcome back because people were like, oh, yeah, you were right Jackson but a lot of people don’t like to admit that, so that’s the history in a nutshell.
Sunny: What was the time frame that this was happening.
Jackson: So it happened in a year. This was 2014. It was an extremely busy year.
Sunny: Around the same time as Mt Gox drama.
Jackson: I would say it happened six eight months after the Gox thing.
Sunny: Okay. So, it seems that like you said the community kind of had this like implosion for a while, but, when I actually met you for the first time it was that Dogecon which is this really fascinating conference I went to. It was last year, I think in June 2018. It was held by this co-working space in Vancouver called Decentral or Dcontrol and very fascinating community, but they held this conference just on Dogecoin and I will say it was not the most educational conference I’ve been to, it was not the most academic or productive conference I’ve been to, but it is definitely the most fun conference I went to. And we had these decentralized dance parties and scavenger hunts and it was a lot of fun. So, I went to their hacker space and they have like paintings of the Doge God and so do you know how these guys, I don’t know it seems like they are kind of trying to revive the community and the more fun-loving aspect of it.
Jackson: Yeah. I’m not sure if it’s a revival so much as they always are into Dogecoin and I think that although it was the name of the conference there was a lot of stuff other than Dogecoin talked about, I don’t know if Dogecoin was really even talked about the most out of all the things there. But I think to me after all of those speculators,the greedy people kind of got flushed out of the Dogecoin community after all that drama I was talking about I think the OG’s were left, like the original people that were in it for the memes and it for the fun were leftover, typically a more technical group of people as well a bit nerdy, a bit geeky, and so it was kind of nice because it was kind of a return to the roots if anything and yeah, they reached out to me and said hey you want to come up to Vancouver for this conference we’re running and I honestly I didn’t think they’d have that many people but there ended up being a lot of people there which really surprised me and yeah, I think it’s just, you know, people like memes and you’ll sometimes see, you know, Vitalik for instance often wearing a Doge shirt or something like that. He’s a big fan of it as well like the meme in general. I think Doge, separately to Dogecoin, but also just Dogecoin being under that umbrella, just represent the belief that there should be lightheartedness and humor and community and togetherness within open source software and I think it’s kind of used as a symbol in a way, like the symbolism to represent people who are like-minded in that belief. And so to me that conference was just bringing those people together. So yeah, there’s a lot of fun. It was the weirdest, wackiest crypto conference I’ve ever been to but that was cool.
Sunny: Yeah. I mean like you said I don’t know how much we actually talked about Dogecoin specifically, but I think what it really did was by calling a Dogecon it attracted a certain type of person to the conference just like this these very fun people essentially who were there to have a good time.
Jackson: And so there was a panel from memory on the deconstructing memes, like memeology and there was a potty Shaman there, it was just completely different to any crypto conference and it was cool because nobody was sitting around talking about ICOs or what to pump, you know is it was just very much down to earth and cool people.
Sunny: The reason I actually wanted to do this episode was a few months ago we did our five-year Epicenter AMA episode, anniversary episode, and one of the questions was what coins maintain their value and Brian and I got into a little like back and forth about the value of meme coins and by meme coins I don’t mean specifically just the funny memes like Dogecoin, but just in general, like Bitcoin is a meme coin or Litecoin is a meme that’s like the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. What does that even mean? No one knows but it’s somehow imbued it with billions of dollars of value and same with Dogecoin, at some point, not today but, a few months ago Dogecoin also had billions of dollars of value. And so what do you think? I know like you said you’re skeptical about this idea of the speculation but do you think that there’s any value in this concept of memes bringing together a community and value being created from the fact that an interesting community exists.
