Monero Monitor

Episode 6: A fireside chat with Justin "SamsungGalaxyPlayer" Ehrenhofer

05 Jun 20170 Comments

Join us as we check in with Justin Ehrenhofer, a.k.a. SamsungGalaxyPlayer, to hear about his adventures as an increasingly well known Monero community member. We talk about his efforts at building a university cryptocurrency club at the University of Minnesota, contributions to Monero-related documentation and public communications, and recent travels throughout Europe to talk about Monero with anyone that will listen. Find out why he got involved, his thoughts on recent happenings in the Monero space, and how you can help his efforts.

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Podcast Transcript:

~~ { Introductory Clip and Music } ~~

Mike: Hey, everyone, this is Mike and you’re listening to another episode of the Monero Monitor podcast. I’m here today with Justin Ehrenhofer, aka SamsungGalaxyPlayer who’s been on quite a barnstorming tour of Europe, talking with people about Monero. Welcome to the show, Justin. 

Justin: Thank you Mike for having me. 

Mike: Yeah, no problem. Did I get your name right, Ehrenhofer?

Justin: Yes, that’s how I pronounce it. In Germany, in Austria, they say Ehrenhofer or Ehrenhofer, but I say Ehrenhofer.

Mike: Okay, sounds good. So, can you tell everybody about yourself, give a little introduction?

Justin: Yes. I’m a sophomore studying Finance and Management Information Systems at the University of Minnesota and I’m currently on a one-semester exchange program at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. So, that’s why I’m going around through Europe, is because, well, I’m here for this semester. 

Mike: Very cool. So, is that a university that’s known for being a particularly good economics university in Europe? I don’t know much about the economics field in terms of education and universities and things like that, so can you tell us why you chose that school?

Justin: I chose to study abroad in the first place because at Minnesota it’s actually a graduation requirement for my business school to study abroad. You don’t necessarily have to do a full semester, but I had time in my schedule so I decided it would be beneficial for me to take the whole semester, to get a full experience, so that’s why I decided for a whole semester. As far as why I chose to specifically go to Vienna over any of the other schools in Europe, it wasn’t particularly for one program or another because most of the programs that the schools have are specifically for exchange students. 

So, most of my classes right now are with other exchange students, but it’s a central place in Europe. I went to Austria when I was very young and I don’t remember that much about it, so I wanted to really get a chance to explore and I thought it was a good location to do that. And also, I know that there is a lot of cryptocurrency activity around here, so it wasn’t really the primary factor, but it was just something that I had in mind.

Mike: Okay, cool. So, are they a central hub of thought for kind of the Austrian economic school of thought or that just happens to be a coincidence that you’re in Austria?

Justin: Yeah, so from what I’ve noticed, I haven’t seen any of the far right-wing Austrian school of thought, I think that here it’s a different university or I’ve just been outside of the classes that would teach it. 

Mike: Okay, fair enough. Where do you subscribe on kind of the economics spectrum? Are you deep enough in that you have a kind of school of thought that you subscribe to? 

Justin: I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I typically lean more liberal, at least in the United States. I’m kind of between moderate and liberal. 


QS 03:47 Mike: Okay, we don’t necessarily need to get into any of that, but just since it was sort of all related to this, I thought I’d ask. Okay, so you mentioned that you are a student at the University of Minnesota, and I believe that you co-founded a club there, is that right? 

Justin: Yes. So, there were a few of us, we started a club in the spring of 2016. There were five of us, two of us are still currently involved, so the rest found other busy things to do. 

Mike: Okay, and let’s just clarify, this is a Bitcoin club, right? 

Justin: It’s just for all cryptocurrencies in general. It’s specifically the cryptocurrency club at the University of Minnesota. And we have over 100 active members now; we usually have about 50 that come to each of the meetings, so we’re really proud about that. And it really has just three goals in general, education, advocacy and community. Because, we wanted to build those things because we know that most people have heard of Bitcoin before, but don’t know literally anything else about it and I know especially one of my co-founders wants to increase adoption and use of cryptocurrencies in general, and then finally, community because in the Midwest of the United States, we really don’t have that much crypto activity or really even FinTech activity at all, so we just thought it would be a great opportunity for us to start a community and we were lucky that we were able to have a following that we have right now. 

Mike: Yeah. Well, you know, I was just up in Minneapolis a few days ago and went to a baseball game at Target Field and seems like there is, I don’t know, maybe 40,000 people right there ripe for your attention, so maybe you need to figure out a partnership with the Twins or something and get some kind of…

Justin: If they’re at the Twins’ game, they’re probably rooting for the wrong team.

Mike: Ha-ha, okay, do you support somebody else? 

Justin: I grew up from the Chicago area, so definitely support the Cubs.

QS 05:46 Mike: Okay, so your club then, is it unique among American universities or are you in talks with other universities that have similar things? I mean, how does that work? 

