It’s Time to Take it Back

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Full disclosure, I only entered the cryptosphere about 4 weeks ago. I wasn’t even one of those guys who had heard lots about it and done extensive research before finally deciding to buy my first stake in Bitcoin. My story was different.

I had just moved house, with my wife and dog into the rural plains of Queensland. We are both full-time students and have lived pay-check to pay-check for as long as we can remember. In the weeks leading up to the move we had ricocheted like helpless pinballs between one bullshit encounter with centralised authorities to the next. Whether service providers, financial institutions, even local governments — one after the other they held us in contempt and extorted us for our time, attention and hard-earned money.

I’m sure you’ve been there. You’ve been given some bullshit parking ticket or fine. Immediately you are no longer innocent until proven guilty. You are guilty and must prove your innocence in the most cumbersome way possible — writing and posting a physical letter and waiting for months for a response.

I had flights cancelled. flights I paid for in real money, in real time. Their compensation was to offer me a cheque for some of the cost which would be posted “in the next 6-8 weeks.”

When we vacated our rental property the real estate agent held our bond deposit over our heard like tyrannical oligarchs, demanding repaints, repairs, returfs. I had a cleaner take my money and run, without doing the job I had paid for.

It was honestly so infuriating to be at the mercy of these entities. Groups who had dominance over our lives in so many ways. We were just trying to do the right thing, help out where we could, and get on with our studies and our lives. It was at this time — in this frame of mind — that a friend introduced me to crypto. I immediately fell in love with the ethos. An economy, a movement, predicated on decentralisation. The shifting of power from the few to the many. The opportunity to own, like truly own our wealth, our value, our influence.

I was in.

I was in 5 days before “the crash” but I was in nonetheless and I have no regrets.

Though, one thing that has pissed me off since becoming part of the cryptosphere, however, is an attitude I keep bumping into. It’s held by people largely unfamiliar with blockchain technology and the potential revolution it will bring. It is an attitude that can be summed up by the phrase: “Oh, so you’re a gambling man?”

These are people who think that trading in crypto is essentially glorified gambling. They may mean well, they may simply not have taken the time to look into blockchain tech, but they confidently assume that because the market is volatile, that its unfamiliar, then it must be a bubble, a scam.

No.

You know what is a bubble? The housing industry that currently enslaves 35% of my country to crippling mortgage debt while the remaining 75% pay extortionist rents to help mitigate the cost. You know what is a scam?  The fact that the banking sector in my country is among the most profitable in the world, with their CEOs pocketing upwards of $12,000,000 while the average household salary has stagnated, cost of living and student debt has increased and the value of our dollar weakened.

Am I any more of a gambler than the guy who bets on the banks, his superannuation account, his national dollar to not screw him over? Is crypto any more volatile than my handing over $400 for a cleaner to do the simple job they advertised only to have them rob me and run?

I did not enter into crypto as a gamble. I entered as a gambit. An educated, calculated play at reclaiming some ground. Reclaiming some autonomy, some control over my fucking time, my money.

I invested in the future, I invested in the power of decentralisation. I took back control of my wealth (tiny though it may be). I am excited to grow alongside these projects.

The cryptosphere is more than a market. It is a new technological universe being birthed out of our current, stale and broken one. At times it will be uncomfortable, painful, scary — any good birth is. Just don’t call me a gambler because I’ve chosen to be there when the baby arrives.


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The Trade-off of ‘Trustless’

 

 

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Do you trust me?

 


Of the dozens of ways the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/08 has been described, one phrase remains common between them. People simply “lost confidence” in the banks, and for good reason. The centralised economic powers were lending money that didn’t exist to people who could not afford it, to spend on depreciating assets. A loss of confidence is a direct result of breached trust. The people could no longer trust in the centralised economy.

In 2009, the entity known as Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin, largely as a response to the obvious fragility of an economy predicated on a trust in centralisation. Bitcoin was to be a real-world application of a ‘trustless economy.’