Jackson: Yeah. It’s kind of sad to me the communities like that cn’t exist in lieu of a market cap. And I think that is the thing that I like to try and like separate is having a good community from having a good community because the price right now gets people excited which is actually why I like the bear market in a sense because it means that the people that are still around are somewhat genuine in their beliefs at least and so I think that in terms of those coins existing, I don’t really, like my challenge with all cryptocurrencies is that I think that they’re extremely overvalued and when you say that Litecoin has billions of dollars at value, it has billions of dollars in nominal value that are sitting on coinmarket cap.com with a whole bunch of fake volume and who knows what would happen if there was actually a run on that price and people tried to sell off so I don’t know, I feel like I like to separate out the community piece from the money piece and this is one of the biggest problems I think that crypto has is that it’s the first kind of software movement where you have open source software that has an intrinsic financial incentive attached to it, and most other open source projects have that like BitTorrent or say, the rust community for the language rust, they can flourish and be these really supportive communities of cool developers. They can have codes of conduct that you do all this cool stuff and there’s no financial incentive attached to that necessarily right? There’s no part of that code that they could change to potentially game it in a way that they get more money and I think that just shifts the incentive schemes for all of this, and this is why I have trouble with any cryptocurrency that starts having very corporate interest. It’s why I had some issues with Blockstream. It’s why I freaked out a little bit when I see Jack Dorsey saying, hey, I’m going to find Bitcoin core developers like oh interesting, what’s the incentive scheme look like there for how decisions are made. And so I really wish that we could get back to a point where crypto currency was treated more just like communities what we run just more like traditional open source communities. Hard to do though because of the financial incentive so I don’t really have a solution for that problem. But I think it’s just something that everybody should be aware of because there’s a lot of bias in this stuff that people don’t have a lot of self-reflection on.
Sunny: And then relating a bit to financial and economic incentives, one thing that I guess Dogecoin tried to do in order to make it less speculative as it takes a very different approach to monetary policy as opposed to most cryptocurrencies, and I personally like it a lot, where it’s this not hyper deflationary coin and so could you talk a little, and I know actually the monetary policy actually changed a couple of times and so could you maybe go into that. And like we said we started off with that whole Lucky coin randomness, but then what was the decision around making it this more….or could you maybe describe the monetary policy?
Jackson: So the monetary policy that a lot of people like to talk about with Dogecoin is that after it was mined out to a hundred billion coins the code works in such a way that there’s a static block reward of 10,000 doge per block into perpetuity, right? So it’s infinite, it’s inflationary, but it’s deflationary inflation if you think of the rate as the as the total supply and you know, a lot of people like to think that this was some amazing genius decision that I or Billy made, it wasn’t, it’s actually a bug in the code. So back in the day when you used to like just fork a coin to make an old coin there were a series of magic numbers, some like variables in the code, which you would change like Max money I think was the one that we changed, and we just thought that putting a hundred billion there would mean that the cap of the coin was a hundred billion. We didn’t know what we were doing, and so funny story actually. There’s a great GitHub issue thread with literally hundreds of comments on it. Guess who it was started by? Jae Kwon founder of Cosmos because he pointed out, he was the first person to report this issue. He said hey guys, your coin isn’t actually capped. But then Jae Kwan suggested, literally said, I don’t think you should remove this bug. I think you should leave it in and have inflation to assist with lost coins, hacks, things like that and just you know inflation can sometimes be a good thing. So, the genius decision for Dogecoin to be inflationary is actually a product of Jae Kwan.
Sunny: I never knew this he never told me about this. That’s so cool. Okay, I guess and then another interesting event that came along in the technical timeline of Dogecoin was this decision to start merge mining with Litecoin and suddenly that brought a lot of hash power to Dogecoin. And so could you maybe talk about that, you know back when that happened merge mining wasn’t a common thing and I guess it’s really still not even that common today even but you know, when you ask someone to name 2 merge mine coins, it’s usually Namecoin and Dogecoin.
Jackson: Yeah. So Namecoin was the first coin to really do merge mining. I think Satoshi might have even been involved in that too, in a very early degree. And what merge mining does is it basically takes two cryptocurrency protocols or blockchains that are using the same hashing algorithm for proof of work and basically shares that work across the two chains so you can submit proofs and secure the network for both of those coins and also see receive a block reward on both as well. So it increases your chance of making money for miners. Everybody wins. In Dogecoin what led us there is that Dogecoin being a fork of Litecoin and using s script as the hashing algorithm like a lot of others do, we got to a point in I would say was in 2014 or 2015 where there was so much hashing power on the Litecoin network but so little on the Dogecoin Network that it became very apparent that if just one random Litecoin miner with some assets wanted to 51% attack Dogecoin they could in a heartbeat. It would be very easy. And this is the problem with shared, you know, proof-of-work algorithms, 51% attacks happen. And so Charlie Lee actually came to us to the Dogecoin community and said you guys should consider merge mining. It’s a great idea, you’ll inherit our security model. He’s a fan of Dogecoin. Let’s protect it. And at first I was actually pushing back on it quite heavily because the future of Litecoin wasn’t super clear back then, Charlie wasn’t active on the project. He was working at Coinbase and you know, I was worried. Because when you start merge mining, you have to go and convince all the miners to start doing it and then those two coins are like joined at the hip, the success of those coins in the security model are joined at the hip and if Dogecoin does this everybody has to accept that if Litecoin fails, Dogecoin hence fails, or its security model fails. And so I pushed back on that for quite a while. This was in a world where the price of all these cryptocurrencies was a lot lower. And so the risk was not as big as it is today, but eventually the community kind of got together and I said, yeah, this is probably a good idea. I didn’t have any bearing on it because I haven’t been the developer on it since early 2014 and so the developers that currently maintained it made the changes and organized with all the miners and merge mining was implemented and ever since it’s had extremely good resilience in terms of security.
