Tweaking the (Un)Fair Isaac and Company score aka FICO

When we first got to the US, we knew that the first thing we had to do is get a credit card and build credit history so we can actually have access to goods and services like real Americans.

This is thanks to the FICO score, a thing developed in 1989, after the FCRA legislation was enacted in the 70s. That’s when Equifax was also born, which later gave way to the biggest identity heist in history, with over half of US residents affected.

What’s this FICO score? It’s what banks, real estate companies, credit card companies and other service providers use to understand if you’re going to pay your bills so they can offer credit of some sort. In principle it’s a good thing, giving access to credit to a broad part of society and allowing everyone to play the game and work towards that dreamy perfect 850 score (which is not worth the effort, by the way, as you’ll do fine with a 780+ score).

Image Source

But coming back to my issue with it, it’s very rewarding to people who were born in the US and have had credit histories their whole lives, granted they have always been on time with payments and disciplined with their finances. Sure, the ones who overextend, miss payments and default will be hit. But the ones who play the game can win at it.

Except for immigrants. 15% of the score is length of credit, so an immigrant who just arrived to the US is already way behind in the credit game. It will take them 5-10 years to get to a point where they can hope at a perfect score. This is because FICO scores +10 years of history as the best category and removes points for anyone who has less than that. This is the unfairness that I mentioned.

It could be fixed easily. By adding the word “proportional” to the way credit history linked to the moment you become a lawful permanent resident or a lawful non-migrant alien is calculated in the FICO score, they could level the playing field and give access to better credit to more people, not rob them by asking for double digit car loan terms or extremely expensive mortgage rates just because they weren’t born here. 

What’s the reason for this absolute anchor? Why having 10+ years of credit is better than having credit 100% of the time you’ve been here? Why 2 years of history is worse than 10 years? Will FICO ever change? 

I have started making the argument that credit bureaus need to rethink their business models. In an era of identity theft, hoarding customer information and selling it is no longer a sustainable business model. I should be able to own my own score, based on my own accounts. It should be in my best interest to add as much information to a secure, local datastore and then selectively share proof of these transactions whenever I need to prove my creditworthiness.

Not the other way around, to have 3rd parties store my data and share my information freely with lenders so they can advertise all those loans in my mail.

It’s time for credit scores to change. 

The conservative and progressive irony of liberals and republicans

Thinking about AI, progress, innovation and pro-business can only lead me to think about politics. Since I’ve been in the US for a while now, I’ve started to spot some interesting anomalies, contradictions in the way the two dominating ideologies tend to behave conservatively or progressively.

Why does this matter? It’s all about double standards and the idiosyncrasies that people are so comfortable living with. Harari makes it his mission in Sapiens and Homo Deus to reflect on and uncover the vast array of contradictions our society deals with every day. You might think this is a new problem, but It’s not. It’s as old as religion, the main source of contradictions – like thou shall not kill, unless they are an infidel. You get the point.

Let’s start with Phoebe, who’s a dedicated, lifelong liberal. She lives in California, works in tech, and spends her free time hiking, doing yoga and going out to brunch. Pretty familiar, no? While she values progress, at least at declarative level, she opposes change in her neighborhood, wants to regulate everything that may impact any people negatively (which, by the way, is almost everything people do out there), but claims that protects freedoms and is progressive. Progress in her mind is to protect and conserve the status quo of any kind, while slowly innovating within a government set box. She doesn’t know it, but she’s conservative.

What about Lindsey? She’s a dedicated, lifelong republican. She lives in Louisiana, works in the insurance business, spends her free time at the local social club, watches TV, likes to drive to malls and organizes regular barbecues. Also familiar, no? While she’s very conservative, at least at declarative level, she’s pro business, wants less regulations and more individual freedom for people to do whatever they want within reason and without harming others. Conservatism in her mind goes back to the constitutional rights that were put in place by the founding fathers, while everyone today can do pretty much what they like and try to find new ways to create value, without the government dictating what people can or can’t do in their communities. She doesn’t know it, but she’s liberal.

