One of the biggest benefits of Bitcoin is that it's decentralized. No one runs it. There's no big investor or CEO or government official sitting in a top floor office deciding the future of the currency. Bitcoin is run by... well, it's run by regular folk like you and me.

Or more like you maybe, because I'm no developer which is what the people behind Bitcoin are. They're not professional Bitcoin developers. But they are usually professional developers who work at all sorts of companies, from cybersecurity to web development. In their spare time, they check the code behind Bitcoin and they try to make it a little better.

There are no financial rewards for doing this. It's not like mining that gives a small chance of landing 12.5 bitcoins for approving transactions. The only rewards are the chance to take part in one of the world's most important technological revolutions. You'd get to understand the blockchain to a degree that's only possible when you've been elbow deep in code, and you can even get to create your own wallet if you want. For professional developers, it's also a great way to hone skills. Coders frequently talk about how much they learn when they contribute to open source projects like Bitcoin. They're often more rigorous than projects at their workplaces, with more reviewers and contributors--and Bitcoin is open to anyone who wants to take part and knows enough about coding to find their way around GitHub.

According to Jimmy Song, one of Bitcoin's leading developers and the organizer of a two-day Programming Blockchain seminar, the place to begin is with the Bitcoin source code. Pull and compile the code, he recommends, then run all the units and functional tests. The first contribution will be to review other people's code. That might not be the most exciting work in the world or the part that lands the applause and the credits but spotting flaws in code before it's submitted is an important task. You should be reviewing three times more than you're writing, Song says.

Reviews will help to build credibility, especially if you also write unit tests, something for which there's always demand. And once you've told everyone else where they're going wrong and made it easier to find their flaws, you can start contributing your own bugs.

The process, says Song, can be pretty humbling. Everyone thinks they're a better coder than they are. Everyone makes mistakes but when you make them in an open source project, everyone gets to see them.

But the great thing about working on an open source project is that it's entirely meritocratic. You can be a CTO in Silicon Valley, a kid with a computer in Bangalore, or a brand new, self-taught developer in Seattle but all anyone will be judging is your code. The more you contribute and the better the code you write, the higher your reputation will be--and the more you'll be involved in the development of Bitcoin.

Published on: Jul 24, 2018
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