In a flurry of Tweets lambasting the non-blockchain cryptocurrency known as IOTA, the director of the Open Privacy Research Society and a security PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo in Canada has declared that IOTA and its community need to take a long look at themselves in the mirror. Of particular note, the PhD candidate in question, Erinn Atwater, said that she feels the IOTA community is “toxic”, and should be avoided. Join us as we dig into this compelling Tweet storm and the responses it generated.
The Basics of IOTA
If you’re already familiar with IOTA and how it works, feel free to skip to the next section. But for everyone else, let’s go over some of the basic characteristics of this cryptocurrency.
IOTA is a highly popular cryptocurrency that is unique because it does not use a blockchain. Instead, it uses a technique it calls a Tangle. In that system, there are no direct transaction fees. Instead, when sending units of IOTA, one will need to allow their wallet program to process and confirm two other transactions as a means of paying for its own transaction. This means that not only are transactions free, but the network is still protected from spam attacks.
IOTA has been billed by its creators as being a perfect solution for machine-to-machine transactions in an Internet of Things or IoT environment.
Read also: Beginners Guide to IOTA
Units of IOTA, called mega IOTA’s are currently trading for just under one dollar each. This gives the entire project a market cap of $2.7 billion, and puts it in ninth place by market cap on coinmarketcap.com.
Atwater Says IOTA, Community Have Issues
University of Waterloo PhD candidate Erinn Atwater wrote a series of Tweets starting on July 10 about IOTA. According to the start of the thread, Atwater spent a week reading about IOTA in order to put together what they call a “brief summary of [their] conclusions”.
First and foremost, according to Atwater the IOTA community in general is “toxic”, and criticisms of any kind are “met with coordinated brigading”. Brigading being a form of group-coordinated online attack. Atwater even suggests that these attacks can come in the form of trying to get experts fired, discredited, or have their accounts hacked.
1) above all, the community is toxic. any honest criticism is met with coordinated brigading, which includes attempts to discredit experts' credentials, get them fired, and hack their accounts. i've been very hesitant over whether to share any of my thoughts/findings.
— Erinn Atwater (@errorinn) July 10, 2018
Next, Atwater called into question the project’s roadmap and alleged that the current arrangement of the network is such that it could be facing severe scalability issues if wider adoption is to occur.
Following this, Atwater went into the current solution for scaling which is to “use a central 100% trusted authority called the “coordinator”, which issues “milestones” and “snapshots” to issue consensus”. This solution, according to Atwater, introduces a number of new problems which would also need to be addressed.
The Community Responds
Atwater’s thread quickly caught fire and at press time has since been re-tweeted more than one hundred times, and liked close to 500 times. The response of the community has been mixed, with some in support of Atwater’s claims, and others saying that her arguments were unfair, or misrepresented the project and its community.
For example, Twitter user JustKevin had this to say:
That's funny. I spent months studying IOTA and reached almost the opposite conclusions to all your points.
— JustKevin (@MudKevin) July 11, 2018
While others like ocean ave records were a bit more harsh, saying:
It’s a shitcoin for sure.
— ocean ave records (@heatrockz) July 11, 2018
Another still accused Atwater of having “blinders”, saying:
Finally, Twitter user Peter Pan made a very interesting point about cryptocurrency communities in general, saying:
People who claim that the iota community is toxic seem to be inexperienced with cc communities. Maybe try posting critic on the vechain sub or a pro bch post on r/bitcoin to see real toxicity
— Blockchain Strider (@BTCElessar) July 11, 2018
Needless to say, the community is quite divided in its response to Atwater’s thread.
After the responses started pouring in, Atwater added a few more comments saying that a number of so-called astroturf bot accounts were used. According to Atwater, an “astroturf bot account” is an account that was opened several years prior and only retweets or says nothing directly. After an aging process, these accounts can be activated for participation in what Atwater describes as “a campaign”.
Tech issues aside, whether or not the community is toxic, or at least more toxic than other heavily divided communities (think Bitcoin versus Bitcoin Cash) is hard to say.
For some odd reason, mixing money and the Internet just seems like a recipe for getting people fired up.