The number of developers contributing to the cryptocurrency’s open-source code is suddenly on the rise. Sure enough, there have been at least 21 code submissions approved from new contributors over the past 50 days – and that’s no small feat given developers have struggled for years to entice new coders to work on the project.
And while the number of merges over the nearly two-month period didn’t jump up drastically, seeing new names within the Github repository is a welcome sight given that most of the hundreds of contributions to bitcoin over the past several years have been coded by a few dozen veterans.
According to several developers interviewed, there isn’t a direct correlation they can point to explain the increase, though there are likely contributors. Indeed, for some it’s a strong sign serious investments of time and effort in training and academic programs are finally paying off.
“Many educational and training efforts have lately helped to introduce new developers to Bitcoin Core and the bitcoin software ecosystem,” Ferdinando Ametrano, a professor at Politecnico di Milano who has served as a program director at bitcoin developer conferences, told .
Ametrano is, of course, talking about efforts such as Chaincode Labs, which has a residency program in New York where prolific bitcoin developers like John Newbery have been giving their time to helping new recruits.
After attending Chaincode’s first residency in 2016, Newbery has now taught 11 participants from places like Israel and Hong Kong.
“It feels like we’re busier now than we were six months ago. It’s almost impossible to keep up.”
Newbery continued, explaining that the Chaincode residency and other new educational programs for bitcoin development are touching on one of the key challenges the industry has typically faced – a lack of face-to-face learning opportunities.
And this will further decentralize the network and benefit the protocol by having a diverse pool of people to check code. Newbery told , “All bugs are shallow given enough eyes. We all see bugs other people don’t see. Having that wide range of backgrounds and experiences is very beneficial to the quality of the project.”
And adding more developers is particularly helpful given that there are only a few dozen people right now with enough experience to properly review prospective contributions, creating a bottleneck. Currently, fewer than two dozen developers work on bitcoin’s software full-time out of roughly 40 regular contributors.
But still, hurdles stand in the way.
The complexity of the protocol on which billions of dollars in value currently depends makes the onboarding process for new developers no small task.
Plus, many of bitcoin’s developers work on the project on a volunteer basis, not always the most appealing idea. Although, several sponsorships, including ones from the MIT Media Lab, are allowing bitcoin developers to turn their labor of love into a full-time gig.
Yet still, this type of expertise is rare, with demand currently exceeding the supply of capable developers by far.
Although, this is a challenge shared by all open-source endeavors.
“I’m not sure finding people is a bitcoin-specific problem,” veteran bitcoin contributor Michael Ford told . “Any large open-source project will always struggle to find people who are willing to work or give up their own time for free.”