November 20, 2015 Chris Hall

A new way to use Bitcoin wherever Visa is accepted

Coinbase on its new Shift Card:

Today, we’re excited to introduce the first US-issued bitcoin debit card, the Shift Card. The Shift Card is a VISA debit card that currently allows Coinbase users in twenty-four states in the U.S. to spend bitcoin online and offline at over 38 million merchants worldwide.

Merchant adoption has come a long way over the past few years, but it’s still difficult for people to make regular purchases with bitcoin. Buying gas at a local gas station or groceries at a neighborhood grocery store with bitcoin has not been possible in most cities in the U.S. Thanks to Shift Payments, it’s now possible to use bitcoin to buy gas, groceries, and much more. With the Shift Card, you can now spend bitcoin anywhere in the world that VISA is accepted.

If you’re a Coinbase user who lives in AL, AZ, CA, DE, DC, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MS, NE, NV, NJ, NC, ND, OK, PA, PR, SD, TX, VT, WA, or WV, I guess we’re sort of accepting Bitcoin now. Mazel tov!

November 18, 2015 Chris Hall

I plan to live a long time

Nicholas Bakalar on coffee reducing my risk of death by 6-15%:

Compared with abstainers, nonsmokers who drank a cup of coffee a day had a 6 percent reduced risk of death, one to three cups an 8 percent reduced risk, three to five cups a 15 percent reduced risk, and more than five cups a 12 percent reduced risk. There was little difference whether they drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. The association persisted after controlling for age, alcohol consumption, B.M.I. and other health and diet factors.

Coffee drinking was linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological diseases and suicide, although not from cancer.

Life tip of the day.

November 17, 2015 Chris Hall

Users are more than just a weak point of security

Joel Califa of Digital Ocean on developing better password systems:

If you’re a developer, focus your efforts on securing your backend. Hash and salt passwords, keep your database secure, implement throttling, check for changes in geolocation, offer a variety of mechanisms for enabling two-factor on your app, make sure your password recovery system is solid. Leave the password decision up to your users.

We have to remember that at the end of the day, users are more than just a weak point of security in our systems. Our services exist for our users, not despite them. I like to think there are ways to get people to use strong passwords without forcing their hands and negatively affecting their experience using our products. Let’s explore some of these ways.

File this under: Top priorities of 2016.

November 13, 2015 Paul Spence

November is a big month for Startup Weekend (here and abroad)

Growing an entrepreneurial culture globally is perhaps the most effective tool for driving economic growth that delivers real benefits to a wide cross-section of the community. With Global Entrepreneurship Week almost upon us, we’ve been playing a key role in entrepreneurial activism locally.

Startup New Zealand is leading the charge here at home by helping to facilitate Startup Weekend events, connecting people, and sharing the good oil. We’ve been on board with Startup Weekends from day one with sponsorship cash, management support, and mentorship. It’s also been a wonderful vehicle for us to connect to techies, designers, and business thinkers, many of whom have become friends.

So November is an exciting month for us, with a bunch of Startup Weekends scheduled all over New Zealand. We plan to get to as many as possible and will be shouting a few beers and giving away swag. But we are also spreading our wings offshore.

We are backing Bali Startup Weekend, an event that last year launched several companies and garnered an honourable mention in the Wall Street Journal. The Bali event will be held at Hubud, a co-working space dear to our hearts after we spent some time soaking up the tropical heat there ourselves last year. Hubud is rapidly becoming the epicentre for digital nomadic lifestyle and startup culture within South-East Asia.

Wherever you are based, make sure you check out Startup Weekends. Apart from being a lot of fun, it’s a great way to meet potential co-founders, learn about lean startup methodologies, and test ideas in a safe environment.

Startup Weekend badge

November 11, 2015 Chris Hall

Don't sell out

Yancey Strickler, CEO of Kickstarter, on resisting the business culture of today:

At some point in the past ten years, selling out lost its stigma. I come from the Kurt Cobain/“corporate rock still sucks” school where selling out was the worst thing you could ever do. We should return to that.

Don’t sell out your values, don’t sell out your community, don’t sell out the long term for the short term. Do something because you believe it’s wonderful and beneficial, not to get rich.

And — very important — if you plan to do something on an ongoing basis, ensure its sustainability. This means your work must support your operations and you don’t try to grow beyond that without careful planning. If you do those things you can easily maintain your independence.

This entire post is gold.

