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Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments (Liveblog)

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Bitcoin 2013: Wrap up

Picture Credit: A New Domain

This will be the last post for my series on Bitcoin. Check out my Pundit Blog if you're just joining in and want to read from the beginning. But before I close out my final thoughts on the conference and Bitcoin as a whole, there were two other projects I didn't get to talk about that seem worthy of a mention.
The first is the eCardOne Bitcoin Debit card. The debit card allows users to spend Bitcoin as either Dollars or Euros for point-of-sale transactions; it actually functions the same way as other setups do with gold, where the underlying funds are held in escrow and at the time of purchase the appropriate amount is debited at the prevailing rate-it's really just piggy-backing Bitcoin on the current system, but it's still an interesting idea. 
Dark pool trading by Tradehill was the other neat product. Tradehill is one of Bitcoin's premier exchanges, the first in the U.S. if I remember correctly, and they cater exclusively to professional traders and large institutions wanting to work with Bitcoin. 
Dark pool trading allows large scale buying or selling of Bitcoins to take place without having to put a million dollar order out in public view on the normal exchange-the problem being such a big order can cause price swings that would hit before an investor could even fill his or her orders. All in all, a neat idea that helps ease some of Bitcoin's growing pains. 
As far as the conference itself, I have to tip my hat to the Bitcoin Foundation, especially Lindsay Holland who personally organized the event. She deserves special credit as the entire weekend seemed to go off without a hitch.
I was also impressed by the community as a whole. There were a number of different backgrounds and interests represented at the conference. Coders working on updates, miners and hardware aficionados, business owners accepting Bitcoin, startups working on building financial infrastructure, venture capitalists looking to get in on the ground floor, and innumerable others I don't have space to name were all in attendance.
I think the success Bitcoin has enjoyed thus far and however much it enjoys in the future will have to do with the diversity of its community; the kind of diversity of thought the Bitcoin crowd brings to the table means problems get attacked from every conceivable direction. Intellectual monoculture has killed a lot of organizations in the past, but Bitcoin's supporters exist in an open community which I believe bodes well for its ability to meet new challenges as they come.

Bitcoin 2013: So Much for Deflationary Hoarding

There was something I learned at the conference that warrants its own post before I close out the series. 

Among merchants dealing in Bitcoin, many are starting to offer discounts for paying in BTC instead of USD-I heard as much as 40% from some attendees. 

While some of this is surely driven just by Bitcoin enthusiasm, it looks like there's something else here. 

If merchants are selling goods denominated in Bitcoin at a discount because they anticipate the currency to continue appreciating, then the markets are dealing with the supposed hoarding problem by just pricing it away.

Who would have guessed? (The answer is not a lot of economists)


Bitcoin 2013: Day Two Update

Lightning Room presentations got off to a great start. 

Highlights included a presentation by John Light on Open Personal Cloud Communities. Personal Clouds as a concept would enable all the functionality of social networking without the need for intermediaries like Facebook who can data mine for personal information. 

There was also a presentation on Zerocoin by a researcher from Johns Hopkins University. Zerocoin is an extension to the Bitcoin protocol that could make Bitcoin anonymous instead of simply pseudonymous. 

That's it for the first half of the panels, but as I write this post, it's lunch and I'm being serenaded by the stylings of the rap duo ZhouTong'ed so I'll cut it off here.

Bitcoin 2013: The Lightening Room Recap Pt 2

The second half of the Lightening Room presentations kept pace with the first half's eclectic mix of presenters. 

Steve Kubby presented on his work with legalizing medical marijuana and shared his company's plan to create a whole range of products that take advantage of the apparent health benefit of cannabinoids. He segwayed into Bitcoin by explaining the difficulties that legitimate dispensaries face in securing financial services and suggested Bitcoin as a potential alternative. The interesting idea that came from this discussion was to create a fully integrated supply chain operating on Bitcoin; consumers to dispensaries and dispensaries to growers and perhaps even the growers to their various suppliers as well. Importantly, Kubby and other discussants weren't advocating money laundering per se, but rather creating a way for funds to flow through the supply chain without being hamstrung by exclusion from the banking system.

Lars Birk Olesen gave a talk on seasteading, an idea that advocates creating autonomous political entities at sea to enable trial and error experimentation with governance. Dan Dascalesu was also in the room and made a few comments about Blueseed, a seasteading inspired startup.

Garrik Hileman spoke on the history of alternative currencies, why they rise, and why they fall. 

Adam Levine talked about the possibilities of using a Bitcoin widget to improve monetization of content through donations. His theme was that the current system of monetizing content would be greatly improved if creators could directly access the value of their work instead of effectively being locked into systems like that employed by Youtube.

Brewster Kahle announced the Internet Archive is launching a credit union and expressed its interest in supporting the Bitcoin community.

The final presenter of the day, Dave Collins, presented an alternative implementation of Bitcoin based on GO.



Bitcoin 2013: The Lightening Room Recap Pt 1

Picture Credit: Txchnologist

The Lightning presentations were varied and covered a range of interesting topics. Here are a few of the highlights.


Roman Snitko delivered a presentation on applying the Bitcoin protocol to creating new regimes for corporate governance. The concept being that in place of a unit in a Bitcoin-like protocol representing currency, it could represent a share of corporate stock. The attraction here being the original issuer of the stock could set a clear set of rules governing all aspects of ownership at the instance of the IPO; the rules would automatically enforce much of what we currently try to do through regulation and corporate directors seeking to go public would be incentivised to create rule sets that could inspire confidence for all stake holders involved-explicit, automated rules that removes discretion from the hands of leaders is the kicker.

