I had a meeting today with a TA about the thesis I’m writing. In it, I’ll be examining particular social structures found in the Bitcoin network. Although he’s curious about Bitcoin, my TA doesn’t know much about it beyond what he’s seen in the press. He asked, “So just how much compute power is on the network right now?” I know that for a long time, the total hashpower of the Bitcoin network is some multiple of the top-500 supercomputers combined, so I told him just that. But I wanted to know just how big that multiple was. The number I came up with totally boggles my mind. Continue reading “The Bitcoin Network is 11000x Faster than the Top 500 Supercomputers Combined”
If it bleeds, it reads. That’s been the rule for a long time. It seems like the morbid appeal of tales of mishap and catastrophe is hardwired, just like interest in the erotic. In both cases, demand has been met by a supply historically constrained by the technological limitations of media and the speed of information. Blue film houses, adult bookstores, and the like peddled NSFW content to paying customers eager to blow off – ahem – some steam. Tawdry tales of disaster and malfeasance were hawked on street corners, tall letters boldly exclaiming the horrors of the previous day, though the news from correspondents further afield took a bit longer to arrive. The picture I’m trying to paint here may be an artificially quaint and sepia-toned conception of the past, a simpler time when mid-Atlantic-accented newsmen recounted events between strained pulls off the sponsoring brand of cigarette, but that quaintness feels alright. Nostalgia feels safe.
Things change, though, when this sought-after content becomes ubiquitous, freely accessible, delivered in high definition and impeccable fidelity, on the fly and always-on. It becomes more captivating, engrossing, and banal. Though the content might come harder and faster, and the reporter’s takes have become hotter and/or fresher, it’s still basically the same thing every time. Exciting and tantalizing as it may be, it also feels mechanical / rehearsed and often more than a little exploitative. Continue reading “Tragedy Porn”
Update: Coincidentally, the day after I published this, London-based software engineer Julius Sweetland published Optikey, which uses iris tracking to let users type and use their computer’s “mouse” hands free. This could be great for those people who don’t have good dexterity. Check out the Optikey wiki on Github.
“The ideal payments experience would be an invisible one,” said a friend of mine while we were driving through the Tenderloin in San Francisco. We’d had a drink at a spot where to gain access you have to mention something about a library. Apart from the price (stratospheric, but passable because it was quite tasty, and in San Francisco) the process of cashing out was fraught with unnecessary friction which drew my attention. There was waiting for the bartender to print our tabs, still more waiting while he gathered our cards, or taking time to pay cash and get change, etc. In all, it took probably 4-5 minutes, a full 7% of our total time at the establishment.
This post is an exploration of payments, virtual reality, and the use of biometric data to make payments in a virtual reality environment. Not so much a technical paper as a meandering survey of various technologies and their intersection, this post can be broken into three parts: first, an overview of the payments space and investor interest in financial technology; second, analyzing the current trends in virtual reality headset technology; and finally, I hope to lay out a couple plausible paths toward building a seamless payment experience in immersive VR based on current hardware trends and industry forecasts.
Jack and Jill went to Sand Hill to raise their Series A
They went from Andreessen to Kleiner and Greylock and then to DFJ
Jill spoke of disruption
Old term sheets’ destruction
And when they will move to the Bay.
Jack said said to VCs
“Our app’s the bee’s knees”
“I see you have two Stanford degrees.”
“That’s right,” said Jack, “And the check, if you please?”
“Yeah, uh, sure. Okay.”
If a picture is worth 1000 words, then we are living in the most verbose of times. On the average day, more photos will be taken during that 24 hour period than any other 24-hour period before. The numbers, into which will delve a little bit deeper later on in this paper, are truly staggering. In the past decade, the way we think about photography is fundamentally changed. Continue reading “Does The Internet Have An Image Problem? Maybe”
Note: This is an edited excerpt from a research proposal I wrote for a course on network theory. For the purposes of this post, I did not include any of the sections on the data I would gather or the statistical analysis I would perform. If you have questions or suggestions about data or analysis, please feel free to contact me via the contact form on my site. Alternately, if you want to collaborate on executing this study, please also reach out through the contact form.
I consider this proposal a “working draft” of the first section of a longer paper. In order to complete that longer paper, I need data. So, if you have a huge database of VC deals, please let me know.
The objective of this paper was to propose a method for identifying the most influential venture capital firms (by using betweenness centrality as a proxy for influence) and determining whether there existed a correlation between the “promiscuity” of lead VCs and those VCs which were most effective at increasing valuations of the underlying ventures between the A and B rounds, rather than focusing on IPO valuations like other research has done.