Dani Amsalem’s Decryptionary defines ‘trustless’ as “a positive quality where you are not required to trust the person you’re doing the transaction with. A trustless system or technology is so secure and smooth in handling your transactions, that both people in a transaction can safely hand over money and other valuables without the risk of being cheated.”

This is one of the hallmarks of the decentralised economy and part of what makes the cryptocurrency revolution so appealing. Another added benefit of Bitcoin was that transactions could only involve the transfer of actual currency, already existing.

One of the main ingredients of the GFC was the fact that people had little-to-no choice but to trust the centralised powers that controlled their economy. With the cryptocurrency revolution that is no longer the case. We can now exchange real value on a peer-to-peer level without the need of a centralised power to govern and legitimise it. We needn’t even know the person we are transacting with. With crypto, the fear of being cheated and the worry that the ‘powers that be’ might be taking us for a ride is significantly reduced. As Amsalem states, trustless is a “positive quality.”

While this is an exciting and revolutionary step forward for our economies, it is worth us taking a moment to reflect not only on the positives but also on what might be lost when we shift from a trust-based economy to a trustless one. We need to remember that we haven’t forsaken trust altogether. It is true that when we participate in the crypto economy we no longer need to trust the person we are transacting with. However, we mustn’t forget that we have simply shifted that trust to the blockchain. We trust in the blockchain to maintain fair transactions because that is what the blockchain does.

But is there a trade-off?

What effect do trustless economies have on us as inherently trusting, cooperative communities? Trust is essential for the building of healthy relationships. If trust is no longer a needed ingredient between people transacting value do we not run the risk of losing some essential ingredient of a healthy society?

For the most part, the cryptosphere has proven this worry warranted, though not defeating. Online communities of crypto enthusiasts, traders, investors and the generally curious have come together to help each other better understand and participate in the economic revolution. This is the ethos of Crypto 101. We may have negated the need for trust in matters of transacting value but as a result, we have increased our need for, and willingness to provide, a healthy dose of trust in our communities. This is a wonderful thing.

As participants in the trustless economy, we need to consciously remind ourselves of the importance of trust for the communities we are entering into. Intentionally putting that into practice by being trustworthy participants is one of the best ways we can further legitimise and empower the cryptosphere.


 

Ep. 66 — Crypto 101’s Two Rules of Trading

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Before we get started, the usual disclaimer: despite the title this post is not designed to be taken as professional financial advice. It absolutely can not take the place of your own, independent and comprehensive research.

When I was first introduced to cryptocurrency it wasn’t long before two acronyms: FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and FOMO (fear of missing out) became part of my vocabulary. These acronyms pertain specifically to the practice of trading in cryptocurrencies. I entered the market early January and without explicitly being aware of these two forces, they definitely affected my decision making in those early days.

Both FUD and FOMO have one thing in common: fear. The lesson to be learned here is that if we can do something to control fear, we might just have done the bulk of the work necessary to make smarter decisions in the marketplace. It is an exciting time to be engaged, but external pressures and confusion can hinder our thought processes. When these are coupled with fear, we are much more likely to make poor decisions.

Below are two simple rules that we at Crypto 101 believe help guard the average consumer against falling victim to FUD and FOMO.

1. Don’t invest more money than you are willing to lose.

The money you are willing to lose is the money you are willing to forget about. If you find yourself constantly obsessing about your investment, you may have already made this mistake. Or perhaps, you invested a sensible amount of money but you also may have invested your ego.

Try not to attach your personal identity to the money you put into the market. We all make mistakes, we are all susceptible to rushing in or feeling too personally attached to our choices. A good lesson here is to try not to take market fluctuations personally. How much credit can you really take for a coin skyrocketing or plummeting? If your investment fails, it’s not necessarily your fault. But if you invest only what you are willing to lose, losing doesn’t affect you.

