🎤 Interviews Katya Michaels

Put Your Hookup on Blockchain: Adryenn Ashley Brings Responsible Sexy Back

🎤 Interviews
Adryenn Ashley’s dating app Loly is out to solve the dating crisis and heal the #MeToo epidemic
Put Your Hookup on Blockchain: Adryenn Ashley Brings Responsible Sexy Back

America is experiencing a dating crisis, and it’s about time cutting edge technology was harnessed to address it. Even prominent venture capitalist Tim Draper agrees that modern dating is a problem that needs a solution.

Adryenn Ashley, the CEO and founder of dating app Loly, is the woman getting close to providing that solution.

Loly implements all the hottest technologies– Blockchain, cryptocurrency, augmented reality and digital identity– to make the dating experience safe, secure and completely natural.

More than that, putting trust and consent on an immutable ledger has the potential of encouraging people to take responsibility for their choices, in personal relationships and elsewhere. Improving humanity through a better dating experience? Sign us up.

Katya Michaels: How did you first discover Blockchain?

Adryenn Ashley: I've been in Bitcoin for almost 10 years. I'm a startup consultant, now an ICO consultant as well, and I was asked to take my consulting fee in crypto. That was 2009, and if I could ever recover those Bitcoin, I would never have to work again.

KM: What do you find most exciting about Blockchain technology?

AA: Blockchain is an un-****-with-able register of what actually happened. That means there's no go-backsies, you have to own your words and your choices. Blockchain is going to force society into a role it has not been in since the fifties, and I think that's going to be one of the unsung blessings of this technology.

There are things that need Blockchain and there are things that don't– 99 percent of businesses do not need Blockchain. However, the ones that do, voting records, health records, will be changed significantly. I cannot wait until people are no longer dying because of prescription conflicts because nobody bothered to look at their medical record. That will save hundreds of thousands of lives.

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Never break the Blockchain

KM: How does your dating platform Loly implement Blockchain?

АА: There are two different reasons why we need Blockchain. One is digital identity.

If you're like most women, you get hit on by men who are married and if you're like most men, you get hit on by women who aren't real– they’re bots or scammers.

From both sides, it is difficult to ascertain that people are who they really say they are, and we use a digital ID product to verify that.

Your sexual preference data is held in your own device and it's encrypted. Your data is your data. It's not held in our servers. We have security protocols, but even if we are hacked, all they’re going to get is a username and encrypted password. We don’t hold a database which could reveal sensitive information.

The other way we use Blockchain is sexual consent.

We have this #MeToo epidemic, people on both sides not owning their choices, not owning their decisions. But decisions cannot be edited retroactively. Verified consent gives women the safety, security and certainty that they need to say yes, and it gives men the insurance that the yes that they heard last night stays a yes tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, a decade from now.

That's a key piece of Blockchain– that it's immutable. You can't go back and change the records.

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Compos mentis: owning your choices

KM: How does the consent mechanism work in real time? People tend to be emotional in intimate situations and prone to changing their mind unexpectedly.

AA: What our consent does is it opens a consent window, so when you have your fun, then you check out. To verify that this whole experience was consensual, you're agreeing up front and then you are agreeing that you agreed, at the end. It's like a post-nup.

At any time during that encounter, you can change your mind. I factor that in because sometimes, all of a sudden, you can freak out– maybe you're doing it for the wrong reasons, maybe something comes up that changes the encounter. You can still use the app to check out successfully.

Another piece of this revolutionary protocol is about getting people to really understand what they want and to be honest with themselves. You can change your preference data and what you’re looking for in real time. If it’s 2:00 in the morning in a Las Vegas Hotel room and you just want some company, that's very different than “at this moment in time I’m searching for my soulmate.” If you're looking for a long-term relationship at 2:00 in the morning, you're not going to find the right people.

When you sign up for the platform, you enter an ethical contract that basically says– things happen, people change their minds and everybody's going to agree to be kind. I call it the “no douchebags/no crazy chicks” policy.

We're trying to weed out the problem people and create a community.

Seventy percent of the women on existing dating apps have been celibate for more than a year, not by choice but because they cannot find an appropriate match. When you're swiping through these apps, all you have is a photo. People match thousands of times, but the way it works is just not in the moment. The way that we have set it up is as organic and natural as bumping into somebody at the grocery store.

KM: You mentioned Blockchain putting people in situations of taking responsibility for their decisions and choices. I feel there's a question of how ready people are for taking that responsibility.

AA: Oh, we’ve turned into lemmings. We’ve told every woman that she's a victim, that she's got this glass ceiling and that she's not responsible because someone is victimizing her and someone else is to blame. That culture has got to end.

We have to get back to the point where we own our choices, our handshake is our word. Because then and only then are we actually going to move forward as a society.

The trajectory that we have been on is not good for women— the victim mentality and the Violence Against Women Act. I created the California Alliance for Families and Children with a core group of people and we did a large study which showed that domestic violence in the United States, it's 50/50: 30 percent man on woman, 30 percent woman on man and 40 percent mutual. Nobody ever wants to admit that. You these narratives created for power that do not serve the people. That's a problem.

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Beyond the #MeToo bandwagon

KM: I'm getting a sense that you're going to have a unique perspective on the women in Blockchain discourse. Do you feel that the space has changed in the past 10 years in terms of opportunities for and treatment of women?

AA: I have a very skewed perspective, you're right. I'm the only female ever in the cigar room with the Titans who have never asked me out in 30 years. Why? The answer was – I’m a valuable asset, not a female.