This is the main source of contradiction in the American culture today, as both Phoebe and Lindsey want the same thing, to live the best life they can with their families, their friends and within their community. They can’t seem to see eye to eye on most things because they don’t know they share a lot of things, much more than what sets the apart. So if both of them are both liberal and conservative at the same time, it is actually easy for them to connect, if they set aside the outrage TV and politicians instill in both, setting them up to hate each other. 

This time I have no solution for this, other than making people more aware that they are not so different from their political counterparts. Food for thought for 2020.

Image Credits

Surviving as an AI in the US – the most litigious nation in the world

In the past few years, AI advancements have made self driving cars mare of a reality than the remote possibility it once was. Thanks to GPU advances, algorithm improvements and lots of venture capital thrown at the problem, Waymo was the first company to release its fleet (albeit in a very limited fashion) in Phoenix, AZ.

Source

I was talking to my real estate agent there about this amazing feat, when he raised a very good point – how can companies that develop self-driving cars protect themselves from class-action lawsuits brought about by ethical dilemmas like the one where AIs have to choose to kill the driver over an oncoming car or a grandma over a baby. This is a delicate problem even for people, as we’ve seen in recent studies, where each culture determining the statistic outcome. 

We can’t decide for ourselves, so it’s unlikely we can ask the AI to do that too and make it acceptable for all cultures, with a blanket procedure. 

Here’s an example:

A self-driving car encounters a speeding human driver on the other side of the road swerving out of control. It evaluates the problem and sees that it has two options: it hits the other vehicle and throws it off a cliff, killing the other driver and its potential passengers OR it swerves out of the road and into the canyon, killing its own passengers. Regardless of what it does, the AI will kill someone. This, in the US and other jurisdictions, will likely cause the company operating the AI fleet to be sued and held responsible globally for an isolated incident that they couldn’t control anyway. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of other self-driving cars operate normally.

This kind of blanket approach will likely cripple adoption and innovation at scale, due to the highly risky nature of driving today. Yes, you are far more likely to die in a car crash than with any other means of transportation known to man.

So could be a solution here? Treat AIs like franchises, once trained. Companies like Google, Uber, Lyft, Tesla and others could treat each AI, once trained, as independent entity, under a micro LLC, where the liability of that AI is limited to a number and to certain recourse. Whomever owns/operates it carries part of the liability, as to maintenance, configuration, potential fallback mechanisms, so that if an accident were to happen in Astoria, NY, it wouldn’t affect cars in Sacramento, CA. 

Right now, car companies don’t carry all the liability for their products, as long as they operate within expected parameters, as the decisions are made always by humans at the wheel. What if you could configure your AI when you buy the car to kill the grandma over the baby or protect the passengers over the other car? Then you would effectively release the AI and its parent of that liability and enable more innovation to be adopted faster. 

I viewed 22 houses in 3 days in Arizona. Here’s what I learned

This past few days I flew all the way to Phoenix, Arizona, to check out some property there. But you live in San Francisc, you may legitimately object. The housing market in the Bay Area is so bad that even people like me, who work in tech, unless they have been at it for a very long time, have very little chance to grab a decent property even remotely close to the city.

So we’ve started looking elsewhere. 

Phoenix, AZ, is that kind of place that people rarely consider for anything other than Grand Canyon trips or retirement thanks to the weather. That makes it affordable for people that work on the West Coast and that’s what drew my attention, too. 

That being said, I set a target of 3BR/2BATH, with a 2 car garage and got in touch with my agent Matt to schedule 20+ houses over the course of 2 and a half days. We saw all but one of them and learned a ton about what I want from a house:

  1. Houses older than me are probably not a good idea, unless they have been recently and heavily renovated
  2. If the photos look meh, then the house probably is worse, especially if there has been significant effort to photoshop the pics
  3. If there are lots of lighting units in the photos and it’s day outside, then place is a dark cave
  4. 2 car garage can mean 1.5 car because of cabinets or just a very narrow garage layout
  5. Carport means driveway, usually, unless they say covered
  6. Needs work, partially renovated means old stuff still in place because they work
  7. Let your imagination run wild with the back yard usually means it’s pretty big and unkept due to that reason
  8. Recently renovated properties need to be inspected very carefully, as sometimes they get a coat of paint, often in a rush
  9. Always check for cracks, walled in former doors, water damage on ceilings and walls. Every paint splash or change has a little story worth hearing
  10. Read the CC&R of the HOA – rules that you’ll have to follow if you buy within a home owner association area; can’t get out of those unless you run for and get elected on the board
  11. If you see old wallpaper, it probably will smell bad
  12. Some people like to keep their General Electric original 1977 stoves and that’s ok. Good for them
  13. Newly renovated kitchens must be checked for alignment on the cabinets – that crooked cabinet with the crooked microwave will be very expensive to change
  14. Check the tubs in the bathrooms for wear and tear – you’ll use that in the negotiation process. A resurface can set you back $500-$600
  15. The best way to see a house is with furniture in it. Empty places feel out of proportion and a room that seems odd when empty can be turned into a very nice living space with the right furniture