2. Only sell your coins when you are happy with the profit or you have accepted the loss.

Part of this includes having a pre-established goal. This can be flexible, for sure. But make sure you have a starting point. If you invest in a coin at $1, have a clear exit strategy in mind. Maybe it’s $1.50, maybe it’s $2. The end goal can be flexible based upon context: headlines, the performance of the rest of your portfolio etc. But make sure you always have a goal in mind.

Another thing to remember is that over-trading reduces your chances of reaching your goal. Be patient and make educated moves, sparingly. It is time to sell when you are either happy with your profits or you have accepted your loss. If you can’t honestly admit either of these things, it is not the right time to sell. Sometimes you may sell at a point you are comfortable with. You take some profits and are happy with your decision. The next day the coin you sold may continue to grow. It is important to remember that this is fine, you entered with a plan, you made the right decision at the time, and you were happy with your profits. The market will continue to do its thing, we can’t let it fool us into thinking a good decision we were content with, was actually a bad one.

One final point

There will always be another opportunity. If you feel like you sold too soon, or you missed an opportunity — don’t panic. There are new decisions to be made and along the way you have gained more experience in making them better. Again, remove fear as best you can and start afresh.


Crypto 101 Episode 66 — https://apple.co/2GgQFxd

Ep. 74 — Get Yo’ House in Order!

 

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Image: Still from ‘Snakes on a Plane’

 


There is no doubt 2017 was a breakout year for cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin reaching an all-time high of near $20 000 USD and the introduction of hundreds of new alt coins to the market — each promising new and interesting solutions to stale yet worthwhile problems. The cryptosphere saw hundreds of thousands of new investors, traders and those who were simply curious about blockchain technology enter the arena.

Various projects watched their market caps rise exponentially as we invested more and more money into them. Some of us were looking to be taken to the moon, others were throwing a little money behind a project they believe in. But all of us were somewhere on the spectrum between the two.

November and December hit us like a full chamber orchestra. At first, lulling and cooing at us with warm tones of bemusement and intrigue. The symphony soon rose to euphoria as we were swept up in the semi-orgasmic, too-good-to-be-true, nothing-but-up adventure we all found ourselves on.

Then the crescendo hit. Far from euphoric, she struck with a vengeance. Shaking us from our brain-dead complacency. Ripping us from the inexplicable, yet somehow, expected torrent of good news, great times, and incredible gains.

But this was needed. This was healthy.

As investors, we poured money into projects with no real-world products. We signed up to financially support a long list of promises that in reality should have already been delivered. 2017 saw the price of many cryptocurrencies vastly outrank their tangible value.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not FUD — I am bullish. I am bullish enough on cryptocurrency to expect excellence. We need to understand that if we have put money into a crypto project we are investors. Companies are accountable to their shareholders and cryptocurrencies and protocols are accountable to their coin/token holders.

Of course, this is a relatively new space, and things are changing rapidly. Many projects are working hard at delivering on their promises and moving the cryptosphere into an exciting future, which is great — but many are not.

Bloomberg recently published a report detailing how 30% of Millennials would feel more comfortable investing in cryptocurrency than traditional stocks.

You know what Millenials value? They value good design, a crisp aesthetic appeal. They value intuitive usability and instant feedback. They value clarity and sharability. All of this is disappointingly lacking. Yet they should be priorities for the projects currently dominating the cryptosphere.

If I can’t download a clean iOS app, send funds instantly and touch and feel the real-world impact of the project, I will quickly lose interest. Granted, some of that responsibility falls on me as the user/investor (as Taylor Monahan rightly stresses here). But we need to re-assess our measures of success. A popular Telegram channel is not enough (have you experienced the chaos of a 10, 000+ person Telegram channel!?).

2017 may have been the “breakout” year for crypto but 2018 needs to be the “get your shit together” year! As investors, and pioneers in the space, we owe it to ourselves and the technology to demand as much from these projects in 2018.