Justin: Yeah, it took a lot of reaching out on my part, but we were finally able to get affiliated with the Blockchain Education Network which is this global group of… It’s basically one central group that tries to facilitate communication between other student groups and we really just started participating in this, so it’s really new for us. So, we definitely see that other student groups are large, especially around the East and West coast; we have some that are very large. 

We obviously would like to work with these, there are definitely advantages to have from a lot of their expertise and then hopefully, we can contribute something to them too. So, we’re looking forward to working with the other student groups, but right now, it’s still kind of new and in the past, we’ve done pretty much everything within our group by itself without too much communication with others.

QS 06:48 Mike: Okay. So, how’s the kind of larger Minneapolis-Saint Paul area with that, are there other Bitcoin meetups in the area or are you all kind of the only show in town?

Justin: So, there is a Bitcoin meetup and Ethereum meetup. At the Bitcoin meetup, a lot of people subscribe to it, but for a normal meeting, usually less than a handful of people actually show up. I think, since they didn’t really diversify, they’re mostly focusing on Bitcoin, then people kind of get bored about talking about the same things, but at least they have a lot of people on their mailing list, I guess. 

The Ethereum group is almost an informal group, even though we are informal in many ways, we’re probably the only ones that have meetings to focus on a specific topic. But the Ethereum group is still pretty fun because we have at least 10 people that show up for those and at least there’s lively conversation about what’s happening instead of just talking about the block size debate over and over again for the past year-and-a-half.

Mike: Yeah, that sounds a little bit like how it is out in Denver. I’m from Colorado and there’s a Bitcoin meetup, there’s an Ethereum meetup, and there’s actually a new one starting up that’s called Rocky Mountain Blockchain or something like that, which I think is trying to be a little more diverse in what they’re talking about, which I am happy for, but also a little worried about what that could mean in terms of which projects end up getting all the attention. But, yeah, I understand what you’re saying.


QS 08:20 Mike: I think it’s probably a fairly common thing that you have a meetup that has hundreds of people subscribed and at best, a couple of dozen show up, unless you have some big speaker. It sounds like your university group is a little bit different. Can you tell us about what is a typical meeting for you guys? Is it just a sit-around-type-thing like a normal meetup would be or is it something more structured with speakers and other things as well?

Justin: We usually try and go for a combination. We usually meet one to two times a month during a semester. Last semester we started a new thing where during the month of October, we had one meeting each week. We tried to have a cryptocurrency month to try and draw a little bit of hype there and with that, we scheduled a speaker at each of the different events, so it’s usually trying to do a combination where you have one about half-hour more formal part and then you don’t necessarily set an end time, but people kind of talk in their own groups about whatever they’re interested in for a while.

And that’s often the speaker answering questions and such. So, last semester, I think the two biggest speakers that I can note were that we had someone from Coinbase come to speak with us and we even had Amanda B. Johnson come because she was in the area so she talked about Dash with us for a little while.

Mike: Yeah, I remember Dash did their bus tour. 

Justin: Yeah, we were a stop on their bus tour. 

Mike: Okay, okay, that’s cool. We don’t necessarily need to get into how any of those particular speakers were, but it’s interesting to hear just kind of how different groups do it.

QS 10:00 Mike: Let’s just, one more question then about your group; you said it’s as many as a 100 people with as many as 50 people that might show up to something, is it a lot of, you know, computer engineers, software engineers, types like that or are you seeing business people or what’s the demographic breakdown of the type of people joining your club?

Justin: Yeah. So, right now, we’re about two-thirds from an Engineering School, about one-third from the Business School and I guess the rounding area would be everyone else. We’re definitely seeing concentrations in two of the schools, so that’s kind of where we focus most of our marketing right now. However, we do want to have a broader appeal, so going into next semester, we’re going to try and advertise in more of the other schools also. 

We already advertised to all the freshmen, but we want to expand, just putting flyers up in every building if we can. So, we brought on another VP of outreach to try and help us, just expand the reach on campus, but we’re predominantly male as you might expect. One of the founding presidents, she obviously is female, but she left the project later. So, we had some female leadership support, but she unfortunately left due to wanting to focus on some other things.

Mike: Yeah, life goes on, right? So, then, do you think most people are in it because they find it an interesting space or maybe even want to get a job in it later? Or is it, I know when I go to a meetup down in Denver, it seems like a very large chunk of people just want to talk about, “Oh, here’s how I’m making money off of this, here are the coins I’m investing in…” And things like that, but it seems like maybe a younger audience at a university-type group might be a little different than that, what kind of feel have you gotten?

Justin: Well, there’s a strong variety, I would still say, about two-third are truly interested in learning about the technology, that is the primary, and even all of the other focuses. But I think, again, maybe about a third are mostly focused on the investing portion and obviously, there are strong overlaps, whether they’re in engineering or in business, but it’s necessarily directly exclusive. 

We try to have meetings to provide experiences to members who want more technical conversations or more financial conversations, so it’s important to try and rotate through the events. We obviously want to give people a breath of fresh air and say, okay, it’s still new. I think it helps being in Minneapolis alone because you don’t have as many of the startups, so people don’t necessarily try to shoot for the moon or that might not be their first intent. They just might be messing around with $50 that they have extra from their last paycheck or something.

