Bitcoin is alive and well, many argue

Mike Hearn’s recent declaration that Bitcoin is a failed experiment has been met with staunch opposition from many of the currency’s key developers. Hearn has been accused of hyperbolizing the situation because he personally disagreed with decisions made by other developers; many have also said that he is guilty of self-promotion for his new company R3CEV.

Throughout its years of operation, Bitcoin has alternately been considered the future of money and a wasted project. Hearn is the current voice behind the dissolution of Bitcoin, causing those like BitTorrent Founder Bram Cohen to tweet about Hearn’s farewell essay, “That was one whiny ragequit. He’s epically wrong on almost all technical points.” Greg Slepak published a point-by-point refutation of Hearn’s blog post; Sam Patterson similarly refuted a Washington Post article written from a pro-Hearn perspective.

The main controversy about Bitcoin’s demise stems from an original debate about block size. Blocks are virtual files that transaction data is permanently stored in, assembled in a linear sequence to form a “block chain.” The most recent block contains a very difficult mathematical puzzle that requires a correct answer in order to add a new block to the chain, thereby “unlocking” new Bitcoins. Currently, there’s a size limitation to the blocks, which limits the currency’s overall capacity.

Hearn and two others want to split the block chain in two, a move colloquially called the “hard fork,” whereas the other key developers have a different plan, alternatively titled “the roadmap.” The root of the issue, however, is more than technical jargon. Bitcoin is divided because it’s unclear as to who should govern the system. Hearn said that the virtual currency was “meant to be a new, decentralized form of money.” Yet without any centralization, Bitcoin remains a feud between opinionated elite software developers. Which out any form of governance, Bitcoin loses its opportunities at progress.

Then there are those who believe that without Hearn, a feud no longer exists. Mike Komaransky, an employee of the Bitcoin firm Cumberland Mining, tweeted, “Bitcoin Hearn Paradox- With him, consensus is hard to reach, [bitcoin] suffers. [Without] him, consensus is easy to reach, bitcoin prospers. he can’t win.”

Article via TechCrunch, 23 January 2016

Photo: Bitcoin by CoinDesk  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


How to hire a lawyer

When starting a new business it is a good move to look for and hire a lawyer. Not only are there tax concerns and legal paperwork to deal with, but having the advice of counsel can come in handy with many businesses. A good business attorney will give you guidance about things such as zoning compliance, trademark and copyright rules, lawsuits and liability.

Like doctors, lawyers have also become highly specialized. When looking for the right lawyer for your business, here are some skills to look for:

  1. Contracts You will need an attorney that can prepare and understand standard contracts. These will include contracts that you need for clients and customers as well as those that other parties may want you to sign.
  2. Business Organization Your lawyer can help you decide the right business organization. Some businesses are an LLC (Limited Liability Corp.) while others are incorporated. This designation is important to your taxes and the way that you will do business.
  3. Real Estate When it comes time to lease a work space you will need an attorney to help you understand and negotiate these documents. Often, leases are in favor of the landlord. The right lawyer may find ways to make the lease more beneficial for you and your growing business.
  4. Taxes and licenses You may have an accountant that is handling your taxes. But your lawyer should be able to register your business for federal and state tax identification numbers and understand how your taxes will be effected by basic business actions.
  5. Intellectual property This skill is coming into more demand with the advent of so many internet businesses. The vastness of IP law means that you may have to consult with a specialist if you have a particular need. Nevertheless, your attorney should be able to advice you when that need arises and have some contacts that can assist you when the time comes.

Now that you know why you should hire a lawyer, where should you start? A great place to begin is the American Bar Association. There are also commercial lawyer referral services that will help you find a lawyer near you.  Hiring a lawyer is crucial to any successful business so don’t wait until its too late to get started.

Article via Entreprenuer

Photo JBC Legal – Business Photoshoot by Siomara M. [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Bitcoin declared a failure

Two years ago, British software developer Mike Hearn quit his job at Google so that he could dedicate himself to developing the new online currency, Bitcoin. The currency’s value and prevalence has fluctuated considerably these past two years, but it suffered perhaps its largest blow yet on Jan. 14: Hearn announced Bitcoin to be a failure and admitted that he had sold his entire collection of Bitcoins. The value of the currency fell 10 percent within a day.

In the blog post he wrote about the failure of the system, Hearn wrote, “Bitcoin has gone from being a transparent and open community to one that is dominated by rampant censorship and attacks on bitcoiners by other bitcoiners.”

Yet the need for an effective virtual currency is still great. Venezuelan citizens grapple with hyperinflation that devalues the paper money they own and makes buying simple products at the supermarket nearly impossible. Migrant workers sending money to families in Mexico, India and Africa lose 5 to 12 percent of their earned salary to money-transfer companies. Even in the United States, citizens lose 1 to 2.5 percent in each transaction with a credit-card company.

Bitcoin failed largely because it was unregulated. Criminals and drug users exploited the anonymous nature of the currency; venture capitalists invested millions in Bitcoin start-ups that were forced to navigate the changing value of the currency. Above all, Bitcoin was dominated by an elite few, and therefore it lost its egalitarian potential to help people in countries suffering from hyperinflation or working far from home.

“It (Bitcoin) has failed because the community has failed. What was meant to be a new, decentralized form of money that lacked ‘systemically important institutions’ and ‘too big to fail’ has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people,” said Hearn on his blog post.

