Monthly Archive: June 2018

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Abu Dhabi Global Market Launches Regulatory Framework for Crypto Activities

The financial authority of Abu Dhabi Global Market has launched a regulatory framework for cryptocurrency activities following the completion of a public consultation. The market’s financial watchdog has also published a guideline explaining how crypto asset activities are now regulated.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

Crypto Regulatory Framework Launched

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) announced this week that it has launched a “framework to regulate spot crypto asset activities, including those undertaken by exchanges, custodians and other intermediaries in ADGM.”

ADGM is the international financial center in Abu Dhabi which collaborates with global financial centers, institutions, and regulators to “develop and supports member institutions with the regulatory framework, legal jurisdiction and attractive business environment they need for sustainable business growth,” its website describes. The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) is the market’s watchdog. ADGM wrote:

“The framework is designed to address the full range of risks associated with crypto asset activities, including risks relating to money laundering and financial crime, consumer protection, technology governance, custody and exchange operations.”

FSRA Takes the Lead

This regulatory framework follows the completion of a public consultation on the introduction of a crypto regulatory framework by the FSRA on May 28. By incorporating public comments, “several refinements have been made to the regulatory framework, with a key change being the implementation of the daily value trading levy imposed on crypto asset exchanges on a sliding scale basis,” ADGM’s announcement details.

Richard Teng, the CEO of ADGM’s FSRA, commented:

By introducing a comprehensive and best-in-class regulatory framework, the FSRA is taking a leading role in instilling proper governance, oversight and transparency over crypto asset activities, positioning ADGM as a destination of choice for crypto asset players.

The FSRA said in February that “virtual currencies, although not legal tender, are gaining interest globally as a medium of exchange for goods and services,” Reuters reported.

New Crypto Framework Explained

The FSRA has also published a 34-page guide for the regulation of crypto asset activities in ADGM. The document explains the regulatory framework for crypto assets including the requirements for operating a crypto asset business, exchange or custodian.

“Applicants that qualify for authorization under the Spot Crypto Asset Framework will be granted an FSP [Financial Services Permission] to carry on the regulated activity of OCAB [Operating a Crypto Asset Business],” the document describes. According to the Spot Crypto Asset Framework:

Market intermediaries (e.g. broker dealers, custodians, asset managers) and crypto asset exchanges dealing in or managing crypto assets will need to be licensed / approved by FSRA as OCAB holders. Only activities in accepted crypto assets will be permitted.

The document also clarifies that this framework does not apply to initial coin offerings (ICOs). The FSRA has already published a separate guidance for ICOs in October last year.

What do you think of Abu Dhabi Global Market’s crypto regulatory framework?  Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock and ADGM.


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The post Abu Dhabi Global Market Launches Regulatory Framework for Crypto Activities appeared first on Bitcoin News.

Swift and JavaScript comparison snippets(4) — Collection Types 0

Swift and JavaScript comparison snippets(4) — Collection Types

Mutability of Collections: Arrays

Swift

// creata an empty array
var someInts = [Int]()
print("someInts is of type [Int] with (someInts.count) items.")
// Prints "someInts is of type [Int] with 0 items."
// Creating an Array with a Default Value
var threeDoubles = Array(repeating: 0.0, count: 3)
// threeDoubles is of type [Double], and equals [0.0, 0.0, 0.0]
var anotherThreeDoubles = Array(repeating: 2.5, count: 3)
// anotherThreeDoubles is of type [Double], and equals [2.5, 2.5, 2.5]
var sixDoubles = threeDoubles + anotherThreeDoubles
// sixDoubles is inferred as [Double], and equals [0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 2.5, 2.5, 2.5]
// Creating an Array with an Array Literal
var shoppingList: [String] = ["Eggs", "Milk"]
// shoppingList has been initialized with two initial items
// Accessing and Modifying an Array
if shoppingList.isEmpty {
print("The shopping list is empty.")
} else {
print("The shopping list is not empty.")
}
// Prints "The shopping list is not empty."
shoppingList.append("Flour")
// shoppingList now contains 3 items, and someone is making pancakes
shoppingList += ["Baking Powder"]
// shoppingList now contains 4 items
shoppingList += ["Chocolate Spread", "Cheese", "Butter"]
// shoppingList now contains 7 items
var firstItem = shoppingList[0]
// firstItem is equal to "Eggs"
shoppingList[0] = "Six eggs"
// the first item in the list is now equal to "Six eggs" rather than "Eggs"
shoppingList[4...6] = ["Bananas", "Apples"]
// shoppingList now contains 6 items
shoppingList.insert("Maple Syrup", at: 0)
// shoppingList now contains 7 items
// "Maple Syrup" is now the first item in the list
let mapleSyrup = shoppingList.remove(at: 0)
// the item that was at index 0 has just been removed
// shoppingList now contains 6 items, and no Maple Syrup
// the mapleSyrup constant is now equal to the removed "Maple Syrup" string
let apples = shoppingList.removeLast()
// the last item in the array has just been removed
// shoppingList now contains 5 items, and no apples
// the apples constant is now equal to the removed "Apples" string
// Iterating Over an Array
for item in shoppingList {
print(item)
}
// Six eggs
// Milk
// Flour
// Baking Powder
// Bananas
for (index, value) in shoppingList.enumerated() {
print("Item (index + 1): (value)")
}
// Item 1: Six eggs
// Item 2: Milk
// Item 3: Flour
// Item 4: Baking Powder
// Item 5: Bananas

JavaScript

// creata an empty array
let someInts = new Array()
console.log(`someInts is an array with ${someInts.length} items.`)
// Prints "someInts is an array with 0 items."
// Creating an Array with a Default Value
let threeDoubles = [0.0, 0.0, 0.0]
// threeDoubles is of type [Double], and equals [0.0, 0.0, 0.0]
let anotherThreeDoubles = [2.5, 2.5, 2.5]
// anotherThreeDoubles is of type [Double], and equals [2.5, 2.5, 2.5]
let sixDoubles = [...threeDoubles, ...anotherThreeDoubles]
// sixDoubles is inferred as [Double], and equals [0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 2.5, 2.5, 2.5]
// Creating an Array with an Array Literal
let shoppingList = ["Eggs", "Milk"]
// shoppingList has been initialized with two initial items
// Accessing and Modifying an Array
if (shoppingList.length === 0) {
console.log("The shopping list is empty.")
} else {
console.log("The shopping list is not empty.")
}
// Prints "The shopping list is not empty."
shoppingList.push("Flour")
// shoppingList now contains 3 items, and someone is making pancakes
shoppingList = shoppingList.concat(["Baking Powder"])
// shoppingList now contains 4 items
shoppingList = [...shoppingList, "Chocolate Spread", "Cheese", "Butter"]
// shoppingList now contains 7 items
let firstItem = shoppingList[0]
// firstItem is equal to "Eggs"
shoppingList[0] = "Six eggs"
// the first item in the list is now equal to "Six eggs" rather than "Eggs"
shoppingList.splice(4, 3, "Bananas", "Apples")
// shoppingList now contains 6 items
shoppingList.unshift("Maple Syrup")
// shoppingList now contains 7 items
// "Maple Syrup" is now the first item in the list
let mapleSyrup = shoppingList.shift()
// the item that was at index 0 has just been removed
// shoppingList now contains 6 items, and no Maple Syrup
// the mapleSyrup constant is now equal to the removed "Maple Syrup" string
let apples = shoppingList.pop()
// the last item in the array has just been removed
// shoppingList now contains 5 items, and no apples
// the apples constant is now equal to the removed "Apples" string
// Iterating Over an Array
shoppingList.forEach((item => {
console.log(item)
})
// Six eggs
// Milk
// Flour
// Baking Powder
// Bananas
shoppingList.forEach(((item, index) => {
console.log(`Item ${index + 1}: ${value}`)
})
// Item 1: Six eggs
// Item 2: Milk
// Item 3: Flour
// Item 4: Baking Powder
// Item 5: Bananas

Sets

Swift

// Creating and Initializing an Empty Set
var letters = Set<Character>()
print("letters is of type Set<Character> with (letters.count) items.")
// Prints "letters is of type Set<Character> with 0 items."
var favoriteGenres: Set<String> = ["Rock", "Classical", "Hip hop"]
// favoriteGenres has been initialized with three initial items
// Accessing and Modifying a Set
print("I have (favoriteGenres.count) favorite music genres.")
// Prints "I have 3 favorite music genres."
if favoriteGenres.isEmpty {
print("As far as music goes, I'm not picky.")
} else {
print("I have particular music preferences.")
}
// Prints "I have particular music preferences."
favoriteGenres.insert("Jazz")
// favoriteGenres now contains 4 items
if let removedGenre = favoriteGenres.remove("Rock") {
print("(removedGenre)? I'm over it.")
} else {
print("I never much cared for that.")
}
// Prints "Rock? I'm over it."
if favoriteGenres.contains("Funk") {
print("I get up on the good foot.")
} else {
print("It's too funky in here.")
}
// Prints "It's too funky in here."
// Iterating Over a Set
for genre in favoriteGenres {
print("(genre)")
}
// Classical
// Jazz
// Hip hop