My thoughts on Initiative Q, the non-crypto controversial currency project

Some of you already know about this potential new Bitcoin or so-called pyramid scheme that others warn about, called Initiative Q, started by ex-Paypal people. 

For those who don’t here’s the rundown:

Initiative Q is an attempt by ex-PayPal guys to create a new payment system instead of credit cards that were designed in the 1950s. The system uses its own currency, the Q, and to get people to start using the system once it’s ready they are allocating Qs for free to people that sign up now (the amount drops as more people join – so better to join early). Signing up is free and they only ask for your name and an email address. There’s nothing to lose but if this payment system becomes a world leading payment method your Qs can be worth a lot. If you missed getting bitcoin seven years ago, you wouldn’t want to miss this.

Here is my invite link: Initiative Q Invites

This is what they give you when you sign up and can share invites. It’s the only way to get in the network and earn so Qs. Btw, if the link still works, I still have invites.

The essence of what the suspicious ones don’t understand is that the value will come from Q being gradually accepted as a better currency, not via people putting their own money into the network, like in an actual Ponzi, like Bitconnect.

The data you share is not that useful either, for any nefarious purposes, as an email is only good for spammers and today worth close to nothing. At scale, they could make a few hundred dollars from millions of users, but what would be the point? Oh, they may ask us to do KYC at some point? Sure, but by then they would have something to show for, otherwise this whole thing will crumble.

The monetary policy is also interesting: Qs will be released gradually, so only 1% can be spent at first, so users don’t dump the Qs and walk away. They’re protecting against dumpers. 

I’m also curious to learn more about the independent monetary committee, appointed via voting by all stakeholders in the Q payment network, that will control Q. Sounds like how Visa was founded, as a member-owned, non-stock for profit corporation.

People who call this the next Bitcoin clearly don’t understand either one or the other. Initiative Q, if successful, will be like a stable coin, where medium of exchange is promoted exclusively at the expense of any store of value.

What concerns me is its anchoring to the US economy exclusively, whereas there would be an opportunity to create a global stablecoin connected to several proportionally relevant economies where the Qs would be used. That would make more sense and would remove Qs dependency on the FED, for example, and its monetary policies.

Another concern is about who will put the first external money in. My hope is that they will raise venture capital and use that to provide early liquidity in the system, not take money from the average Joe or Jane. 

I’m sure a lot of these questions can be answered while they make their way to critical mass. $1 is probably the most valuable peg today, so it was a good choice to start with.

There’s a great response to a lot of the questions everyone is asking, and it’s coming from one of the team members, after this guy wrote a long and popular article questioning the model. Check out the first comment. Also one Q’s founders responded here.

The value of an MBA, from a graduate perspective

Every now and then, there’s an article out there that goes viral about how MBAs are losing their shine. This time it was Harvard Business School that got 4.5% less applicants

With this type of news, you’ll see a plethora of experts, consultants and self-help gurus, along with all the self-made people on LinkedIn and elsewhere proclaim that, alas, the MBA is a waste of money. Then the comments follow, with some testimonies of how worthless the degree is, sometimes coming from people who never took a class after graduating from university. What I find interesting about them is the fact that they try to transfer their own experience and generalize. 

I’ll do the exact opposite. I’ll share why the MBA was a valuable experience for someone that was born in a 150,000 people town in northwestern Romania and is now working in San Francisco on one of the most important problems of humanity – identity. 