Mike: Yeah, that still sounds like a better breakdown. I guess, for me, it’s hard to ever expect anybody to not be in it at least a little bit for some type of money reason. I mean, everything in life is ultimately driven by reasons like that. But, it’s nice to hear that your group at least has a fairly large contingent that wants to hear about the technology because one of my big worries in this whole space and as you see ICOs and as you see new coins and whatever else, you see the big pump that’s happened over the last couple of months… One of my biggest worries is that there are all these people entering the space that don’t care at all about any of it and just see it as a way, “The charts are going up, so if I can jump on the charts, then I can make some money.” It’s nice to hear that maybe people aren’t necessarily 100% doing that, especially the people who could help build a future in cryptocurrency. 

Justin: Yeah, we usually see that maybe a little bit with new members or at least some of our new members, but we try and encourage them to have the technology be the reason that they’re sticking around. 

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, you can’t fault somebody they might have heard of Bitcoin because the price went from a $1,000 to $2,500 and you know, then they go and look into it more, and it’s cool that you guys are trying to help to get people past that first step maybe.


QS 14:19 Mike: Okay, so then, how did you get involved in cryptocurrencies? Was it somebody at school that introduced you to it, or have you been around a while? Where did you find out about all of this?

Justin: Yeah. I actually remember the first segment where I first heard of Bitcoin. It was on the Colbert Report in 2013. He did a segment, for those not familiar with the Colbert Report, it’s just a satirical late-night show hosted by Stephen Colbert, it’s no longer running because he has a different show. But, he met with someone from NPR to explain why some random internet money would have any value at all and he talked about the proposition of the trustless system and it just kind of just caught my attention for a little bit. 

So, I went through the process of downloading a wallet, syncing a blockchain and I maybe solo-mined for about a week because I thought mining was kind of cool, but after that, I basically was like, “I didn’t get any payments, waste of my time - uninstall.” So, for the next year, I didn’t really do that much. It kind of was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t really deeply invested in it at all. But then about a year later, I decided, okay, this seems to be sticking around, so since I’m really interested in a lot of technology projects, I should at least learn how it works. 

So, I went through the process of learning the basics of how the blockchain works, how mining really works, how the transactions go through from one user to the next and I kind of found out that with Bitcoin, even though it’s pseudonymous, it’s not anonymous and I realized that pretty early on when I started actually looking into it. That’s what actually led me to Monero; I started learning about the different privacy technologies like CoinJoin, at the time was the ZeroCoin protocol, and then finally ring signatures which I saw was a working implementation, so that led me into Monero since it was the largest primary user of ring signatures. 

Mike: Yeah, that sounds like it would’ve been sometime in 2014 then, if it was about a year later. So, have you been around the Monero space for that long, for three years?

Justin: No, I joined the spring of 2015. The time when I was exploring Bitcoin, I didn’t sit down at the weekend and went saying, “I need to learn this this weekend.” It was more of a long-term browsing articles leisurely at that point. Since 2015 I found Monero and I found it was hard to switch back to anything else. So, I just started learning as much as I could about it and eventually, just felt more comfortable answering some questions other people had and then I just realized as I stuck around for a longer period of time, I could answer more and more of these questions. So, that’s kind of how this circular process that I had that kept getting me involved with Monero, was just keep answering all these questions. 

Mike: Sure, yeah. I was going to say, I feel like I’ve seen you around about as long as I’ve been involved in this space. I first found Monero within that first week or so that it launched because I remember when Bytecoin launched, and I remember when BitMonero launched, and I remember just being thoroughly confused because I didn’t really follow it enough to realized that there had been this fork and that you know, Monero had shifted away from BitMonero and I remember mining for a few weeks and then basically forgetting about it because I thought the wallet was too buggy and hard to use and whatever else. And then I got back into it sometime spring of 2015 too, so I guess we’ve probably been around about the same amount of time then in reality, in the community.


QS 18:00 Mike: You’re not a developer then, so what types of things have you been involved with, with the Monero project?

Justin: So, mostly it’s just been documentation. Maybe on-boarding the new users through just participation on the subreddit. And then recently, it’s been publishing on the Monero website the likability response. And also, I guess, touring Europe as you explained to speak at the local meetup groups about Monero.

Mike: Yeah, so then let’s talk about both of those things then. What made you decide that you needed to be, maybe you didn’t necessarily need to be the person that penned the response to the paper to the Zcash guys, but at least that you felt that it was necessary to write this paper and that if nobody else was gonna do it, you would step up and kind of organize it. Can you tell us why you decided to do that?

Justin: Well, a part of it came just from free time. I saw that they posted the paper, I read through it. I saw Riccardo’s response on Twitter saying that he thought the paper was just completely ridiculous. But I thought that for people outside of the Monero community, I thought they needed a more thorough answer. So, I asked if they plan to have a more formal response, they said that anyone can write a response, it’s open-sourced and I just kind of took that as, “Okay, write a response.” 