Certainly, there are men who are predators and they needed to be called out. The tech industry is similar to the entertainment industry. Everybody knows who the predators are, but nobody's talking about it. And I think that's the problem.

I did have some issues with #MeToo, with the pile on, because I have a friend who got thrown under the bus, I feel unjust. In this case, I was there, I saw that the woman started it and then jumped on the #MeToo bus.

And yet, it's OK in our society for women to behave like that. I think that is actually going to be the downfall of women if we don't hold each other accountable to better behavior and owning our choices.

The women who are dressed properly, have a business pitch, no flirtation, not leaning on their femininity–  those women getting hit on, that has to stop. I don't think everybody has to lose their femininity and vulnerability, but it's hard to create a safe place for everyone. Because of that, the fact that we have women in Blockchain and women investing in women allows us to focus more on creating opportunity in a safe pipeline, a safe funnel for women that need the extra support.

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A Blue Ocean amidst bro culture

AA:

If we create the infrastructure and the environment where women feel safe, they will thrive. We already know that women are a better investment. They're a better long-term risk. They're gonna make more money, they're going to fail less, they're going to work harder, they're going to put more into it.

We already know this, so women should be getting more investment, but they're not– just because of the way the system is designed. Unless you’re a 25-year-old Stanford grad, Asian male, you can't write something on a napkin and get a $5 mln seed round.

In addition, with this whole #MeToo thing, we now have the blowback which is men not taking any meetings with women. That's going to take a while to settle down. It's up to the women in Blockchain, the women in tech to create that safe place for the men to come in who will support women. When these men end up making a lot more money, that's where we get to have our “I told you so” moment. Then the industry will shift. We have to create our own breaks.

Instead of trying to change the existing bro culture, we have to do a Blue Ocean Strategy from scratch where we go– here's what we're doing over here. Blockchain gives women the opportunity to do it and democratizes the entire investment field with ICOs, token sales.

Normally, we would have to pitch a VC, and in my case, they wouldn’t touch a dating app– even though the only apps out there are mostly built by men and they don't address what women need, to feel safe, secure and certain to say yes.

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Omnipotence addiction

KM: Many people feel that technology has infringed too much on human interaction. We have apps to help us communicate, take care of each other, spy on each other. Now Blockchain introduces a kind of technology-assisted trust. Do you feel that’s something that might be difficult for people to accept? Or are we tired enough of ambiguity to be ready for it?

AA: I'm tired of being asked out by married men. I’m tired of going out to dinner with men that I think are single and available only to find out that they are not. I'm definitely ready to only date available, eligible, appropriate people, and I need technology to do that.

What's interesting is it's already in our everyday life. Our phones are listening to us all the time. I've sold my soul to Google and Apple, and I'm OK with that, it makes my life easier. I have tried to function without them. I go on cruises where they don't have internet and it's frightening– I’m on shore in Turkey, trying to figure out how to type on the Turkish keyboard in an internet cafe.

Is there an addiction? Yes, I have an omnipotence addiction. I am omnipotent when I have my phone and my laptop, I can find or do anything I need to. There's no escaping technology.

I think that you would have to convert to be Amish if you want to avoid it and that is backbreaking labor, I'm not sure I'm up for it.

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Bitcoin, Blockchain and love

KM: Any predictions about Bitcoin and mass crypto adoption, when is that coming?

AA: So there are several apps coming out, mine being one of them, that are mainstream and understandable. We're calling them apps, not wallets. These are projects that everyone can adapt and learn to use. People will create digital identities in order to use these products.

That will help with mainstream adoption. We're at five percent now– it's the tipping point. I expect we’ll be 30-35 percent by the end of 2019. I think Bitcoin is going to hit $30,000 by the end of the year.

I said $10,000 by the end of last year and it hit $20,000, it was $10,000 in November. I said that when it was $800 and my friends thought I was crazy. It's math, and I majored in math, so I'm pretty sure I can read the algorithm.

Because it’s diminishing supply, proof of work gets harder– Bitcoin is designed to increase in value, so it will.

KM: Your token generating event is coming up. Do you think regulations are going to impede token offerings in general?

AA: I think there will be laws passed that will make it easier. I think that every prosecution so far should have been prosecuted, in the same way, had they been stocks, not tokens. Fraud, Ponzi, misrepresentation– that's already illegal. That should continue to be illegal in the token economy. Do the right thing, own your choices.

I prefer to run token sales like a Kickstarter for subway tokens– full utility. I check with the SEC first. We're running a fully compliant utility token. If you want to buy in bulk, you're going to have to get a reseller agreement, but it's not for investment purposes.

It’s for love. Who doesn't want to get laid?

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Crypto Commerce and Its Future: Interview with Uphold’s CEO, J.P. Thieriot

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With the world of Blockchain ever evolving and changing pace, a top level executive lays out his vision for what the future has in store for the crypto market
Crypto Commerce and Its Future: Interview with Uphold’s CEO, J.P. Thieriot

J.P. Thieriot is the CEO of Uphold, a cryptocurrency platform offering a multitude of services, which was launched in 2015. A graduate of Yale University, before going crypto, J.P. Thieriot managed a number of companies in the tech sector, as well as real-estate and agriculture, including Estancia Beef, one of the largest grass-fed beef companies in the United States. Today he agreed to sit down with us to discuss where the crypto business is at, as we’re approaching the New Year.

Why Crypto?

U.Today: Mr Thieriot, tell us a bit about yourself please. You have a substantial amount of experience in many business sectors. How did you find yourself doing what you do today?