JavaScript

// Creating and Initializing an Empty Set
let letters = new Set()
console.log(`letters is of type Set with ${letters.size} items.`)
// Prints "letters is of type Set with 0 items."
let favoriteGenres = new set(["Rock", "Classical", "Hip hop"])
// favoriteGenres has been initialized with three initial items
// Accessing and Modifying a Set
console.log(`I have ${favoriteGenres.size} favorite music genres.`)
// Prints "I have 3 favorite music genres."
if (favoriteGenres.size == 0) {
console.log("As far as music goes, I'm not picky.")
} else {
console.log("I have particular music preferences.")
}
// Prints "I have particular music preferences."
favoriteGenres.add("Jazz")
// favoriteGenres now contains 4 items
const removedGenre = favoriteGenres.delete("Rock")
if (removedGenre) {
console.log(`${removedGenre}? I'm over it.`)
} else {
console.log("I never much cared for that.")
}
// Prints "Rock? I'm over it."
if (favoriteGenres.has("Funk")) {
console.log("I get up on the good foot.")
} else {
console.log("It's too funky in here.")
}
// Prints "It's too funky in here."
// Iterating Over a Set
favoriteGenres.forEach(genre => {
console.log(genre);
})
// Classical
// Jazz
// Hip hop

Dictionaries

Swift

// Creating an Empty Dictionary
var namesOfIntegers = [Int: String]()
// namesOfIntegers is an empty [Int: String] dictionary
namesOfIntegers[16] = "sixteen"
// namesOfIntegers now contains 1 key-value pair
namesOfIntegers = [:]
// namesOfIntegers is once again an empty dictionary of type [Int: String]
// Creating a Dictionary with a Dictionary Literal
var airports: [String: String] = ["YYZ": "Toronto Pearson", "DUB": "Dublin"]
// Accessing and Modifying a Dictionary
print("The airports dictionary contains (airports.count) items.")
// Prints "The airports dictionary contains 2 items."
if airports.isEmpty {
print("The airports dictionary is empty.")
} else {
print("The airports dictionary is not empty.")
}
// Prints "The airports dictionary is not empty."
airports["LHR"] = "London"
// the airports dictionary now contains 3 items
airports["LHR"] = "London Heathrow"
// the value for "LHR" has been changed to "London Heathrow"
if let oldValue = airports.updateValue("Dublin Airport", forKey: "DUB") {
print("The old value for DUB was (oldValue).")
}
// Prints "The old value for DUB was Dublin."
if let airportName = airports["DUB"] {
print("The name of the airport is (airportName).")
} else {
print("That airport is not in the airports dictionary.")
}
// Prints "The name of the airport is Dublin Airport."
airports["APL"] = "Apple International"
// "Apple International" is not the real airport for APL, so delete it
airports["APL"] = nil
// APL has now been removed from the dictionary
if let removedValue = airports.removeValue(forKey: "DUB") {
print("The removed airport's name is (removedValue).")
} else {
print("The airports dictionary does not contain a value for DUB.")
}
// Prints "The removed airport's name is Dublin Airport."
// Iterating Over a Dictionary
for (airportCode, airportName) in airports {
print("(airportCode): (airportName)")
}
// YYZ: Toronto Pearson
// LHR: London Heathrow
for airportCode in airports.keys {
print("Airport code: (airportCode)")
}
// Airport code: YYZ
// Airport code: LHR
for airportName in airports.values {
print("Airport name: (airportName)")
}
// Airport name: Toronto Pearson
// Airport name: London Heathrow
let airportCodes = [String](airports.keys)
// airportCodes is ["YYZ", "LHR"]
let airportNames = [String](airports.values)
// airportNames is ["Toronto Pearson", "London Heathrow"]

JavaScript

// Creating an Empty Dictionary
let namesOfIntegers = {}
// namesOfIntegers is an empty dictionary
namesOfIntegers[16] = "sixteen"
// namesOfIntegers now contains 1 key-value pair
namesOfIntegers = {}
// namesOfIntegers is once again an empty dictionary of type
// Creating a Dictionary with a Dictionary Literal
let airports = {"YYZ": "Toronto Pearson", "DUB": "Dublin"}
// Accessing and Modifying a Dictionary
console.log(`The airports dictionary contains ${Object.keys(airports).length} items.`)
// Prints "The airports dictionary contains 2 items."
if (Object.keys(airports).length == 0) {
console.log("The airports dictionary is empty.")
} else {
console.log("The airports dictionary is not empty.")
}
// Prints "The airports dictionary is not empty."
airports["LHR"] = "London"
// the airports dictionary now contains 3 items
airports["LHR"] = "London Heathrow"
// the value for "LHR" has been changed to "London Heathrow"
const oldValue = airports["DUB"]
airports["DUB"] = "Dublin Airport"
if (oldValue) {
console.log(`The old value for DUB was ${oldValue}.`)
}
// Prints "The old value for DUB was Dublin."
const airportName = airports["DUB"]
if (airportName) {
console.log(`The name of the airport is ${airportName}.`)
} else {
console.log("That airport is not in the airports dictionary.")
}
// Prints "The name of the airport is Dublin Airport."
airports["APL"] = "Apple International"
// "Apple International" is not the real airport for APL, so delete it
airports["APL"] = null
delete airports["APL"]
// APL has now been removed from the dictionary
// Iterating Over a Dictionary
Object.keys(airports).forEach(airportCode => {
const airportName = airports[airportCode]
console.log(`${airportCode}: ${airportName}`)
})
// YYZ: Toronto Pearson
// LHR: London Heathrow
let airportCodes = Object.keys(airports)
// airportCodes is ["YYZ", "LHR"]

More of Swift and JavaScript comparison snippets


Swift and JavaScript comparison snippets(4) — Collection Types was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

News — At The Edge — 6/30 0

News — At The Edge — 6/30

  • AI issues — open AI & ethics — that require attention
  • Civilizational issues — space war, privacy, us v. them — that require action
  • Technologies — telemedicine & DNA storage — that need to be accelerated

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AI issues that require attention

OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman on the transformative potential of artificial general intelligence

“[3] things that power all AI systems: data, compute, and algorithms….

[Now] it’s all about…rare, precious labeled datasets…[but] starting to see models… able to consume unlabeled data…that can read the internet and these massive corpora….

[T]he largest AI training runs have been doubling every 3.5 months at a 300,000 times increase…kind of like if in six years, smartphone batteries went from lasting one day to lasting 800 years….

[T]he algorithms [so far]…involved simple ideas…and we’re going to be in that fog until the landscape stops changing so rapidly….

[Clearly] artificial general intelligence has the potential to cause extremely rapid change…[so] hard for the policy machinery and social norms — how people relate and fit into the system — to keep up.

The most important thing for governments… is developing ways to measure it…partly because the present is so poorly understood….

[Today] it’s hard to separate out the signal from the noise — even for people inside the field… and what’s going to happen in the next few years…[is] an extremely hard problem….Even if the data is good, if these systems are set up in the wrong way…[or] given the wrong goals…they can end up behaving in surprising ways. So how do you make sure that AI systems do what you intend and operate without bias…are all open questions….

But more powerful systems that take actions on our behalf are less well-explored…[so] important for us to get out ahead of the problem and not play catch-up.” https://venturebeat.com/2018/06/25/openai-cofounder-greg-brockman-on-the-transformative-potential-of-artificial-general-intelligence/

The future of AI relies on a code of ethics —

“[I]n the near future, almost all new technology will incorporate some form of AI or machine learning… inevitably causing many ethical issues…[whose] impact will be far-reaching — affecting everyone….

[Need] a code of AI ethics to guide us through these upcoming breakthroughs and inevitable dilemma [like]….

  • The ethics of driverless cars what safety and mobility trade-offs are inherent…. Should these algorithms be transparent?….
  • The battle against fake news….[The] news media and social platforms…[are] already seeing AI being used to create and defend against political propaganda ….[H]ow much trust we can put in the systems…and how much power we can give them… to prevent them from being misused….[T]he equivalent of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for news!
  • The future of the automated workplace….[M]any companies will have to account for the jobs lost…[and] be utilized in other areas…. Will it be the government, employers or automation companies?….
  • No one will be left untouched. ….[We’ve] reached the AI tipping point…between an AI dreamland and an AI nightmare…[and] need to closely monitor it and ask the right questions as the industry evolves…[to] ensure we’re using the technology responsibly.”

https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/21/the-future-of-ai-relies-on-a-code-of-ethics/

Civilizational issues that require action

The New Arms Race Threatening to Explode in Space —

“[2007] Chinese…shot a satellite out of the sky…a wake-up call…[since] all those satellites overhead had become…billion-dollar sitting ducks…[creating] secretive, pitched arms race…to devise more and better ways to quickly cripple your adversary’s satellites….[and] relearn how to fight ‘unwired’….

[Any] space war could…end with a crippled global economy, inoperable infrastructure…[that] might be years before [restored]….Preparing for orbital war has fast become a priority…[as is] figuring out how to prevent it….