So, I started putting some pieces together. I worked well together with Smooth and Howard Chu, I believe, and just getting a lot of their input to make sure what I was saying wasn’t completely ridiculous. And I published my original draft not through the website, just through a document. And I had Andrew Miller reach out to me and say, “Hey, you should make some of these corrections because they are misleading.” And so I took some of his inputs into consideration for the final version and all the subsequent revisions. 

But I felt that a response was necessary based off the claims of the paper, so that’s really what led me to write it, just because I thought it would really go a long way. And it was actually really funny because people… I try really hard not to talk too much about Monero in my cryptocurrency club, I obviously do, but I really try really hard to make sure to be unbiased about these other coins to, and one of them is really heavily involved in Ethereum. And he said that it was a wild ride for him because someone linked my response to him in Ethereum subreddit and he just came full circle and was shocked to see that I was publishing something on the Monero website. 

Mike: Yeah, and you know, it’s interesting, when that paper came out, I think that there was a lot of kind of criticism of it. Which I think was almost unfortunate sort of, the spin that the paper took because if you read into it, when you get into pages 7 or 8, or 9… towards the end of the paper, there’s actually some interesting points that they bring up and things that I personally don’t think are affecting Monero right now, but things like… Things that could be important for future discussions.

Unfortunately, the paper took the opinion of like, nobody is talking about this stuff and what it fails to realize is that there are lots of developer channels where people have been talking about a lot of these issues for years. And kind of the one thing that’s left in the paper that sort of maybe still has a future concern is how do we select these inputs into the ring signatures and that’s something that people have done a lot of work on and people have been looking at and continue to talk about. 

It’s unfortunate because I think that the paper was interesting and the fact that it said, “Hey, these discussions aren’t happening in public.” But what it failed to realize is that they are happening. Anyway, it produced a lot of headlines that probably were misleading because it made it seem like the Monero community and developers didn’t know all this stuff about the coin, when in fact, anybody who’s involved at all knows these problems and knows that there are things that are being worked on.

Justin: Yeah, I’m glad that they went through the effort to quantify it. I think they quantified it in a way that a lot of the Monero contributors had been trying to do with Bitcoin, based on how people were spending their Bitcoin. That basically, one really long GitHub issue, but the way they spun it, it kind of almost destroyed their own credibility, especially with the broad blog posts later done by Miller. 

Mike: Yeah, yeah. I kind of quit following it after a while so I might have missed some of those posts. But anyway, thanks for your work doing that, I think it is important that people realize there’s not an official team. I heard a talk, Riccardo was talking with the Bitcoin Uncensored YouTube Show and was saying how at Consensus last week people were coming up to him and asking where is Monero headquartered, do you have staff work remotely and whatever else…And more and more with this space, it’s interesting to see how the perception of Monero being an open-source project in the same way that Bitcoin is an open-source project is now kind of the outlier because you have all these other coins that have headquarters or have official teams or have an official PR person or whatever else. 

And you don’t have as many projects like Monero or Bitcoin or a few others that really are truly decentralized even in how they’re orchestrated and constructed. And so, it’s cool to see somebody who has been involved in the project, but doesn’t have official developer, core-team, one of the seven people tagged next to their name as being the person who kind of led that charge. So, yeah, thanks for that. 


QS 24:08 Mike: Okay, so then, shifting gears, what drove you to start giving these talks? Why did you decide to start traveling around Europe, going to meetups and talking about Monero?

Justin: To me, it kind of felt like a natural progression. I already spoke often at my student group back home, and I had a good amount of public speaking experience to begin with. I was in debating throughout high school and I really enjoyed it and I continued doing case studies in college and I just thought it would be the best use of Monero at the time.

I was really inspired by Riccardo’s talks because he does such a great job of them, but he’s one person and he can’t really be everywhere at the same time. So, I had the advantage of having a lot more free time than most people because basically, half of my time here is free and I am in the middle of Europe so it’s much easier for me to go around, and I think that there are really three benefits in that. It helps Monero because I get to speak with a lot of the people that may have heard the name before, but don’t know anything else. 

It’s something that I obviously enjoy and I get to gain experience from going around speaking to all these different communities, learning form them and just practicing my own public speaking. And also, I get the ability to go travel to these places that I probably would otherwise have not been able to go to. So, I think that it really is just beneficial for everyone involved and I didn’t originally plan this before I came to Europe. I was kind of here for a few days and then I realized that it would be cool to do something like this. But, it was just something I think I realized at the time was a need in the Monero community and so, I was just one person that just stepped up to do it. 

Mike: Cool. So, how many talks have you given now at this point? 

Justin: counts quietly… 10 so far. 

Mike: 10, okay. You got any more lined up? 

Justin: Yeah. So, I’ve got one within a week in Cologne, in Germany, and then I have three more in addition in June and then maybe five in July. So, I still have quite a few left. 