Program: Hult International Business School – Executive MBA – London Campus, graduated in 2014, US degree

This is what I wrote in one of the LinkedIn threads, as a comment. For me it was a huge boost, all the way into high tech, both in the UK and the US, after being born and raised in Eastern Europe with no tech background. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, it’s going to be a waste of time and money. If you do, it’ll be the best investment you’ll ever make. Still pays dividends.

I majored in international business, with a focus on marketplaces. I commuted for 2 years from Bucharest, Romania to London. The MBA helped me grow outside of Romania and after about 1 year landed a Country Manager position in London in FinTech. Then, a year later, I moved to the United States and became the Growth Manager (Marketing and BD) for an Artificial Intelligence company.

The MBA gave me huge confidence boosts, exposed me to 120 different people from 36 different nationalities, some of which had more experience than I had in years.

It created lifelong friendships – just visited a former colleague in Barcelona for a mini-reunion and his b-day.

It also taught me to think bigger and trust my skills knowledge in a way it would have taken me years to do without it. Sure, the knowhow is great, I understand how to analyze a company, how to invest. But the human factor definitely plays more of a central role than other parts.

All in all, totally worth it.

p.s. I’m reading this book by Robert Heller – The Unlikely Governor: An American Immigrant’s Journey from Wartime Germany to the Federal Reserve Board. Very connected to my story, minus the war. We’re privileged to live in peaceful times (in some parts of the world)

Of all things, local British Pounds carry lessons for crypto and the circular economy

If you’re wondering what a local British Pound is, you’re not alone. I was like that too, before my friend pointed them out to me. After a little more research, I found that these are called complementary currencies and they are by no means new or rare. Just peculiar. Here’s what they actually are:

A “complementary” currency is a type of quasi-monetary exchange medium that is intended to function as a complement to (rather than an alternative to) standard national currencies. (Costanza, Robert et al., “Complementary Currencies as a Method to Improve Local Sustainable Economic Welfare”, University of Vermont, Draft, 12 December 2003.)

For those who still don’t understand what they are, complementary currencies are like baseball cards or game tokens. They are valuable and tradable in certain mediums and within a certain group – be it interest-based or medium-based. If you try and trade them outside of the system, they are not valuable, but can be converted to more traditional currency, when in contact with the right buyer.

In some case, the buyer can be the issuing authority, in others it can be another community member or someone who would like to gain access to the community and would like to pay their way in.

In 2004, according to the same source I quoted the definition from, there were about 500 complementary currencies in circulation and historically there have been about 4000 issued to that date. If they were to redo the study today, they would find that cryptocurrencies and tokens fit this description to a large extent.

These complementary currencies have the following interesting and relevant characteristics to the blockchain world:

  • Convertibility: while they are sometimes tradable for national currency (fiat), this exposes them to the risk of run on the bank, but this feature increases adoption.
  • Commodity-backed: increases security, but reduces participation due to lack of convertibility.
  • Acceptance: it is increased if people can buy goods and services they need with the said currency – like taxes, food, beverages, rent etc. Pretty much like the circular economy I described in an earlier post.
  • Operational costs: some of these currencies carry a fee for the issuer, to cover operational costs, like printing and securing, network operations etc.
  • Taxing: here some have been deemed taxable, some not, by design. Up to each state and community to decide.

 

Complementary currencies were introduced as a means of storing and increasing the value and wealth of a certain community. This resembles what the crypto community is trying to achieve with utility tokens and it struck me that not once have I heard a comparison of this system to what ICOs / Token Sales are trying to achieve. While there is less geographical limitation today, compared to the attempts in previous centuries, the abstract characteristics of the currencies remain surprisingly similar.

What’s even more surprising is the lack of information at the very top of political decision making, where no lobbyists or politicians have compared crypto to these complementary currencies. They have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to see them as competing currencies, not as complementary. That presumably makes them an easier target for stronger regulations.

Both cryptocurrencies and complementary currencies as a greater category face the following barriers for adoption:

  1. Lack of acceptance (catch 22)
  2. Lack of credibility (issuer)
  3. High transaction costs (issuer)
  4. Unsustainable operational cost (issuer / community)

 

The problems we’re facing in the crypto world today are not new. We just have to read more, understand more and find precedents where others made it work, show them to the world, apply them and use them in conversations with the ever-present nay-sayers.