 

Bloomberg Article — https://bloom.bg/2hUiKkl 

Crypto 101 Podcast Episode 74 — https://apple.co/2HfkLml

Ep. 80 — My Ether Wallet + My Crypto with Taylor Monahan

 

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Image: http://bit.ly/2C0r4dO

 


For kids of the 90s like me, MEW was just a Pokémon. It was mysterious and incredibly hard to catch. In 2015 however, MEW became something else — My Ether Wallet. 

Taylor Monahan is the mind and workhorse behind MEW. She sat down with Matthew and Dani Amsalem from Decryptionary.com in a successful effort to make her own MEW a little less like the enigmatic Pokémon and a little more Crypto 101. 

The original intention behind the creation of MEW was not unlike our own — to make crypto more accessible. Before MEW, interacting with the Ethereum blockchain required users to run command lines. Since it’s inception it has become and remained community-built and focused. It is no surprise that the platform has grown into the most widely-used tool for transacting with Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens.

Since recording this episode, Taylor has forked from MEW to create MyCrypto.com which is, for the most part, an evolved (pardon the pun) version of MEW, aimed at addressing the exponential scaling that was rapidly becoming a problem. Her own detailed explanation is linked below.

One of the core focusses Taylor will be taking with her into this new project is her commitment to an increased user experience; focussing on ease of use and clarity.

Within the interview, however, Taylor touched upon a few points worth restating. 

Security

Hackers and phishers are incredibly determined to steal from unprepared crypto holders. However, this is nothing to be afraid of if you take some basic security measures like two-factor authentication, solid passwords and being careful with your private keys. A little preparation goes a long way. Which leads to:

Custody

The main difference between a platform like Coinbase and MEW or MyCrypto is custody — who ultimately has ownership of your private keys. The function MEW and Mycrypto provide everyday users is access to and complete ownership of their funds.

ICOs

This is the reason why you should never purchase ICO tokens from within a platform like Coinbase. You are essentially paying the ICO team from your Coinbase wallet, which is not owned by you, it is owned for you, by Coinbase. If you pay for a product from within Coinbase, it will be Coinbase that receives the product, not you.

Taylor’s final two points are the key takeaways from the interview. Whether you are a veteran or a complete neophyte in the cryptosphere, never stop learning, never stop growing. Taylor says “read everything,” stay informed and chase what excites you.

Lastly, if you are concerned about price (and she isn’t) ask yourself, “what am I doing to increase the value of cryptocurrency?” Who can we educate, what can we offer the community that will ultimately build the legitimacy and real-world tangibility of this new technology?


Taylor’s comments on the MyCrypto fork — https://medium.com/mycrypto/mycrypto-launch-6a066bf41093 

Decryptionary — https://Decryptionary.com 

Crypto 101 Podcast Episode 80 — pca.st/XjB0 

Ep. 79 — The Kyber Network with Loi Luu

 

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Image: http://bit.ly/2EomY0V

 


A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, a rare and beautiful type of crystal was used by rogue anarchists to channel the light side of the Force in their fight for freedom, autonomy and peace — these were the Kyber crystals.

This is the inspiration behind the Kyber Network, headed up by Loi Luu (CEO). Though, their inspiration runs deeper than a love of Star Wars. The Kyber Network’s vision is to become a global decentralised exchange and trading platform for those wanting to transact with cryptocurrencies as well as those who need a simpler way to engage in the cryptosphere using fiat.

Kyber’s intention is to develop a platform that prioritises security and usability — both incredibly topical and important issues for cryptocurrency. They aim to achieve this by running their entire service on the Ethereum blockchain via the mechanic of smart contracts. This ensures user security and the sort of transparency that has been so evidently lacking with some of the more established, centralised crypto exchanges currently dominating the space.

Besides developing a mobile wallet for instant payments, one of the ways in which Kyber seeks to be user-friendly lies in its addressing one of the more common issues for decentralised exchanges: liquidity. Kyber guarantees liquidity within their exchange which means that users can buy and sell the currencies they want, when they want. They achieve this through a dedicated reserve which incentivises contributors and provides the liquidity everyday users and traders depend on.