Mike: Okay. So, are you saying, I want to go travel to this city, let me see if there’s a Bitcoin meetup, let me see if they’re interested in talking, and while I’m there, I can give this talk, or are you saying, let me see where there are Bitcoin meetups, let me see if they’re interested in talking and then I’ll go visit the city? Which one is driving the other?

Justin: It’s usually the latter just because there needs to be a big Bitcoin community. There needs to be a cryptocurrency community there in order to have people come. It’s not worth either my time or the community’s time if I go and then like three people show up. So, I specifically choose those that have recently active communities. 

So, ones that have had a meeting in the past three months and I usually will reach out to several and see which ones are interested and usually try and base the opinions off of that. Obviously, some of it, I will admit, some of it might be, “Well, if I can go to this place or this place, I might prefer to go to this place.” But I obviously try to minimize as much as possible.

Mike: Yeah. Are you taking time to just do your own trips too or are these trips specifically about giving this talk and then heading out of town?

Justin: In most cases, I kind of have an afternoon to explore when I’m speaking about Monero, but I have a few where I don’t speak about Monero. I went to Zurich for instance and I was just there and I’m going to Berlin with my boyfriend, not this weekend, but the following weekend, so I won’t be speaking about Monero there either. So, it’s kind of a mix. Most of them, I’m speaking about Monero, but there may be a handful right now. 

Mike: Gotcha. As somebody who studied abroad myself, I spent a summer in Europe, and I certainly think you need to make sure you take some time and just got and enjoy it for being there.

Justin: Where did you study?

Mike: I was in London, so my university had a summer engineering program right off Trafalgar Square for six weeks, and then afterwards, I spent about two weeks, started in Rome and kind of just travelled through central Europe, finishing up in Prague, yeah. But this has been now, oh gosh, 10 years, 9 or 10 years. So, I’m aiming to get back, I haven’t been back in a long time. I want to walk the Camino de Santiago for instance. I don’t know if you know about that, it kind of goes straight through northern Spain and then depending on where you want to start, you can start as far as Ireland, or France or Germany, or Italy or wherever else, but it’s just this big, long hiking trail. I want to do that at some point and then also just kind of travel around a lot of Western Europe because I actually didn’t spend much time outside of London and Dublin in any of Western Europe.

So, it’s one of those thing people from Europe probably think it’s crazy that an American doesn’t travel a ton outside the country, and it’s not to say I don’t because I’ve been to maybe a dozen or 15 countries or something, but the US is just so big that where I live in Colorado or where you live in Minnesota… It’s like, there’s Canada, Mexico is kind of close, and otherwise, you know, even just travelling five states away is like a bigger trip than travelling around Europe, you know.

Justin: Yeah. I’ve actually been to Denver a few times and those have been long trips. So, yeah, the US is a lot larger than a lot of people think.

Mike: If you’re ever out in Denver in the future, shoot me a message or something and we can meet up. 

Justin: Definitely. 

Mike: Maybe I can even hook you up to come give your talk at a meetup out there.


QS 30:26 Mike: Okay, so you decided to start doing this, you’ve got all these tours, what’s in it for you? It’s one thing to give a talk at your university, or give a talk in Austria where you’re studying right now, but why are you choosing to spend so much of your time going to these places and talking to these people and what’s kind of the goal out of all that? In a sense, you’ve positioned yourself as a little bit of a public figure in the Monero space and that seems like there will maybe be some kind of negative things that could be attached to that, so what are the positives that are really making you want to do it?

Justin: Just to go to speak about Monero? 

Mike: Yeah. 

Justin: Mostly because I enjoy doing it. I truly think the technology is revolutionary and that’s what’s encouraged me to stick with it. I didn’t just join the project in January, I’ve been here for well before that and I’ve contributed to community in other ways there too. It’s just that I felt that, I’m not a developer, I’m taking classes in the Fall in basic programming, but I am never going to be a major developer contributor.

I just felt that this is the best way to use the advantages that I have to tell others about Monero because I think it’s close to the point where once Monero gets a mobile wallet, there need to be meetups all over the world because people are interested in Monero and once it’s a little bit easier to use within five minutes where someone can start in five minutes, then it can easily spread throughout the whole world. 

Mike: Yeah, and you know, I ask that question a little bit tongue-in-cheek, right, because here I am with the podcast called The Monero Monitor Podcast, so obviously, I’m putting myself out there a little bit too. But it’s just interesting to hear, and I think I kind of have a similar story, it’s just like, this project is really interesting.

Justin: Yeah, I’m not baking out this as a career or anything; I still intend to go through like a traditional internship job after graduation. Probably something leaning more on the MIS side or IT side, but I just think this is something really fun for me to do now and I hope I can continue doing this for many years. 

Mike: Yeah, I hope so too. And yeah, I can totally see how it’s just a fun thing and a cool way to meet people that are interested in things similar to what you’re interested in. 

Justin: Definitely.

