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Want to learn more about blockchain? Check out these 8 Pittsburgh communities, resources and people to follow

This roundup will help you jump into Pittsburgh's blockchain scene.

Physical representations of crypto will never not be silly.

link in caption: (Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels)

Blockchain is confusing.

Although blockchain tech is becoming ever more popular through the rise of nonfungible tokens (aka NFTs), cryptocurrencies, decentralized autonomous organizations and the like, there are few people in mainstream discourse who seem to truly understand what, exactly, it is, and how it can be applied.

As is the case with many things, the best way to learn is to go to the source.

From meetups to local thought leaders to free academic journals focused on blockchain technology, this short list of resources is one way to get more involved with the local buzz around this tech. Though it remains a divisive topic in some crowds, the emergence of blockchain applications has already started sending massive waves across the web in ways that all technologists should be aware of.

So if you’ve been lagging on your blockchain homework, here’s a list of resources to help get you started. Know of one that we missed? Let us know by sending a note to pittsburgh@technical.ly and we’ll add it to the list.

Blockchain in the Burgh Meetup

Since 2019, this informal gathering has brought together Pittsburghers interested in all applications of blockchain technology, from NFTs to cryptocurrency to decentralization. Featuring both presentations and casual discussions, this meetup was originally launched to assess interest and needs around blockchain in the Pittsburgh tech community. Since then, it’s become a chance for attendees to network and learn more about how they can apply the fast-growing technology in their own industries. Mark your calendar for the next event, coming up at the end of March.

Pittsburgh Bitcoin Meetup

Initially launched in 2012, this local meetup has now been around for almost a decade, bringing together Bitcoin users, technologists and more at the iconic Roland’s Seafood Grill in the Strip District. Hosted on the first Wednesday of each month, this free, informal gathering promotes discussion of cryptocurrency at all levels of understanding. There’s never been a better time to learn about the ideas behind this hugely popular tech, so be sure to attend if you’re looking to understand Pittsburgh’s role in shaping the future of cryptocurrency.

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Web3PGH Meetup

Technical.ly’s written about this new monthly meetup before, run by Stronghold Digital Mining VP of Corporate Development Kit Mueller and other partners. The first event was last month, featuring discussions on decentralized finance, decentralized autonomous organizations and NFTs. At the next meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 23, the evening’s speakers will focus on NFTs as they relate to the music industry and owning collectibles on the blockchain, courtesy of Mint Songs Director of Growth Nick Merich and Courtyard.io engineering lead Joseph Patrick, respectively. A third speaker and topic is TBA, and those interested in presenting at this event or future ones can reach out to organizers.

Blockchain@CyLab

The CyLab Security and Privacy Institute of Carnegie Mellon University recently launched a research initiative centered around blockchain — called the Secure Blockchain Initiative — with focus areas in economics and policy, cryptography, security and anonymity, programming languages and systems. Though the research is in academia, the faculty working on the initiative are looking for collaborators in local companies and organizations interested in using blockchain tech. Co-directors of the initiative are Nicolas Christin, Elaine Shi and Ariel Zetlin-Jones.

Tepper Blockchain Initiative

Where CMU focuses on the technical side of bitcoin through the CyLab research initiative, this group focuses on its use cases in the business world. Through the Tepper Business School’s connections to thought leadership across academia, industry and more, this initiative is meant to be a hub for innovation in the blockchain space from faculty, students, alumni, policymakers and industry leaders alike. The website is a great place to learn more about the work the university has done with blockchain over the past several years, including the notable CMU Coin cryptocurrency competition a few years back.

Ledger

Launched in 2015 out of the University of Pittsburgh, Ledger is the first peer-reviewed journal for studies of blockchains and cryptocurrencies. The academic journal is free and accessible to the public and publishes one volume per year with several articles included on blockchain behaviors, structures and more. While the journal is published by Pitt’s library system, its editorial team is located all over the globe, bringing together a wide range of thinking on this emerging technology.

Kishan Patel

If you feel comfortable with basic topics in blockchains and cryptocurrency, it might be time for you to follow some local social media discourse. One person leading that with ties to Pittsburgh institutions is Kishan Patel, cofounder of CMU’s Tech & Entrepreneurship community and a senior software engineer at Slack. Often tweeting about NFTs, decentralized finance, cryptocurrency and more, Patel shares his own insights along with potential connections through retweets. If you’re looking to make moves in the blockchain realm with your business, he’s a must-follow.

Elaine Shi

Similarly to Patel, Shi (who is one of the codirectors of the CyLab initiative) also frequently tweets about blockchain tech. Though she doesn’t often share deeper insights or explainers — admittedly hard to do in only 280 characters — she does a great job of flagging community events and wins in the blockchain space. So if you’re in the market for webinars, papers or other resources for a more advanced understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrency, be sure to give Shi a follow.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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