‘Nocoiner’ Dispute Ends Up Questioning Value of ‘Coiners’

Simon Chandler
Last updated: | 3 min read

The term served as a reminder that most of the public has yet to be convinced of the value of buying some bitcoin. There is considerable work to do for the crypto community, which is known for manifestations of elitism.

Source: Twitter

The cryptocurrency world is no stranger to elitism. That singular feeling of social elevation and superiority has already appeared more than once among crypto evangelists in the past, and recently it appeared yet again in the form of a certain advertisement projected from Times Square, New York.

Placed by Cointelegraph, a media company, this ad beamed the term “nocoiner” and its definition (“someone who has no bitcoin”) to the 330,000+ people who traipse daily through the iconic Manhattan intersection. Some figures active within the crypto community were excited to see its culture being given such prominent exposure, and they congregated to social media to voice their approval. Others, however, weren’t so enthused, with the likes of Vitalik Buterin, a co-founder of the Ethereum platform, arguing that such dismissive terms as “nocoiner” shouldn’t be used all that proudly by the crypto community, since there are still legitimate reasons for not holding bitcoins and other tokens.

Yet what was interesting about the debate that ensued wasn’t its discussion of whether ‘nocoiner’ is a worthwhile piece of jargon. No, it became interesting because this term served as a reminder that most of the public has yet to be convinced of the value of buying some bitcoin or ethereum, and that the crypto industry and wider community has failed to convince them of this value.

In other words, far from being a criticism of people who don’t own any cryptocurrency, ‘nocoiner’ stands as a criticism of a community that, for a variety of reasons, isn’t able to convert enough people to its cause.

‘Nocoiner’ = “a nice signalling mechanism”

Displayed from the end of May to the beginning of June, the ad in question displayed a number of common crypto-speak terms in addition to “nocoiner,” such as “hodl”, “to the moon” and “mining.” It quickly gained a favourable reaction from the Twitter commentariat, with the creator and host of the Blockcrunch Podcast, Jason Choi, posting the following tweet:

Choi’s endorsement was doubled by a number of other posters, with one individual by the name of “Crypto Chris” writing on June 3:

However, while they weren’t alone in championing the ads, certain individuals took issue with the term ‘nocoiner’ and its use. Replying to Choi’s original post, Buterin wrote:

And once again, he wasn’t alone in seeing something wrong both with ‘nocoiner’ and with using it as an advertisement for the cryptocurrency industry and its surrounding culture. Emin Gün Sirer, a serial commentator on cryptocurrencies and an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University, replied:

Not only do such comments suggest that ‘nocoiner’ isn’t always a useful or constructive term when used literally, but they also indicate that it may inadvertently reflect back more on the person using it than the intended referent.

Collective failure

However, this wasn’t the only thing the debate revealed, since it ended up raising the deeper issue of why so-called ‘nocoiners’ exist in the first place, and why the crypto community has failed to convert them into – for want of a better term – ‘coiners.’

This detour in the debate was instigated by Matthew Green, a cryptographer and researcher at Johns Hopkins University who declared on June 2:

Green’s point was that, instead of pointing the finger at people who still haven’t bought any ripple or monero, the crypto community should turn it on itself. It should contemplate the reasons for why it’s still turning many people off, and attempt to reform its ways, perhaps by losing its superiority complex, or by refusing to hide behind technical language and/or buzzwords, or by doubling down on efforts to communicate the benefits of cryptocurrencies and blockchains to a mainstream audience.

There is, therefore, considerable work to do for the crypto community, which is known for other manifestations of elitism beyond the ‘nocoiner’ pejorative. For example, bitcoin has been compared on multiple occasions to a religion, with one early Forbes article describing its advocates as “a cult that is almost completely immune to logic.” Not only that, but there’s also the fairly rampant culture of exclusion and rivalry among different cryptocurrencies, with ‘bitcoin maximalists’ being dismissive of other currencies, and vice versa.

None of this bickering helps the wider cryptocurrency community make a compelling case for cryptocurrencies and blockchains in general, and in lieu of such a case the world continues to be inhabited by ‘nocoiners,’ who see plenty of in-fighting, plenty of elitism, plenty of volatility, and plenty of dubious initial coin offerings (ICOs). It’s no wonder they’re still in the majority.