’When you look at our American way of war, the strategy is largely underpinned by space assets — navigation, early warning, timing’…. And that’s just the military….[I]n the early moments of a war, it’s a fair bet that satellites…could be among the first targets….

[But] space is already like a war zone: It’s increasingly shot through with flying shrapnel…many too small to be tracked….[There’s] a threshold — called the Kessler effect — that triggers a runaway cascade of collisions….

In 2014, a piece of presumptive space junk…[was] an autonomous spacecraft capable of veering off course and sidling up to other objects…as Satellite Killer…[

There’s] four categories of space weapons:

  1. kinetic (aimed at destroying a satellite)
  2. nonkinetic (aimed at disabling a satellite without touching it)
  3. electromagnetic (aimed at interfering with a satellite’s signals)
  4. cyber (aimed at corrupting the data sent to a satellite)…[and] delivers false information….

Because space assets are so expensive…there’s no backup or excess capability’….[T]he 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which banned weapons of mass destruction in space…is still in force, but it is by now full of holes….

[W]hat counts as…territorial aggression…[or] a proportional response? It’s even difficult to say…what the physics of war in space will look like.” https://www.wired.com/story/new-arms-race-threatening-to-explode-in-space/

AT&T collaborates on NSA spying through a web of secretive buildings in the US —

“[Currently] eight facilities… giving the agency direct ‘backbone’ access to raw data…including emails, web browsing, social media and any… unencrypted online activity… for a surveillance operation code-named FAIRVIEW…[that] only coordinates directly with AT&T….

[But] monitoring what it calls the ‘peering circuits’ at the eight sites, the spy agency can collect ‘not only AT&T’s data, they get all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies’…[and] process vast quantities of international traffic.” https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/25/nsa-att-intercept-surveillance/

Why Our Brains See the World as ‘Us’ Versus ‘Them’ —

“ [All] brains balance two primordial systems. …

  • [T]he amygdala that can generate fear and distrust….
  • [T]he mesolimbic system, can give rise to pleasure and feelings of reward in response to things….

[M]any people harbor an implicit preference for their in-group…even when they show no outward or obvious signs of bias….[Studies] found increased signaling in the amygdala when people make millisecond judgments of ‘trustworthiness’…too short a time to reflect conscious processes and likely reveal implicit fears….[Usually] ‘executive control’ regions can override the amygdala’s push toward prejudice….

[T]he mesolimbic system…[releases] dopamine [and]…[oxytocin to] alter the sense of reward and pleasure, especially in relationship to social interactions….

The neural circuits that govern social behavior and reward arose early in vertebrate evolution…. Activity in our brains is malleable, allowing higher-order circuits in the cortex to modify the more primitive fear and reward systems to produce different behavioral outcomes….

[T]he problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete…[yet] become the only story….

[Curiously] although diverse individuals are less trusting of one other, when working together, they are more productive… produces better innovation and better solutions than the smartest set of like-minded experts.

In short, diversity trumps ability…[and] enhances the level of innovation in organizations.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-our-brains-see-the-world-as-us-versus-them/

Doc Says — Our Emotions, Institutions and Technological Capabilities Are Mismatched

Technologies that need to be accelerated

Let’s make telemedicine available to all —

“[Now] telemedicine benefits for many Medicare patients with stroke, kidney disease and other chronic conditions…[should] dramatically increase access to the highest quality of care and [outcomes]….

[Includes] urgent care to virtual visits for follow-up appointments to peer-to-peer consults between physicians…[via] videoconferencing to rapidly evaluate patients and improve door-to-treatment times[and]screenings for eye diseases….

[For] hospitals’ emergency departments, patients with non-life-threatening conditions can…hold a video consultation with a physician after they arrive, reducing visit times from two to three hours to about 35 to 40 minutes…[and] freeing up emergency rooms and doctors for patients with serious emergencies….

[There’s] remote patient monitoring of diabetes care, obstetrics or behavioral health visits…[and] reducing regulatory barriers that limit where the patient must be located to access telemedicine….

Telemedicine is no longer ‘next-generation’…[but here today and rapidly growing.” https://www.recode.net/2018/6/25/17489494/telemedicine-health-care-virtual-doctor-stroke-videoconference-emergency-medicine-remote-screening

The Rise of DNA Data Storage —

“DNA is going to have to get a lot cheaper…[but] could be the answer to…information overload.

Five years ago humans had produced 4.4 zettabytes of data; that is set to explode to 160 zettabytes (each year!) by 2025. Current infrastructure can only handle a fraction of [that]…[and] expected to consume all the world’s microchip-grade silicon by 2040….

DNA has information storage density several orders of magnitude higher than any other known storage technology…[with] every movie ever made…smaller than the size of a sugar cube…[and] last for 10,000 years….

[Problem] is cost….[Perhaps] decoupling the process of writing DNA from…encoding it…[could be] costs competitive with tape…[in] a few years….

Molecular data storage has become something…[is] a pet project for [DARPA]…[and] Microsoft plans…an operational prototype storage system…working inside one of its data centers by 2020…and synthetic biology…could actually happen sooner.” https://www.wired.com/story/the-rise-of-dna-data-storage/

Find more of my ideas on Medium at,

A Passion to Evolve.

Or click the Follow button below to add me to your feed.

Prefer a weekly email newsletter — free, no ads, no spam, & never sell the list — email me dochuston1@gmail.com with “add me” in the subject line.

May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston


News — At The Edge — 6/30 was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Not having to deal with it 0

Not having to deal with it

Many people ignore Bitcoin on purpose and they seem to think that by doing so they will somehow be immune to its effects on the world economy. They should open their eyes. Propaganda is something most people tend to associate with developing countries and corrupt states and that they’re somehow immune to it but this is not the case. Propaganda doesn’t need to brainwash you completely by hammering a specific set of political ideas into your brain. It just needs to subtly steer your attention away from the true intention of the propagandist. Like a magician can conjure up a hundred dollar bill seemingly out of nowhere by making you focus on something else, a central banker can suck the value out of a hundred dollar bill while you focus on something else. In most cases, central bankers do not produce propaganda. They don’t have to. Virtually all media and news outlets focus on report everything but the thievery we’re all victims to — inflation.

Inflation affects all aspects of society in subtle but profound ways. It makes us favour spending rather than saving which in turn might be the main reason that the Arctic ice cap is melting right now. Most people can’t see the connection. Humanity has arguably never experienced a truly sound form of money that can’t be tampered with by anyone. Bitcoin’s fundamentals plus its short but very important history might have turned it into a unique opportunity for us to try sound money for the very first time. Should this be the case, which it certainly seems to be, then no one on earth would be unaffected. As a matter of fact everyone is affected by the lack of sound money right now.

Imagine a hundred people marooned on a deserted island. The only food there is on the island is a hundred coconuts that they gather in a pile. They decide to give each person a coconut each and therefore a hundred “coconut coupons” are created. One coupon, one coconut. Everyone gets a coupon each and everyone’s happy. Basic supply and demand laws tells us that if you double the amount of coupons, they will eventually be worth only half a coconut each. Double the amount of coconuts instead and a coupon will eventually buy you two coconuts. Everyone knows this intuitively but inflation is very seldom mentioned as the root cause of anything by the media, even though it affects virtually every interaction taking place between human beings. Bitcoin is sound money and sound money will replace unsound money sooner or later. You can either accept its existence or suffer the ever present consequences of staying in the old systems. No person on earth is unaffected by the existence of the internet and no person on earth can stay unaffected by the internet of value.

It is important to remember that this is still a technology in its infancy. Bitcoin is poised to challenge just about everything we thought we knew about society but we still have a long way to go before we replace the fraudulent US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Bitcoin is challenging the ruling classes of the world and that’s the most formidable foe the planet has to offer. It won’t be easy and they will do everything in their power to besmudge us. Imagine if you will how the world looked nine years after the automobile had been invented. Horses still ruled the roads, gas stations were scarce and asphalt was yet to be invented. Bitcoin has already passed the first and most difficult hurdles to mass adoption and it’s only a matter of time before the great monetary migration starts. You won’t be unaffected. You won’t be unaffected at all.


Not having to deal with it was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility 0

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36417234-powerful

I recently completed “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” by Patty McCord. In her book, she shares what she learned working as a Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Lets start!

People don’t care about free sushi

“Our first big realisation was that the remaining people were the highest performers, and it taught us that the best thing you can do for employees is hire only high performers to work alongside them. It’s a perk far better than foosball or free sushi or even a big signing bonus or the holy grail of stock options. Excellent colleagues, a clear purpose, and well-understood deliverables: that’s the powerful combination.”

“We analysed every single truism and best practice, just as we analysed the product. Often when Reed would propose a cut, it sounded so crazy I needed to sleep on it. But as we kept trying things, we kept getting good results. Take our no-vacation-policy policy, which has received a great deal of press. We told people to take the time they thought was appropriate, just discussing what they needed with their managers. And do you know what happened? People took a week or two in the summer and time for the holidays and some days here and there to watch their kids’ ball games, just as before. Trusting people to be responsible with their time was one of the early steps in giving them back their power.”

