A lot of people have people have been asking me about Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other projects and I always give my best effort to answer. However, answering questions like “how does Bitcoin work?” is hard. It would be the equivalent to asking someone how an automobile engine works to power your vehicle and expecting a one-liner to tell all. To really begin to understand how it works, you would have to start with the key components. The spark plug, which ignites the fuel/air mixture. The piston which moves up and down through the cylinder as a result of the ignition caused by the spark plug. The rod which attached to the piston and turns the crankshaft with each ignition that ultimately turns your wheels (this example is purposefully simplified). Bitcoin is the same way, and to understand what makes Bitcoin work, you need to learn the key components. It won’t be easy, and you can certainly wait a few years, when you’ll be using Bitcoin and other technologies which are built using the underlying architecture that Bitcoin runs on top of. Much like a car; you don’t need to understand how the motor works to drive it, but I’ll bet Henry Ford was glad he put the effort to understand how cars work back in the early days of the automobile. Like Mr. Ford, we are in those early days of a new, exciting and revolutionary technology that will change everything. If that excites you, and you want to learn how it works, then continue reading. I have pulled together a series of key resources that I found most useful and will guide you to understand how the technology works. The road will not be easy, but I can assure you, it is wholeheartedly worth it.
Watch the Rise and Rise of Bitcoin. This documentary is absolutely phenomenal and gets you excited about Bitcoin and the technology behind it. I have watched it myself over 6 times and it is always the first place I tell people to start their journey. If you go no further, this will at least give you a basic, basic knowledge. Warning; you will need to watch more than once.
Make your way down the Bitcoin FAQ. Dig a little deeper it the concepts that you learned in the Bitcoin documentary. Warning, this is all still pretty high level and may yet be confusing but will start building a framework of the key components. Turn to YouTube and other sources when a component excites you and sparks your interest. A recurring theme you will find, is the need to hear the same thing many different ways before it really starts to click.
Read The Internet of Money, by Andreas Antonopoulos. Andreas alone, can bring you from zero to hero when it comes to Bitcoin. This book is an excellent primer and will help you understand the purpose of Bitcoin and why it is changing the world. I would highly recommend reading this book before jumping to more technical readings.
Like I said above, Andreas is terrific at explaining Bitcoin to beginners, but can also explain Bitcoin to technical users. If you are not a developer, there are certain parts of this book that will probably be over your head, but the foundation you’ve already built should carry you through and solidify the concepts. This book is invaluable to cover all aspects of what makes Bitcoin work and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Now that you’ve spent a good deal of time learning what Bitcoin is, its time to get your hands dirty and explore other technologies. After Bitcoin, there have been countless other cryptocurrencies and digital assets, created. Some of these are merely a clone of Bitcoin’s code and repurposed with slightly different parameters. Others such as Ethereum, aim to expand upon Bitcoin’s capabilities. Ethereum is without a doubt, the biggest project next to Bitcoin, and Ethereum: Blockchains, Digital Assets, Smart Contracts, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, written by Henning Diedrich is an excellent book that will not only solidify concepts that you learned (or perhaps tried to learn while reading “Mastering Bitcoin”), but will also teach you about the Ethereum project in a way that will open your eyes up to the possibilities of what can be built on top of blockchain technology. This book is excellent, and does a great job of explaining technical concepts to the non-technical reader, but still have enough depth to provide a deeper level of understanding.
Now that you have learned about the biggest projects built on top of blockchain technology, its time to learn about other projects. What I recommend doing is opening http://coinmarketcap.com/ and making your way down the list of the projects with the most funding/speculation. Read overviews of projects that sound interesting to you and then dig deeper by reading their white-papers.
At this point, you should be very, very far ahead of not only the general population, but also of people who are currently using Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital assets (most are speculators). Now is the time start using an unstoppable, decentralized, global currency.
You can also start digging deeper into the community and other information sources that are available. I’ll warn you, much of the information out there is garbage, and focused around speculation and market manipulation. Other information is just so high level, it provides almost no value. However, there is good information, and usually that comes from speaking with developers and other people like yourself, who have put in the work to understand the technology. I’ll list a few sources, to get you started:
Bitcointalk forum is the biggest forum for Bitcoin and other blockchain technology discussion. It is, however information overload and heavily influenced by speculators. Most projects, do announce themselves first on this forum though.
Reddit in general is massively used in the space as an information portal and almost every project will have a subreddit. These are just two examples.
Almost every project will have a slack channel where the developers hangout to talk amongst themselves, and also their community. If you are really interested in a project, feel free to request an invite (there is usually a link on their website) and connect directly with the team.
I hate twitter, however search people like “Andreas Antonopoulos” and “Vitalik Buterin”, or your favorite project such as “Monero” and follow them. Almost every prominent member of the community will have a twitter, and it is guaranteed every project will have one as well. You’ll find twitter useful to see heavy debate between developers, as well as announcements for your favorite projects.
General news, mostly non-technical and/or high level. A lot of “Bitcoin just hit all time highs!!,” but still a better source than most other general news sites out there:
While I could go on and on with other information sources, I think you get the point; there are a lot out different sources for information! These should get you started, and you’ll find what works best for you to stay informed.
I hope this post has inspired you, and helped speed up the steep learning curve that everyone experiences when first digging into Bitcoin and other projects in the space. As I know most those reading this guide will most likely be speculators (outside of the developer community, almost everyone gets interested in Bitcoin and Altcoins because they hear “Bitcoin has hit all time highs!!” or something of the like), I will be writing another post on my blog about speculation with a focus on how not to lose all your money chasing the hype that brought you here in the first place.
Until next time, feel free to engage in the comments or visit my contact page if you’d like to get in touch.