Published Paper on “Who Uses Bitcoin”

I’ve written quite a bit about cryptocurrency narratives, including some pseudoscientific “semantic analysis” and pseudo-historical analogies.

There is clearly interesting stuff happening, and  I’m surprised at the relative scarcity of academic interest in these topics.

One recent effort (our of my own alma mater, I’m happy to say) looks at (self reported) characteristics of Bitcoin users–very much grist to my mills.  Bohr and Bashir analyzed data collected by Liu Smyth (I think this is from the 2013 survey–ancient history in Bitcoin terms.)

This dataset leaves a lot to be desired.  Not only self report, but self report via the Internet.  No information about the representativeness of the sample.  No way to cross validate from other sources.  Etc.

Boor and Bashir have sifted through this material, along with text analysis of the now ISO standard “140 character” free text from the respondents.  They report some generic characteristics of the responses, and try to relate patterns to Bitcoin ownership (“wealth accumulation”?)

The description of the community are not too surprising, they match the impressions one gets from perusing the on-line sources.

The analysis of Bitcoin accumulation is somewhat off target, IMO:  the critical factor is everyday use, not the rare and aberrant hoarding behavior that dominates the reddit and other forums.

The authors are well aware of the weakness of the data and the fact that is it quite out of date.  The latter can be addressed with newer data, the former is a challenge.

I would note that it is highly likely that “the Bitcoin community” is no longer monolithic, as it splits along fault lines involving government regulation and populism vs. elites,  to name two.  Lumping billionaire VCs with enthusiastic P2P contrabandists can yield only confusion:  all they have in common is interest in Bitcoin.

Naturally, I would like to see similar information about various alt coins.  My own unsystematic studies indicate that there will be significant differences.  Liu Smyth has reported a shred of data on the supposed politics of the communities, including many coins.  I’m not sure why this is important, except as a proxy for supposed complexes of cultural beliefs.  As noted above, these aren’t necessarily homogeneous “communities”, so this kind of study needs careful scrutiny.

But it is a start, and I’m glad to see activity in this area.


Bohr, Jeremiah and Masooda Bashir. Who Uses Bitcoin? An exploration of the Bitcoin community. In Privacy, Security and Trust (PST), 2014 Twelfth Annual International Conference on, 2014, 94-101.

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