Why I Am a Bisq Contributor: Aruna Surya

Aruna is a Bisq contributor with a non-technical background. You can learn more about her creative work at Bisq here.

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Bisq is the most unusual place I have ever worked at.

There are no bosses, teams or employees. Anyone can start contributing without needing to prove their credentials. Instead of being given high-stake roles right away, one starts with small contributions, and gets more responsibility and trust after having shown skill and competence. All Bisq code is open-source, and communication (such as the weekly growth calls) is as open as possible. A lot of coordination among contributors happens on GitHub, while announcements, user enquiries and daily communication occur on the Bisq forum and outside platforms such as Slack and Twitter. There is no central location. In fact, there is no company, just a group of people who contribute to Bisq. Contributors get paid in BSQ, which is colored bitcoin.

I am probably one of the least tech-savvy people you would find among Bisq contributors. I am not a developer. In fact, I have enormous anxiety (mixed with awe) around programming, and I attribute these strong feelings to missing a critical period for learning how to program. Thus, I feel somewhat alienated from this ever improving and dominating part of technology.

Neither am I very interested in cryptocurrency. I know a little about Bitcoin but I am not a trader. Frankly, all the noise around cryptocurrency give me a headache. I am only curious about Bitcoin for now. It is a big enough challenge for me to try to understand it.

I am, however, attracted to certain Bisq features such as focus on privacy of its users and security of their funds as well as its resilience due to its decentralized nature. I like the fact that the Bisq network is peer-to-peer, is run over Tor and does not request any registration from users, but I don’t understand the technology well enough to fully appreciate it.

So, what exactly prompted me to become a contributor?

It was Manfred, his vision and his sincere desire to help people that attracted me to Bisq. Since I was transitioning between “careers”, I decided to give it a try, and viewed it as an exciting challenge. I thought it would also be nice to earn some BSQ. One cannot live on ideas alone. I enjoyed my conversations with Manfred about his vision, and my gut feeling, combined with the recommendations from people whose judgment I trust, prompted me to contribute to Bisq.

I started contributing in September 2018, and my first step was to learn more about Bitcoin and the Bisq DAO. I read Satoshi Nakamoto’s paper, Wikipedia articles on Bitcoin and public key cryptography, and meticulously written documentation by Chris Beams. I tried the Bisq software, did a successful face-to-face trade, translated on Transifex and promoted Bisq at the Scaling Bitcoin event in Japan. Other than that, I was not very active because I was mostly working alone, except for occasional interactions online with Manfred. Luckily, Steve Jain became more involved in communication efforts, and we started collaborating closely on several projects. In December, Manfred and I created a series of YouTube videos on the Bisq DAO Basics for people who are new to Bitcoin and Bisq, and this year I got involved in the blog initiative and helping with work on Transifex.

Since Bisq is not a typical workplace, I have a lot of freedom and autonomy in setting up my work schedule, workload and approach to projects. I am free to decide how much to ask for compensation, based on my own assessment of the quality of my work and its value for Bisq. Now, what do we mean by “value” in this case? This is a very complex topic and needs to be addressed in a separate post but I would like to say a few words about it. We should ask ourselves why Bisq is needed in the first place. Bisq is here to help people buy and sell cryptocurrency without compromising their privacy and security of their funds. Bisq needs to be continuously updated, improved and maintained to do that.

Contributors who build and maintain Bisq perform a very essential function, and are thus rewarded proportionately, based on market rates, their expertise and the work performed. Then there are many other vital functions such as running seed and price nodes, documentation, communication, design and community management. Others, such as translation and education are very important as well but may also depend on the demand and revenue from users. Since contributors are paid in BSQ, and a certain amount of new BSQ is created every month through compensation requests, it is in the interest of all contributors and stakeholders (BSQ holders) to not cause BSQ inflation. However, contributors will be more motivated if they are satisfied with their compensation. So, there is a continuous interplay between how much to request in compensation and how much will be approved by other contributors via voting. A compensation request needs to contain detailed information about the work performed for other contributors to validate it.

Apart from autonomy, what I like most about working at Bisq is the interaction with the amazing contributors from all over the world. I have had great conversations with writers, developers and translators who were generous with their time and provided valuable advice. I now know that the strength of Bisq is in its contributors. They are here because they believe that Bisq is important, and their values are aligned.

Being a Bisq contributor made me think more carefully about privacy and IT security, and be more open to new ways of collaboration. Although I still find transparency in communication quite challenging, I can see the value in it. I have done a wide range of tasks such as writing, editing, reporting bugs and coordinating projects, and now I have a much clearer idea of how I can contribute best. Working remotely without any organizational hierarchy is definitely a challenge, and some miscommunication is bound to happen. However, I am amazed by how quickly the contributors react and mobilize their forces to fix problems, so I am very optimistic about this new approach to working together.

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