Scheveningen and the language of Blockchain

During World War II, the Dutch would ask suspected German Spies to pronounce the name of this Dutch beach town, Scheveningen. Since Germans would often pronounce it differently than native Dutch speakers, it was quickly revealed if they were “truly” Dutch or not. While not exhaustive, it was a good proxy for quickly determining what side you were on (this is an example of a ‘shibboleth’, or a test of nationality due to its difficult ability to pronounce).
In the word of cryptocurrency and blockchain, businesses and individuals are tribal, depending on a variety of factors. As proof of this, ask anyone who knows a little of anything the following simple questions:

BCH or BTC?
Public or Private?
PoW or PoS?

(more recently another question could be CSW – Satoshi or Faketoshi!).

While the answers will range from passion (including anger) to counter questions that include “Describe the use case further?”, they each represent a simple ‘Scheveningen’ question – not in the ability for the person to pronounce the word, but in determining what side they represent.

As someone who straddles the fence on a variety of these issues, and in my goal of remaining impartial as part of my role as an Executive Board member of the Blockchain User Group, I frequently use these simple tests to help determine what to talk about, and what not to talk about. When engaging in business conversations about the usage of blockchain, enterprises are defining usage and chains based on need and requirements, but also according to tribal alliances.

In the enterprise, these can commonly include Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum or Hyperledger and AWS or Azure. The last set being particular interesting as either company seems to be trying to out ‘innovate’ each other in the space. Case in point is the Amazon QLDB (Quantum Ledger Database – available for preview sign up here: https://aws.amazon.com/qldb/) and the newly announced “Fully Managed” Azure Blockchain service, leveraging the Azure Blockchain Workbench (found here: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/features/blockchain-workbench/).

For now, there are a myriad of letters and acronyms that require navigation (much like the word ‘Scheveningen’), however asking the right questions early helps to determine mindset and allows for a more constructive conversation by allowing one to avoid any ‘landmine’ points.

I was in a business meeting earlier this year discussing some points on game theory relating to token usage and forgot that I have several stickers on my laptop, one of which is a Hyperledger sticker and another is the Bitcoin ‘B’ (₿) (shown in the picture), I didn’t think much about either – mostly because I rarely see that side of my laptop, but also because I just decorated my laptop with random stickers over time (clearly I have a preference for Hawaii looking at it now!).

Both the Hyperledger and Bitcoin stickers are fairly benign and the Bitcoin sticker doesn’t particularly call out any allegiance to BCH or BTC (I have one – but that’s a separate blog post), when I was suddenly called out by another colleague who said “Careful what you say Joe – He’s got a Bitcoin sticker on his laptop!”.
Needless, to say, I smiled to myself and thought of the small Dutch town before changing the conversation back to the point at hand.