J.P. Thieriot: My first exposure to Bitcoin came as a result of having investors’ funds trapped in Argentina in 2013. Despite statements from PWC stating that a given LP’s account was worth $X, attempting to take the money out of the country meant the LP would receive $.5X. It was a perfect example of how a third world country can use monetary games in pursuit of short-term gains, while ultimately thwarting real value creation and holding a populace hostage to incompetence. We tried every conceivable (US legal) way of getting the funds out. That’s when I came across Bitcoin. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the plunge. Seemed too precarious. BTC was at around $15 at the time!

U.Today: Tell us about the company you are currently heading. What services does it offer exactly?

J.P. Thieriot: Uphold is a global digital money platform. We have about 1m users. In some respects, this side of our business could be compared with Coinbase, i.e. not exactly an ‘exchange’, with direct links to legacy money networks like US and EU banking through rails like ACH and SEPA. Where we’re very differentiated is in having a big lead over everyone in the context of our open APIs for third party digital money applications. We do not just ‘list’ tokens like an exchange, we are deeply integrated into some of the ecosystems of the companies behind the tokens, like Brave-BAT, DASH and Cred-LBA. 2019 will be the year that some amazing utility tokens emerge from the rubble of hundreds of silly ICOs. I’d like to think Uphold will be an integral part of those likely to be the most successful.

U.Today: Uphold recently received close to 60 million USD from Greg Kidd, a former Ripple executive. Are you now partners with XRP?

J.P. Thieriot: We have a large XRP community on Uphold. They are passionate and active. We try to make them happy. Certainly, there are a number of possibilities with Ripple down the road.

The DLT Business Today

U.Today: In addition to yours, there are many companies based in San Francisco, among them Kraken, Coinbase, and Blockchain Capital. Has Silicon Valley now conquered the crypto world as well?

J.P. Thieriot: Digital money is an Internet phenomenon. It stands to reason that ‘Internet’ geographies would concentrate Blockchain companies in the early going. Ultimately, I imagine regulatory regimes will skew the array. Hopefully, the US will be able to maintain a light hand and perpetuate its early advantage over other regimes.

U.Today: What do you think it takes to “make it” in the DLT world as an entrepreneur? Is it about the savviness, i.e. the know-how, or simply the right attitude, i.e. being the go-getter type?

J.P. Thieriot:

Perseverance first. Execution second. Blazing insights a distant third. Building the right team is also critical... I have a pretty dim view of humanity :), specifically in that I’d choose to work again with perhaps 10% of the people I’ve worked with.

After four years at Uphold and many purges and reorganizations, we’ve arrived where that number is, for the first time in my work experience, inverted. 90% of the people working at Uphold today are rock stars. Work hours don’t exist; the creativity, initiative, and energy thrown at every problem is unbelievable. It feels more like (an ideal) family than a workplace. We all believe we are doing something important and exciting, and we’re unlikely to come across a similar opportunity in our lifetimes.

U.Today: Are you a believer in decentralization? It seems that this is how the Blockchain got started in the first instance. Yet, according to some, this domain has now become very centralized, from pegging to market dominance by a select few. What are your thoughts?

J.P. Thieriot: ‘Decentralization’ has become the buzzword du jour. Yesterday it was ‘Blockchain’. Obviously, these are novel and important facets of our burgeoning ecosystem, but it’s funny to me how people can get religious and sanctimonious around these banners. The idea here is that an Internet of Money has become possible… ne inevitable.

Decentralized and Blockchain technologies, methods and protocols will likely have a lot to do with the evolution and outcome; however, being theologically absolute, really about anything, strikes me as ridiculous. The Internet is decentralized; Amazon, Google and Apple are not. For this industry to jump the rails into the mainstream, particularly given how money is regulated, is going to require clusterings of human beings doing things like support and marketing for quite some time.

I’m not sure a pure peer-to-peer network, serviced by a distributed automaton is either possible or desirable. In the meantime, the more distributed, less concentrated, more collaborative things become, the better, i.e. less risk, higher output.

U.Today: While some networks openly attack one another, Ethereum and EOS being the prime example, others prefer to unite instead. Uphold is part of Universal Protocol which attempts to do just that. Is it a union created simply in order to increase profits, or is it more than that?

J.P. Thieriot: The UPP is an industry utility, the purpose of which is to mitigate a number of the current restraints on the growth of our ecosystem. We’ve identified those restraints as: 1) the lack of a common language, 2) the lack of conventional user safeguards, and 3) the lack of products built for mass adoption.

The question about Ethereum and EOS goes to the first of the above factors. It does nothing for the benefit of the ecosystem when competing protocols throw mud at each other. It debases outside opinion, puts a grin on the faces of the ossified naysayers—the Dimons and Buffetts of the world—and perpetuates confusion and uncertainty among potential new entrants.

UPP’s purpose is to usher in the next 100 million users of crypto. We can do this by disrupting a hidebound legacy financial system that has been a festering backwater in terms of innovation, soundness, fairness, equal access, and transparency. Bickering amongst ourselves is a destructive waste of time.

Ongoing Crisis and Predictions

U.Today: We simply cannot not ask about the current Bitcoin crisis. Does it complicate business, or can this low tide be treated as an opportunity to dig out whatever gold was left buried in the sand?

J.P. Thieriot: Speculative bubbles always form around the advent of revolutionary technologies. This technology happens to relate directly to money, and it has benefitted from significant Asian participation on the trading front; ergo, the ups and downs are likely to be super-charged.