Everyone should understand the business

“My aha moment reminded me of when my son was six and playing soccer. My husband was the coach, and I’d go to lots of the practices. Watching the kids was hysterical. They’d just clump around the ball. I asked my husband in the car on the way to the team’s first game, “So what’s your strategy for the game?” He said, “Well, I was going to really attempt to have everybody moving down the field in the same direction at the same time.” I responded, “You know, I think that’s achievable,” and he said, “Well, but in the second half, they’ve got to go the other way.”

The World Cup fell later in the season, and I had the kids over to watch. When they saw the view of the game from the blimp, they realized, Oh! That’s what a pass looks like! Business is no different.

People need to see the view from the C suite in order to feel truly connected to the problem solving that must be done at all levels and on all teams, so that the company is spotting issues and opportunities in every corner of the business and effectively acting on them. The irony is that companies have invested so much in training programs of all sorts and spent so much time and effort to incentivize and measure performance, but they’ve failed to actually explain to all of their employees how their business runs”

“How do you know when people are well enough informed? Here’s my measure. If you stop any employee, at any level of the company, in the break room or the elevator and ask what are the five most important things the company is working on for the next six months, that person should be able to tell you, rapid fire, one, two, three, four, five, ideally using the same words you’ve used in your communications to the staff and, if they’re really good, in the same order. If not, the heartbeat isn’t strong enough yet.”

Key points

  • The greatest team achievements are driven by all team members understanding the ultimate goal and being free to creatively problem-solve in order to get there
  • The strongest motivator is having great team members to work with, people who trust one another to do great work and to challenge one another
  • The most important job of managers is to ensure that all team members are such high performers who do great work and challenge one another
  • You should operate with the leanest possible set of policies, procedures, rules, and approvals, because most of these top-down mandates hamper speed and agility
  • Discover how lean you can go by steadily experimenting. If it turns out a policy or procedure was needed, reinstate it. Constantly seek to refine your culture just as you constantly work to improve your products and services
  • Ensure That Communication Flows Both Up and Down It’s vital that communication go both ways
  • Never underestimate the value of the ideas, and the questions, that employees at all levels may surprise you with
  • Research also shows that word of bad customer experiences spreads to twice as many people as that of good experiences. Everyone in customer service, from day one, should understand exactly how the experience they provide customers directly impacts the bottom line

Questions you need to ask

  • As you survey your company-wide policies and procedures, ask: What is the purpose of this policy or procedure? Does it achieve that result?
  • Are there any approval mechanisms you can eliminate?
  • What percentage of its time does management spend on problem solving and team building?
  • Have you done a cost-benefit analysis of the incentives and perks you offer employees?
  • Could you replace approvals and permissions with analysis of spending patterns and a focus on accuracy and predictability?
  • Is your decision-making system clear and communicated widely?

People must be able to ask questions and offer critiques and ideas. Ideally, they should be able to do so with all managers, up to the CEO.

“Here’s a great example. During new employee college, Ted Sarandos explained what’s called windowing of content. The term refers to the traditional system that developed for feature film distribution: a movie would first come out in theaters, then go to hotels, then to DVD, and at that point Netflix could bid to pick it up. During the Q&A, an engineer asked Ted, “Why does the windowing of content happen like that? It seems stupid.” Ted recalls that the question stopped him cold. He realized that although it was the convention, he really didn’t know why, and he answered frankly, “I don’t know.” He told me that the question stuck with him and that it “made me challenge everything about the windowing of content, and years later, it contributed to my complete comfort with releasing all episodes of a series at once, even though no one had ever done that in television.”

Communication flow in organisations

Key points

  • Employees at all levels want and need to understand not only the particular work they are assigned and their team’s mission, but also the larger story of the way the business works, the challenges the company faces, and the competitive landscape
  • Truly understanding how the business works is the most valuable learning, more productive and appealing than “employee development” trainings. It’s the rocket fuel of high performance and lifelong learning
  • Communication between management and employees should genuinely flow both ways. The more leaders encourage questions and suggestions and make themselves accessible for give-and-take, the more employees at all levels will offer ideas and insights that will amaze you
  • If someone working for you seems clueless, chances are they have not been told information they need to know. Make sure you haven’t failed to give it to them
  • If you don’t tell your people about how the business is doing and the problems being confronted — good, bad, and ugly — then they will get that information somewhere else, and it will often be misinformation
  • The job of communicating is never done. It’s not an annual or quarterly or even monthly or weekly function. A steady stream of communication is the lifeblood of competitive advantage

Questions you need to ask

  • How well do you think people throughout the company could describe its business model? Why not ask them to do so? No prompts allowed.
  • Do you share with employees the same information presented in your company’s earnings calls? How frequently do you show them the company’s P&L? Where are they likely to get data about how your company stacks up against the competition?
  • Is everyone aware of difficult challenges your company faces? Have you asked them their thoughts about how to tackle these? Do you have a disciplined process for disseminating information and discussing challenges?
  • What areas of your business do you think your people know little to nothing about? Could you ask a leader in that domain to come and talk to your team? Are there any other ways you could facilitate communication between the groups?
  • How well do you think your people understand who the customer is and what their needs and desires are? Do you regularly share customer research? Can you facilitate your team spending some time with customers?
  • If you were going to hold an off-site, what is the most pressing issue you would want your people to learn about and debate? How could you provide the richest possible presentation of information?
  • What existing meetings or forums could be used to carve out dedicated time for communicating more about the business context? Do you regularly review these meetings to be sure they still are effective? Do you set different agendas for different kinds of communication (for example, a weekly stand-up versus a quarterly all-hands meeting)?

The case for radical honesty & a culture of debate

“One of the pillars of the Netflix culture was that if people had a problem with an employee or with how a colleague in their own department or somewhere else in the company was doing something, they were expected to talk about it openly with that person, ideally face to face. We didn’t want any criticising behind people’s backs. Because I was the head of HR, managers would often complain to me about an employee or someone in another department. I’d always say, “Have you told her yet?”

The Netflix executive team modeled honesty in a number of ways. One was to conduct an exercise we called “Start, Stop, Continue” in our team meetings. In this drill, each person tells a colleague one thing they should start doing, one thing they should stop doing, and one thing they’re doing really well and should keep doing.

The conventional thinking is that if you allow people to be anonymous, they will be more truthful. In my experience that’s not the case. Truthful people are truthful in everything they do. And if you don’t know who is giving you feedback, how can you put their comments into the context of the work they’re doing, who their manager is, and what kind of employee they are? Perhaps the worst problem with anonymous surveys, though, is that they send the message that it’s best to be most honest when people don’t know who you are.”

Key points

  • People can handle being told the truth, about both the business and their performance. The truth is not only what they need but also what they intensely want
  • Telling the truth about perceived problems, in a timely fashion and face to face, is the single most effective way to solve problems
  • Practicing radical honesty diffuses tensions and discourages backstabbing; it builds understanding and respect
  • Radical honesty also leads to the sharing of opposing views, which are so often withheld and which can lead to vital insights
  • Failing to tell people the truth about problems in their performance leads to an undue burden being shouldered by managers and other team members
  • The style of delivery is important; leaders should practice giving critical feedback so that it is specific and constructive and comes across as well intentioned
  • Consider setting up a system for colleagues to offer one another critiques. We created a successful one at Netflix and instituted an annual feedback day for the whole company to share comments with anyone they had thoughts for
  • Model openly admitting when you are wrong. In addition, talk about what went into your decisions and where you went wrong. That encourages employees to share ideas and opposing views with you, even if they directly contradict your position

Questions you need to ask

  • How open have you been with your team about the current prospects of your business and the most difficult problems the company and your team are dealing with? Do people at all levels know the challenges the company is facing in the next six months?
  • Are people free to disagree with a point made by someone in authority during a team meeting? Have they seen it done openly, in front of the whole team?
  • Are there team members who rarely, if ever, speak up with ideas and concerns? Have you called on them or spoken with them about contributing?
  • When was the last time you talked openly with your team about a mistake you made in addressing a business issue?
  • Is there someone on your team who is under performing but with whom you haven’t seriously discussed the problem? What impact do you think that person’s performance issues have on the rest of the team?
  • When you do discuss performance issues with people, do you generally feel that they have understood the specific problems with how they’re doing their work?
  • How valuable do you think it would be for your team to receive feedback from people in other areas of the company? Is there any way you can facilitate such cross-functional sharing?

Have a fact based opinion. Be right most of the times

“We set a standard at Netflix that people should develop their opinions by probing into facts and by listening with an open mind to fact-based arguments they didn’t agree with.

I love a distinction Ted Sarandos made to me about how data is best used. He said the decision making of his content team was data informed rather than data driven.

At one point a big disagreement arose between Netflix’s head of marketing and head of content concerning how we thought about our customers. It was developing into a real tussle, because both executives were very strong-minded, and both had good reasons for their views. Reed did a beautiful thing. He arranged a debate between the two, onstage, in chairs facing each other, in front of the rest of the executive team. And the really brilliant twist was that each one argued the other’s side. To prep for that, they really had to get into the other person’s skin.”

