Firebones: The Blog

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Dogecoin: Metrics Update


In the days since my original post on Dogecoin, the following has happened:

  • was hacked, costing online wallet users over 21 million Dogecoin with an exchange value somewhere around $12,000.
  • New version of the dogecoin-qt wallet was released in an attempt to shutdown DDOS attacks from floods of small transactions which could increase the blockchain size to unwieldy proportions.
  • More minor mentions on ABC News and Business Insider

I frequent HackerNews and was somewhat surprised that there weren’t more stories or comments on Dogecoin on the site. In fact, searching via Hacker News Search I found low activity and a lot of people expressing the notion that Dogecoin is simply a joke currency.

Some stats as of midday 12/27/2013:

  • 115 comments that include the word Dogecoin
  • 31 submitted stories with Dogecoin in the title, with only 8 of those achieving 10 or more points, with Steve Klabnik’s post leading the way, followed by the Dogewallet hack post.

On the other metrics I suggested tracking (numbers as of mid-day 12/27/2013):

  • 12,500 results for Dogecoin on Google News
  • 1,430,000 results for Bitcoin (ratio closing to 114:1 from 180:1 earlier)
  • 135,000,000 results for Miley Cyrus (ratio worsening to 10,800:1 from 10,000:1)
  • 2110 results for Litecoin (Dogecoin pulling away to 6:1 up from 4:1)

What I find most intriguing is the pace at which these changes are occurring. Dogecoin stands on the shoulders of Bitcoin, and the attacks and stressors it faces are all things that Bitcoin has been through which the Dogecoin development community is able to address in hours. It’s still precarious, and so far Dogecoin appears to be staying a step ahead of the threats. (The infrastructure providers, on the other hand…)

Anecdotally, the tipping culture on Reddit appears to have slowed a bit. Fewer big giveaway threads, tips becoming smaller (would love to see /u/dogetipbot stats on average tip size trends by day). But quality meme work still seems to be rewarded.

Dogecoin: Future of Portable Karma?

Dogecoin, one of the two dozen or so alternatives to Bitcoin, launched in the last month with the goal of introducing cryptocurrencies to the masses. In its short existence, Dogecoin has already briefly surpassed a number of so-called “serious” cryptocurrencies, benefiting from China’ recent decision to put restrictions on Bitcoin investment. On December 19, 2013, it was the only cryptocurrency that went up in value while all others dropped in step with Bitcoin. (It’s since receded a bit…and rebounded. Such are the early days of a currency.)

Reddit (in particular, the subreddit /r/dogecoin) is a hub of dogecoin related activity, a mix of meme-making, newbie Q&A, and crowdsourced guerrilla marketing in the quest to send the value of Dogecoin soaring “to the moon”. Holders of dogecoin (shibes) large and small have introduced a new tipping culture using Reddit Dogecoin tipbots, effectively creating a system of meta-reward above and beyond the more typical currency of Reddit karma consisting of the action of tracking up-votes of comments and posts. Many early-miner Dogecoin millionaires have been incredibly generous, not only stimulating this gift culture through their own acts of goodwill, but serving their own interest as well. Most recognize that for Dogecoin to become a legitimate competitor to Bitcoin, it first needs to become widely distributed and widely accepted as a medium of exchange. And what better mechanism to make this happen than to spread it freely amongst the early adopters?

To the early holders of Dogecoin who secured large amounts during a period of easy mining difficulty, Dogecoin is a classic long option. Being long an option means that you have limited downside (the purchase price of the option) but the potential for a theoretically unlimited upside. In this case, the price of participation is small and so the downside is small as well. At the moment, if you’re not investing real dollars buying Dogecoin, the downside of paying attention to Dogecoin at this point is simply the loss of electricity (if you attempt to mine), and the time invested in marketing or seeking Dogecoin. The upside, while perhaps not on the order of a trip to the moon, could range anywhere from exchanging large amount of Dogecoin for very small amounts of Bitcoin (as some are doing), all the way up to a future day with Dogecoin becoming a more widely-held and legitimate competitor to Bitcoin.