We’ve been expecting a shakeout. There’ll be a lot less noise in the market. Meanwhile, nothing will deter the inexorable march of the coming Internet of Money.

U.Today: With so much on the market today, what is it that the customers are after exactly?

J.P. Thieriot: Quite simply, quantumly wider and more convenient access to better financial products and services.

U.Today: Can you make any predictions for the future? How is the market going to be different in, say, five or ten years from now?

J.P. Thieriot: 2019 will be the year of “The ICO is dead, long live the STO”. The first real utility tokens will start to show their stuff, foremost Brave’s BAT token. The general market will remain below the $200b mark as the weaker offerings perish and very few strong projects accumulate value. In five years, we will be well into the process of tokenizing/digitizing every single traditional asset class in existence.

In ten years, the use of banknote cash will at least have diminished by 50% from today’s levels… And my guess is―because one way to look at BTC is as a shorting of the monetary system’s status quo―BTC will be above $25k.

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Linda Zeilina of Re-Define on Who is Blockchain’s Worst Enemy

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In an exclusive interview, UK-based think tank Re-Define’s Linda Zeilina talks about the prevalence of groupthink, the lack of diversity and limitations of Blockchain
Linda Zeilina of Re-Define on Who is Blockchain’s Worst Enemy

As governments and financial institutions grapple with the task of regulating digital currencies, they seem to be embracing Blockchain, the underlying digital ledger technology which powers the world’s most profitable cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

UK-based think tank Re-Define’s Linda Zeilina special advisor on sustainability strategies talks about the prevalence of groupthink, the lack of diversity and limitations of Blockchain in an interview with Cyril Gilson, Editor-in-Chief of CryptoComes.

Cyril Gilson: Could you tell me about your think tank and your audience?

Linda Zeilina: I work with Re-Define, an international think tank that helps corporations and governments implement sustainability strategies to become more environmentally friendly. I work with asset managers and government officials to integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into their institutions.

Re-Define operates as an academic and consulting body.  We have visiting fellows and a large team of people who work internationally. Our visiting fellow’s program brings together tech pioneers from France, Silicon Valley and other parts of our world to serve as a brain trust. We challenge people to think outside of the box and invite a diversity of opinion.

In the tech industry, there is a strong tendency to have “groupthink.” Tech entrepreneurs passionately believe in their product this mindset sometimes results in overlooking issues and blind spots.

CG: So would you agree that the biggest enemy of the crypto community is the community itself?

LZ: We are all our own worst enemies to an extent. But I think diversity can bring new perspectives to the industry. Corporations are increasing diversity because they have woken up to the fact that women, minorities, people from different regions have a different way of looking at things. Alternative perspectives can be useful to identify opportunities and risks that one may have missed because of a sharp focus in one’s particular area.

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What is essential

CG: How do we change the dialogue? We hear many negative things about cryptocurrencies and comments that Bitcoin is a bubble. It makes people in the industry very defensive.

LZ: Educating the public is essential. The crypto community has been using a top-heavy approach which may not work as well as bottom-up approaches. When you get people involved, you put pressure on governments. It’s been pressure from bottom up that has influenced governments to address climate change. People suffering from direct implications of climate change are going out there, talking about it and bringing attention to the issue. Similarly, you have to think about digital currency as an advocacy and information campaign.

The issues that fire up

CG: But addressing climate change is a matter of life and death while adopting digital currencies is a question of paying a seven or three percent fee. Do you think it’s an issue that will fire people up?

LZ: People can be mobilized;  it’s how you communicate to the public. If you explain to them that healthcare will be cheaper, taxes won’t be as complicated, and they can be more secure from identity theft; then you can fire people up.  People like convenience, the rise of Amazon has been about making things quick and easy. Who doesn’t like quick and easy?

CG: Debates in cryptocurrency community get quite heated. Do you think the community could improve the way in which they communicate?

LZ: Definitely.  Communication is everything.  In a way, this is how technological advancement has always worked. Something gets invented, and then others improve it, and everyone has an opinion. I think that the community needs to solve its own issues because they are the best equipped to address them.  People remain protective because everyone wants to maintain their competitive edge.

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Role of governance

CG: What about the role of governance in Blockchain technology?

LZ: Everybody hopes that governance will change the status quo, but there are inherent limitations. We have examples of failed projects due to lack of underlying infrastructure, like Honduras.  Without decent governance, accurate record keeping, Blockchain may not work.  In some cases, governments can corrupt the system. The whole 51 percent aspect of the nodes is something no one seems to be talking about, and we have heard very little about the weaknesses of Blockchain.

Weaknesses of Blockchain

CG: So what are the weaknesses of Blockchain?

LZ: Well there are several. It is the 51 percent that can change the Blockchain outcome. If you do have a government that creates a land registry, but it’s an unequal society where not everybody will have the computing power or the ability to participate, Blockchain may not work. Moreover, stakeholders can use the technology to protect their interests.

Another major challenge is the amount of energy consumed by Blockchain. If Bitcoin used nearly 160 countries worth of power last year, that is hardly sustainable under the Paris Agreement, and people are not going to be happy.

CG: That’s their algorithm, and it cannot be changed.

LZ: Exactly! We need to invest more in green energy. The majority of Blockchain businesses will probably fail. But I have a firm belief these limitations can be solved through technological advancements in all areas.

Women’s role

CG: Do you think women are under-represented in this community?