Key points

  • Intense, open debate over business decisions is thrilling for teams, and they will respond to the opportunity to engage in it by offering the very best of their analytical powers
  • Set terms of debate explicitly. People should formulate strong views and be prepared to back them up, and their arguments should be based primarily on facts, not conjecture
  • Instruct people to ask one another for explanations of their views and of the problems being debated, rather than making assumptions about these things
  • Be selfless in debating. That means being genuinely prepared to lose your case and openly admitting when you have
  • Actually orchestrate debates. You can have people formally present cases, maybe even have them get up onstage. Try having people argue the opposing side, poking holes in their own position. Formal debates, for which people prepare, often lead to breakthrough realisations
  • Beware of data masquerading as fact; data is only as good as the conclusions it allows you to draw from it. People will be drawn to data that supports their biases. Hold your data up to rigorous scientific standards
  • Debates among smaller groups are often best because everyone feels freer to contribute — and it’s more noticeable if they don’t. Smaller groups also aren’t as prone to groupthink as large groups are

Questions you need to ask

  • What problem is your team working on, or what decision do you have coming up, that you could stage a formal debate over?
  • Having set the rule that people must state their case by marshalling facts, will you be prepared to concede that someone on your team makes a stronger case than yours?
  • Are there members of your team who have become too fixed in their views about an issue and whom you could ask to take the perspective of the other side in a debate in front of your team?
  • How well is your team set up to conduct formal testing of ideas and to obtain the data they need to draw strong conclusions? Are there any ways in which you could provide them with access to tools they may lack?
  • How can you help your people to consider data beyond the information that is familiar to them and that they know how to interpret? What biases might members of your team — and you — have about which data you should be considering and your interpretations of it?
  • Can you invite younger members of your team, and perhaps of other teams, to listen in on some of your debates? Could you or their direct manager coach them about how to participate themselves?
  • Can you establish a regular forum for the presentation of arguments about key decisions and the best ways to solve problems your team is working on?

A company is like a sports team, not a family

Just as great sports teams are constantly scouting for new players and culling others from their lineups, our team leaders would need to continually look for talent and reconfigure team makeup.

An appreciation of the core elements of a company’s early success is so important, and it can be retained as companies adapt and grow. But nostalgia that inspires resistance to change will fuel discontent and often undermine growth.

Key points

  • To stay agile and move at the speed of change, hire the people you need for the future now
  • On a regular basis, take the time to envision what your business must look like six months from now in order to be high-performing. Make a movie of it in your head, imagining how people are working and the tools and skills they have. Then start immediately making the changes necessary to create that future
  • More people will not necessarily do more work or better work; it’s often better to have fewer people with more skills who are all high performers
  • Successful sports teams are the best model for managers; they are constantly scouting for new talent and culling their current roster. You’re building a team, not raising a family
  • Some members of your team may simply not be able to grow into high performers for the future you’re heading to. It is not the job of the business to invest in developing them; the job is to develop the product and market
  • Develop and promote from within when that’s the best option for performance; when it’s better to hire from outside, be proactive in doing so
  • The ideal is for people to take charge of developing themselves; this drives optimal growth for both individuals and companies

Questions you need to ask

  • Have you systematically assessed the skills of all members of your team against the capabilities you will need in six months to a year?
  • Are there some ways of working — such as programming and working with robots, collaborating cross-functionally, or mapping out and redesigning the customer experience — in which you can foresee your team will need strong experience?
  • Would your team’s performance be significantly boosted if you brought in a new top performer, or several, even if the cost of those hires would mean scaling down the size of your team?
  • What opportunities do you see on the horizon that your team could begin capitalising on now if you brought in some new talent? Perhaps there is a new technology that would allow you to offer a new or better service or product. Maybe a competitor is leaving market share vulnerable or a new market is developing?
  • In which areas is your team or company at the vanguard of innovation, with leading talent spearheading the effort, and in which are you running as fast as you can to catch up, or soon will find yourself in that situation if you don’t make some new hires?
  • How much of your time are you spending on the development of your team’s skills, and how satisfied are you with how quickly people are getting up to the speed you need?

Finding the right people is also not primarily about “culture fit.”

“What most people really mean when they think someone is a good culture fit is that the candidate is someone they’d like to have a beer with. That approach is often totally wrong-headed. People can have all sorts of different personalities and be great fits for the job you need done. One of our great hires was Anthony Park, who was working as a programmer for a bank in Arizona when we reached out to him. On paper he certainly didn’t look like a slam-dunk fit. He was a “programmer,” not a “software developer.” He was also a pretty buttoned-up, quiet guy, so I worried a little about how he’d cope with our debate-like-crazy culture. We called him because someone told me he had created a Netflix-enhancing app, which he had posted on his website. We brought him in for a day of interviews, and everyone loved him as well as the app he’d created. When he got to me, shortly after we started talking he turned bright red. I asked him if he was okay, and he said, “You’re going to make me an offer, aren’t you?” And I said, “Yes, we are.” He said, “And you’re going to pay me a lot of money, right?” And I said, “Well, you’re not programming for a bank anymore. You know, you’d be here in Silicon Valley and it’s expensive to live out here. We’re going to pay you commensurate with what it will take for you to have a great life with your family here.” He seemed overwhelmed, and I asked again if he was all right. He said with amazement, “You’re going to pay me a lot of money to do what I love to do!” I did wonder how he’d fit in with the high-powered team he was joining, and I hoped they wouldn’t burn him out in a few weeks.
A few months later, I sat in on a meeting his team was having, and it was really intense. Everyone was arguing. He suddenly said, “Can I speak now?” The room went silent, because Anthony didn’t talk much, but when he did, it was to say something really smart. Over time, everybody learned to pause and wait for him, and he would always say something that would make us all think, Dammit, why didn’t I think of that? Now he’s a vice president. Organizations can adapt to many people’s styles; culture fit can work both ways.”

Annual performance review is a waste of time

“I asked one very senior HR executive from a Fortune 100 company that I consulted to, “Can you tell me what business metric is affected by the completion of your annual performance review?” He said, “I don’t understand the question, Patty.” I repeated, “What business metric is directly affected by the completion of the annual performance review?” He said, “Again, I’m not sure what you’re asking.” So I said, “Might it be revenue, growth, profit? You know, the metrics that we measure our businesses with.” Then I asked him how much of his staff’s time was consumed by the process, and he said, “I really have no idea! But it’s worth it.” Nowhere else in our companies are we allowed to justify something that takes such incredible effort with merely a feeling that it’s worth it.”

Hiring great performers is a hiring manager’s most important job

Key points

  • Hiring managers should actively develop their own pipelines of talent and take the lead in all aspects of the hiring process. They are the lead recruiters
  • The teams and companies most successful in staying ahead of the curve manage to do so because they proactively replenish their talent pool
  • Retention is not a good measure of team-building success; having a great person in every single position on the team is the best measure
  • Sometimes it’s important to let even people who have done a great job go in order to make space for high performers in new functions or with different skills
  • Bonuses, stock options, high salaries, and even a clear path to promotion are not the strongest draw for high performers. The opportunity to work with teams of other high performers whom they’ll learn from and find it exhilarating to work with is by far the most powerful lure
  • Making a great hire is not about bringing in an “A player”; it’s about finding a great match for your needs. Someone who is a high performer for one team may not be for another team
  • Get beyond the résumé. Be really creative about where you look for talent. Dig further than a list of experiences. Consider wide-ranging experiences and focus on people’s fundamental problem-solving abilities
  • Make the interviewing experience extremely impressive all the way through. You want every single person you interview to want to join the company at the end of the process
  • HR must be businesspeople who truly understand the way your business works, even if that’s quite technical. They should be creative, proactive partners in the hiring process. Investing time in explaining to them the details of the talents you need will pay remarkable dividends

Questions you need to ask

  • Can you name the two people you would call right away to talk to about taking the place of your top performers should they leave?
  • What change is under way in your business? How prepared are you to begin interviewing for the new talent you need in the event the change happens faster than you’ve expected?
  • How creative are you in looking for candidates?
  • How thoughtful and rigorous is the interview process your candidates go through?
  • How well do you think the recruiters working with you understand the details of the jobs to be filled and the qualities you are looking for in hires?