At this moment, I think we’re very close to knowing whether Dogecoin has staying power, or whether it goes the way of the pet rock as a cultural footnote remembered lovingly years later and reminiscent of a more innocent time in the evolution of cryptocurrencies. Here are the milestones to look for:

  • As of today (12/24/2013) Google News returns 9320 results for Dogecoin compared to 1.7 million results for bitcoin and 98.7 million for Miley Cyrus. A big milestone would be if and when it turns that Cyrus/Dogecoin ratio 10000:1 ratio into a 1000:1 ratio, and the Doge to Bitcoin ratio from 180:1 to under 100:1. Also note that Dogecoin outclasses Litecoin 4:1 in mentions. Freicoin and another meme currency Fedoracoin have no news coverage. It will be very significant for Dogecoin if these ratios continue to improve.

  • Within the last 48 hours, Dogecoin has popped up on Good Morning America and with less memetic and more substantial coverage, on Bloomberg TV. Further network coverage, or escalating coverage, particularly if such coverage positions Dogecoin as the “friendly” way to get into cryptocurrency, will be huge. This should be reflected by number of mentions in news results.

  • Emergence in Google’s autosuggest. As of now, newbie phrases like “dogecoin to usd” or “how much is dogecoin worth” aren’t popping up as suggestions. This could simply be latency of Google’s algorithms, or it could be that no one is actually searching for those things. This will indicate breadth of adoption.

  • Perhaps most importantly, and one milestone that will set a floor on Dogecoin’s value, is when an online community other than Reddit begins using Dogecoin as karma. Yet this is almost a catch-22. For this to happen, the value of Dogecoin will need to remain low enough that people see it mainly as only having karmic value and are therefore willing to trade it freely. If Dogecoin does go to the moon in value, the karmic utility will be less since people will be more likely to hold onto it. We may be past this point as some are noting a decrease in tipping activity in Reddit already.

It’s this last scenario that I find most fascinating. To date, karma systems and trophy systems haven’t been portable. Your Slashdot karma doesn’t transfer to HackerNews; your StackOverflow badges can’t be transmuted into Reddit flair. The same goes for in-game currencies which must first be translated through dollars before being useful across games. Cryptocurrencies can fill this niche for portable virtual karma, but they face a problem. As the value of a particular cryptocurrency increases, the providers of infrastructural services such as tipbots and exchanges rapidly scale the complexity curve–what was once a side-project for laughs holding worthless scrip suddenly becomes an escrow service that might be dealing with large sums of currency…the difference between a weekend’s work and having to learn the equivalent of PCI compliance on the fly. If you can’t trust your bulletin board software to be free of zero-day exploits, are you going to trust it with your cryptocurrency in any amount more than what you are prepared to throw away? (There may be an opportunity for a very trusted player to create a collaborative community that is part escrow, part message board, but it is daunting to think about this working given how all the suboptimal behavior displayed in message boards, such as voting rings, now take on new significance when the goal is to win real dollars and not just useless karma.)

So at the very least, I see Dogecoin, even if it ends up with no significant expectation of exchange to government-backed fiat currency, as having value as a kind of portable karma should we see a number of social services start to support it.

If you like this, throw me a bone: DFizVg5EyB57eV1YZE4AmAvtd2dxRNjQ71

Updating to Octopress

Today I am giving up WordPress and going with OctoPress instead because I like the static generation, the hacker-friendliness and the plugins. Along with this, I’m purging some of the old posts; mainly the ones regarding the family stock contests and all the StockTwits stuff. I will do a recap on those later, and I guess if you’re really motivated you can find them in various caches, but they served their purpose and they’ve become dated.

In the meantime, a few things make be broken, including comments and possibly a few links, as I try to navigate my way through the migration. By and large, it’s a pretty easy transition if you’re comfortable with Ruby.

At the Coalface

Hacker News had a great post recently about whether startups have enough time for TDD/BDD. More here.

Caveat emptor: I haven’t worked in a startup, but have spent most of my career incubating nascent ideas in a startup fashion within a small growth company. My observations:

  • Any emerging solution that’s finding product/market fit within an established company goes through a cycle of preparation, learning, and optimization

  • In the preparation phase, you have a general idea of what you want to do, but no actual users, and you are possibly tempted to worry about standard metrics such as code coverage. This is a sign of a team experienced in maintaining and releasing code, but one not familiar with facing a market Within a company, you have the buffer of longer product cycles, competition for budget, establishing viability.

  • As the team gets closer to having something to market, the techniques that pay off greatly in a stable operation fall by the wayside as factors related to responsiveness and true agility come to the forefront. No one looks at code coverage reports any longer; they’re focused on the client/user/customer needs (as they should be). This is a good thing. They are at the coal face of maximizing learning and establishing product/market fit.

