Colorado-based Nick Carlson came to fame when he advertised his services as a software developer willing to work for Bitcoin; he posted the ad on a few forums and it was picked up by Launch, which ran a splashy story about the cryptocurrency about a month before Bitcoin really hit mainstream awareness. “I’m testing the waters to see how viable Bitcoin is as a currency for services like software development,” he wrote on his blog. He got an offer for 60 Bitcoins for 12 hours of work, which at the time equated to roughly $30 an hour, well below his normal rate of $75 to $150. “However, I expect Bitcoins to appreciate significantly in value in the coming months,” he told Betabeat at the time.Guess what? Bitcoins are now trading above $19, meaning Mr. Carlson got about $95 an hour for his work. Not bad! We caught up with Mr. Carlson to ask him for a retrospective on the experiment, which he called “a success by some measures.” If he’d sold his Bitcoins at the market peak of $33, he might have made out with almost $2,000; unfortunately, he sold some of his stash at $12 and bartered some more for a new Android phone.
But he’s had a a lot of fun trading and participating in the Bitcoin community, he said.
“To be honest though, I won’t be (actively) seeking out any more development work which pays in Bitcoin. For me, programming pays the bills. At the moment, the market volatility of Bitcoin is a bit too much for me to stomach,” he wrote in an email.
It’s not just the volatility that’s the problem for Mr. Carlson–trust is a huge issue. “Can I really trust my money with Mt. Gox or TradeHill? Both operate outside the US, leaving me little legal recourse if a trade goes afoul. Both use dot-com domains, meaning that they could be seized by the US government without notice. And if I want to trade my BTC for USD privately using Paypal, I have to trust that the BTC recipient doesn’t reverse his Paypal payment. I could use a bank wire transfer, but I’m working in small denominations and don’t trust my banking details with strangers. And I haven’t even begun to think about how I’m supposed to report any of this activity when tax time comes around.”
Not to mention the recently-publicized horror story of one Bitcoin investor who believes he was hacked, losing half a million dollars worth of Bitcoin, which casts aspersions on security of the digital money.
Mr. Carlson is still very bullish on the currency, though. “I’m furiously trying to acquire as many as I can,” he said. He’s netting about two Bitcoins a day from an $800 computer.
But until Bitcoin matures and these issues are smoothed out, he said, he won’t be doing much trading.
“If the currency is to be successful, it needs a wide and robust economy. At the moment, there aren’t many merchants accepting Bitcoin. I think that’s a reflection of the lack of software for businesses. We’re going to need to see software and services which make it easy for businesses to accept Bitcoin. Those sort of solutions have been slowly coming to market, but at a lower rate than I would like. As a developer, hopefully I can help in this area.”
He’s thinking about contributing to the Bitcoin community by setting up a website to track errors in media coverage. We sent him our story on the cryptocurrency as well as this exhaustive Economist piece to get him started.