Pay people what they are worth to you

Key points

  • The skills and talents for any given job will not match a template job description, and salaries should not be predetermined according to templates
  • Information from salary surveys is always behind current market conditions; do not rely on them in making salary offers
  • Consider not only what you can afford given your current business but also what you will be able to afford given the additional revenue a new hire might enable you to bring in
  • Rather than paying at some percentile of top of market, consider paying top of market, if not for all roles, then for those that are most important to your growth
  • Signing bonuses can lead to the impression of a salary decrease in the year after the person joins; paying the salary you need in order to bring in a top performer is the better option
  • Being transparent with staff about compensation encourages better judgment about salaries and undercuts biases, as well as offering the occasion for more honest dialogue about the contributions of various roles to the company’s performance

Questions you need to ask

  • Who on your team has grown considerably in skills and proficiency since the time they joined, and do you think you are compensating them at a level commensurate with the value they are now contributing?
  • Do you know who on your team has been contacted for another job recently? Have you told all of your people that you want them to be open about discussing this?
  • How much do you think being tied to predetermined salary ranges is holding you back from building the best possible team?
  • What do you think your team could produce if you could hire as you’d like? Can you make that business case to management?
  • If you could select certain roles for which you would make the case for hiring star performers at top-of-market compensation, which would they be and why?
  • Do you regularly examine salaries for unintentional bias in pay? It doesn’t have to be a big-data exercise; perhaps just a look at average pay per title for men and women

Letting go of people is hard. But it is something you have to do

Key points

  • Employees need to be able to see whether their talents and passions are a good match for the future you are heading to, in order to determine whether they may be a better fit at another firm
  • People should hear frequently about how well they’re performing. Even if doing away with the annual performance process is not feasible for you, institute much more frequent meetings to discuss performance
  • If doing away with the annual review process is an option for you, try it! The process is a big waste of time and can become a stand-in for real-time information about performance
  • Either make performance improvement plans genuine efforts to help people improve performance or get rid of them
  • The chances you’ll get sued by an employee who is let go are vanishingly slim, especially if you have been responsibly and regularly sharing with that person the problems you perceive with their performance
  • The focus on employee engagement is misplaced; there is not necessarily a correlation between high engagement and high performance. There is also not necessarily a correlation between high performance in a current job and high performance in the job of the future
  • Use my algorithm in making personnel decisions: Is what this person loves to do, that they’re extraordinarily good at doing, something we need someone to be great at?
  • All managers can actively help their exiting team members find great new opportunities; goodbyes can be very good
  • Managers who adopt this more fluid approach to performance review and team building come to clearly see that it is better for all concerned and better for overall team performance

Questions you need to ask

  • What would be the equivalent for you of offering your team members individual general feedback on their performance ten games at a time?
  • Might it make sense to determine feedback frequency based on benchmark deadlines for achieving team goals, rather than according to a set time period? That might, for example, mean timing discussions according to the stages of completion for a project
  • Whom on other teams could you ask to provide feedback about your team members’ performance?
  • Can you say that every person on your team is doing a job they’re passionate about and great at and that you need them to be doing? If not, can you have a conversation with those who aren’t about other opportunities in the company they could consider or about the landscape of opportunity they can consider outside?
  • Are you building a network of managers at other firms to whom you can recommend your exiting team members?
  • How well are you keeping up on changes in business operations and personnel at firms that might offer good opportunities for them?

“Culture is the strategy of how you work. And if people believe it is a strategy and that it is important, they will help you think about it deeply and try things.”
– Former VP of HR at Netflix Jessica Neal

Liked this summary? Read: Notes from Radical Candor — Kim Scott, Lessons from Michael J. Mauboussin, Highlights from The Essays of Warren Buffett, Read Lessons from Managing Oneself, On Writing Well, Deepwork and So good they can’t ignore you

I tweet more than I blog. Follow me here: @manas_saloi


Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Time I Met a Princess of Mars in the Arizona Desert (think “John Carter”) 0

The Time I Met a Princess of Mars in the Arizona Desert (think “John Carter”)

Fans of the major motion picture, “John Carter” by Disney and Pixar maestro Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), will know that the movie was based on the wildly popular first book of the Barsoom series by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars.

In the book, as well as the movie, John Carter, a Virginia veteran of the Civil War, is traveling in the Arizona desert when he unexpectedly gets transported to Mars, where he meets the incomparable Princess of Mars, Deja Thoris.

This storyline is science fiction, so obviously, I couldn’t have really met Deja Thoris in the Arizona desert, could I?

Actually I did (though technically it was in Utah and I didn’t actually know her name was Deja Thoris, just that she was a princess of Mars, at the time)!

Deja Thoris, the Princess of Mars, in the 2012 movie John Carter (Lynn Collins)

The Movie and Background of John Carter and Edgar Rice Burroughs

Before I get into that story, it’s been 6 years since John Carter was released, so why am I writing about this now? I recently came across a book by Michael Sellers about the movie, “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood: The True Story of What Went Wrong with Disney’s John Carter and Why Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Original Superhero Isn’t Dead yet”.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know about Edgar Rice Burroughs and the history of the movie in the book, which is worth a read if you are into that kind of stuff. It goes into (in some cases, rather excruciating) detail about this stuff, but here are some highlights:

  • A Princess of Mars was written and released in 1912, almost exactly 100 years before the movie, in serialized form. Many attempts were made to bring the John Carter of Mars series onto the screen, including a possible animated version in the 1930s.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs was probably the best-selling author of the first half of the twentieth century, and served as an inspiration for film-makers and writers ranging from Arthur C. Clarke to George Lucas to James Cameron.
  • Flash Gordon and almost every other major science fiction project borrowed from the Mars series. Some, like George Lucas, liberally borrowed words and themes for Star Wars. James Cameron admitted to being inspired by A Princess of Mars for Avatar (a war veteran is transplanted to another planet and falls in love with an alien princess — sounds familiar?). Flash Gordon was basically a rip-off of Burroughs work.

Did Disney Blunder?

The book goes through many of the blunders that Disney made which contributed to John Carter being referred to as a $250 million flop, starting with

  • the fateful decision to change the name of the movie from “John Carter of Mars” to “John Carter” in 2011
  • a terrible teaser trailer on Good Morning America that spent more time showing Times Square than Mars.
  • a 30 second Super Bowl ad which cost $3.5 million but was completely bewildering, and terrible trailers that didn’t give audiences enough information about the movie
  • A complete lack of engagement of social media

Although the film is now used as an example of a ballooning budget, an inexperienced director, and bad marketing, the movie itself wasn’t bad, and had many millions of fans (including outside the US; it had the biggest opening of any movie in Russia until that time). Fans mounted a campaign to get Disney to make the planned sequels, but alas this was not to be (though perhaps there may be ways to do these after all, check out my article, How Blockchain Could Kill Both Netflix and Cable and message me if you want to know more).

I personally liked the movie a lot, and became a fan of Burroughs Mars and Venus series after seeing the movie. I felt it was successful in transporting the audience to another world full of aliens and technology and heroism and heartbreak and love. Sitting here on Jarsoom, I wanted to see more of Barsoom!.

The Time I Met the Princess of Mars in the Desert

OK now that I’ve talked about Hollywood, let’s get back to the story that prompted me to write this post in the first place — How I Met A Princess of Mars while wandering the Arizona desert.

A few years ago (it must’ve been 2010), I took a solo trip to the Arizona/Utah desert. I wanted to take some time off and see Monument Valley and many other places that I hadn’t seen in that region.

I flew into Phoenix, rented a car and decided for my first stop to drive north to Lake Powell, which stretches between southern Utah and Northern Arizona. It was one of the places where Planet of the Apes was filmed, and I wanted to see the “alien-looking landscape”.

I drove to a small, luxurious resort at the edge of Lake Powell and enjoyed a few hours of sunshine, sitting on a chaise lounge on the shores of the lake. I figured I’d stay at the resort but for some reason it was sold out.

Before heading back to the nearby po-dunk town to find a hotel room, I decided to have dinner at the restaurant. Rather uncharacteristically, I saw there was a bar and I decided I wanted to sit there. I say uncharacteristically because I never sit at bars, not for drinking or for dinner, but something told me to sit there.

As I surveyed the bar for a place to sit, I noticed that there was a group of people at one end of the bar chatting away as if they knew each other and were there for a conference or something. What was odd about it was that there was a woman sitting alone on the other side of the bar, and it seemed like they and others in the restaurant were respectfully giving her space.

This struck me as a little odd, though I couldn’t figure out why. She was sitting there politely chatting with the bartender, whom she seemed to know, probably ordering her dinner. She had dark hair, looked like she was in her 30s, probably a few years younger than me at the time, and was wearing a strange outfit. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly was odd about her outfit, since she had a jacket on and it was covering up most of it, but her legs looked odd.

I was hungry and sat down a few seats away from her and ordered some dinner. Here I noticed that she seemed to have on pantyhose that had weird red marks on her legs, which only added to the sense of weirdnes.

As I ordered, somehow we struck up a conversation about her food, which was a light salad, and her outfit. This was also odd, as I don’t think I’ve ever struck up a conversation with any woman at a bar in my life. I think we somehow were joking how she wished she could have some of my burger and fries (rather than the salad she was eating).

I asked her why she couldn’t, and she started telling me about herself and her outfit. She revealed that she was there filming a science fiction movie, and she had scenes where she was scantily clad, and was thus on a very special diet so she looked good on screen.

As a big fan of science fiction and having done some indie film production, this sounded interesting. Of course, I assumed it was some small indie sci fi film so I wanted to know more. She mentioned it was based on a series of very popular science fiction novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and it was set on Mars. She was supposed to be an alien princess, she explained, and that was why she had the weird red marks on her legs and arms, which she showed me.

