Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The United Nations of Bitcoin

This is a map of every Bitcoin download (that was able to be traced to a country), by operating system.  Each dot is an individual Bitcoin download.  The yellow dots are a general reference of all Bitcoin downloads ever while the red ones call out a specific OS used in the download.

Bitcoin downloads by country, by operating system.  At least, when the specific country was known.  Of course there is plenty of geographically anonymous downloading (here's the nitty gritty on that).

What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency that lives as an open source peer-to-peer system.  All cash systems are symbolic representations of value.  Historically they were representative of actually-valuable stuff held in reserve, but increasingly it works without a net as fully fiat, whereby it has no intrinsic value but represents the say-so of the institution that regulates it.  Bitcoin takes that a step further, as a cryptocurrency, which is not representative of reserved valuable stuff, and not regulated by any central authority and relies on the virtual exchange of Bitcoins (and fractions of Bitcoins) whose value is tied to demand.  I know, I don't really get it either.  Trading goats.  I can grasp that.  Bitcoin is mysterious to me -which makes it interesting.

Closer Look
I look for three things in the geographic dispersion.  The first is the overall relative density of the yellow points across the world (which, admittedly, is pretty much a map of internet users). The second is the overall penetration of each operating system (how red is the world, overall), in terms of Bitcoin users.  The third, and most interesting for me, is the relative popularity of Bitcoin-downloading operating systems by country (how red are the various countries compared to others).

Reluctant Companion Map
And, since Bitcoin downloads are intrinsically correlated with the population size, I made this lame choropleth map to illustrate the proportional variability in Bitcoin "popularity" by country.  It paints countries by their Bitcoin downloads as a percentage of the national population...

I reluctantly made this dumb choropleth, ostensibly to tease out the proportional popularity of Bitcoin by population, but really to head off trolls who would undoubtedly point out their co-linearity if I hadn't (and of course include a link to the fun-at-first-but-way-over-used XKCD comic excoriating population-recursive heatmaps).  P.S. I recently fixed the legend, which had been high by one order of magnitude.

About Those Dots...
Yes, this is yet another foray into dot density mapping -but one that is a little more informed about the geography of population. The crux is, if I am scattering dots in countries based on the raw count of things (standard dot density territory), maybe I should more thoughtfully distribute them where people actually live (not-so-standard dot density territory).  More on how I made these maps here, but the cliff's notes version is I clipped Natural Earth's country boundaries by NASA's delineation of populated areas that have a population of at least 5 people per square kilometer.  I'm excited at the more meaningful dispersion areas that the dots get sprinkled into, but, like all of cartography, there are trade-offs.  I'll elaborate in a future post and give you my source data, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, help yourself to some twitter...


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