I’ll leave you at the end with this study on British local pounds.

Breaking into Blockchain – Crypto 101

Breaking into blockchain is not hard, but requires some time invested in learning about the basics. I personally started by reading white papers – namely, Ethereum, Bitcoin, Dash, and tons and tons of ICOs. Of course, if you know mathematics, polynomes and cryptography, you’re already 3-4 steps ahead of the game and can understand the probabilistic models better than everyone else.

Here’s two of the best resources when it comes to taking the first steps into blockchain – collection by A16Z, bitcoin-focused link list by James Lopp. These two alone will get you far enough to begin with. From there you’re going to branch out into the wild and discover your favorite coins/algorithms/programs, whatever you understand and makes sense for you. There’s no right or wrong at this stage, mostly trials and scams.

Since I already mentioned I’m a big fan of Ethereum, here’s a link to a collection of applications build to top of this ecosystem. Mostly wallets, trading, gambling, games, just like any early stage medium and just 240ish. The internet started like this, too. It will eventually grow beyond this. After all, you need to build the foundation, lay the piping, create the structure before you can start operating the mall. I don’t know why I chose the mall analogy, but it fits the context very well. It evolved from the street market into the steel and stone edifices we find everywhere nowadays.

You need to keep up to date and if you don’t want to get all the newsletters from Coindesk, CCN, Bitcoin Magazine etc, then it’s easier just to follow Crypto Panic. It will aggregate the best news for you, along with community signals. Sure, there’s bias, but where isn’t one? Do your own research, don’t follow the shillers or the FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) spreaders or the FOMO peddler (I won’t explain FOMO).

Ok, you did the reading, time to grab some coins. Here’s a few lists of exchanges. Do your own research and choose the ones that make sense for your needs/strategy: Crypto to Crypto exchanges (I mostly use Bittrex and Binance); Fiat to Crypto Exchanges (Coinbase and Gemini are my favs here).

Now you have the coins, but where to store them? Definitely not in exchanges, as you won’t be able to do much with them there. I use a few wallet combinations, like Scatter, Metamask (protect your private keys), MyEtherWallet, Blockchain Info, Jaxx, Coinomi and several others that are coin-specific. Make sure you check the HTTPS, the URL and bookmark your wallets. Phishing is very common.

Lastly, for those who want to dive deeper into ICOs, here’s a primer along with the Price Waterhouse Cooper new global ICO guide, hot off the press from Switzerland.

Remember, it’s still early days, so the tools will be pretty rudimentary, but as the industry matures, the tools will too. Right now we don’t know what are the best ways to do things because we don’t know what are the best things we can do yet with blockchain technology. That’s enough to excite a lot of people out there to build, test, launch, fail, learn, build, rinse and repeat.

Cryptocurrencies – towards a circular economy

“A local currency is used within a defined area and promotes demand for local goods and services. A multiplier effect occurs as the service or goods provider in turn spends the funds locally, with each reuse strengthening the system, promoting local value, self-sufficiency and community interdependence, while providing independence from financial systems far from local control and benefit.
(…) The use of local currencies increases in times of recession or depression as we saw internationally after the banking crisis of 2008. Local currencies exist around the world in many different forms, with the common denominator being the intent to strengthen the local system, building in resilience, minimising waste and enhancing rather than diluting local productivity.” (The Guardian, 2015)

I’m anchoring the circular economy to its currency meaning and show how both the Euro and cryptocurrencies share the same adoption, growth and stability cycles. Few remember that the Euro was established in 1999 as a virtual currency first and only in 2002 did it become a printed / minted physical currency. Beginning on 1 January 1999, all bonds and other forms of government debt by eurozone nations were denominated in euros and all participating economies pegged their local currencies to the Euro, becoming subdivisions.

Kind of like an ICO, right? The ICO organizer sets a price and fixes all other crypto rates to the new currency, then distributes the new currency to be used in the local economy they are, supposedly, creating. I say supposedly because not all ICOs aim to create economies and those who don’t and aren’t a security are most likely scams / shitcoins.