I didn’t know much about the Burroughs Mars series at the time, which was odd because I could’ve bet you that I knew more about Star Wars or Star Trek than your average sci fi geek, and definitely more than your average moviegoer.

I asked her name, and she said it was Lynn Collins. I had to admit i’d never heard of her. She then, very nicely I might add, tried to convince me that this was no low budget indie project, that Andrew Stanton from Pixar was directing (which I found even more odd since I knew him only as an animation film director), and that she was a well known actress, and this was her big leading role. She took on an amused tone explaining (almost pleading) that she was a well known movie star.

“Well, I’ve been in a lot of big films, you know,” she said.

“Like what?” I asked, since I knew most sci fi / action movies well and didn’t remember seeing her.

“Like Wolverine, “ she answered as she looked at my hamburger and fries. It turns out she was Hugh Jackmans’ girlfriend in that movie, and I vaguely remembered the character.

Wow, that was a very big budget movie, I remember thinking. Then we talked about women’s roles in science fiction films, and how there weren’t that many great roles.

Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that I was an investor and producer in an indie sci fi project adapting another well-known sci fi/fantasy writer’s novels, and that we were looking for a lead actress. She graciously gave me the name and contact info of her agent.

She didn’t seem offended that I didn’t know about her or John Carter of Mars. In fact, I got the sense that she was a little bored and as the lead actress, people were kind of treating her with kid gloves, so it was nice to have a normal conversation (if you can call it that!) with someone that wasn’t part of the film crew.

It was getting dark out and she said that she had to head back to her room and read for the next day, and that they were filming early because of the light.

I decided it was time for me to head back to town as well, so I said my goodbyes to Lynn, told her I’d contact her agent and send along a copy of the sci fi novels we were adapting, if she had any interest, and of course, I’d keep an eye out for this movie of hers that I’d never heard of, set on Mars, which I was still under the impression was a low budget indie film.

When I went back to my car, I realized I no longer had my car keys in my pocket. I went back to the bar, but neither the keys nor the actress was there, and frantically went to the front desk to see if they had found my keys and to make some calls (my cell phone didn’t work).

To make a long story short, I coudn’t find my car keys, and the rental company said they would have to tow the car 120 miles to either Flagstaff, AZ or St. George, UT, but it couldn’t be done tonight. I called a taxi to take me to a nearby motel and spent the night there. What a crazy ending to a crazy day!

The next morning I came back to the resort and saw a group of Germans at the lakeshore who had found a set of keys in the beach, which turned out to be my car keys.

I thanked them profusely, and decided I’d had enough of Lake Powell and Mars. The bar and the resort seemed pretty deserted — I guess the team was out filming for the day, and went on with the rest of my desert adventures, but those are tales for another post.

I had a great rest of the trip, and almost forgot about the incident over the next year as I hunkered down in my latest startup.

Two years later, in 2012, as I watched the big budget John Carter of Mars (now renamed just John Carter), I remembered the incident with my car, and the actress i’d met in the desert. It was her! There she was, on screen with the strange red tattoos on her legs and arms, in full Deja Thoris costume, the Princess of Mars, I’d met in the Arizona Desert!


The Time I Met a Princess of Mars in the Arizona Desert (think “John Carter”) was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

9 Great Tools for Algo Trading 0

9 Great Tools for Algo Trading

Photo by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash

In the last 5–10 years algorithmic trading, or algo trading, has gained popularity with the individual investor. The rise in popularity has been accompanied by a proliferation of tools and services, to both test and trade with algorithms. I’ve put together a list of 9 tools you should consider using for your algo trading process.

Web Services:

The following are managed-services that you can use through web browsers, and don’t require much setup from the user. As someone who’s recently started in this field, I found it easy for new algo traders to try out.

(1) Quantopian:

A Boston-based crowd-sourced hedge fund, Quantopian provides an online IDE to backtest algorithms. Their platform is built with python, and all algorithms are implemented in Python. When testing algorithms, users have the option of a quick backtest, or a larger full backtest, and are provided the visual of portfolio performance.

Live-trading was discontinued in September 2017, but still provide a large range of historical data. They also have a serious community of developers, and periodically hold contests. Quantopian provides capital to the winning algorithm.

(2) QuantConnect:

QuantConnect, is another platform that provides an IDE to both backtest and live-trade algorithmically. Their platform was built using C#, and users have the options to test algorithms in multiple languages, including both C# and Python.

QuantConnect also embraces a great community from all over the world, and provides access to equities, futures, forex and crypto trading. They offer live-trading integration with various names such as InteractiveBrokers, OANDA, and GDAX.

(3) QuantRocket:

QuantRocket is a platform that offers both backtesting and live trading with InteractiveBrokers, with live trading capabilities on forex as well as US equities. It’s specifically designed for trading with InteractiveBrokers, and sets itself apart with its flexibility.

QuantRocket supports multiple engines — its own Moonshot, as well as third party engines chosen by the user. While QuantRocket doesn’t have a traditional IDE, it is integrated well with Jupyter to produce something similar. One thing to keep in mind is that QuantRocket is not free. Pricing plans start at 19.99/month USD, with annual options.

Local Backtesting/LiveTrading Engines:

In today’s software world, you have lots more freedom if you make some effort outside of those managed-services. If you are comfortable this way, I recommend backtesting locally with these tools:

(4) Zipline/Zipline-Live:

quantopian/zipline

Quantopian’s IDE is built on the back of Zipline, an open source backtesting engine for trading algorithms. Zipline runs locally, and can be configured to run in virtual environments and Docker containers as well. Zipline comes with all of Quantopian’s functions, but not all of its data. To balance that, users can write custom data to backtest on. Zipline also provides raw data from backtests, allowing for versatile uses of visualization.

Zipline discontinued live trading in 2017, but there is an open source project Zipline-live that works with Interactive Brokers. It has many of the same features Zipline does, and provides live trading.

(5) BackTrader:

backtrader – Backtesting / Trading

Backtrader is currently one of the most popular backtesting engines available. It was built using python, and has a clean, simple, and efficient interface that runs locally (no Web Interface). One thing to keep in mind, backtrader doesn’t come with any data, but you can hook up your own market data in csv and other formats pretty easily.

Starting with release 1.5.0, BackTrader has live-trading capabilities. It’s been a popular choice with algo traders, especially after Zipline discontinued live trading.

(6) IBPy:

blampe/IbPy

IBPy is an unaffiliated third party python wrapper for InteractiveBroker’s Trade Workstation API. Before IB started providing their official API library for python, this was the only way to connect to TWS for algorithms written in python.

IB has released an official python SDK, and this library is heading towards begin obsolete(while still being relevant for python2 users). But there still remain a significant number of live trading engines/tools that still use this library, and it’s good learning material for whoever wants to learn about implementing API’s.

While it’s good to learn about this library since it’s ubiquitous, if you are starting fresh, we recommend IB’s official python SDK.

Alpaca Trade API Python SDK is even much simpler to use!

Analytical Tools:

Back testing will output a significant amount of raw data. Some IDE’s will provide basic visualization and analysis, usually algorithm performance. If you’re looking for deeper evaluation, I recommend these tools:

(7) Pyfolio:

quantopian/pyfolio

Pyfolio is another open source tool developed by Quantopian that focuses on evaluating a portfolio. What sets Pyfolio apart, is its ability to introduce degrees of uncertainty to a static set of data points, and evaluate Bayesian metrics from the user’s portfolio. The Pyfolio API offers a number of visualizations, which can be found on their GitHub repository.

(8) Alphalens:

quantopian/alphalens

Alphalens is also an analysis tool from Quantopian. Unlike Pyfolio, Alphalens works well with the raw data output from Zipline, and rather than evaluate the portfolio, is performance analysis of predictive stock factors. Alphalens has its own range of visualizations found on their GitHub repository.

Median Daily Returns by Factor Quantile — one of the visualizations that alphalens offers

(9)TradingView:

TradingView is a visualization tool with a vibrant open-source community. It’s entirely web-based, and allows users to visualize data, whether the data is the result of paper trading or algorithmic back-testing. Like Quantopian, TradingView allows users to share their results and visualizations with others in the community, and receive feedback.

(Bonus) Execution Platforms aka Broker-Dealers:

(10)InteractiveBrokers:

InteractiveBrokers is an online broker-dealer for active traders in general. They have been in the market since 1978. Algo trading isn’t IB’s focus, but multiple engines offer live trading through integration with their Trader Workstation. We’ve mentioned IB several times in this article — they’re just that good!

(11)Alpaca:

Finally, Alpaca! Alpaca was founded in 2015, and is an up and coming commission-free, broker-dealer designed specifically for algo trading. Alpaca also has a trade api, along with multiple open-source tools, which include a database optimized for time-series financial data known as the MarketStore.

The brokerage is scheduled to be publicly available this September (you can play around with the MarketStore right now), but if you can’t wait, head over to our website and jump on the waitlist for a chance at early access!

