Bitcoin

Lately there has been alot of talk of Bitcoin in the news (driven by the shutdown of the drug-selling site Silk Road, and now the shuttering of Mt. Gox).  But for most, Bitcoin – and cryptocurrency – is really just some cyber mumbo-jumbo.  The ultimate question is – how does this actually matter?

First, we must understand what Bitcoin is.  Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency.  I’ll spare the nitty gritty of how it works, but the short explanation is that each piece of currency is ultimately a unique set of letters and numbers.  Similar to the serial number on your paper money.  This unique number is validated by a huge amount of people who (in exchange for a small amount of bitcoins) run servers to check and validate the ownership and transfer.

Head spinning?  Try this example.  Lets say we get 10 people in a room and make up our own money system.  The computer spits out a number and tells me that I have $1 and the ID is 1A.  I tell everyone: “I have 1A.”  Everyone nods in agreement.  Later, if I want to buy something from someone else, I simply shout “I’m giving 1A to Bob.”  Everyone nods.  Because multiple people listen, as long as a majority agree that I have 1A (and soon Bob will) the transfer can go through.  So, the system works on redundancy and agreement.

There is no agency that controls the flow of cryptocurrency, and it’s supply grows at a set rate, which controls the supply from getting out of control.

But do you have to care?

No – not yet at least.  For now, the best way to view bitcoin and any other cryptocurrency is as a risky investment.  Lots of money can be made, and if you want to set up your machine to be a validation node, you can even earn a few bitcoins here and there, but there are major risks involved, and like all risky investments, you should really understand it before jumping in.

The future is unclear though.  Since cryptocurrency has no government backing, it is protected from government defaults and fluctuations.  At some point, it is reasonable to consider that a cryptocurrency will be on the same standing as the US dollar, the Euro, the British Pound, etc, but it is unlikely that it will replace those currencies – at least not until there is a global government (should such a thing ever happen).

 

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Waves

By now, the butterfly effect is a seemingly ubiquitous concept that is often used in extremes – either every action has huge repercussions, or it is considered extreme hyperbole.  For those unfamiliar, the butterfly effect is a concept stating that a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can cause a tsunami in California through a chain of events – butterfly flaps its wings, pushing air, which makes a tiny wave, which picks up more energy and travels the ocean.

The concept is actually not insane, but it fails to take into account that like much of physics, the worlds obeys the physical properties of waves – which is that things can be additive, or simply cancel each other out.

Noise canceling headphones work in two fashions – one simply create a reasonable seal and attempt to block outside noise – as most construction noise-guards work.  But, the more expensive powered noise-canceling headphones work by using a microphone on the outside of the headset and creating an opposite wave through the speakers.  So, it is actually canceling the noise by creating more noise!

I’m sure you’ve witnessed this in the workplace, two people who are on a team, and both clearly doing work, yet there never seems to be a final result.  One person seems to cancel out any positive gains the other is doing.  When two people are in sync, you can get the opposite effect – they manage to amplify each other creating greater synergy.

The only way to achieve this level of synergy is to be predictable, be open with your direction, and be aware of the waves of others.  A splash is chaotic, chances are anything you do right after a big event will get drowned out, and will rarely change the effects of the splash, but, as with water, things quickly resume to a normal level at which point you can ride the wave if things are positive, or create a counter-wave if things are negative.

 

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Manipulation

When you have your balance, it is hard to get knocked over.  When you are off balance, it is easy to fall.  As you fall, instinct tells you to grab on to whatever you can to stabilize.  This is the crux of fear-based marketing.

I realize this is not exactly a post about technology, but I thought it was relevant.  If you ever find yourself afraid or worried – if you read something or interact with software that makes you uncomfortable or scared – stop.  Take a breath and do your research.  Most viruses work by playing your fears.  They show you a popup telling you that you have a virus (which you don’t) and that you will lose everything, but if you install this anti-virus, the virus will go away.  The anti-virus you end up downloading is the virus itself.  Because you want to rid yourself of the original “virus” you end up agreeing to install and give control of your device to this “anti-virus.”  Once installed, you’re done for.

The same works in product marketing.  A company tells you your child will be harmed if they use a specific type of spoon.  A comedian once quipped that he was going to sell a cereal that featured on it’s box “Arsenic Free.” just to make you think the other cereals had arsenic in them.  Not to say threats aren’t real, but you should always do your research, you should always verify facts – especially when provided in an advertisement.

While others can influence your emotions, they are yours, and you shouldn’t let others control them.  You always have the power to stop, relax, take a breath and re-balance yourself.

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Story

Language was developed as a means for species to effectively translate important messages.  The most memorable of messages is one delivered in a story.  From the simplest – “Bear large, run from bear.  Boar small, hit with pointy stick, feast,” to the most complex, what makes them truly memorable is that they are part of a story.

In whatever you do, ask yourself, what is the narrative?  How can you connect the dots?  If you’re trying to convey a new idea, explain it from the point of view of the user – what is the user’s problem, what is their mood — what is their story.

One of the reasons social media has exploded is that it lets us tell stories.  Facebook even changed their “wall” to be a timeline – a series of events.  While our daily lives may not be as interesting as those in fiction novels, we are invested in the lives of our friends and family, and can’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next.

This can apply to any job, any technology, any situation.  Have a story to tell.

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Steps

The average human walks a distance of nearly 100,000 miles during their lifetime.  If taken all in one direction that would get you around the entire world 5 times.  If you walk aimlessly, chances are you will end up not far from where you started.

The same is true of any goal.  It is achievable if you are willing to take the necessary steps.  For some, a goal may require more steps, but rarely is it unobtainable.  Unreasonable – maybe, impossible, rarely.

If you always have a goal, and are always taking steps towards it, you will achieve it.

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Screws and Nails

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The difference between learning, knowledge, and experience is understanding the nuances of efficiency and being able to identify what the right tools for the job are.

What is important to understand is that when learning, it doesn’t matter if you pick the perfect tool, just that the result is correct – experience will teach you what is best.

An example to demonstrate this point is the difference of using screws or nails as part of construction.  If you want to join two pieces of wood, you can use either of these methods – and for someone just learning, using a nail or a screw will make little or no difference.  As you become more experienced, you’ll begin to understand that screws cost more, take longer, and require a power-screwdriver to insert efficiently, but they provide a stronger bond and give support in more directions, whereas a nail is cheaper, faster to install and only requires a hammer.

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Tech Goals

What are your tech goals for 2014?  What do you want to learn?  What would you like to improve?  How can I help you get there?

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