LZ: Absolutely.  I also find it kind of funny because women are associated with the softer issues. Every time you go into a crypto conference people always start talking about the technical aspects.  Everybody knows how the technical aspects work; it’s far more interesting to see how the technology will interact with society and what the potential backlash might be.

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CG: Have gender differences played a role in the advancement of agendas because men are about achievement, advancing their agenda and women care more about society?

LZ: I don’t think that’s the division. The community needs an excellent communicator who can translate the message well to the public. Both men and women can be excellent communicators; it is a matter of who has the charisma to get them thinking.

Learn from the East

CG: Do you expect a greater advancement in the use of Blockchain technologies in developed countries or emerging economies?

LZ:  While much of the brain trust exists in the US and Switzerland, it’s important for institutional investors to know that there are real opportunities in the East.  Cities like Vizag, India, can leapfrog more easily because they don’t have massive institutional entrenchment which makes them more open to technology and the benefits it can bring.


Blockchain if appropriately used can reduce the know your customer issue of investing in startups in the East. A lot of sustainable energy startups are emerging in the East that solve everyday problems using a bottom-up approach. There is a lot to learn from that area and I hope Western startups and tech communities wouldn’t be too arrogant to learn from the East.

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How to Prevent Attackers From Hacking Blockchain Nodes: Professor of Cryptography Opinion

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“It looks like no one really tackles this problem right now- but they should”
How to Prevent Attackers From Hacking Blockchain Nodes: Professor of Cryptography Opinion

Sebastian Gajek is Professor of Cryptography and Information Security and founder of Weeve, a startup in the Berlin ecosystem that brings IoT and Blockchain together. We talk with Mr. Gajek about cybersecurity and vulnerabilities in crypto industry and community.

Cyril Gilson: What can be done to prevent from happening someone hacking nodes in Blockchain, the problem similar to what happened with EOS?

Sebastian Gajek: The recent attack against EOS is about using vulnerabilities in their software that allows to hack the nodes. The consequence was that the attackers could extract secret key material and this allows them to fully control the nodes. It is the worst thing that can happen to any consensus protocol.

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We have developed a very special operation system called the WeeveOS. It is an open-source project available on our GitHub. The operating system leverages cutting-edge security and privacy technologies. So, for example, we use a technique in order to isolate the secret keys from the rest of the operating system. This means in the case of EOS if WeeveOS operating system had been in place when the attacker compromised the nodes, they had got control over the nodes but were unable to extract the secret keys.  

This way you have more security and more trust in the network. We are going to release our operating system officially at Ethereum Dev Conference. A pre-release of the WeeveOS is already available through our GitHub.

We believe a lot of Blockchain technologies like EOS, like Ethereum, like HyperLedger really need to secure the nodes. It looks like no one really tackles this problem right now. This is bad because consensus protocols only work when one can trust the nodes. But for this you really need some super strong security technologies, otherwise, you will not get the trust by the quorum.

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Other vulnerabilities

CG: What other vulnerabilities do you see lately?

Sebastian Gajek: It’s like the general problem with cybercrimes: nodes are just some kind of programs, programs are written by humans and humans make mistakes. It’s natural right? Otherwise, humans would be machines.

Making mistakes is part of our genes. It looks that programming, for example, smart contracts, is like a new art.

People are now trying to understand what it really takes in order to program a proper smart contract. This is one main source where I see a lot of attacks and where devs really have to do better due diligence, take more care and verify whether the smart contract makes sense.

For example, ICOs might have fragile smart contract tokens and could be subject to those attacks.

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False smart contracts

CG: Could you give some examples of this?

Sebastian Gajek: The number one running example is the DAO. That was the greatest example, showcasing what happens if you design the smart contract in a false way. The result was clear, a lot of coins have been shifted differently than expected.

This is a canonical example showcasing you have to put a lot of care in designing smart contracts, and the same holds now for designing the programs that implement nodes. The attack I described against EOS is based on a similar problem. One where developers develop just design some kind of code and have not been careful enough.

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CG: Is there a way for individual investors in crypto to find out how secure is the system? Some indicators?

The point is the whole Blockchain technology is still  young in comparison to other IT industries. I see now first consulting companies building up exactly a kind of business to figure out whether a smart contract is vulnerable. Similar services have to be applied, for example in order to verify whether the nodes are also free from vulnerabilities.

Again this is ongoing work because people first of all have to learn how to properly program and then other people will build up services on top of that in order to verify whether the programming was correct.

Blockchain will change the Internet. It’s just a matter of time until these consulting companies will figure out there’s a huge cake, so they will hire specialists that do have the right skills, in order to give you a better understanding of what’s good or bad.

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CG: Before deciding whether to take part of ICOs or not, investors check the team, go over some lists, but I don’t think security is even in the top three points to check. What shall they do?

Sebastian Gajek: You are totally right, if I were an investor, I would really go through the points you mentioned, but I would also look who designed the contract. Because in the end, it’s all about reputation.

You really need to choose a smart contract design team that has a lot of credibility. That was one of the reasons why we have chosen to work together with ConsenSys because they have the leading experts in Ethereum development.

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Next Facebook will be Federation of Decentralized Networks: Bill Ottman of Minds.com

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What can be a strategy for the future of social media?
Next Facebook will be Federation of Decentralized Networks: Bill Ottman of Minds.com

The Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate hearings brought issues of privacy and data ownership starkly into the public eye, prompting even the least technologically advanced users to give some thought to the way their information is being used by major media companies.