Sebastien: On the topic of development, it seems by looking at the GitHub repo that there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity in the last year, since 2015 I guess is when activity kind of trickled down. Can you talk a bit about that? What are your thoughts here? And how do you think this is affecting the project going forward?
Jackson: Yeah. So after Billy kind of backed away like after the first month or two of Dogecoin, I suddenly inherited this unwieldy C++ code base that was based off an old version of Litecoin that had all sorts of known bugs and it was kind of like an oh shit moment. And so I very quickly had to rebase the entire code of Dogecoin off think was 0.8.0 6 of Litecoin and release the next few bills but I was working with a team of contributors, notably one called Max who goes by the handle langerhans and for a few months there we were doing most of the development work patching, you know, pulling in updates from Upstream code bases, like Bitcoin and Litecoin and then over time I just didn’t have the time because I work a full-time job. I’m also not a professional C++ coder and so I probably didn’t have a right to be in there fiddling with things. But also I didn’t want to have a control over this system. I didn’t want to have any kind of say in future decisions about it because those decisions can weigh on you when you’re making decisions like should we merge mine, like that’s a huge decision that I frankly don’t want to have to own, and so it was like kind of a lot of back and forth and then eventually I think it was in the late 2014 or early 2015 I handed over full GitHub permissions to Max and two other developers Patrick and Ross, and they took over, they became the Dogecoin full-time development team, well it’s still a hobby for them, but they become the maintainers of it. I remove myself from the GitHub repo so I have no access, no permissions and kind of left it to them and then they stood up a Dev fund and a whole bunch of stuff like that, like any crypto project does. I think what happened was, you know it’s a hobby for them and you have to remember that after 2015 there was a huge lull in crypto until about 2017 when the whole Ethereum ICO thing happened and so there just wasn’t a good reason to really update the Dogecoin source code. Everything was working. Like if it ain’t broke why fix it and then I think there was some renewed interest in 2017/2018 around, hey update because there might be some critical security issues with that with the current code base. But you know again it’s their hobby, it’s not their full-time job. And so I just think they haven’t gotten around to it now. I get a lot of flack for saying this but there hasn’t been an on Beta release of Dogecoin since 2015, you know since shortly after I left and that’s worrying to me. I think it should be worrying to everybody but there is some progress on some betas that I think they’re releasing, I think you have to change the branch on GitHub, that Ross claims to be releasing soon. So we’ll see but in terms of the code base I would say it’s almost in maintenance mode. It’s just like security patches only rather than it being a new like any new features development or anything like that. But again, I’m not officially speaking for the project anyway, so people don’t get cranky at me.
Sebastien: So I don’t know exactly when this was but I think it’s in within the last year, correct me if I’m wrong, but there was this announcement that there would be this side chain on Ethereum. Can you talk a bit about that and it strikes me that maybe having an Ethereum side chain, if everybody moves their doge over to Ethereum, well you no longer have to maintain the code base for Dogecoin.