  • At the product reaches a certain level of maturity, the benefits of TDD and BDD start to become apparent again; we’ve now reached a steady-state and the pace of change (and the rate of learning) has decreased. The traditional values around code maintenance are now prized, and we’ve presumably established viability and a sense of what parts of the code we’ll be living with for some time.

Therefore I believe that in the context of a true startup, or for a project that’s acting as a startup within the context of a larger, more stable company, that the value of TDD/BDD is inversely correlated with the rate of learning about the market’s needs; and in a startup, most of the time spent away from the coalface of learning the market’s needs is a net negative.

That said, even in this startup mode, there are certain fundamental pieces of infrastructure which you know will be preserved regardless of market feedback. These are worthy of TDD attention. The trick is to know what is core, fundamental keeper code, and what is going to be tossed out many times over. In my experience, data models, data access and core services last forever; business logic, workflow and especially UI/UX tend to change dramatically as learning grows. Apply your TDD wisely.

On the Fragility of Golf vs Tennis

Thought I’d weigh in on this interesting question posed on Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed blog.

While Tiger Woods may very end up winning the tournament, how do these performance surprises happen? What is it about golf, in other words, that makes competency so fragile?

To put some numbers on it, Tiger is deemed the best golfer in the world because he wins 28% of all major tournaments that he enters. Meanwhile a top tennis player, like Roger Federer, wins a significantly higher percentage of majors, with Federer at 35% and the great Bjorn Borg at 41%. Winning competency in tennis is more stable, it seems, than in golf.

What is golf so fragile? The ball doesn’t move, and the player isn’t in motion, so two major variables disappear. Granted, the golf swing is longer and the clubs change, which is not the case in tennis (there are no serving rackets, etc.), but staying in place with the same equipment and a stationary ball are all major advantage.

The answer seems obvious to me, and several of the comments get it right. In a typical round of golf, Tiger Woods has somewhere between 62 and 80 opportunities to exercise his skill against the overall distribution of opponents who each have between 62 and 85 opportunities to exercise their skill as well. In the course of a tournament, this is around 280-300 opportunities. In contrast, a typical tennis match gives Federer or Nadal anywhere from 400 to 700 opportunities to exercise their skill advantage. Over the course of a tournament, this may be upwards of 3500-5000 opportunities. If you consider Woods’ or Federer’s advantage as something akin to the house advantage at a casino, a small edge becomes more definitively pronounced the more bets placed; the confidence of a larger sample size in revealing level of skill is higher than that of a smaller sample size.

Furthermore, in golf, variance in a particular stroke creates dependent events; one bad shot can slightly increase the likelihood of additional bad shots for the scope of that hole (one of 72). In tennis, the scope of dependent events is limited to a single point (one of perhaps 250-300). While smaller than the other effect, this also contributes.

The other factor: within a tournament, tennis matches are played serially and one-on-one, typically progressing from seeded matches where the house advantage is larger to ones where it is smaller. Golf is every player going against a relatively small sample against a long tail of competitors–something similar to the birthday paradox comes into play as the likelihood increases of finding someone capable of stringing together 4 outstanding rounds (relative to their expected advantage) as the number of simultaneous competitions goes up.

Finally, Kedrosky implies that prior performance above the norm in close proximity to the tournament in question should predict future performance. On the one hand, it should be easy to dismiss this. If separate tournaments are independent events, then hitting 14 of 14 fairways the week prior should have no bearing on whether he does so this weekend, no more than the roulette wheel coming up red 14 times in a row should affect the 15th spin. However, you can’t discount this entirely. Good performance is an indicator of lack of impediment (e.g., lack of injury) so to the extent that the course and conditions are similar from week to week and there being no evidence of injury occurring in the intervening week, we at least know that some of the factors that could degrade from his optimal advantage are not present. Put another way, rather than Tiger being “in the zone”, we may only really infer that he’s “not not in the zone”.

Further related reading: Intensity of tennis match play

Gary Vaynerchuk, Meet Rose McCoy: A Spiel on Performance and Crushing It

NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired a Radio Diary tonight about Rose McCoy, a member of New York’s “Brill Building” pop songwriting cabal of the 1950s and 60s. McCoy came to New York at the age of 19 with six bucks in her pocket and went on to have an incredibly prolific songwriting career.

