TL;DR: Guest author Antony Zegers, also known online as “Mengerian,” has been involved with the development of Bitcoin Cash (BCH) since prior to the initial 2017 fork. He assists with the Bitcoin ABC project, helping to coordinate BCH protocol development. He also writes about economics, governance, and protocol-related topics. Here, Zegers responds to the recently published Electric Capital Developer Report (H1 2019), and insists development on BCH is robust if researchers know where to look.
Countering Electric Capital FUD
A group called Electric Capital recently published its Electric Capital Developer Report. The goal of their analysis was to compare the development activity across various cryptocurrency projects as a way to assess the health of the respective coins. Notably, Bitcoin Cash ranked dead last in their 12-month trend ranking.
As someone familiar with the BCH development ecosystem, the dead last ranking of Bitcoin Cash seems surprising and alarming. It doesn’t feel like BCH development activity is dying; it actually feels like the opposite is true, and that BCH development activity is vibrant and growing.
But is it possible I am mistaken? Let’s take a close look at how Electric Capital conducted this analysis.
Quality Analysis Depends on Researchers Familiar with the Community
Electric Capital’s basic approach was to track development activity in open source code repositories (mostly GitHub) associated with each coin. This seems reasonable, but we can immediately see that the quality of the information will be reliant on maintaining a comprehensive list of repositories that are tracked.
In other words, the quality of the analysis is dependent on the researchers being somewhat familiar with the community they are analyzing. They have to be aware of the areas of activity that should be included. The list of repositories that Electric Capital tracks is here. From a quick initial look, we can note that the following projects are missing: BCHD, Electron Cash, and all SLP-related development.
Also missing is the work of many prominent independent developers, including Pokkst, Tendo Pein Sama, KarolTrzeszczkowski (Licho), and Tobias Ruck. There are likely many others that even I have missed in this quick initial assessment. Appendix A (below) includes a list of missing projects.
Out of Date
It is also clear that the information used for the Electric Capital analysis is somewhat out of date. And even if what they’ve published is in fact true, we can see how a lack of timely information would bias their findings. Coins that consist mostly of a small number of stable projects would be more accurately counted than those whose ecosystem has undergone rapid change.
Can anyone think of a project that has undergone more rapid change in the last year than BCH? In the period under Electric Capital’s analysis, for example, the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem has undergone the Hash War, the result of a scheduled network upgrade hard fork turned contentious, resulting in a controversial chain split. Events of this sort have been perhaps some of the most dramatic change encountered by any cryptocurrency development community.
This ecosystem churn is unknowingly reflected in the repositories Electric Capital includes. For example, Mark Lundeberg’s old “coinsplitter” repository, which was developed at the time of the Hash War to split coins, has been dormant since. They don’t include any of Lundeberg’s recent work, which has been prolific. The Electric Capital analysis includes developers no longer working on BCH and projects belonging to another chain that have since gone dormant as well. Electric Capital also fails to include many of the recent new BCH developers, many working on scripting projects or SLP token infrastructure.
Be Skeptical, Shine Light, Use Accurate Information
It is healthy to be skeptical of these “development activity” analyses. It is very difficult to measure accurately without having a close familiarity with the particular ecosystem. Such research has a tendency to track old or obsolete repositories, are often slow at adding new ones, and as a result tend to undercount projects that undergo a lot of churn.
Development activity is a very important indicator of a coin’s ecosystem health. It is an important indicator that can help assess the long-term prospects of a cryptocurrency. Bitcoin Cash certainly has some challenges in this area, especially in securing long-term support for basic software infrastructure projects such as Bitcoin ABC. We should fully support the goal of shining light in this area, but it must be with accurate information. In this way, we can use the information to improve on our weak points and maximize the long term prospects for Bitcoin Cash’s success.
Appendix A – Non-exhaustive list of BCH Projects and Developers missing from Electric Capital analysis
https://github.com/KarolTrzeszczkowski (Multiple active projects)
Tendo Pein Sama – Spedn
https://github.com/EyeOfPython (Multiple active projects)
https://pokkst.xyz/ (Multiple active projects)
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