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Opinion

Your Very Own Bullshit Meter – Indorse Gives Actual Weight To Online Reputation

Indorse.io Gives Credibility Back To Social Brands

Do you ever feel like someone is bullshitting you? Like, someone posts on social media and you can’t help but be like “Mmmmm, nuh uh. That doesn’t seem correct.” You know this person. What they’re claiming seems inflated or just wrong. But you can’t do anything about except ignore it, unfollow them or maybe report them to the site administrator if they’re doing something really heinous. But, what’s the point? Taking extra action maybe helps whatever social network you’re using, but does it help you? Not really.

One of the problems with centralized web services as we experience them in relation to social media and the identities created on them is that they’ll often lean to far one way or another in terms of privacy/anonymity and transparency. There are some good privacy solutions that deal with encryption and don’t take personal data from their users at any point. This is pretty cool and has a place, but the concept of a social network being social and a network means that identity has a place of importance if it’s to carry into the real world.

This is the quandary of personal branding. By “building your brand” you are, in essence, fashioning a story about yourself that you really want the rest of the world to know about. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this (obviously, I run and have ran this and other blogs as a personal branding experiments). Who doesn’t love a good story anyways? The problem is that sometimes on the internet, if a tree falls, nobody will hear it. Or, in other words, if you stretch the truth about yourself or something you talk about, you can mitigate the chances of getting called out in any meaningful way. Even if you do get called out, there’s little of consequence that can happen to you aside from getting your account suspended, or losing followers. So, as far as incentives go – there’s a greater incentive to tell a really great story that’s going to net benefit you, even if it is a lie, than there is to tell the truth.

Indorse.io Helps You Keep These Folks Out Of Your Network

 

That’s a big nut to crack and a tough problem to fix across the internet, but there are people trying their best to focus on one aspect of managing your own reputation as sort of a portable asset on the web, but also making sure that’s actually verified through confirmation of other people in your network. The fine folks at Indorse.io are making it possible to quantify with real accuracy and confidence the reputation validity of someone’s digital personality.

I won’t go into too much detail about the project besides saying that if you read the whitepaper or FAQ on their site and you have a general understanding of what Ethereum is useful for, you should get the concept pretty quickly. Indorse also addresses how they compare to other social networking sites based on blockchain already as well here on their blog.

A Bit About How I Got To Know This Team

A couple years ago I was getting familiar with the new Ethereum blockchain project which just had come online with a main net and people were – to put it lightly – excited. I saw lots of really cool use-cases cropping up where people were able to model and execute ideas using this new type of blockchain. They were doing things that Bitcoin in theory was also supposed to be able to do – someday. But Ethereum was working, even in its early stages.

The first use case that got me really excited and made me want to learn to write smart contracts and deploy them to the EVM was a prenuptial agreement pegged into immortality on the Ethereum blockchain. It was written by Guarang Torvekar of Attores in Singapore. Attores was also run by the CEO David Moskowitz, who I’ve come to know as well since meeting Guarang – both of whom are very active community members in Singapore and the larger Asian blockchain scene. I was blogging at the time and reached out to Guarang to write an article about his pet project and learn about why he did it. The fact that I was also myself engaged to be married to my now wife at the time made me excited because this was an actual real world, relatable, actionable use of the Ethereum blockchain.

Too often do we get wrapped up in high-minded ideas of systems that won’t and can’t operate in the real world for several years into the future. It’s important to have visionaries working for the future – certainly that’s more of what gets hardcore Ethereum devs excited. But applications that regular, non engineers can use and appreciate are what will help drive Ethereum into mainstream adoption – not just through the price of Ether going higher (which isn’t so meaningful). But rather, if people can use applications which affect them in a tangible way and make their lives better and also happen to be built on Ethereum – that is what will drive the ecosystem and technology as a whole forward and will usher in even more advancements in the capabilities and scope of what is possible.

Ok, enough psychobabble.

If you’d like to learn more about Indorse, I suggest checking out their website, reading their blog, or joining their Slack to ask the guys a question directly about when Indorse will have an Alpha released and how you can become an early user. They also plan to integrate with Status when the project is accepting additions, so stay tuned for that as well. Say hello to me as I help them out with some community management during the Western Hemisphere hours when they’re sleeping in Singapore.

Newsletter, Opinion

Why Sign Up For Another Newsletter? Well, Here’s Why:

I first want to thank everyone who has reached out to me in the past year, asking me for advice and more information about cryptocurrencies and blockchain. I started off with zero knowledge just a few years ago in 2013 and remained relatively ignorant of the space and the power behind this movement only up until 2015. As I humbled myself and became a student of the truly great minds behind the successful (and some unsuccessful) projects in the space, I have been fortunate to learn from some of the smartest people in the industry and broaden my knowledge exponentially.