Jackson: Yeah so for many years people have talked about there being a doge to Ethereum bridge, we even back in the day Jae Kwan and I used to talk about a Tendermint to Doge bridge, a lot actually. What ended up happening is Vitalik and others actually funded a bounty program. So I think Vitalik and a few others through what ended up being the Ethereum price run up about $100,000 or so in Bounty just to create a working prototype of the Doge Ether bridge, so that obviously fueled a whole bunch of excitement because developers were like hey, there’s a hundred thousand on the table. Hell I’m going to do this. So a bunch of people spun up different projects to try and do it and essentially what it would be is a bridge where you can send your Dogecoin over to Ethereum and then it exists on the Ethereum network and send it back and vice versa. Right? So Dogecoin exist in two places instead of one and you know, the reason I don’t really see a point in this is because it would exist as essentially an ERC 20 token on Ethereum blockchain that you would be able to push doge into and out of. There’s so much overhead to do this work, but Ethereum as a network actually has higher transaction fees than Dogecoin. So like what’s the point of doing this. Dogecoin has a 60 second block time, like near zero transaction fees, what’s the benefit that users of that currency get out of switching it over to the ethereum blockchain…very little. And so for me the way I kind of adjudicator assess these things is I say well, what’s the benefit to end-users, how would this help cryptocurrency get mainstream adoption or actual real-world usage, and I don’t think it would. I think it’s a cool pet project. I think it’s a cool hackathon idea, but a lot of people, you know, I think as they had a whole bag of Dogecoin they were hoping it would pump the price. It’s like I said, it’s a hackathon idea. It’s not actually something that I think people would really use on the regular.
Sunny: So you’re saying you don’t want to be able to collateralize your maker dai using Dogecoin?
Sunny: So I mean, I guess that leads into the question of what are your thoughts on how the crypto space has evolved in the last 5 years or maybe the last year, and we see this movement towards DeFi and the year before that was that the web and what are your thoughts on this general movement in the crypto space and these new ideas that are coming around?
Jackson: Yeah, for sure. I think it’s been a game of shifting narratives. I remember and you remember as well because you’ve been around for a long time in this industry, years ago people were talking about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency as an actual medium of exchange, you know, this is going to be used to pay at restaurants and pay for food and there’s a lot of people that like to claim that they never said that I need to try and dig up recordings of them from presentations where I know that they said otherwise.
Sunny: There’s probably a lot of Epicenter episodes you could start digging in.
Jackson: Hey great idea, great idea, but you know, it’s seen a shift in narratives, right? And so the whole medium of exchange thing didn’t happen because scalability was kind of the scapegoat for that. I actually am starting to question whether scalability was the real reason that Bitcoin didn’t take off for Retail Commerce. But so then that shifted and then it moved to this whole store of value thing, right? So, oh no we never said the crypto is a thing you should actually use as a currency, you should be using it as a place where you know, it’s akin to gold right? It’s just a thing where you store your wealth and it goes up in price over time and then that didn’t really work out because they realize that hey gold actually exists and so do stocks and so they’re like, oh, okay, actually it’s about DeFi. It’s about rebuilding banks essentially and large financial institutions in the blockchain which you know, we’re starting to get into this comical territory where it’s like, hey guys all those financial institutions you said you were going to completely demolish and you know, all the hierarchies you said you were going to demolish because the blockchain would make people give people liberty and they’d be able to be their own bank. You want to recreate all that bad stuff inside the blockchain is like, okay like you can see where this is going. I don’t really see the value in that, I think that already exists and so the value of recreating it on a blockchain to me doesn’t have a lot of benefits because it actually makes the thing less efficient, it’s centralized for a reason that’s because it can be super efficient, especially when you get to like these collateralized like loans and things like that. I just don’t see a reason for doing that in crypto. So you have that whole side of it. And then I like to think of those people as as the newcomers, right? So the whole DeFi movement typically people that I see have come into crypto late to the game probably like 2016-2017 onwards and so you have people like that that pomp guy who’s like, yeah, like crypto, liberty like let’s recreate banks. And then you have the OG’s right? So you have a whole bunch of people that have been around for a long time, the Bitcoin core developers, he Lightning folks, but then you look at what they’re doing and they’ve kind of like hunkered down in a bunker and they’re creating like these Rube Goldberg machines for sending, you know transactions and it’s baffling to me. It’s like the scaling solutions that we’re coming up with like Lightning and all of that are so so so complex. Bitcoin is hard enough to get an average user of venmo, of Apple pay etc, to just understand the concept of public and private keys, backing up a seed phrase using a Bitcoin wallet. Then you have to layer in lightening channels in the fact that you need to have, you know, all these lightning channels established, routing needs to happen, multi-hop, like from a user experience perspective I don’t see a way that they can hide that efficiently that works and uses, and so it’s a little bit sad to me because I feel like you’ve got people building impossible chaos machines in a basement and they’re cool developers,They’re very smart, like I don’t want to take away from what Lightning and the likes of those teams are doing, and then you have the institution folks who are all like DeFi DeFi, let’s turn this blockchain into a corporate capitalist thing. I really don’t see a sizable enough population of people in the middle kind of saying hey, what about using cryptocurrency to actually transact. It’s gone. It just doesn’t exist anymore. And I think the fact that we’re at a point, I hoped that Ethereum was going to establish a lot of this and do a lot of this, but the fact Ethereum is now rebranding as Etherium 2.0,which a lot of people don’t realize is completely different to Ethereum. It’s like no guys Ethereum was a failure. Sorry we need to completely re-architect the whole thing. I think that speaks volumes to how challenging it’s going to be to actually just buy a cup of coffee with cryptocurrency. So I don’t know, that’s where I stand and as an outsider, like I have no financial incentives for this, it’s not a job that I work in and so I like to just call it as it is like as a product right now, I don’t see how cryptocurrency is going to establish market fit or adoption.