Bill Ottman was quite ahead of the curve, launching Minds in 2011 with the aim of creating a different social network – one that would not only let users post the genius exploits of their pets, but also foster a certain kind of community with a specific set of values.

While Minds has enjoyed slow but steady organic growth over the years, the increasing awareness of decentralized technologies could now put Minds into the spotlight. It might not single-handedly topple Facebook overnight, but that’s not how Bill Ottman sees the future of social media, anyway.

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Katya Michaels: You started Minds in 2011, the web and mobile apps were launched in June 2015. What has been happening since then?

Bill Ottman: We have been constantly growing– over a million users now. It’s mostly steady organic growth, with a few big jumps based around big privacy breaches or changes in algorithms on major social networks. These types of events cause people to search for alternatives.

We considered it very unethical what Facebook did with their algorithm.

It used to be possible to drive a lot of traffic to websites through Facebook, but with algorithm changes, you couldn't even reach your own fans anymore. This really affected the whole media industry.

Now, small to medium sized creators are finding it easier to grow an audience on Minds than on Facebook, even though we are literally a thousandth of the size because we have a way to break out of the void.

When we launched in 2015, we had a point system for boosting posts. This quickly became the most popular feature on the network. Now, our Ethereum-based token system works essentially the same way, but on a Blockchain. We reward people for the engagement that they receive and referrals that they make.

Then, they can use those tokens to boost their posts through the platform or through other users. For example, they can offer another user 100 tokens to share a photo – it’s pure peer to peer advertising with no middleman. An application concurrent with tokens is a crowdfunding tool, so creators can set tiers of rewards and offer monthly subscriptions with exclusive content.

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KM: Where are you with your token? How do you expect it to be affected by regulations?

BO: Currently we're on the Ethereum Link testnet. These are not real tokens yet. We're doing going through extensive security auditing to make sure all of our smart contracts are rock solid and consulting with legal.

Before we implemented crypto over the last six months, users could send each other points or  dollars with Stripe. We took all of that out to focus fully on crypto and our revenue in the future is going to be in tokens.

On day one of any potential token sale, the tokens will be immediately usable. There will be no future products, we're not doing any kind of presales, we're not doing lockup. We're really trying to check off all the boxes to fall into the utility category.

I'm actually glad that we waited because a lot of social apps that have launched crypto over the last year are in a difficult situation now because they did SAFT agreements for future tokens or they didn't have a product.

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KM: When Minds got started seven years ago, there were fewer people who recognized the issues with major platforms like Facebook. Will rising awareness of privacy breaches and Blockchain technologies give decentralized platforms a boost?

BO: Absolutely. Without spending money on marketing, we're seeing fully organic growth directly in line with Cambridge Analytica or similar events. I think that people are becoming much more aware, they're starting to care more.

We think people deserve to be rewarded for their energy. Facebook, Google, Twitter, proprietary social media – they have an extractive model. They're assuming that you're lucky to be using the platform for free and they're going to use your data as your form of compensation.

Now, people are starting to understand that users, influencers, content creators are valuable. The people are actually what constitutes the network. Some of these independent creators on Youtube have more social reach than CNN. They are big brands, and the proprietary networks have to be very careful about driving them away.

Our strategy is the reward mechanism. Earning tokens for your contribution – that's something that everyone cares about, even if you're into Internet freedom, privacy and open source technology.

There’s a learning curve with crypto. First you need to appeal a little to the common human aspect, and as they come to the platform, they are exposed to the other layers of value such as freedom, privacy, transparency.

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KM: Facebook has billions of users and they're not going to offload en masse anytime soon. How does Minds face the adoption challenge? Would you try to get big content creators to come over?

BO: We already have some big Youtubers and Twitter influencers on the platform A lot of our big growth spurts are when a content creator with a million followers says “follow me on Minds” and overnight we will see 25,000 more users.

Certainly, the influencers hold a huge amount of the power. That is where the waves of migration to more decentralized, incentivized networks will come from.

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KM: I feel there would be a self-selection process for decentralized social network adoption, with people who are more concerned about data ownership being more likely to make the switch.

BO: For sure. Probably 90 percent of our current user base are people who are very aware of these issues and personally invested in helping to build solutions. We had an equity crowdfunding round last year, actually setting the record in the US for fastest to raise a million – and it all came from 1500 members of our community. That's a lot of people who are invested in these causes and are willing to become shareholders.

KM: Some new entertainment platforms are trying to change the advertising model to a framework where users choose to engage with advertising and get rewarded for it. Is that something that Minds is considering – third party advertisement for token compensation?

BO: We're certainly looking into having users watch ads and get compensated for that, with a distribution model that will support the creator as well. But we're staying away from third-party ad networks. We actually built our own internal ad network specifically because of issues with surveillance. I would say probably 99 percent of ad networks out there are basically spyware.

KM: With user generated content, there are always going to be issues with content quality control, legal considerations. How is Minds handling that? What is your stance on curation and censorship?

BO: In terms of copyright, we handle it like anyone else. If we get a DMCA request, we take content down, but that hasn't been much of a problem at all. We spent a lot of time over the last year working on our reporting, blocking and filtering tools, so that users can have as much control over their experience as possible.

This is actually one of my main interests right now – content policy and the best strategy for diminishing hate speech online.

Dozens of studies show that censorship amplifies hate speech.

Networks that have extensive hate speech policies think that they're fixing the problem, but what's actually happening is that they aggravate the trolls and the discussions get inflamed. If you look at the rise of political polarization in the last year or two, it is directly related to what's happening on Youtube and Twitter and Facebook.