It’s important to remember a few things as you read this and take whatever I have to say, think or write as truth or not.

First, I am not a computer programmer. I’ve never been paid to write a line of code in my life outside of a handful of WordPress and basic HTML/Bootstrap websites I created to make extra money as a freelancer. So, when I opine on the strength of a particular cryptocurrency, platform or industry application, realize I am speaking from a lower level of expertise than some of the people I look up to in this space. Wherever possible, I will point you, the reader, to the best primary sources of information directly. I work in this space and know quite a bit about the business side of things nowadays, but I am still learning along with everyone else.

Second, I own a large amount of several different cryptocurrencies. I will disclose this whenever possible to ensure that I am, and will continue to be biased towards positions I have a stake in. This isn’t to say I am pro-Ethereum and anti-Bitcoin, or anything else – however I just want to be clear that even folks such as myself who proclaim to be “blockchain agnostic” still can have conscious or unconscious biases for or against specific technologies. Look deep within yourself – you’ll see your own consumer and ideological biases as well if you’re honest. In addition to that, I will and I must maintain confidentiality with the variety of employers, business partners and associates I’ve worked with over the years. So everything you read from me is publicly available information that you could access yourself without me – I’ll never share my confidential information.

Third, this content I create is not, has never been and never will be financial advice. If you buy any of the cryptocurrencies I cover or invest in any of the ICO’s I mention or anything else for that matter – I take no responsibility and assume no risk on your behalf. This content is purely for educational purposes about the space and the players in it and isn’t meant as financial advice in any way. This is computer money. There’s always the chance all your investments could go to zero. Never invest more than you can afford to lose.

Lastly, do your own research. Following my advice without knowing, at least on a superficial level, what the technology you’re investing in does is a bad idea. Whenever possible, download the applications if you can, play with the wallets, read the whitepapers, research the founders. Think for yourselves! This space changes incredibly quickly, so you’ll need to have an open mind and a curious one at that if you want to keep up. Enjoy the challenge of that and realize you’ll not be able to know everything all at once.

Opinion

The Evolution of Using and Loving Digital Currencies – Diversification

When two friends are having a conversation about investing and money and one of them mentions “Bitcoin,” the direction of what the two people might talk about can go a few different directions. One of those directions could easily go in towards.

“Oh, what’s Bitcoin?”

or

“I’ve heard about that!”

The latter will also likely lead into the discussion about how volatile the price of Bitcoin has been. From the historical price rise past $1000 to the Mt. Gox scandal which caused an equally share decline in price. News about something like digital currency might seem too good to be true or far fetched to many average investors, but since Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper was released in 2009, there’s been plenty of proof that digital currencies do work, do hold and often times increase in value and some of them actually have some real merit behind them as investment vehicles.

However, for those just getting involved at the beginning, the learning curve to be knowledgeable and feel confident buying and trading digital currencies can be steep. It’s especially daunting when newbies come into digital currencies to learn about Bitcoin and once they’ve figured out how to set up their wallet, send, receive and even purchase Bitcoin, they realize that there are seemingly endless alternative currencies (alt-coins) out there.

Take your wading into the world of digital currencies slow, cautiously and with an open mind. It’s a great thing that Bitcoin exists for the world. Read the white paper by Satoshi and that’s clear. It’s also a good thing that so many alt-coins have been established as legitimate competitors to Bitcoin. When the price of Bitcoin swings wildly, like any digital currency can potentially do, there are options to hedge your investments and safeguard them against too major a loss of value in the markets.

Once someone is ready to invest and use digital currencies in their personal finances, they need to actively educate themselves or find resources to help them understand the differences between the top digital currencies, what they are used for and why exactly they are valuable. We’ve all heard of Bitcoin by now, many of us heard of Ethereum as well in the early part of 2016 as it received a lot of hype in the news about it being the next big competitor to Bitcoin as its market cap surpassed $1 billion.

However, many people don’t make the distinction that while Ether, the digital currency which fuels the Ethereum World Computer, does much, if not more than what Bitcoin is capable of, it’s wasn’t built to be so much as a transactional peer-to-peer currency as Bitcoin and other currencies like Dash and Litecoin were. Some digital currencies are inherently built to be excellent stores of value in peer-to-peer transactions. Other digital currencies might be able to constitute a store of value, however, they might also be fuel sources for blockchain powered systems. It’s extremely important to be aware of this distinction.

