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Re: Can I donate in bitcoin?

martin f krafft <madduck@debian.org> writes:
> also sprach Russ Allbery <rra@debian.org> [2014-08-26 19:24 -0700]:

>> +1.  I believe Debian should only hold bitcoin if Debian
>> anticipates future expenses in bitcoin.  Otherwise, it should
>> convert bitcoin to whatever currency in which expenses are
>> expected.

> So how do we decide whether we anticipate further expenses in
> Bitcoin? This *is* what I am talking about. I am not saying we
> should endorse Bitcoin or speculate. But support would come with
> a decision for us to hold Bitcoin for future expenses.

Well, what does Debian spend money on, and are those things available in
Bitcoin?  That feels like a question for the treasurer.

I believe Debian's major expenses are Debconf, team meetings (mostly
travel and possibly some lodging and food), and computing hardware.  I
would be surprised if Bitcoin were useful for the first two.  The latter
seems likely to have the most potential to take Bitcoin.

However, I think there's another factor: I don't believe it makes sense
for Debian to hold Bitcoin to buy things from vendors whose pricing is in
regular currency (USD or EUR or the like), but who are willing to accept
Bitcoin and immediately convert.  Daniel's point about accounting best
practices isn't that you hold money in currency you *can* spend, but
rather you hold money in currency in which the prices of the things you
will be buying are denominated.  My understanding is that basically
everything is denominated in USD or EUR or the like, even if Bitcoin is
accepted.  This matters because of the volatility: if Bitcoin suddenly
drops in value by half (or doubles in value), do the prices stay the same,
or do they immediately drop by half or double?  If they stay the same,
then we should hold Bitcoin, because that's the currency the prices
track.  If they double or halve, we should hold money in the currency in
which the prices are stable, since that's the minimum risk position.

There is an exception to that, and I should expand some more on my
dubiousness about Bitcoin.  My concerns are primarily around the movement
to treat Bitcoin as a primary currency -- as equivalent to USD or EUR and
usable for the same thing.  But Bitcoin as a *secondary* currency could be
useful to hold in small quantities for the same reason that one might hold
small amounts directly in one's Paypal account instead of transferring it
out to a bank, since it saves on hassle in shifting things in and out of
the account.  Bitcoin has some nice transactional properties separate from
the whole "economic system hacking" aspect of the Bitcoin community that
may make it more useful than regular currencies for, say, micropayments.

If we have places where it's useful to use Bitcoin because, for instance,
we're making micropayments and the transaction fees are much lower, then
we should hold an appropriate amount of Bitcoin for those purposes to take
advantage of the low transaction costs.  I'm not sure if that's the case
for anything yet; the treasurer would know more.

I should also note, in response to Santiago's comments on debian-devel,
that the reason to talk about Bitcoin in particular and not other
cryptocurrencies is that support for Bitcoin is *far* more widespread than
any other cryptocurrency so far as I can tell.  (For example, many Twitch
streamers accept donations in Bitcoin, although generally immediately
convert to local currency.)

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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