QS 33:06 Mike: Do you ever find it a challenge when you’re going to these places and giving these talks? If somebody asks some really technical question, you’re not a developer, so is it ever difficult for you to maybe answer a question or how do you handle a question that’s maybe too technical for your expertise?

Justin: Yeah, so sometimes, it’s usually pretty rare. But there are some times when people ask me very specific questions about how the ring signatures specifically work at the cryptographic level, and at that point, I just tell them, “Sorry, I don’t know the specific answer, but I know where I can find the answer, and that’s based off traceable ring signatures that was published around 2001 and also the CryptoNote whitepaper. 

So, it’s important to have a knowledge of where people can find additional information about the project because most people don’t expect, especially someone like me who’s not a core member of the project to know necessarily everything. I just try and know as much as I can which is usually sufficient in most cases, but there have definitely been some times where people have spoken about the signature types.

 I remember one time I wasn’t entirely sure if we use the Schnorr signature or the Borromean signature and the difference necessarily between the two. I actually don’t really know the difference between those two. At that point, it’s just me pointing them in the right direction and usually, that’s, I think the best that I can do and in most cases people are satisfied with the answer because they know at least I’m not just throwing hot air at them, at least giving them a reference. 

Mike: Right, and you’re willing to… I think it’s important and I’m glad to hear you’re doing this, it’s important when you don’t know an answer to just say, “This isn’t my area of expertise, but here are resources, here are people, here’s my email and I’ll research this and get back to you.” Or whatever else and it sounds like you’re doing that, and that’s more than just our space, that’s a good kind of lesson for just in general as you move forward doing interviews for internships or jobs, or whatever else. You know, an employer doesn’t want you to know everything; they want you to know stuff, but then also know when you don’t know stuff too. It sounds like you’re kind of approaching that the correct way, which I think is really good and something to be commended, so nice job with that.


QS 35:33 Mike: Okay, so this episode comes out in an interesting time because the last couple of weeks have been a little bit controversial in the Monero space. Anybody who listens to the show probably knows what I’m talking about. There was a tweet by Fluffypony during, or right at the end of the Consensus convention out in New York last week and it caused quite a bit of controversy. 

And we don’t necessarily need to talk about our personal views on that, but what I am curious about is to just talk about how you were fairly vocal in the community. Made a very well-written and fairly extensive reddit post where you kind of talked about how you understood what Riccardo did, but at the same time, you showed your displeasure over it and over the whole situation and what it caused. What was kind of going through your head in all that and why did you decide you needed to speak up and share with the community your very well-thought out opinion?

Justin: I think at the time, before I commented, the community was pretty polarized. It was kind of divided into the long-time contributors that supported Riccardo, and to be clear I still support Riccardo, but they were almost trying to make a divide, like only the brand new users who were involved in speculation would have a negative opinion about this and I just wanted to be clear that I understood where he was coming from, I just didn’t think that an official member of the project should attempt in any way to manipulate the price. 

That was kind of the approach that I took to it and I tried to explain that just the best I could because I know that Riccardo really… One of his important points that he likes to talk about is, he wants to disprove FUD about Monero, fear, uncertainty and doubt and I think this probably just caused a lot of it especially for people outside of the community. So, we’re not sure exactly how much it will impact the Monero community and in what way it will, I know Monero as a whole will be fine, all the contributors are here, all continue supporting Monero, but I think the one action was probably one that he should not have taken, in my opinion.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of an opportunity, I think, to learn a lesson for all of us about… I think I even saw Riccardo tweeted about this that perhaps the Monero community is bigger and more diverse than maybe we thought and it’s not just a group of insiders anymore. It’s not people like you or me or Gingeropolous or Smooth or whoever else that had been around since the beginning and you know, maybe it’s kind of a rallying cry to grow up a little bit in a certain sense, in a certain way. 

I mean, it’s unfortunate, I don’t think that it’s gonna have any kind of long-lasting impact on the project itself. Otherwise, maybe I would devote a whole episode to this. But you look at the controversies that have happened in a number of other communities that are still going stronger than ever, and this is just like a little drop in the bucket compared to some of the other stuff.

Justin: Yes, this pales by comparison.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so that’s cool to hear. And you know, I can understand where you’re coming from with that, so I don’t necessarily feel as strongly negative about the tweet or anything else, but like I said, I don’t think it’s gonna be something that in the end is really as big a deal and maybe is just a learning lesson for all of us. 

Okay, I thought I’d ask that question just because it just happened and you were kind of right there a little bit in the middle of everything. And your post was sort of the one that I felt like started to turn the conversation into being a little more of a conversation instead of just a bunch of people posting a bunch of crap online. That was just like, “Okay, do I need to read nine different posts about this?” You’re all saying the same thing, just all go say it in the same place and we get the message. 


QS 39:54 Mike: Okay, so I guess the one other thing that I know you’ve been involved with is this kind of movement where since Monero isn’t run by some company or doesn’t have some official PR thing, there’s a movement by a number of users to kind of create like a user-based Monero marketing movement. And I believe you’ve been involved in that to some degree. Can you tell us the goal of that and maybe some of the things that are going on with that Monero marketing kind of group?

