Bitcoin’s spirit animal is the honey badger. Bitcoin evangelist and Bitcoin Cash promoter Roger Ver first popularized the meme in 2013, when he spent $1,500 a month to purchase a billboard in California displaying “Bitcoin is The honey badger of money.”
Since then, the honey badger has become an elusive beast, appearing occasionally in memes and tweets, as well as during annual hunts along Europe’s Baltic coast.
Baltic honey badger sightings have excited even the most die-hard Bitcoin enthusiasts. Feeding on red meat and Latvian beer, the Baltic honey badger lurks near the cypherpunk scene and is often found lurking on computer screens checking and rewriting lines of code, appealing to both cypherpunks and Bitcoin (BTC) advocates alike. .
The Baltic Honey Badger Conference 2017 kicked off with speakers Andreas Antonopoulos and Elizabeth Stark taking to the stage. Billed as the “most OG Bitcoin conference,” the Riga-based event promoted privacy, anti-surveillance, and cypherpunk principles.
Privacy is a human right
These ethics are reflected in the cypherpunk scene. Cypherpunk stages are often packed or standing room only, and cameras, recording equipment, and live streaming are strictly prohibited.
A group of “Bitcoin Bears” (aka security guards) monitor Honeybadger viewers. No media, tweets or photos risk being posted to the internet – all action takes place in the room.
During the opening of the conference, Max Keidun, founder of Honeybadger and CEO of Hodl Hodl and Debifi, announced that any guest caught recording or filming the Cypherpunk stage would be kicked out of the conference and banned from Honeybadger for life. He added:
“We don’t joke around in Eastern Europe.”
These principles were used throughout the conference. Many attendees wore badges indicating their desire to avoid being photographed, conference goodie bags included a privacy-focused headscarf, and it was common to hear people asking each other: “Have you been doxxed?” — essentially meaning, “Have you been doxxed?” Is your identity shared or hidden online?”
Free speech is also important. Bitcoin activist Rikki compared certain aspects of El Salvador’s Bitcoin to central bank digital currencies in a cypherpunk stage speech.
Bitcoin educator Giacomo Zucco describes how “midwives” are holding back Bitcoin’s growth. He emphasized with comedic intent that low-IQ Bitcoin advocates, or “plebeians with an IQ of 80,” are a force for good, while “midwives” stumble over nuance and fail to see the big picture.
Still, despite its enormous appeal, the honey badger may be threatened with extinction. Thanks to Bitcoin’s growing mainstream appeal and the presence of televised Bitcoin advocates like Michael Saylor, Natalie Brunell and Jack Mallers on TVs across the United States Driven by the on-screen push, many Bitcoin conferences around the world have turned into social media moments and selfie opportunities.
In fact, Swan Bitcoin’s Rigel Walshe said that the 2021 Miami Bitcoin Conference will feel like a Christian rock festival. Why else would thousands of young people gather to watch grumpy old guys talk about esoteric principles like sound money or salvation, he joked.
If the Bitcoin Conference in Miami is a rock festival, then Honeybadger is a dive bar where everything from nuclear war to Miniscript, from human rights to hamster wheels, can be discussed. (Yes, all of these topics were discussed in the talks.)
Additionally, unlike major cryptocurrency conferences, the price of Bitcoin was rarely mentioned—only one panel remained on the first day. In a discussion titled “When 100K?”, Blockstream CEO Adam Back further emphasized his view that Bitcoin will hit an all-time high before the Bitcoin halving in April 2024. The panel eventually evolved into a conversation about macroeconomics.
Lightning strikes Riga
As with all Bitcoin conferences, side events and off-stage shenanigans stole the show. The team at Nostr, a decentralized protocol whose first iteration proposed an alternative to X (formerly known as Twitter), hosted the event and led the discussion.
A party organized and funded through Nostr Zaps – Bitcoin Over Nostr – concluded over the weekend. All funds used to support the open bar, purchase pizza, and sponsor live performances with rented instruments were crowdfunded and raised via the Lightning Network in the days leading up to the conference.
Nostr developer Derek Ross explained in another presentation that “purple pilling” and “orange pilling” are closely related. The orange pill means understanding Bitcoin, the purple pill means understanding Nostr.
Elsewhere, Portuguese programmer Francis hosts a chain dueling tournament. Chain Duel is a social Bitcoin game that combines elements of the 90s classic Snake and Bitcoin’s smallest denomination, Satoshi. Although the game looks simple, it is highly addictive and competitive.
Players sign up for Chain Duel by sending satoshis to an in-game Lightning Network address and using the payment slip as their name. The winner of the tournament walked away with a prize of 1,520,000 satoshis, worth over $300 USD.
Lightning-enabled interaction is a prominent feature of Honeybadger as a whole. All conference food trucks accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Lightning payments, and every merchant interviewed by Cointelegraph said using Lightning payments is easier and faster than card payments. Additionally, the Lightning Network avoids fees charged by Mastercard and Visa.
In total, more than 1.1 BTC ($27,600) was paid via the Lightning Network during the conference. BTCPay Server, the team behind the payment terminal, shared Statistics on social media.
Basement Bar, a Latvian bar in the city center, is packed with Bitcoin enthusiasts keen to pay with satoshis. As a Bitcoin-friendly place, it became the de facto hangout on the weekends as customers clicked, clicked and scanned Bitcoin as their payment method of choice.
In fact, the Bitcoin detractor’s meme “no one uses the Lightning Network” was undermined by the events, discussions, and actions of the Baltic Honey Badger. The word “Lightning” appeared in eight speeches, with discussions ranging from Breez CEO Roy Sheinfeld explaining offline payments to explaining Lightning smart contracts, to Synota CEO Austin Mitchell explaining “Lightning is interactive energy.”
Sam Wouters, a Bitcoin research analyst at River, summarized the Lightning Network’s situation on the Bitcoin network:
“Lightning could be part of the expansion puzzle. Lightning buys us time.”
All in all, the Baltic Honey Badger Conference replaced the high-profile announcements familiar from larger Bitcoin conferences with behind-the-scenes discussions and debates. Privacy takes precedence over photo opportunities, while fiat payments are overtaken by the Lightning Network.
Baltic Honey Badger is a call to action for cypherpunk principles. Sometimes people forget that Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, was also a cypherpunk. They did not reveal their identities and disappeared once Bitcoin entered the mainstream.