The Kyber Network bears striking resemblance to something like the VISA network which can accept dozens of fiat currencies and guarantee liquidity for meaningful exchange between them. Though a key difference is that not only does the Kyber network aim to achieve this for cryptocurrencies but, as evidenced by partnerships like their recent one with Coinduck in South Korea, crypto to fiat transactions are just as achievable. In fact, they are happening right now!

At the time of recording the Kyber Network was built exclusively on the Ethereum blockchain, however in the following days Loi Luu has signed a partnership with Wanchain. Wanchain is a cross-chain protocol capable of executing cross-chain smart contracts and token exchange. Kyber has announced they will be building a decentralised exchange on top of Wanchain to compliment their presence on the Ethereum blockchain. The ability to meaningfully translate value between blockchains is an essential step for the success of decentralised exchanges.

Decentralised exchanges are sorely needed in this burgeoning and exciting world of cryptocurrency. They address some of the more fundamental problems the community has run into time and time again, like transparency and liquidity. But perhaps more importantly, they represent the ethos behind cryptocurrency and blockchain technology — a break away from centralised control. Ultimately it comes down to a reclaiming of ownership and trust. Decentralised exchanges are another step in this promising new direction.


 

The Kyber Network’s decentralised exchange is already live — you can find it here: https://ropsten.kyber.network

You can learn more about the Kyber Network here: https://kyber.network

Wanchain: https://wanchain.org

Link to Crypto 101’s interview with Loi Luu: https://apple.co/2G49u6Q

Ep. 77 — How to Survive a Bear Encounter

 

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Image: http://bit.ly/2BXE2ZX

 


We need to talk about the bear necessities.

November 2017 saw us awake to what was a beautiful, sunny, glorious day. We rose early, we got dressed and we couldn’t help but step out into the pristine woods to saturate ourselves in the glowing sun and misty air.

Then she showed up. She was massive, scary. She sounded terrifying and the closer she got, the more the clouds covered the sun and the cool, crisp air turned heavy and stale.

Nobody wants to bump into a bear, especially on such a perfect day. But there are some things we need to remember about bear encounters — things that can help us survive.

The first thing to know is that bears are not aggressive — they may seem aggressive. When this one showed up she certainly felt aggressive. But they aren’t — not really.

Bears are reactionary. More than anything they are curious, they just want to see how you will react. Depending on how you react the bear will adopt different behaviours. Don’t give her a reason to think it’s a good time to attack.

Before we bumped into her, she just wanted to eat. That is still her priority. The problem is, she likes the taste of your gains the most. How you react will determine how relentless she may become in her effort to locate and devour those gains.

— So, a couple of things to remember —

Do not panic:

She can smell your fear and nobody makes good decisions in a state of fear. When you start making rash decisions, the bear starts reacting to them. This makes you more fearful and therefore far more prone to making bad decisions. Just don’t panic.

Do not run:

Running is a good example of a bad decision. Don’t run. Bears will chase a runner. We run with the bulls, we do not run with the bears.

Stand your ground:

Think of the bear as a stranger. You wouldn’t run up to embrace a stranger, nor would you slap them across the face. You would simply remain calm, aware of their presence, but without changing your behaviour. Adopt the same attitude with the bear.

Be prepared, in groups:

As you approach the bear, it is undeniably more wise and comforting to be in a group of like-minded, equally prepared people. When that bear shows up, make sure you’ve got your people nearby.

Never feed the bear:

It’s what she wants most and it’s what you want least. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and offer them the contents of your wallet. They would gladly take it, and so will the bear. Never feed the bear. Just don’t.

So there are a few things to remember when we are facing a terrifying bear. We need to remember that this will happen again. But at least we can be prepared.

 


Link to Crypto 101 Episode 77 — https://apple.co/2EgO2Ps