About The Artist
Craig Raw lives in the real world. Instead of going to bed each night thinking about whether he left a spoon in the fork drawer like many in the terminally fragile West might do nowadays, Craig thinks about how well he, his friends and his neighbours have protected themselves and their Bitcoin stashes from a violent break-in the next time it happens.
If you’re never been to Craig’s homeland of South Africa, it is not for the fainthearted. Don’t get me wrong – it is a stunningly beautiful country, home to amazing wildlife, wine and people. But it’s edgy and, well, raw.
"I have been broken into many times. South Africa is a violent place to live… in many ways, a lawless place. You expect that you’re going to get burgled at some point."
When I visited SA 15 years ago with my wife, we experienced the rough side of the place for ourselves. Stopping for petrol in Plettenberg bay, she was mob-swarmed at the cash-point and her bank account was compromised. The whole thing happened in less than 15 seconds as I was inside paying the bill.
As we unpacked what had taken place, we realised we’d been on the end of a well-coordinated, multi-party, social engineering attack. The group – comprised of young adult women, men and even babes-in-arms – had appeared out of nowhere to pull-off their attack and disappeared just as quickly. My wife wasn’t harmed, but she was shaken.
This is not an uncommon experience for Raw; at least if not for himself then for someone he knows. And so it was this kind of scenario which not only influenced his thinking as a Bitcoin user, but primed his pumps as a Bitcoin creator.
First hearing about Bitcoin in 2012, Raw spent the next 6-7 years in an observation period on the boards of r/bitcoin before he finally started working on solutions that could give him the tools he was seeking to bring peace-of-mind for his Bitcoin savings.
He surmised that one of the best ways to do this was to require the use of a number of transaction signatures – which could be physically and logically separated from each other – in order to spend from a Bitcoin wallet. This ability – referred to now as ‘multisig’, is seen by some as a best practice way of safe-guarding large stashes and reducing the risks arising from the loss of any single signing method or point of failure.
With a background as a digital entrepreneur with a flair for coding, Raw’s first multisig iterations began with workarounds he hacked together via Electrum. Whilst he managed to create something that did the job for himself, it was a complicated solution and he wasn’t happy with its elegance or usability of it for others.
True to form as a successful digital product creator, his spark for building market-grade solutions kicked in and he decided to make something from scratch that could be used by others.
The result: Sparrow Wallet.
"I saw Sparrow as a tool to be able save with Bitcoin and do so in a way that allows you to really understand the protocol and the details of what was going on. That was the genesis of it – to create a tool that is going to be easy to use but at the same time give bitcoiners the detail that I think that they need in order to get into it and to really do the job well."
Hearing Craig talk about his experience and background outside of Bitcoin provides interesting insights into some of his aims with Sparrow and what he’s trying to achieve. Not only can you tell that he is very purpose-driven, but that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about things from an end user experience perspective – despite being a technical developer capable of diving down into the weeds of the code. I suspect this uncommon balance that Raw has is partly responsible for Sparrow becoming such an increasingly popular tool in the Bitcoiner’s DIY kit.
The big question in his mind, though, is whether people use it.
With so many people still using custodial services, Raw’s biggest concern is that not enough people are defending themselves from what he sees as an inevitable threat from rehypothecation.
“The thing that really worries me the most is that we won’t get enough people to self custody. That just worries me more than a ban. It’s going to come down to how much we actually use the tools that we are given versus just regarding this thing as a unit of account. We need to actually hold it and interact with it and use the protocol.” ~ Craig Raw
I agree with him. So what can we do?
In my mind, the answer lies in making more people aware and helping them to understand why self-custody and options like multisig are so important in their use of the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin’s very design emphatically challenges us to self-custody our stash, and not have 3rd parties wipe our bum for us. It’s grown-up money and grown-ups take responsibility for themselves.
And let’s face it; if we don’t self-custody and aren’t learning our way forward to a more sovereign future, then what the hell are we even really doing here?
Check out Max’s excellent interview with Craig linked above where they discuss what Craig is most excited about with the future of multisig standards, the BIP 139 proposal as a multisig standard for all wallets, what recommendations Craig has for noobs on how to protect their stash, using testnets to get familiar with the way in which multisig works and much more besides.