These and numerous other factors lead to the ultimate conclusion that putting all of one’s eggs into one basket, even if you believe strongly in one digital currency over another for good reason, might be foolhardy. The digital currencies markets are notoriously volatile, and while there are lots of opportunities to invest and make handsome returns on investment, doing so with discretion and and prudence with the help of an expert is probably the best bet for consistent and long term returns.

 

Blockchain and Digital Currency News, Opinion, Review

Review: Smart Contract Betting Serves As Educational Resource For Ethereum Enthusiasts

As far as games and betting go, I’m certainly not one to spent my leisure time that way. Maybe it’s because I got whomped on by all my friends playing Super Mario when I was a kid and figured I’d be better off developing my skills in other areas. Regardless, I typically avoid delving into digital games of any sort, especially those where money is at stake — that is until I discovered the vDice.io betting game which is based on Ethereum smart contracts.

gggg

I am a blockchain nerd who keeps up on developments in the space on social media, so when the owners of the site reached out unsolicited on Twitter and offered to let me play with some of their own funds to get an honest review, I decided to give it a go. What I found out quickly about this betting “game” is that it’s easily as effective a tool for educating people on how to transact with Ether and how smart contracts work as it is a good way to pass the time.

The “house edge” and fees are clearly stated up front in the FAQ and in running about a dozen bets to try out the service, I found the ratio of winning to losing with respective smart contracts to be honest. Each smart contract has its own odds and conditions that are clearly stated as well. What’s cooler is that this entire website operates anonymously and does not require a user account or any info. You only interact with the site through your Ethereum wallet.

Screenshot from 2016-06-24 21-42-27

The site is cleanly built and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Well, except for the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin’s head quoting famous one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger action films. If you leave the browser open with the volume on this is an amusing feature you’ll hear every minute or so. You can turn that feature off as well from the homepage. What I’d love to see is a more dynamic feature of how the site shows transaction data such as recent bets and wins without needing to refresh the page and continually turn off the Vitalik talking head.

The site recommends that users play using either a Jaxx browser wallet which is available for Chrome or the Mist wallet built by Ethereum. However, any wallet of any brand that supports Ether will do. They have an easy to follow set of instructions for both Jaxx and Mist. The Jaxx wallet is definitely the simpler and more straightforward process of the two; however, the Mist wallet tutorial is actually rather educational. As someone who has downloaded the Mist wallet on their personal machine and invested in the DAO using it, I can say that the tutorial on how to use the contracts feature in Mist is useful and appreciated, in case I wish to interact with other smart contracts related to other things besides betting in the future.

Not only is there the option to bet on specific contracts listed at the bottom of the homepage, but there’s also the option to invest in contracts. The difference between betting and investing in these smart contracts is that if a user sends an amount of Ether to the contract address within the specified amount range, a random number will be assigned to that user. If that random number is higher or lower than the specific figure of that contract, which is all transparent and open source, then the user wins their money back plus a percentage. They’ll receive their funds almost instantly. Currently, their confirmations take about 15-30 seconds; however, they’ll be launching 0-confirmation transactions in July. When a user wants to invest, they’ll receive partial profits from the income received as people play a certain contract and lose. All of the contracts are verified and openly available for auditing on Etherscan.

Screenshot from 2016-06-24 21-42-56

COO of vDice.io Steven Sager talked about how this particular game is unique not only in the realm of Ethereum, but in cryptocurrencies and blockchain related websites as a whole:

“Implemented as a Smart Contract, it’s completely on-chain. Also, it’s the first live, commercial Dapp, connected to the main-net, using an Oracle. As a result, it’s trust-less. We don’t touch funds. There are no accounts (such is the power of Ethereum). Bettors send their Tx to the smart contract address. The smart contract computes and returns the result. Essentially, it functions like classic Satoshi Dice. But, unlike Classic SD for BTC, there’s absolutely no server…not even for randomness. Instead we use random.org.”

Besides plans to make betting transactions much quicker with 0 transactions in the summer, there is also a crowdsale planned at a date yet to be determined in July.

With the existing situation with the DAO being compromised and potentially destroyed by current events, Sager commented on the importance of truly simple but useful Dapps being built and implimented such as vDice.io:

“This illustrates why the simple Dapps need to come first, in my honest opinion — even if they happen to be ‘betting’ Dapps. Higher-level stuff can build on simpler projects at the right time. Ethereum is only one year old!”

With vDice.io’s straightforward build and the transparent nature of how the site works, it’s an exciting way to show how a Dapp can be used in real world applications through betting. It is also a great opportunity for those who are less than expert in blockchain, smart-contract and Ethereum technology to learn in about it in a safer environment where the most at stake is as low as a fraction of Ether per bet.