I did include the works cited and my annotations to said citations at the bottom of this post.
In 2007, Hochberg et al. published a paper titled “Whom You Know Matters: Venture Capital Performance and Investment Networks” in which they establish that more well-connected VCs perform better at the individual company and portfolio level over the course of the venture lifecycle. At the earliest stages of the venture lifecycle, however, entrepreneurs understand the importance of partnering with a high-quality venture capitalist. Just as picking the right business partners can set up a project for success, picking the right investor should therefore augment performance. Continue reading “Does Who You Meet First Matter More? Analyzing VC Influence At The Earliest Stages [Excerpt]”
Since I returned to school to finish the rest of my undergraduate degree, I’ve noticed a particular pain point in the academic process. The bulk of the academic work I have to do for my major comes in the form of research papers and proposals. The biggest problem I have, when it comes to writing one of these things, is figuring out where to start.
TLDR? Skip to the bottom of the post to view a little slide deck…
To give a real-world example, I was sitting in a class called “network theory for international political economy,” a really interesting class that blends concepts from social network theory and international relations. Fortunately for me, the class’s subject matter skewed heavily toward social networking theory, a subject I find particularly interesting. Continue reading “Half-Baked Startup Idea: Bibliographies as a Service”
Although Snopes corrected my belief that Bill Gates said in an address to high school students, “Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could,” the idea rings true. For what it’s worth, that quote comes from Charles M. Sykes, author of the 1996 book Dumbing Down Our Kids. But it sounds better when it’s attributed to Mr. Gates, the archetype of nerd-turned-businessperson success stories. The truth is, people like Gates – computer scientists, hardware tinkerers, entrepreneurs, product designers, and marketers who help explain the benefits of new technology to the general population – they really do run the world now, because they’re the ones who build, command and control the computers that mediate so much of our lives today.
Software developers and designers are endowed with a particular kind of power. As glaziers of the digital world, they make and frame the windows through which we ingest and interact with information. An emergent phenomenon of this power to define the rules of interaction and consumption is that aspects of their creations have taken on a degree of social significance. In short, there is a politics of application features.
Oftentimes, software developers and designers build in features that reject (or at least push against) norms established by the structure of law and protocol. Here, we will briefly explore a small set of concepts employed in many contemporary software products and platforms, and we’ll give a short analysis of how these concepts are brought together and remixed in three particular software products: FireChat, Hush and Symphony. Continue reading “A (Very Incomplete) Conceptual Toolkit for Designing Rebellious Software”
Venture capitalists and certain technology publications love to sneer at derivative product ideas. Startup founders peddling goofy “Tinder for Cats” ideas become the butt of cruel jokes. And like all things, when it comes to joking about derivative startup ideas, there is an app for that: ItsThisForThat. Joking aside, explaining startup ideas by comparing them to successful companies is, at least from a social and linguistic perspective, an extremely efficient way to identify the nature of a company’s core product or service offering. By invoking an archetypal company and declaring the niche the startup wants to exploit, one-line startup pitches take the general form of “I’m building [archetypal company] for [niche market]” or, more simply, “X for Y”.
It is difficult to pinpoint when technology entrepreneurs began explaining their products and services in “X for Y” terms, but this explanatory heuristic has firmly ingrained itself in the startup ecosystem. Searching on Product Hunt for “tinder for” we find a plethora of startups: 208, Tinder for investors; Karma Swipe, Tinder for Reddit; and KickOn, Tinder for house parties and events. Searching again on PH for “uber for” we find Lugg, Uber for moving stuff; Nimbl, Uber for cash (because apparently going to the ATM is incredibly difficult); and perhaps my favorite company, MOWARES, a rather meta startup platform for building and launching your own Uber for X startup.
The question we want to answer here is, “functionally speaking, what do we mean when we say that a company’s product or service is ‘Uber for X’?” Continue reading “Semantics for Startups, or, Unpacking “X for Y” Company Descriptions”
Abstract/TLDR: The biggest opportunity for companies like Uber and Lyft is to expand their transportation services to third parties and diversify the type of objects they convey from one place to another. In doing so, the metaphor we use to describe these companies can shift from platforms to protocols. In short, these companies are building what I’m calling the IRL Transport Protocol, a system for routing packets (in the form of cars and bikes) and their contents from point to point.
This is a draft of a paper I recently submitted.