Article via The Washington Post, 19 January 2016; The New York Times, 14 January 2016

Photo: Bitcoin by Tiger Pixel  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Will robots become the next speech writers?

As this is an election year, the American public will be hearing many speeches from  politicians addressing the nation.  Phrases such as “My Fellow Americans”, “main street” and “small businesses” are staples that they average person can predict to hear from any politician. These political phrases are not only predicted by Americans, but now are being predicted by robots.

“Mr. Speaker, supporting this rule and supporting this bill is good for small business. It is great for American small business, for Main Street, for jobs creation. We have an economy that has created nearly 2 million jobs in the past couple of months: apparel, textiles, transportation and equipment, electronic components and equipment, chemicals, industrial and commercial equipment and computers, instruments, photographic equipment, metals, food, wood and wood products. Virtually every state in the union can claim at least one of these industrial sectors. In fact, one young girl, Lucy, wanted to make sure that the economy keeps growing. That should not be done on borrowed money, on borrowed time.”

This speech was written by a computer.

This comes from a research project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The researchers created a predictive algorithm that laid down words based on the previous 5 words that came before them. In program analyzed 3800 speeches that were introduced in the House.

The program is not perfect. There were speeches produced that came out a bit non-sensical. One computer generated address had this to say:

“For example, I mean probably all of us have had a mom or a grandmom or an uncle to whom we say, hey, I noticed your legs are swelling again. Fluid retention. Fluid retention.”

What this project does show is that their artificial intelligence can be useful, and maybe be the starting place for speech writing. It is not unrealistic to assume that future State of the Union addresses may first start with an algorithm.

 

Article via The Washington Post, 25 January 2016

Photo: 01-27-11 at 14-34-48 bySpeaker John Boehner  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


A useful tool to access police misconduct cases for defense lawyers

Vidya Pappachan, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society in New York City did not have enough time to prepare for her client’s case on a drug felony charge. However, she had a tool that helped her look up information about the officers that arrested her client.

The database is called the Cop Accountability Project. Through this, she learned that the officers were involved in misconduct cases that involved false arrests and cost NYC more than half a million dollars in settlement payouts. Even more, this was much similar to the situation in which her client was arrested. There was no drug stash found and no other evidence besides the arresting officers’ account of the incident. Since Pappachan proved the three officers were involved in prior misconduct cases, she challenged the weight of the evidence against her client. The judge agreed with her proposition and the client was released without bail.

Beyond New York, similar projects are popping up. The Indianapolis Police department created a portal that tracks officer complaints, use of force, and shooting incidents. In Chicago, there are two separate but complementary tools that track police misconduct cases. Michelle Bonner, former chief counsel to the Legal Aid Society called the New York project “a great advance in the evolution for defender databases.”

The project stemmed from the grassroots of newspaper clippings and paper documents. After 1998, it evolved into a database in the form of a digital library catalog program called Inmagic and later into an Excel spreadsheet where documents were scanned or uploaded to a shared file.

This tool has brought mixed reaction from judges. Some are very open to hearing this information and some say it’s not relevant at this stage of the case. The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has a unanimous opinion. Patrick Lynch, the president of the city’s largest police union, said : “Compiling a list of police officers who are alleged to be ‘bad’ based upon newspaper stories, quick-buck lawsuits and baseless complaints … does nothing more than soil the reputation of the men and women who do the difficult and dangerous job of keeping this city and its citizens safe.”

This project will continue to morph as the Legal Aid Society trains its lawyers to better integrate this database into their practice.

Article via ABA Journal, February 2016 issue

Photo: Paris – Police via clement127 [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Tech salaries gain largest jump ever

It pays well to be a techie in the US. From 2014 to 2015 tech salaries experienced their largest annual jump ever, to nearly 8 percent. The average salary of $96,370 reflects the demand for highly skilled technical workers. “Opportunities await…for highly skilled tech professionals…”, stated Bob Melk, President of Dice.com, the site that conducted this annual survey. Dice surveyed 16,301 employed technology professionals between October and November 2015.

A person employed in the technology industry saw their salary rise 7.7 percent from 2014 to 2015.  Not only is this the biggest increase in salary every, according to the annual survey done by Dice.com, employees could also expect to bring home bigger bonuses as well.

Those most likely to receive bonuses were senior tech employees. The percentage of survey respondents that reported a bonus stayed steady at 37 percent. But, the amount of these bonuses last year enjoyed a 24 percent increase from where they were in 2009. The wage increase indicates a healthy job market, and an emphasis on valuing talented employees.

“The competition for tech talent today is undeniable,” Melk said in a statement. “Demand for skilled talent and low unemployment rates for tech professionals aren’t making the hiring landscape any easier. Employers realize offering competitive pay is a necessity.”

Many cities on the list boasted average salaries that passed the $100,000 annual mark. Although there were the usual suspects, such as San Francisco and New York, there were also unexpected cities like Minneapolis on list. While Minneapolis is not usually considered a tech hub, there has been a growing community of seasoned engineers gathering there. Other unexpected cities added to the $100,000 club include Washington, DC and Portland.

Tech jobs appear in every sector of our economy, and therefore high paying jobs are no longer relegated to traditional technology hubs like Silicon Valley. From those surveyed, the industries where experienced workers were most likely to receive bonuses included banking/financial, telecom, hardware, entertainment/media and utilities industries.

 

Article via Cnet: 26, January 2016

Photo: Money by Pictures of Money [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]