The euro grew in importance steadily, with its share of foreign exchange reserves rising from nearly 18% in 1999 to 25% in 2003 – while the dollar share fell by an equivalent margin.” (source)

The biggest turning point for the Euro was when a part of the circulating supply was locked as foreign exchange reserves and that share increased, replacing some of the dollar share of reserves, sending the dollar value down and the euro value up.

But back to the circular economy component — if you just have the above decisions and adoption, including forex reserves, then your economy still risks having to use external resources more than internal ones and devalue the local currency by oversupply.

Let me create an example here – fiat with fiat.

People in your local economy consume a lot of wheat, and that wheat is imported from US. They pay for it in Euros, but those Euros get converted in USD so that the wheat producer can pay salaries, bills and other expenses in the US, where USD is legal tender. Once the wheat producer has sold the Euros they received and got dollars in return, the total supply of Euros has increased, while demand has stayed the same. This drives the price of EUR-USD down, which means you can buy more Euros with the same dollar amount.

How can you stop this? You produce wheat in the Eurozone and consume it there. Let’s see what happens if you do that. Your people buy wheat from the wheat producer inside the Eurozone with EUR, the wheat producer pays for their cost of doing business with EUR, so there is really no change in supply or demand for EUR versus other currencies. A potential consequence for this might be even a reduction of supply or increased demand of EUR, as there is less EUR available for foreign exchange, therefore driving the EUR-USD and other pairs up – meaning for every dollar, you can buy less and less EUR. And that’s a good thing for the Eurozone, it increases the value of their currency and economy.

If you go a step further and produce goods and services beyond what your people can consume and based on external demand, then the supply reduction / demand increase of your currency is accelerated. Let’s use the wheat example again. If the wheat producers of the Eurozone satisfy all the wheat demand locally and have surplus they export to other countries, let’s say Russia, so we can use the ruble, then there are goods flowing out of the zone. The wheat is paid for in Ruble and the local wheat producers exchanges those rubles for Euros, as they need local currency to pay salaries, bills and other expenses. The ruble drops, the Euro increases, so next time the same ton of wheat will be worth more rubles for the same euro amount. The supply of Euros decreases and the supply of ruble increases, making it more expensive to buy wheat from Eurozone countries.

I ended the story on that note to show that a circular economy without inflation is dangerous, as competing goods and services from other countries with inflation can become a better choice, even if yours are superior in quality, if the Euro becomes too expensive year after year. But then we enter the advanced realm of monetary policy, competing systems and that’s beyond the scope of what I’m addressing today.

Back to cryptocurrency, though, and the point I want to make. If you replace Euro with Monero, for example, you get the following story:

People in your local economy consume a lot of wheat, and that wheat is imported from US. They pay for it in Monero, but those Monero get converted in USD so that the wheat producer can pay salaries, bills and other expenses in the US, where USD is legal tender. Once the wheat producer has sold the Monero they received and got dollars in return, the total supply of Monero has increased, while demand has stayed the same. This drives the price of XMR-USD down, which means you can buy more Moneros with the same dollar amount.

How can you stop this? You produce wheat in the Monero community and consume it there. Let’s see what happens if you do that. Your people buy wheat from the wheat producer inside the community with Monero, the wheat producer pays for their cost of doing business with Monero, so there is really no change in supply or demand for Monero versus other currencies. A potential consequence for this might be even a reduction of supply or increased demand of Monero, as there is less Monero available for foreign exchange, therefore driving the XMR-USD and other pairs up – meaning for every dollar, you can buy less and less Monero. And that’s a good thing for the Monero community, it increases the value of their currency and economy.

If you go a step further and produce goods and services beyond what your people can consume and based on external demand, then the supply reduction / demand increase of your currency is accelerated. Let’s use the wheat example again. If the wheat producers of the Monero community satisfy all the wheat demand locally and have surplus they export to other countries, let’s say Russia, so we can use the ruble, then there are goods flowing out of the zone. The wheat is paid for in Ruble and the local wheat producers exchanges those Rubles for Monero, as they need local currency to pay salaries, bills and other expenses. The ruble drops, the Monero increases, so next time the same ton of wheat will be worth more rubles for the same Monero amount. The supply of Monero decreases and the supply of ruble increases, making it more expensive to buy wheat from Monero community members.