Sunny: Yeah, totally. I mean so we just a few weeks ago we did an episode with Amaury Sechet who is one of the core developers of Bitcoin Cash. And I might get some flack for this but I think the Bitcoin Cash seems to be kind of trying to hit that middle ground you’re talking about, like really focusing on scaling basic payments. And so I’m kind of hopeful there a little bit.
Jackson: I am too. The sad thing, like I absolutely agree with you there. I think that there are some good goals. I think the intent is right with things like Bitcoin Cash. I think unfortunately the ego that surrounds the characters involved on it in every way, everywhere you look is really disappointing, but if it didn’t have that attached to it, I think that would actually be really compelling.
Sunny: Yeah, totally.
Sebastien: So with all that, where do you think where do you think crypto is going? And do you see any light at the end of the tunnel proverbially and do you see any positive things to come out of the space?
Jackson: Yeah, I do. I think that ultimately cryptocurrency is made up of several parts, right? Like Satoshi’s original invention wasn’t completely new, Satoshi was the glue that held together existing concepts such as public key cryptography, hash chains, linked list essentially, proof of work which it already existed, it brought together these several components to make something that was, some of all parts and I think that some of that can be extracted and used to improve the quality of user’s lives and improve society. And so I still think that one thing that we’ve seen a huge need for just globally has been an increase in user security. People need to care more about secure passwords, authentication, having some level of security over their own identity, things like that. There are so many pieces of work that are going into cryptocurrency that can be used for those purposes. Does it need a blockchain. Does it need a proof-of-work back or a proof of stake back network to do that? Absolutely not, but can some of the contributing parts be extracted out and contribute back to society. Yes. I like to see the cryptocurrency networks as they currently stand, things with a token or a huge network as really kind of like the super forward thinking like eventual point where you are just experimenting with stuff. But out of that should develop, hopefully new developments in cryptography, and just the way we think about security that can benefit everybody. Even if it doesn’t have to end up being on a blockchain, and so that’s how I try to like paint the silver lining with this stuff, is that it’s started a conversation in many cases about individuals having better control over their identity, their security, their money, which I think is a good thing.
Sebastien: So I’d like to circle back to you. And so you mentioned that you don’t work in cryptocurrency or you don’t work in the blockchain space. And so why did you step away from the project and you mentioned the whole NASCAR thing but was it something greater than that?
Jackson: Yeah. So I’ve always had a job outside of crypto. And so it wasn’t really a matter of me leaving cryptocurrency as a job to move back into into just regular tech which is what I do. It was more just that was always what I was doing and crypto as my side project. It’s always been the case and what kind of made me and the way that I work, you know crypto hasn’t been my only side project. I’ve had many side projects over the years, the way I decide to work on a side project as if it gives me personal joy to work on that or I get something out of it in terms of I’m learning, and I think what’s happened the kind of peaks and troughs in my involvement in crypto have really correlated to how much I feel I can learn from the current industry. And so when I left and moved away from crypto in 2015, I had very little involvement in crypto in 2015 and 2016. It was because I felt that all the conversations had shifted to these kind of startups that were pitching, it’s this on a blockchain and I wasn’t going to learn anything from them, other than how to sell snake oil. And so I moved away. When a lot of the stuff started happening in 2017 with smart contracts and a whole bunch of new concepts, I was like I can learn something again. I’m going to go back into that. I’m going to create an educational YouTube series about it as a hobby because you know, the thing I don’t think a lot of people realize this, the YouTube videos that I create are not just for my audience but also for me because in researching them I am learning about that thing. And so that’s the main reason I did it, it was because I learned something and then what happened I found is that in late 2018 after I’d been doing it for about two years, I noticed a pattern as I started reviewing these different blockchain projects. I was like, they’re all the damn same and so I stopped learning anything again. And so more recently I’ve kind of backed away from cryptocurrency again, you’ll notice that my YouTube channel,we were talking before the show, was shifted to mechanical keyboard reviews because I find interest in that, I’m learning about something different. Cryptocurrency doesn’t have anything to offer me personally right now and that’s kind of selfish in a way, but that’s fine. Like I should only spend my time on things that I actually care about.