The songwriting environment of that square block in New York was a hotbed of collaboration.

After work, many of the employees would gather at a restaurant around the corner, called Beefsteak Charlie’s. Soul singer Maxine Brown remembers that it was like a music marketplace.

“The place was hoppin’,” Brown says. “Writers, they would run over and pitch their songs. Just right there on the spot, start singing it. And the verse would be on a napkin, and he’d reach in his pocket and the bridge could be on a brown piece of paper bag … [A] lot of the songs that you heard back in the old days were sold right out of that restaurant.”

McCoy had teamed up with a songwriting partner, Charlie Singleton. They set up their office in a booth at Beefsteak Charlie’s.

“We’d write back there,” McCoy says. “People got to know us so well, they used take our telephone calls. We’d meet there every morning, 6 o’clock, and buy a little glass of wine for 30 cents, and we’d sip on that.

You can’t help but connect that to the entrepreneurial activity taking place in your average Starbucks today.

Hell, they even invented an entire company dedicated to bringing beggars (that would be guys like us who want money) and funding sources together on every street corner in America — STARBUCKS!

I am willing to bet that more deals are getting done at Starbucks than ever got done on the fairways, greens and tee boxes of the old boy network. Even at $4 for a freakin’ latte, it’s cheaper plus no sunburn.

–JLM (Jeff), via Howard Lindzon, via Fred Wilson

Collaboration, riffing, working together to create the perfect song, the perfect pitch, the next hit, the next killer app.

As the mid-60s approached, so did change:

The 1950s and early ’60s were the heyday of the professional songwriter in pop music. But in 1964, the music scene was about to change. That year, The Beatles had five of the 10 biggest songs on the Billboard charts. One was a cover of “Twist and Shout,” but the rest were their own songs.

“People like Bob Dylan, et cetera, start emerging [and] perform their own songs,” Bell says. “So they got recognition as a singer, but also a great writer. And literally I saw our industry, for want of a better way to put it, kick the songwriter to the curb, [and] Rose was just another songwriter.”

“When the singers find out they can write for themselves,” McCoy says, “they didn’t want to see your song. They wanted to write their own songs.”

As a result, the Brill Building songwriters had to find new ways to make a living. Carole King and Neil Diamond launched successful singing careers. Some became producers, while others left the music business.

Earlier in the day, I watched the Zapurder-esque video of Gary Vaynerchuk’s FOWA 2009 keynote speech:

[vimeo 3366107]

Gary hits on a number of themes:

  • “Twitter is not a marketing plan.”

  • “Do what you love. Love your damn family and crush it.”

  • “The people willing to get obnoxiously dirty are going to win.”

But the core theme he drove home was that the content producers no longer need the intermediaries. Kanye doesn’t need Apple, he could do everything he does from The democratization of technology and of distribution means that talent wins out in the end for those willing to get dirty and “crush it”.

What Vaynerchuk, Dylan and Diamond Have in Common

Yet in thinking over these two pieces today, I’m struck by the contradiction in Gary’s message. He’s obviously crushing it, speaking all over the country, pumping out Wine Library TV episodes like a maniac. If you’re a lone democratized voice creating content, do you see the parallel to the Brill Building era? It’s not just being a brilliant content creator, just as it wasn’t enough after the Beatles arrived to simply be a brilliant and prolific songwriter. The ones who made the leap and survived were the songwriters–the Dylans and the Neil Diamonds–who got dirty, crushed it and amplified their skill set to adapt to a new environment.

The logical conclusion then, as it appears to be now, is to learn how to perform their own content. To become not just a content creator, but the performance artist. Alignment of passion.

There are no doubt wine store owners and liquor store owners as passionate about their work as Gary, who could create content and ideas just as good, but without that passion to work hard and put themselves out there to perform, you’ll never hear of them. Vaynerchuk is the ultimate performer of his own content–no one else could pull it off or amplify it any better than he can. You can’t perform a “cover” of an impassioned Vaynerchuk rant. Content and performer and performance are inseparable.

If you’re creating brilliant content, and you want it heard, you have to become the brand. Maybe it takes getting into fisticuffs with a hated rival. Maybe you have to speak at 300 dates a year. Maybe you have to have the shameless knack for self-promotion. Whatever it takes.

Content is just the start. Focus on building value and intellectual capital first, but realize that at some point you’re going to have to create the social capital, and then turn that social capital into flat out live performances. Keep this in mind when you have heady thoughts about democratization of voices, and the rise of the masses.