Let’s go a step further and remove all fiat from the story. Here’s how it sounds now:

People in your local economy consume a lot of wheat, and that wheat is imported from the Bitcoin community. They pay for it in Monero, but those Monero get converted in Bitcoin so that the wheat producer can pay salaries, bills and other expenses in the Bitcoin community, where BTC is considered tender. Once the wheat producer has sold the Monero they received and got Bitcoin in return, the total supply of Monero has increased, while demand has stayed the same. This drives the price of XMR-BTC down, which means you can buy more Monero with the same Bitcoin amount.

How can you stop this? You produce wheat in the Monero community and consume it there. Let’s see what happens if you do that. Your people buy wheat from the wheat producer inside the community with Monero, the wheat producer pays for their cost of doing business with Moner, so there is really no change in supply or demand for Monero versus other currencies. A potential consequence for this might be even a reduction of supply or increased demand of Monero, as there is less Monero available for foreign exchange, therefore driving the XMR-BTC and other pairs up – meaning for every Bitcoin, you can buy less and less Monero. And that’s a good thing for the Monero community, it increases the value of their currency and economy.

If you go a step further and produce goods and services beyond what your people can consume and based on external demand, then the supply reduction / demand increase of your currency is accelerated. Let’s use the wheat example again. If the wheat producers of the Monero community satisfy all the wheat demand locally and have surplus they export to other countries, let’s say the ZCash community, so we can use the Zcash, then there are goods flowing out of the zone. The wheat is paid for in Zcash and the local wheat producers exchanges those ZEC for Monero, as they need local currency to pay salaries, bills and other expenses. The ZEC drops, the Monero increases, so next time the same ton of wheat will be worth more ZEC for the same Monero amount. The supply of Monero decreases and the supply of ZEC increases, making it more expensive to buy wheat from Monero community members.

Cryptocurrencies are no different from classic currencies, unless we invent new ways of using them in our economies. In capitalism, the system I just described above applies and will separate the winning cryptos from the losing ones long term. The ones who are able to circularly produce and spend and attract external resources in will win, while the other ones, producing less, will owe more and more and their currency will be worth less and less, until it eventually disappears and they adopt the next ruling currency.

Dear Youtube Product people, your Live sucks for webinars

Every now and then, I need a reminder that if you’re not paying for something, you’re likely the product.

Today, I had the pleasure of getting that reminder from Google, through its more horrible product, Youtube Live / Hangout on Air as a webinar tool (credits to this article for the photo below).

Google Hangout On Air Webinar

Here’s the backstory

I was organizing a webinar with my team that was supposed to go live today. We had registrations, people were looking forward to our content. But we failed to go live because of a button that wouldn’t load in Hangouts on Air. We had tested the Live functionality thoroughly in the previous two days, with an internal test and a full dry run with all participants the day before. The morning of, scripts in hand, decks ready, we signed on and were ready to go. As we saw the clock strike 10am Pacific, the Hangouts On Air stayed, ironically, Off Air. No matter what we did to it, it wouldn’t go live. After more than 20 minutes of struggles, we abandoned and had to reschedule. Fail, thanks, Google!

Given that it is a free product, I’m going to provide some free feedback here for the product people responsible for this terribly designed functionality.

  • Why do you even need encoders for the live video stream? Isn’t the Hangouts functionality enough?
  • Why don’t you have a consistent experience when using Hangouts on Air? Sometimes you see the Go On Air Button, sometimes you don’t
  • Improve that FAQ section that has confusing references
  • When choosing quick vs custom, you should never see encoding details
  • Why doesn’t the webinar automatically go live at the selected event date? Did someone forgot to code that functionality?
  • If you are serious about this product, have you considered adding paid technical support for companies to use it as a business tool? I know it works for kids doing stupid stuff live from their living rooms, but others are tired of old, clunky interfaces from other webinar platforms and would gladly pay per use
  • You need a better integration with Google Docs / Slides / Sheets – presenting in full screen and seeing what’s going on in the webinar requires two people, due to the fact that the slides take up the whole screen and the Hangout on Air controls are not visible

Let me know if you had similar issues with the product, maybe we can start a petition or something to get their attention.