Justin: Yeah, so I’ll start off by saying that first of all, these are all obviously unofficial, they are not related to the core team really in any way and marketing is really a bad word, especially within the Monero community because I know that everyone hates the word “marketing” because they think we are going to take out some advertising, we’re going to flood Facebook with all of these tracked ads that we already disapprove off. And so, I see why a lot of people have strong opposition to this to begin with.

But that’s not exactly what we’re trying to do. It’s really just trying to create a user-based movement in order to grow the Monero community in an organic way. I think the best example that I’ve seen how we’ve already basically done this without thinking too much about are by the videos that Savandra has made about the basic of the Monero essentials, what is Monero, how do ring signatures and stealth addresses work. 

Those are specifically targeted towards people who already know what Bitcoin is pretty well, they’re already pretty competent in that area, but I think we need to go a step further and reaching out to people who have heard of Bitcoin before, but don’t know anything about it. And now we’re suddenly introducing them to Monero and we obviously, at our current state make the assumption that everyone already knows what Bitcoin is. 

So, I think there’s a lot of opportunities to help new users who care about a lot of the philosophies that we talk about, so care about the privacy, care about the fungibility, to allow them to have easier access to Monero and I think most people will probably agree with this, so the movement is mostly based on just providing ways or allowing ways for the Monero user base to grow. Just providing resources to make it easier for the Monero community to grow. 

I think it’s mostly things like translations, so that it’s easier for people who don’t speak English to learn about Monero and that’s something that I usually emphasize at my talks because English is usually not their native language and more user guides in the website. The stack exchange that we have is in many ways a form of marketing that we’re talking about. 

I checked my user account and it says that there are about 33,000 people reached, and I mean, you might not think about it as some marketing network, but it really is a community-building network, so I think that’s probably a better way to explain it. I think going forward sort of short-term, I think Kovri will be a great opportunity for that because since it doesn’t only work with Monero, it can really work with any other cryptocurrency project, or even projects that aren’t even crypto-related at all. 

It will give the Monero community the excuse basically to talk about Kovri outside of the Monero circle, go to all the different cryptocurrency circles, talk about Kovri and then in many ways, it builds legitimacy of Monero. So, I think that there are definitely some opportunities going forward for “marketing”, but in reality, more so just strategically getting resources ready for people to learn more about Monero.

QS 43:42 Mike: Yeah, yeah. “Resource and education” is almost a better term or something, because when you hear marketing your initial thought is like, “Oh, man, they’re gonna start some type of YouTube show that’s just pumping Monero or whatever else.” 

Justin: We’re gonna start the “Monero Times” or whatever…

Mike: Yeah, and you know, I think that’s an important distinction, even with this podcast, the goal here is like, there is all these people working on the project, and there is all these side projects going on, and whatever else, and some of them are really cool and others of them are probably scams, and there’s not enough people talking to guys like you, or guys like Howard, or Jérémie with XMR.to. But all these people are working on these things that are trying to build out the project. 

So, let’s find out who they are, let’s find out what their goal is and see if this is something that is really organically growing like we all think it is. And it’s been something I’ve really enjoyed with this show and I almost think of it, maybe in a sense it fits in with what you’re trying to do with the Monero marketing group of like, let’s build these kind of resources that people who want to learn more about it can go and find this stuff and find out if this is genuine or find out if this is not genuine and whether they want to spend time on it or not.

Because if you want to get involved in Monero, it’s not a one-hour-a-week committeemen or just a five-hour total commitment, it takes some time. And there’s always changing things, so it’s cool to see you guys doing this kind of outreach of like, here’s some resources to help you understand this, because back 2015 when you and I were still kind of relatively new contributors and members of the community, none of this was there. 

You know, it’s like; the only people who managed to stick around were the ones who put in just dozens and dozens of hours learning about stuff and breaking things along the way. I’m glad to hear you guys are doing that and I’m glad to hear it’s not something that’s just trying to pump the crap out of the coin, but instead is really just trying to create the resources that people can then make their own opinion of what’s going on and everything else.

Justin: I also definitely agree with you that this show really helps with that too.

Mike: I hope so, and I hope that at some point, if this show starts to lose its way or whatever, I hope people send me messages or are willing to call me out on like, “Hey, you’re no longer focusing on trying to learn more about stuff going on and instead you’re delving into either things we don’t care about or whatever else.” So, yeah, if you hear a show where I start to get too far away from maybe some of these things that I’m trying to focus on, feel free to send me a message.

Justin: Okay, yeah, hold us accountable, listeners.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what it is because I know I’m not and I don’t think you are like people who want to become… You brought it up and I don’t necessarily have anything against her, but we don’t want to become the next Amanda B. Johnson, we don’t want to be this person who’s viewed as like almost somebody who is beyond the project and supposed to be held in high esteem and oh, anything they say is religion or whatever else. That’s not the point of this and that’s not the point of Monero and that’s not the point of open-source projects in general, so yeah.