Ed Clements of Bit Brew spoke to the challenges of point of sale transactions from a merchant perspective. He highlighted the potential benefits merchants doing business globally, but also highlighted the challenges of building trust and credibility between merchants and customers as Bitcoin transactions are irreversible. 

Dr. Terence Lee recounted how he came to accept Bitcoin at his medical practice in Southern California. According to Dr. Lee, he started by posting an add on Redditt advertising his willingness to take Bitcoin as payment which netted him his first Bitcoin customer. He currently promotes Bitcoin use among his patients as the population that both has Bitcoin and is interested in his services (fertility treatment) is somewhat limited.







Bitcoin 2013: The Lightening Room Presentations

Good morning Bitcoin enthusiasts!

It's day two of Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments. I'll be volunteering all day in the Lightening Room which will be hosting shorter, thirty-minute long presentations covering a grab-bag of topics.


The line up until lunch is as follows:

1. Bitsofproof: The Enterprise Ready Bitcoin Protocol Implementation

2. Decentralized Share Issuing and Distribution

3. Innovation and Decentralized Systems

4. Bitcoin Benefits for Merchants

5. A Doctor's Experience Accepting Bitcoin


Check back later today for a full write up of the talks and a preview of the second half.

Bitcoin 2013: Winklevoss Twins Keynote Speech

Picture Credit: Wall Street Journal

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss started out their keynote speech with a little bit of Bitcoin history, covering major landmarks like the mining of the genesis block, the first Bitcoin purchase, and the more recent buzz following the Cyprus bank crisis. 

They made the case that volatility has more to do with rapid adoption than Bitcoin being just a bubble. To support their argument, they showed how the Consumption Curve has significantly shortened in modern times, meaning the lag between early adoption and widespread use. They went on to highlight other technologies like the automobile that weren't taken seriously at first, but later gained ubiquity. 

The pair also emphasized the need to bring Bitcoin into the light and create an ecosystem for Bitcoin users with clear standards for everyone. 

They closed by emphasising the vast potential for providing financial services to the poor and in general the benefits of removing an entire set of middle men from the global funds transfer sector. 


Bitcoin 2013: The Booths

I've officially made my first run through the conference's booth section. Here are a few of the highlights.

Alpha Point: Another Bitcoin exchange headquartered in SF. They offer the standard range of services, but are focusing on traders and merchants at the moment. The booth has a selection of fortune cookies with Bitcoin related fortunes and, on a side note, founder Joe Ventura has great taste in ties. 

Ripple: Ripple is the other digital currency that, in my opinion, everyone should be talking about. Unlike Bitcoin look-a-likes, Ripple is a different kind of animal completely. Without getting into too much detail, it enables P2P currency conversion in-network, in effect streamlining the process of navigating multiple currencies to make payment into something that takes less than two minutes. 

The other fascinating feature is the possibility of P2P debt issuance, but more on that some other time-it's a fascinating concept that deserves more space than what I have here. 

OpenGarden: Open Garden facilitates internet connectivity across mobile devices. A user running the app who is connected to the internet can allow another user to access the internet by effectivley allowing them to tether. That second user could then allow a third to piggyback on them, even as they do the same to the original user with direct internet acess. 

Seasteading Institute: Competitive governance is something near and dear to my heart and I'm glad to see it represented here. The Seasteading Institute furthers the political, technical, and commercial research necessary to one day establish autonomous communities at sea. To many, this sounds insane and this is another idea I don't have space to properly elucidate, so I'll leave it be for now. 

Dinner's on, so that's all for now. More updates to come!


Bitcoin 2013: Registration

Bitcoin 2013 is just getting underway and it's already starting to look interesting.

In line for my registration, I spoke with entrepreneurs from Los Angeles, New York, and somewhere in Idaho so the representation seems fairly diverse. 

I'm currently listening to Free Talk Radio Live do their broadcast from a stage in the convention center where the show is doing a special QA program with different Bitcoin startups. The current interviewee is from The Bitcoin store which apparently is an online market place that deals exclusively in Bitcoin.

Thanks to Saitoshi Dice, I''ll be enjoying free wifi all weekend long so check back often for updates!

Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments (Liveblog)

Picture Credit: Wired

This weekend, Bitcoin enthusiasts from around the world will descend on San Jose, California for the Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments conference.

The conference will include panels on tech, economics, regulatory issues, and importantly, Bitcoin’s potential commercial applications. See here for the full schedule of events.

The keynote speakers for this year will be the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame. Other speakers and panelists include a number of entrepreneurs and investors working on creating the infrastructure to bring Bitcoin into the mainstream.

The speakers list underscores something about the conference’s tone. The crowd in attendance doesn’t appear to be the "radical anarchist" (whatever that’s supposed to mean)  set that sometimes gets talked about when discussing Bitcoin.

Instead, the conference has a very professional air. Many of the Bitcoin-related startups have already secured venture capital funding as well as top talent. The Bitcoin exchange Tradehill has talent acquired from Google and one of the founders of Coinbase, Fred Ehrsam, has experience as a trader with Goldman Sachs.

All in all, it looks like it’ll be a great event, so check back often as I’ll be updating periodically as the conference goes on.


This liveblog of “Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments” is the fourth and final installment of my series exploring the political, economic, and social implications of Bitcoin.