Rose McCoy is 86 now, living in Teaneck, NJ, about 25 miles away from Gary Vaynerchuk’s wine store. No word if she’s a Jets fan, but if anyone has the passion to turn her into one, it’s Gary.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr Unfunnyman!

Unfunnyman Jay Leno is moving to 10PM (9PM Central) next year as NBC tries to shake things up and improve their ratings for the timeslot.

The real story here is that NBC gets about four different things: first, as ad revenues fall, they get a cheap-to-produce air-filler. Second, and perhaps more importantly, they buy time. By locking up Leno, they prevent him from directly competing with Conan O’Brien out of the gate, and all but ensure that a quick Leno flameout marks the jumbo-jawed one as damaged goods for long enough to let O’Brien settle into the new time slot. Third, they get to keep Leno around as an insurance policy if O’Brien’s humor doesn’t capture an audience. Finally, Leno’s shtick has a short shelf-life, especially five nights a week in prime time; by forcing it to play itself out in a single-season overload, they can make it even more difficult for Leno to go elsewhere, as other networks won’t want to take on a broken format and a big salary whose career has no third act.

I don’t see much upside for Leno short of the money and the option of riding in to save the network should Conan fail miserably.

Search Strings That Make Me Happy

I don’t get a ton of traffic from search engines, but when I do, it’s entertaining. By far, the most traffic I get is related to my Tuesday Night Football post. And then there was that period of time when Joe Frazier swimming sent me rocking to the top of some keyword chart:

(You gotta love Johnny Bench being disqualified for “walking”.)

But the phrase that made me the happiest, simply knowing that some putz out there besides me has the words of Dick Enberg so indelibly etched in his brain that he must resort to Google to purge the demon echoes is that fateful line from Mattell’s Talking Football: “trap up the middle for ten uh oh penalty”. Such a dramatic turn–you were all set, had the trap play going right into your opponent’s prevent defense, it looked like you got the first down–and then you lose.

O’Reilly Gets Twitter

Earlier I posted a very brief post on how I got Twitter. Recently, Tim O’Reilly did the same.

The key insight, which I’ve made elsewhere while trying to explain the value of Twitter in one-on-one conversations, is this:

In many ways, Twitter is a re-incarnation of the old Unix philosophy of simple, cooperating tools. The essence of Twitter is its constraints, the things it doesn’t do, and the way that its core services aren’t bound to a particular interface.

I truly believe that Twitter, or something like it, will be looked upon as one of the essential tools of the internet, as transformational as email or RSS/Atom syndication: a universal utility.  The only impediment is standardization, and that path would seem to lead through XMPP.  Unlike a distributed service such as SMTP, Twitter’s utility relies on centralization of identity and service; an XMPP-based Twitter might have to arise out of a million internal corporate Twitter clones being exposed over the net via XMPP, in much the same way as external SMTP gateways eventually obliterated AOL’s walled garden approach to email.  The race will be whether that outcome, facing many barriers, will come before Twitter itself is enshrined as a free public utility used to drive other business in the same way that Google search became a free service.  Right now (as O’Reilly points out, Twitter has no credible competition which itself is a risk; if Twitter sits still, the walled garden becomes a fatal limitation since it will effectively become a bet against the internet.

Tangentially related to this, today I was reading MacroMates’s TextMate documentation and ran across this clear passage on the philosophies of TextMate:

From UNIX we get that Tasks and Trends Change. In concrete terms this means that instead of writing a command (in UNIX) to solve the problem at hand, we find the underlying pattern, write a command to solve problems of that type and then use that command in a script.

Connecting O’Reilly’s post to the TextMate/Unix philosophy, we see that Twitter, by design or by accident, solves problems corresponding to an underlying pattern encompassing user-extensibility, fast evolution, web transcendentalism, and simplicity.

The evolution of StockTwits as a social investing medium at a time when the market is punishing investors demonstrates the value of the principles the utility supports.  StockTwits is a great Twitter hack, and it evolves quickly (e.g., after starting with ticker symbols prefaced with dollar signs, market updates get prefaced with double dollar signs; the filtering mechanisms inherent to Twitter eliminate the downsides of traditional first generation web-based stock discussion media).

If I had to describe Twitter, it would be “like useful ESP”. Or maybe more accurately: “like ESP, but with useful filters.”