Opinion

Fear The Reaper – Don’t Leave Funds On Crypto-Exchanges

If you’ve been around the world of digital currencies for a few years, you may have heard of someone saying that they got “goxx’ed” at some point or another. While this saying may sound relatively benign, it’s no doubt a nightmare for those involved to recall seeing their digital currencies disappear overnight and have no recourse to get them back. It’s become a fact of life that exchanges, at some point or another, get hacked and that leaving your funds in a trading wallet, in any amount is asking for trouble. Even the best ones out there that brag that they’re virtually un-hackable, get hacked. Take for example, Gatecoin’s latest security breach and Shapeshift’s hotwallet heist.

I know all of this first hand as my funds were tied up in a recent crypto-exchange theft and, while I eventually got all of my assets returned from the exchange, I realized during the whole ordeal that I could have avoided such trouble all together if I had just take the advice I’d seen posted time and time again on places like Reddit.

After you exchange your funds, secure them as soon as possible.

Trusting your crypto-funds to an exchange or any wallet provider isn’t a safe, long-term strategy. There are plenty of bad-guys and gals out there innovating in every possible way to access funds of others and steal them. While living under a cloud of fear as a crypto-currency holder exactly a good way to live, considering prudent levels of security for your assets will at the very least pay dividends down the road.

Unfortunately for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, there are many stages that almost everyone goes through before they are comfortable with handling any one digital currency. By the time they get to this point of feeling comfort, they still might not be using it safely. Ignorance may be bliss for some users, as the illusion of safety and security is provided by lots of different exchanges, web and mobile wallets, but there are certainly plenty of very skilled hackers out there who won’t hesitate to swipe your funds for their own gain if given the chance. While there’s no 100% safe way of owning any form of wealth in this world, there are some basic steps that should be taken by any savvy cryptocurrency holder.

Deep Cold Storage

What’s the most secure form of storage for just about any time of cryptocurrency? Most people would consider that to be an offline, unconnected machine that has no possibility of access from the outside world. While this option, in and of itself isn’t even 100% certain of protecting our digital currencies barring fire, flood or asteroid, it’s certainly an option that those who are serious about keeping their assets safe should consider. Do you have a spare laptop laying around that you can keep away from Ethernet cables and any wifi connections? Try loading your digital currencies onto it and throwing it in a safety deposit box. That’s just about as safe as you can keep your digital currency assets.

Cold Storage and Hardware Wallets

As far as offline storage gos that you can more easily access and connect to, paper backups of private keys, USB drive storage, specialized hardware wallets and actual novelty items like physical Bitcoins are all good options to keep your funds away from hackable servers most of the time.

There are also hardware wallet options where a full on computer isn’t needed to safely store cryptocurrencies. Currently most of these hardware wallets are built to store Bitcoin, however with the rise of Ether’s value, market cap and overall popularity, some hardware wallet providers are releasing upgrades to the code of existing hardware wallet models to support the safe storage of Ether.

Strong Passwords

Passwords are important for anyone involved with important information or data security online. In a realm where cryptographic experts are running the game, using a simple password that includes your birthday or other silly simplistic figures simply won’t hold any water if your account is targeted for a hack. Random password generators are always a good idea if you can’t dream up a super random, odd and varied combination of letters, numbers and symbols that you can remember.

Also, as far as many experts are concerned in cryptocurrency forums, brain wallets are usually a bad idea as well as many have been drained due to their relative simple form of security.

As for trading margins and making money on ETH, BTC or any other combinations of digital currencies, that’s a whole other matter of studying and hoping to have good luck in order to not lose money. Don’t be careless and don’t be a fool – don’t leave your cryptocurrencies unguarded.

Un-Sponsored Resources (I don’t get any kickback or payment for these)
Ledger Wallet – I use the Nano. It’s pretty easy to use and setup. It’s a little buggy on my Linux machine, but works like a dream with my Chromebook and every Windows and Mac machine I’ve ever plugged it into.
Trezor Wallet – This is a bit more high tech than Ledger from what I understand. I know some pretty savvy people prefer Trezor and Trezor should support ETH storage soon too.
MyEtherWallet – You can make a paperwallet from this site. Follow the steps carefully when setting up and don’t send too much ETH to your paper wallet until you know exactly how it works and have backed everything up.
Jaxx Wallet – This isn’t as secure as the list resources above, but it’s pretty secure as far as mobile wallets goes and offers multiple backup options that other mobile wallets do not. They also handle Bitcoin, Ether and DAO tokens all in one app. I really like it.