Due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, BCH meetup groups in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, have announced they will be offering a virtual option for those wishing to avoid crowded places and to participate digitally, while still supporting merchants. In Tokyo, physical venues will still be booked for those opting to meet face-to-face, allowing bitcoiners to choose their own experience. News.Bitcoin.com asked organizers some questions about the announcement, how it will work, and difficulties in coming to consensus on how to best navigate this challenge.
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Japan BCH Meetups Go Virtual
Finding a local Bitcoin Cash meetup group near you isn’t hard to do. As BCH enthusiasts are all around the world, a simple scan of Bitcoin.com’s Events page map can have you meeting up with your fellow crypto heads, chewing the fat, and supporting local BCH merchants in no time.
In light of the current coronavirus health concerns, two of these meetups — until now canceled for the month of March — have announced they will be heading to the virtual realm to help protect their health and that of others, while still getting together to support Bitcoin Cash. In an announcement shared today by Tokyo Bitcoin Cash Meetup organizer Akane Yokoo, members were notified that both Osaka and Tokyo bitcoin cashers can now get together as one group online:
Our virtual meetups will start this coming Wednesday March 18th from 7:30pm and we plan to host every Wednesday at the same time when our physical meetups happen. To join, please RSVP on Meetup.com and we will send you instructions and links to join the meetup. We will also update details for each meetup on Meetup.com including the venues.
Organizers Weigh in on the Decision, Discuss Details of Virtual Meetups
Tokyo organizers Aaron Gutman and Akane Yoko, along with Osaka organizers Yumeno and Cheaplightning, answered some questions for news.Bitcoin.com, weighing in on the organization process.
“Most of us are already engaged in some form of remote work and are accustomed to using online collaboration tools, and some of us are pretty big on VR,” said Gutman. Yumeno of the Osaka group noted:
It will also give the somewhat small Osaka community a better opportunity to mix with the larger Tokyo community. I am looking forward to hearing the Osaka meetup community members perspective.
In her own read.cash post on the matter, Yokoo noted some of the potential difficulties and also possible opportunities of the virtual meetups, which will continue indefinitely until the virus situation normalizes. “One of the things we were concerned that we won’t be able to do with online meetups is it is hard to create an environment where people can talk to whoever they like, with the language they choose if the tool only allows certain people to talk at a time such as a zoom call.” She continued:
VR (Virtual Reality) should be able to solve these issues all together but it will be expensive to make this happen soon. We do hope to eventually offer the VR options, while allowing people without it to be able to join too.
When asked about struggles in addressing the challenging COVID-19 situation, she responded: “It had been frustrating because we wanted to keep hosting meetups because many of our members wished to continue the meetups but at the same time we did not want to encourage opportunities for people to get sick and spread it.”
Cheaplightning also expressed frustration with the difficult situation:
At our last meetup I had to really think about if it is rude to be wearing a mask and offer alcohol tissues to people. There is this weird stigma and sort of damned if you do damned if you don’t aspect to it.
In fact, though official meetups had been canceled for March, some resolute bitcoin cashers in Tokyo nonetheless ventured out and participated in their own meetups at bitcoin cash-friendly merchants for the first two weeks of the month. Yokoo clarified:
Even though we do not want to encourage members to go out and get sick, members should be free to do whatever they choose to do. If they choose to get together physically, the merchants are open for business as usual (look at our Meetup.com group to find which venues are scheduled for each meetup).
Cheaplightning of the Osaka meetup elaborates: “Of course people are free to still meet however they like, but we will not be organizing anything here ourselves for a while. I think of our community as friends. So it is certainly possible that we may meet a few of them.”
Gutman, for his part, stresses the virtual meetups should be preferred, saying, “I feel strongly that, regardless of whatever we do on our own accord, as a group we should always make positive social choices and demonstrate leadership. I urge those who have chosen to attend physical meetups to choose the virtual meetup.”
Supporting Merchants a Big Concern
One of the main concerns of members was how to continue supporting merchants, while some members choose to meet virtually. “We came up with a good solution for that,” says Yokoo, “For each meetup, we pick one venue and we provide a BCH address of that merchant to the virtual meetup participants. Members can feel free to donate BCH, as if they are buying drinks at actual meetups. I feel like this is a good solution for people who want to help the merchants but don’t want to go out, and the same way for the merchants.”
Yumeno notes: “I also feel bad for our regular BCH accepting merchants. Even at our last meetup the owner said that their customer numbers were low. I want to support them. Our members might come even with the danger as they are passionate. But it is putting more people at risk.”
While it may be debatable how big a risk factor people already out and about meeting up and taking the proper precautions is, supporting merchants is a critical concern that unifies the organizers.
Really enjoyed the #BitcoinCash meetup today. First time at this new place!😋
Even got some of the customers to download a wallet.
I look forward to onboarding more #BCH merchants to come this year.🎉 pic.twitter.com/vOSkAPqiwa
— Bitcoin Cast (@BitcoinCast) March 15, 2020
Meetups Around the World Going Strong
In spite of COVID-19 fears, bitcoin cash meetups worldwide are resilient, with new meetups emerging regularly. From newly announced groups in the Philippines, to upcoming events in Ghana which will help spur support for BCH House Ghana — an educational hub for crypto — permissionless, peer-to-peer cash is steaming forward. User Bitcoin Cast, tweeting about meeting at a new spot in Pasadena, California this week, said: “Really enjoyed the #BitcoinCash meetup today. First time at this new place! Even got some of the customers to download a wallet. I look forward to onboarding more #BCH merchants to come this year.”
In Venice, Italy, where the effects of the virus are being felt extremely heavily and the entire state is under quarantine, bitcoiners of the BTC variety are holding virtual meetups.
So whether meeting on the virtual plane as Tokyo and Osaka will now be able to, or in a local shop, bitcoin cashers can nevertheless see the indomitable power of peer-to-peer cash continue, even in these uncertain times, until meetups in these cities can resume as normal.
What do you think of the idea of virtual meetups in light of the COVID-19 situation? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Graham Smith, fair use.
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