November 10, 2015 Chris Hall

Independent journalism needs an open internet

John West on the death of the open web:

Here’s one way to understand the symbiotic relationship between publications and platforms in the digital age. Publications depend on advertising dollars to keep producing content, so they need to hold readers’ attention. Big platforms like Facebook and Twitter already have plenty of attention, but they need vast quantities of content to fill up their newsfeeds. It seems natural, then, that publications have started relying on platforms to drive readership.

But there’s a hitch: This is a really depressing, dystopian way to think about publishers and platforms. It only really makes sense if you view writing as a fungible commodity and view the world exclusively through the lens of late–stage capitalism. The worst thing about Facebook—and Twitter and Snapchat and every other god in the pantheon of platforms—is that they probably do think about publishers this way. And that’s going to smother journalistic independence and the open web.

I was listening to the latest episode of On The Media today, and David Chavern, the new president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, said something to the effect of, “Google needs newspapers for content, and newspapers need Google for pageviews. And it’s not like Google has time to interview the Mayor.”

But what happens when Google (or Facebook, or Twitter, etc.) decides they do have the time? Are we ok with a world where closed platforms monopolize the distribution of news? Can “independent” tech news, for example, survive when it’s entirely distributed on the platforms it’s writing about?

November 9, 2015 Chris Hall

Asking for spec work is ridiculous

Anne Quito on spec work:

In fact, it’s an insidiously common practice to ask creative professionals to spend hours creating original custom work for free (called “spec work”), before they’re actually hired.

Speculative work, also referred to as “sample creative” is part of the bidding process for many projects. It’s often formally stipulated in the open calls issued by governments and big multilateral organizations, and casually brought up in prospective client meetings. But doing spec work is enormously expensive for creative agencies and artists, who must divert resources from existing clients in the hopes of winning new business.

A new short film by Canadian advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo hilariously captures how absurd a spec work request sounds in other contexts.

  1. The #saynotospec video (linked above) is amazing.
  2. If you’re in charge of getting creative work done for your company or project, don’t ask people to do spec work. Just find a person or agency you want to work with and go from there. As someone who’s been tasked with doing a fair amount of spec work in previous jobs, it’s a fairly insulting way to spend your time.

November 9, 2015 Chris Hall

25% of the web is WordPress

Emil Protalinski on WordPress powering a quarter of the internet:

Today is a big day for the free and open-source content management system (CMS). To be perfectly clear, the milestone figure doesn’t represent a fraction of all websites that have a CMS: WordPress now powers 25 percent of the Web.

The latest data comes from W3Techs, which measures both usage and market share: “WordPress is used by 58.7% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 25.0% of all websites.” While these numbers naturally fluctuate over the course of the month, the general trend for WordPress has been slow but steady growth.

Nothing against WordPress, but I’m surprised they’ve remained so huge with so many (quite good) competitors in the space.

November 5, 2015 Chris Hall

Open offices aren't so great for productivity

The Washingtonian on “why open offices are terrible”:

Walls are so 20th-century. According to a 2010 study by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), 70 percent of Americans now conduct their working lives in open offices, where (so goes the script) the absence of physical barriers is a boon for communication, knowledge-sharing, and productivity. Or is it? Here’s what the data says.

Hint: The data says open offices should close up shop.

Mildly related, I wonder if these same sick-day/productivity/happiness stats carry over to working primarily in places like coffee shops that are very open, often noisy, and only sell beverages that make people need to pee.

November 4, 2015 Chris Hall

Fraud is an old man from Delaware with an Alaskan billing address

Sarah Beldo at Sift Science with some great stats on fraud:

The Fraudiest Person in America is…

  • Male. Men are slightly more likely than women to be fraudsters
  • (Perhaps pretending to be) elderly. The 85-90 age range has the highest fraud rate. Users identifying themselves as this age are 2.5x more likely to be fraudsters than the average user
  • Buying something cheap. Orders worth $0-$20 have the highest fraud rate. Purchasing something worth $20 or less makes someone 2.16x more likely to be a fraudster.
  • Shipping something to Delaware. In our geographic analysis, the second smallest state in the U.S. had the highest fraud rate based on shipping address.
  • Billing something to a credit card in Alaska. We found that the largest state in the union – and the state listed first in checkout form dropdown lists – had the highest fraud rate based on billing address.

We have a special place in our hearts for our lovely fraudsters.

Older posts