Bitcoin for the Befuddled

Conrad Barski
December 07, 2014
★★★★ (-0.25%) 🛈

I got a review copy of “Bitcoin for the Befuddled” from No Starch Press (a publisher I’ve really enjoyed over the years). The title is an accurate description of where I’m at on Bitcoin – I have a basic understanding of it, but the intricacies are escaping me.

Sadly, Duning-Kruger being what it is, reading the book left me more confused, but most likely in a good way – at least now I can grasp the scope and depth of what I don’t understand. I’m in a better position to figure things out after reading the book, even if I don’t have all the answers now. (You can’t Google “blockchain” without knowing that the concept exists and is “Google-able”...)

Here’s a random sample of what I learned (in an attempt to cement my own knowledge, if nothing else):

I’m still fuzzy on some other things:

Overall, the book is well-done. It does a nice job of gauging where you might be at, and attacking the problem from multiple sides. Bitcoin is a frustratingly slippery thing – you think you have it figured out, then the zen of it falls out of your head for a second and you have to fight to get it back. I’m sure there a people for whom this is all crystal clear, but I am not one of them.

The book has narrative sections, and interestingly, a full-length comic book right in the middle of it. There’s a chapter about the cryptographic basis of Bitcoin that had a *lot * of math and graphs. I admit to skimming that one a bit. There’s also perhaps an over-abundance of analogies. You start confusing them for each other after a while.

(Also, weirdly, the book is full of typographical errors. I found three of them in a two-paragraph stretch, at one point.)

All in all, the book fulfilled its promise. I was befuddled. I’m still a little confused, but I’m light years ahead of where I was. Let’s call this book a primer – it gets you started, and gives the basic knowledge required to learn more, if that’s what you decide to do. Honestly, I feel like I probably know enough at this point to trust Bitcoin and perhaps become a user of it. If I ever decided to mine it (something the book highly discourages) or develop against it, I would clearly need to know more.

But, for now, this is enough.

(If you want to see the first two chapters, which is where some of the core theory lies, the page at No Starch has a free download.)

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