We're not standing up for free speech just for the sake of it – we believe this is the strategy the Internet needs on a long-term macro basis. We have that larger mission to not polarize politically and create an honest, open and positive tone for the network.

People really appreciate that, even if they have drastically different ideas.

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KM: That’s a very challenging thing to do because it seems like the system selects for extremity, and then it becomes difficult to defend moderate positions.

BO: I can't agree more. It's called the Streisand effect – when you silence something, it makes it louder. If you ban books, it makes people want to read them more. It's certainly tricky, but the right to freedom of speech and First Amendment protection exists for the purpose of defending ideas that most people find controversial. You don't need freedom of speech for things most people agree with.

I do think that we need to start having this conversation with the bigger networks. Reddit knows as much as anyone that the amplification of extremism happens when you censor, but they’ve gone down the rabbit hole over the last couple of years, censoring things arbitrarily. They've fallen away from where they originally were, and so has Twitter. It's very hard because the public pressure to cave is intense.

KM: A lot of these social media companies started out as mavericks, giving users freedom of expression, but years go by, they get big and they become the establishment. Do you think that’s something that can affect crypto and Blockchain companies as well?

BO: Well, look at what just happened to Coinbase– it banned Julian Assange. First he got banned from PayPal and there was a big uproar. Then he started taking donations in Bitcoin, and now Coinbase said no.

That's a perfect example of a crypto company that ends up becoming the establishment, but it’s very nuanced. Nuance for me is the word of the year, if not the last few years.

Obviously Coinbase is essential to the growth of crypto in general and it's a great company, but it’s also fully, totally proprietary. They've had transparency issues a little bit over the years.

Now there are also issues with privacy and Blockchain because Blockchain is immutable and forever. When people talk about publishing things to the Blockchain, but then wanting to delete them – you're getting into a complicated situation. Which would you prefer? The ability to delete or the decentralized power of the blockchain?

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KM: What's the roadmap for Minds over the next months? What are you hoping for?

BO: We're certainly aiming for a token sale this year. I think that we are seeing other examples like Steemit working – the SEC is not taking them down. Also, we are definitely focusing on further decentralization, but balancing that with the nuance of privacy versus the immutability that comes with Blockchain.

Our technology is fully open source and decentralized, so anyone can take our stack and start their own app. That's really important because those apps can be independent, but they can also potentially federate together.

We don't see the next Facebook being a singular centralized entity. It really can't be. Realistically it's going to be some sort of a federation – whether it's a federation of networks or individuals in control of their own data joining networks that are a decentralized.

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KM: So you see the future of media as stepping back from monopolization – being fragmented, but interoperable?

BO: For sure. It’s naive to expect everything in social media to be decentralized all at once. Sure, that's a great goal to have. But pragmatically and realistically, there's a reason that it hasn't been achieved yet. A lot of this tech is still very immature.

There's value in having a big community and making the process easy for everyone. Our strategy is more of centralization moving towards decentralization, as opposed to starting off in a scattered mess and trying to get everyone involved that way.

In order for Blockchain and open source, privacy networks to compete with Facebook, we have an obligation to become competitive functionally.

We're getting much closer. Our mobile apps are much better, we have a lot of the tools that they have. If you look at what's happening with Instagram, Snapchat, Google – all these apps tend to coalesce, they have the same features and compete with each other. What we want to do is provide those services, but with a different set of core values.

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NEM Puts Coincheck Behind, Looks Forward to Industry-Changing Catapult Tech: Jeff McDonald

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In his exclusive interview, Jeff McDonald explains how NEM is going to get ahead of Ethereum
NEM Puts Coincheck Behind, Looks Forward to Industry-Changing Catapult Tech: Jeff McDonald

 

CryptoComes talks to NEM’s Jeff McDonald about his leaving the foundation, the Coincheck aftermath, the NEM’s future plans and why Ethereum will flip Bitcoin as premier Blockchain.

Katya Michaels: The news is that you are leaving NEM foundation as Vice President - is this true? What motivated this decision and what are your plans now?

Jeff McDonald: I've been working with NEM for four years. I started in February of 2014 and it's been a very awesome ride. I've done a lot of different things- the Apostille protocol, the voting protocol, I helped champion supernodes. I feel like I've been very successful and at the same time, I'm spread very thin right now.

I have two companies that I am invested in, Luxtag and KChain, and I want to focus a little bit more on them now. Both are being built on NEM Blockchain and they have been doing really well lately. We've got multiple contracts with really important names in Malaysia. Kchain in South Korea just recently released their first token- not on an ICO. They have great name recognition and connections in South Korea.

Both of these projects really need me right now, I want to help them and I need a little bit of time for that. I'm leaving the Vice Presidency, but I'm not leaving NEM at all. I continue to be very active speaking for NEM - here at CryptoBlockCon LA, in San Francisco tomorrow, next week in Philippines, at Consensus 2018 in May.

Everything's good with the foundation. I'm really proud of NEM China and the team they built, I'm really proud of NEM Philippines, really proud of NEM Malaysia. All of these have really good teams behind them.

As the new leadership comes in, our hope is that they're going to scale out more countries. NEM US for instance, build up NEM Europe more, NEM Russia. I really want to see all these regional countries grow and be a big part of NEM.

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Coincheck hack aftermath

KM: I have to ask about Coincheck- what is the update on reimbursing victims and finding the perpetrators? Why has NEM foundation stopped tracking the stolen funds?