Sebastien: Yeah, I kind of agree with you on some points there and, similarly when I started Epicenter with Brian and when we met back in 2013 or something my goal was very much to learn about the technology. I mean I had been in this space for less than a month when the podcast started so in that sense I understand but I feel that I’ve constantly been learning things. I’ve learned so many things and I continue to learn things and my opinions have shifted and I think that over the years I’ve had periods where I’ve had doubts about the technology and about its ability to bring good into the world and then other periods where I’m quite hopeful and I see interesting things happening.
Jackson: Oh, yeah. A lot of people think I’m just a Negative Nancy pessimist about everything. I do often say things that get me excited, they’re few and far between.
Sebastien: So this YouTube channel that you’ve been doing now, I guess for about a year.
Jackson: I did it for about two years actually.
Sebastien: So you’re doing sort of these short reviews of blockchains, you’ve also done some reviews of hardware wallets and this sort of thing and it’s also somewhat tied into gaming. I feel like you’re reviewing these mechanical keyboards. What’s the goal here? What do you see this becoming in the future? Is it just another side project or do you have a bigger goal here of maybe turning this into a business or an educational venture or something like that?
Jackson: I’m definitely not going to become a full-time YouTuber because spoiler alert, it doesn’t pay very well unless you’re some sort of like video game streamer or something but no again, like as I said, it’s a way for me to learn and so I will post things on there from time to time now when I have something to talk about, but I’m not going to become a professional tech YouTuber or something like that. It’s really just a hobby for me. And so I’m one of those people that I get really excited about things for about a year or so and then on to the next thing, so I’m currently trying to find another side project. I’m thinking of doing something with decentralized social networking again because nobody’s cracked that nut.
Sebastien: Yeah, that’s one thing that perpetually I think keeps coming back and that people can’t really find a solution to. So you mentioned that you don’t work in crypto and it’s known that you work at a big software company. Do you have any ambition to maybe work in the crypto space, come back into the crypto space? I’m sure you’ve received many job offers over the years. Is this something you’ve considered?
Jackson: Not really, I don’t have strong enough belief in the future of cryptocurrency to warrant working on it full-time yet. It’s the same as like if somebody said hey, do you want to go and work for a VR startup? I’d be like no, and it’s too cutting edge for me and unproven so no real desire to, I toyed around with the idea of potentially going and working for one of the the the larger more established and regulated companies in cryptocurrency. But yeah, I’m glad I didn’t because what I’ve noticed at least is a lot of those big companies have kind of lost their heart a little bit in the name of profit, so I’m glad. The other reason I’m glad about this is because it also, not working in cryptocurrency reduces the bias. I think that I had I worked at cryptocurrency companies the last five years that I’ve been in the space, would have in some way even if indirectly contributed to some bias in my opinions about things and I’m glad I haven’t had that, it’s kept me grounded to not be involved in it day to day.
Sunny: And so we mentioned at the beginning of this, you’re one of the domain name squatters, when you have an interesting idea and so any of those domain names that are particularly interesting to you and anything that the viewers might find intriguing or at least amusing, any of those might be turning into side projects anytime soon.
Sebastien: What’s in your what’s in your GoDaddy account?
Jackson: It’s funny you mentioned that,I literally just went through and turned off order renew on all of my all of my domains. I don’t have a good one right now. I was working on a side project for a little bit there called Chime which was kind of a Twitter alternative and it was open source. I think my next thing will be getting back into that. You mentioned Mastodon earlier. I am a big fan of Mastodon, which is a f Federated social network. I kind of want to get back into that area because I think that there’s an increasing demand for an alternative to say Facebook specifically and that company is just evil at this point and so there needs to be an alternative.
Sebastien: I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. We’re gonna have to leave it there Jackson. Thanks for coming on today, and it was great to talk to you and hopefully we’ll have you back on at some point in the future. If you decide to come back in the crypto. Maybe you’ll launch the next meme coin and you’ll have to come back on.