Alpaca | Algo Trading Commission Free with REST API

Miscellaneous Tools to Take a Look At:

  • qtpylib — another simplistic python backtesting engine
  • Multicharts — proprietary trading platform for forex and equities
  • WealthLab — desktop tool which allows C# backtesting, with live trading exclusive to Fidelity
  • Enygma Catalyst — for crypto trading
  • MetaTrader — backtesting/livetrading desktop app, de-fact in forex

I hope this quick primer on tools available right now was useful. If you liked it, please leave a clap (or two, I don’t mind). If you think there are tools that I missed, leave a comment below! I always appreciate any, and all feedback.

by Rao Vinnakota

Thanks for reading! If you’re a developer, and believe you can code your way to financial freedom, please support our project “a commission-free brokerage for developers” by joining the waitlist!

Follow Alpaca on Medium, and @AlpacaHQ on twitter. For exclusive content, keep an eye on the Alpaca Blog.


9 Great Tools for Algo Trading was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How to Invest in Esports 0

How to Invest in Esports

I receive a lot of inbound communication from investors seeking exposure to gaming and esports (for the purposes of this discussion, I will consider the esports sector to be all encompassing of gaming, esports, and adjacent markets). The esports industry is hot right now, and many investors feel like they are missing out. When they look for investment opportunities, often it becomes clear, there is not an ample supply of investment opportunities in esports.

Typical Questions:
1) How do I invest in esports?

2) Should I invest in the publicly traded game makers?

3) Can I put money to work in an esports specific Venture Capital fund?

4) How do I get access to early stage esports startups?

I’m astonished by the frequency with which I hear these questions. It seems as if weekly, I get a call or email from an institutional investor, family office, or even an individual investor asking about both direct investment opportunities and institutional investment opportunities in esports.

There are a number of ways to gain exposure to esports as an investor. In an attempt to broadly answer the questions above and outline where those opportunities are, I’ve summarize the public and private opportunities as I see them and categorized them into three groups:

  1. Institutional Investments (in VC funds)
  2. Private Market / Direct Investments (ie. startups)
  3. Public Market / Stocks

Institutional Investments (in VC funds)

There are very limited “pure play” institutional investment opportunities focused on esports. BITKRAFT is the only truly “esports only” VC fund that I know of currently (I’d consider them a clear market leader in the esports industry). There are other funds investing frequently in esports who have substantial domain knowledge, but have non-esports exposure as well (many of those are listed in my blog post here: Who is Investing in Esports).

As you can see in the blog post, Who is Investing in Esports, there are hundreds of investors putting money to work in esports. There are dozens of venture firms doing so and a few, are very actively pursuing a thesis within the space. Some of the most active venture investors in the space include: March Capital, Crosscut, Courtside, Deep Space Ventures, Everblue Management, Greycroft, Index Ventures, CRCM, Catalyst Sports, Sterling VC, BITKRAFT and others. These are the names I come across and bump into all the time around early stage founders in deals that I’m chasing in esports.

Most of these funds listed above are not focused solely on esports, so if you’re looking to make an institutional investment in a fund to get esports exposure, you’re likely going to have to accept their exposure to other end markets that you may already have exposure to, or may not want. That could be a good, or a bad thing, but that’s up to you to consider when evaluating the risk/return profile and exposure profile of these funds.

Good news, this is changing, as I’m aware of at least 3 “esports only” venture funds and one esports focused early stage accelerator that are in the process of raising money right now. Additionally, there are a couple other funds raising money right now that will be “esports heavy” with exposure to other things like VR, AI, etc. These funds may be a good way to make a macro bet on esports.

The risk of investing in one startup, is diversified away to a basket of startups when you invest in a fund, but at the same time, the upside from a fund investment, is lower than that of investing in one startup that hits it big. Additionally, the time horizon of a fund investment is typically 7–10 years. Startups can often take that same time to mature as well, but often there is a chance they pay out much sooner as well. In a fund investment, you’re getting slightly less risk, slightly less return, and a longer duration.

For those seriously interested in making institutional bets, I am happy to make introductions to the fund managers I’ve alluded to above who are currently raising capital.

Private Market / Direct Investments (ie. startups)

Maybe becoming a Limited Partner (investor) in a VC fund isn’t appealing to you due to the minimum check sizes, investment horizon, unwanted market exposure, etc.

The alternative would be to invest directly into early stage esports startups yourself. The hard part, is that the startup market is very challenging to navigate. If you’re about to make your first startup investment, you are likely to face some of the following challenges:

1) Quality Deal Flow — You will likely need to have a relationship with one of the investors / funds mentioned previously to be in the flow on the best deals coming to market in the sector. Occasionally, there will be exceptions to that rule, but do not expect that the be the norm. The best deals are usually circulated among a subset of these investors who are very active in the space, and bring strategic value to the cap table when they invest.

2) Skyrocketing Valuations — There is currently a flood of capital chasing deals in the esports space. A lot of that capital is what I call “patient capital” coming from family offices and high net worth individuals that do not have the same investment time horizon and return hurdles that institutional investors face. This drives up valuations, and makes good investments even more scarce.

3) Strategic Value — One of the best ways to get into the hottest deals in the space is to offer some sort of strategic value to the company, as an investor. This is a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario for some people, as you need investment exposure to the space to add value in some cases, but you need to have a clear value-add to get that investment exposure. If you’re not an experienced angel or early stage VC, these founders in the “hot” deals likely don’t see any strategic fit to have you in their cap table.

4) Diversification — I tell all early stage investors or angels, to do more than one deal at the early stage in any sector. Any one early stage bet has a very high chance of failing. So you need a portfolio of exposure to the early stage asset class, which means that getting access to just one great deal isn’t enough, you need access to many great early stage deals which takes us back to item number 1 above (Quality Deal Flow).

5) What do you invest in? — Do you invest in an esports organization? Do you invest in a startup? How about a game developer? At what stage? How do you decide? With a lack of experience investing in either startups or esports, you may struggle to honestly answer these questions and land on the right investment opportunity for yourself.

I’m not trying to discourage you from investing directly in esports startups (or startups in general), but I am encouraging you to become familiar with the risk/return profile of the asset class and not dive head first into something without knowing the mitigating factors to the risks you are taking.

Investing in one startup or a few startups is the highest risk, highest return potential of any investment discussed here. You have to consider that the odds are that any one startup investment will fail, but you do have the potential for a decent sized short term win, and a massive long term win if you place your bets correctly in direct startup investments.

Public Market / Stocks

To date, you can certainly gain exposure to esports via some publicly traded companies, but similar to the institutional dilemma, direct, pure-play exposure to esports is hard to find.

You can however, get some uplift from the rising tide of the gaming and esports market via exposure to some of the following publicly traded companies.

The public companies that have the greatest percentage of their revenue levered to the esports space are: Tencent, Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, NetEase, TakeTwo. In my opinion, if you’re looking to catch some uplift from the rising esports tide, these stocks would give you exposure to that broad trend. Although these are mostly game makers, and less directly impacted by the performance of “esports” directly, their games are the IP behind the space and are correlated.

Some publicly traded companies that do have esports and or gaming exposure, but as an even smaller percentage of their overall business include names such as: Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Apple. Additionally, there are hardware manufacturers such as Nvidia that have benefited a great deal from the growth in esports (however, a lot of their growth is attributed to the use of GPUs for B2C and B2B processing). I would suspect that the ‘beta’ between esports market momentum and movements in these stocks is very low, or even negative.

The downside to investing in these public stocks, is the limited upside and lack of pure play esports exposure. While you likely won’t lose all of your money as if often the case in startup investing, the real home runs in the space are in the early stage private market.

Publicly traded stocks allow investors to trade the upside of a fund, or direct startup investments for relative safety and liquidity.

Update/Edit: Goldman Sachs published a report in June 2018 on esports. There is an article about that report here: TheStreet.com/ Goldman Sachs esports Report — go check it out and see if you can get your hands on the report — it’s very long and worth the read on where to put money to work.

Conclusion

In conclusion, There are a number of ways to get exposure to the esports space, but none of them are perfect. You must consider your investment objectives, timing, risk tolerance, risks and mitigating factors to those risks among other things.

To help those who may not be as familiar with the asset classes discussed here, I’ve compared what I feel are the risk, return, duration and liquidity considerations among the three types of investments, on a relative basis here in this table. Some of this is subjective and up to interpretation based on your perspective, market position and experience.

A special thank you to Nahid Giga who provided very helpful insights while drafting this article.

Stephen Hays is the founder and Managing Partner at Deep Space Ventures, a VC firm that invests in gaming and esports startups.

Follow Stephen on Twitter Here

Read More About Deep Space Ventures Here


How to Invest in Esports was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Coinbase Opens New Office in Portland, Bids GDAX Goodbye 0

Coinbase Opens New Office in Portland, Bids GDAX Goodbye

Coinbase has announced that it is opening an office in Portland, Oregon. According to a blog post on the company’s website, a variety of cities in the United States had been explored before settling on Portland. The West Coast city was picked based on the fact that it already had a vibrant blockchain community. At

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