Justin: Yeah, I contribute because I enjoy doing it. I feel like have a meaningful contribution, I don’t do it because I have to or if I want to get profit as a motive. 


QS 47:42 Mike: Yeah, so then if somebody wanted to join you guys, where would they go to kind of join this Monero marketing movement?

Justin: Right now it’s on the subreddit MoneroMarketing. It’s definitely still new. We’re kind of still figuring out the whole organization stage. I would like to in the next month or so plan an official meeting in IRC so we could just gather a lot of the ideas together. Kind of like we did with the one meeting on the Monero website. 

Mike: The website, yeah, a few weeks ago, yeah.

Justin: Yeah, so I’d like to start having some more formal organization. So, right now, if you go there, you can join the community and kind of see what we do in the next few months, but right now it’s kind of barren at the moment, unfortunately.

Mike: Okay. Yeah, that’s fine. It’s one of those things that takes some bootstrapping and this is maybe the perfect time for more people to join in. So, if you’re listening to this show, go check out that subreddit if you want to help out.


QS 48:40 Mike: Okay, we’ve talked kind of about some of this stuff… you’re gonna be giving a couple of more talks… You’re gonna be, I assume finishing up your study abroad soon… you’re gonna be working on these marketing things. But just kind of in general, a bigger picture in the next couple of years, it sounds like you maybe have few more years in university, what are some of the next things for you? Are you heading back soon, do you plan to be back in Europe anytime soon, are you planning to jump into some new project? What does the future look like for you?

Justin: Yeah, so I will be in Europe through the first week in August, my last class ends on June 28th and then I have some time to speak about Monero and also just do some independent travelling at that point. I’ll conclude with the talk in that last week in August in Paris and then I’ll head back home. I’ll probably take most of August off, my birthday is in that month, I guess I have to take the month off.

Back when university starts, since I’m in the business school, I have the privilege of having my Fridays off. So, if the Monero community would still like for me to go and speak at different places, probably in that case the United States because I can’t quite do international flights on a weekend, but if that’s something that community would still find value in, I’m open to spending some of my weekends going to speak in different cities about Monero if they’re open to that. Otherwise, I’ll probably still work more on the documentation as always. 

Mike: Very cool. Hopefully you don’t spend your entire life travelling; I imagine your boyfriend probably wouldn’t be terribly happy about that. 

Justin: Yeah, we’re making… He’s voiced that I should spend a little less time on Monero, so I think in the fall, when school starts… I don’t want to reduce what I’m putting in Monero, I just want to reduce the time. 

Mike: Yeah, better concentrate your effort.

Justin: Exactly. Right now it’s kind of me refreshing the subreddit every five minutes at times and just staring at it. So, I may be a little less verbose, but the community is a lot larger than when I joined, so I notice that if someone has a question that I know the answer to and I’m ready to type up an answer, usually someone else already has. So, I mean, that’s amazing for me to see.

Mike: That’s sort of been a nice evolution. Maybe a year or two ago, it was like, “Oh, this post was posted an hour ago, I guess I should reply to it.” And now it’s like, “Oh, this post was posted five minutes ago and two people have already replied to it.” Which is a sign of, I think, a healthy community, I think, so something that’s been fun to watch.


QS 51:30 Mike: Okay, well, I don’t want to keep you too much longer, can you tell people how they can get in touch with you? 

Justin: Yeah, so I’m available on Twitter, @jehrenhofer. My email is [email protected] I’m on reddit as SamsungGalaxyPlayer, so feel free to reach out in any of those ways; I should be around for a while. If I miss your reddit message, it means it probably just got buried, so just send it again and I promise I’ll respond. 

Mike: Yeah, and if you live in Europe, he might be coming to a meetup near you, so keep an eye out for that as well. Okay, so then that will just about wrap it up. I’m Mike, people know me as bigreddmachine. And if you like this podcast, please subscribe to it on whatever podcast platforms you listen to, and if you didn’t like this episode, subscribe anyway ‘cause maybe the next one will make you feel better. 

But you can check out more of our stuff on MoneroMonitor.com. We also have transcripts available on there, thanks to xmronadaily, another reddit user who has just graciously started pitching in these transcripts. So, if anybody wants to read what we’ve been talking about or maybe couldn’t understand us - that might be the place. 

Justin: Or maybe just doesn’t like my voice. 

Mike: Yeah, ha-ha. Right, exactly, or just can’t stand our voices. So, go there, MoneroMonitor.com. If you want to follow me on Twitter, then it’s just @MoneroMonitor and I appreciate anybody who’s willing to do that. So, unless you’ve got something else, let’s just call it a day. 

Justin: Yeah, I’ve got nothing else. Thank you for your time, Mike.

Mike: Yeah, thank you, Justin. And with that, have a good one, everybody. 

~~ { Closing Music } ~~