JM: The police are doing their investigation. We consider that a secular matter, to let the police do what they're doing. As far as tracking the accounts that had stolen funds, we've left a lot of evidence on chain for the police to do a chain analysis and catch the perpetrators.

As far as I know, Coincheck has allowed most everyone, if not everyone, to claim back their funds, which is a really good thing. They've held up their end of the bargain, I think and I'm very happy that they did that. I feel that it was a very sad incident.

We're just moving forward now- Coincheck is mostly in our past and we are looking forward to Catapult now, which is a huge deal.

Regulations: Japan vs. US

KM: Can you talk about regulators in Japan and describe your experience?

JM: Japan is actually a great example of regulation. They have been really bold in going out and making regulatory decisions. I think that overall that is great for the cryptocurrency industry. Other countries don't really know what to think about it, but because Japan is being so clear with its community, it opens the door for big business.

I mean if you look at cryptocurrency, why hasn't Apple made its coin? Why hasn't Google made a coin? Recently in Korea, Kakao, which has near a hundred percent market saturation, mentioned that they're getting into Blockchain. A lot of really big companies want to get into Blockchain, but for one thing, Blockchain technology is not quite good enough to handle the scalability at the levels that these big companies work.

Even if the Blockchain was good enough, though, the regulatory issues are not clear.

Japan has been awesome to say what is legal, what is not legal, and now the doors are open for big businesses in Japan to come in and really roll up Blockchain so that millions of people can be using it for something other than speculation.

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KM: How soon do you think the US will catch up to that kind of regulatory clarity?

JM: It'll still take a couple of years. The good news is that the conversation is happening and the US hasn't just said “It’s illegal!” The US has been very careful and very slow. Of course, I would want more clear and faster regulation, but I'm very satisfied with the happy medium in America right now.

I think that a lot of people won't like that I say this, but I think the SEC is doing a good job. They're going after scammers, and pumpers and dumpers. If you're an honest person and you're making a good project, following best practices, building something on the blockchain for real use - voting, or database security, or tickets- the SEC is totally fine with you.

Let's be realistic. There's only so much you can ask, for a government the size of America to move quickly with all these different agencies. They're all saying something a little bit different, but sooner or later they'll all get on board and become clear. I think that will happen in the next two or three years.

KM: Do you think ICOs will be greatly affected by regulatory activity in 2018 as compared to last year?

JM: ICOs are here to stay at least for another couple of years. ICOs in America might get cut back, but there will be a country somewhere - whether it's Japan or Belarus or Ukraine or Isle of Man- that will fully welcome Blockchain and ICOs and give clear and light regulation. Then, there will be another big boom of ICOs. The cat's out of the bag, the door is open, there is no stopping. There's too much money, it's too easy.

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Japanese investors

KM: What are your impressions of the Japanese investor community?

JM: The Japanese are great because they're actually really interested in the philosophy of the technology. It's really interesting, seeing the different countries and what people focus or don’t focus on.

One of the reasons why NEM is so big in Japan is because the Japanese have taken the time to actually read, study and understand the vision before they invested.

We have these die-hard Japanese fans that are just amazing. We have our own bar in Japan, with a special drink named after the Apostille protocol!

Dethroning Ethereum

KM: A lot of people believe that NEM can dethrone Ethereum as the premiere smart contracts platform. What do you think about that? What are the obstacles to that happening, if any?

JM: I think that our technology has been fundamentally designed as more stable and secure. Literally every day, there are projects leaving Ethereum and coming to NEM. We've lost one project from NEM to Ethereum, and that was for financial reasons. I think that the data on the ground is showing that people who are building applications prefer NEM over Ethereum. Now we need to build on that momentum and scale it out.

If the growth patterns of Bitcoin, Ethereum and NEM continue with the same trajectory, what will happen is Ethereum will flip Bitcoin as the premier Blockchain. That's going to happen later this year, maybe next year, but it’s really just a matter of time.

Ethereum is better than Bitcoin basically in every way you can imagine. It's faster, it has more utility, it’s just better. NEM turns out to be not in every way, but in a lot of important ways better than Ethereum. Sooner or later, people that are building will get this.

Ethereum's always had better marketing - they started off with marketing and then went to development. We started off with development, built a real product and then went to market. So we're still relatively unknown, but there's some technology coming out with Catapult that, for a lot of projects, will make NEM the only option.

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Catapult

KM: Is Catapult coming out soon?

JM: It will be open source next month. We've solved so many problems. For example, private key management, specifically losing your private key, which is a huge issue in Blockchain. We have a great contract coming up with Catapult. Whenever people are setting up an account, they can initiate this contract as an insurance mechanism to solve that.

Also, we have solved the gas problem. Let’s say CryptoComes makes a coin on Ethereum and you send it to all your readers. They say “thanks for the CryptoComes token,” and then they want to spend it, but they don't have any Ether for gas. Now, they have to sign up on an exchange, register and get an ID, send the money and then transfer Ether to the CryptoComes wallet. Only then, they can use CryptoComes to buy some advertising or send to their friends or whatever.

In NEM, we have this new transaction type which is going to allow CryptoComes to sponsor the gas fees. This is a really beautiful transaction because it allows regular users to get the CryptoComes token airdropped into a downloaded wallet, send it to their friends, start sharing it and creating an economy - even if they don’t know anything about Blockchain or Ether.

With Catapult, somebody can make their own app, their own wallet, and have their users or their business using that token without ever having to join an exchange. It’s seamless, frictionless, integrated into the system.

So there's a lot of great technology that's coming with Catapult that's just going to make NEM the only option.

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