Category Archives: Sociotechnical

“Blockchains for Science”

Or is it “CryptoTulips for Science”?

I’m a long time veteran of scientific computing, including the extremely tough problems of electronic publishing and knowledge dissemination, which requires good ways to deal with provenance and trust.

So I’m a bit surprised to learn that there is a magical solution to these insanely wicked problems:  blockchain!

Specifically, the First International Conference on Blockchain for Science, Research and Knowledge Creation happened this month in Berlin.

This appears to be a conference of hammer-makers, so everything looks like nails to them. : – )  The “hammer” is the blockchain, and digital science looks like a box of nails.

According to the conference prospectus, the blockchain is more of a Swiss Army Knife, which can “to reestablish trust into scientific data”.  Maybe it can “fix the reproducibility crisis”.

“As the ‘trust machine’ Blockchain in Science bears the potential to reestablish trust into scientific data. Some claim that it might even be good to fix the reproducibility crisis. New ways to rethink research subject privacy and whole data marketplaces are on the horizon. Blockchain might even play a large role in scientific publishing, where it questions the current role and business models of scientific publishers. New ways to incentivise peer-review or reproduction of results may arise. “

More plausibly, it might be useful for “data marketplaces” (assuming that scientists can afford to participate).

And it might also be a useful begging cup to help finance publishing and peer-review.

Much of the conference program is about blockchain technology (“get your cryptotuliips here!”), not so much about the alleged problems to be solved, let alone working solutions.

I’ll note that I don’t see any of the big names in Provenance or escience  (e.g., Sensei Carole Goble really should have been a key note speaker, IMO)  How can you talk about trust and reproducibility if you ignore the work that has already been done?

The thing is, blockchain qua blockchain offers little that can’t be done with conventional data systems plus public key cryptography.  (I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably have to say it again.)

In fact, blockchain technology is a terrible fit for a lot of the problems, just as it is for other applications.

Science is a tiny, underfunded enterprise that does not need a global public blockchain.  Science deals in weird, unique, often bulky data that ain’t never going to be on the actual blockchain.  Reproducibility requires incredibly complicated records of information flows and processes, which could be recorded on a blockchain, but probably shouldn’t.

I’ll note that one of the most crucial operations of science is revision and retraction of errors.  Blockchains cannot support that operation at all.  Flooding the world with fake data that cannot be removed is not going to be a real advance.

IBM’s contribution to this field reflects this very  fact:  Zach Seward reports that IBM has registered a patent for using blockchain for “open science” [1]. IBM’s idea of “open” science may not be the same as mine, but they certainly understand the problem.  Their system is basically a change log for data, reports, and whatever. This approach tracks and makes a public record of who did what, including corrections and retractions.

The thing is, of course, that we already have change logs (see, perhaps Github, which is the fourth or more generation of this technology), and we have been using them for several decades now. We were working on these “digital notebooks for science” fifteen years and more ago [2].  I assume that the new thing is implementing this on a blockchain which is technically clever but who knows if anyone actually needs it.

And, by the way, “science” is not a single enterprise, it is a bunch of small, inbred communities. I might have use for some kinds of data, but almost certainly have no way to even understand 99% of the data out there. So the blockchain will carry rafts and rafts of data that only a handful of people actually are able to use any part of.

It is interesting to consider that “scientific consensus” bears no resemblance to Nakamotoan “consensus”, because—it’s too complicated to go into here.  The point is, scientific results are not valid of important because the author thinks so, or because of the number of downloads.  The blockchain may assure accessibility and tamper resistance, but the evaluation of results will still work the old fashioned way.

For example, take a look at Wikipedia.  It is a giant change log.  There is a public record of who did what.  This has worked amazingly well for a long time–without blockchain.  Reimplementing it on blockchain would do nothing much, because the hard parts of Wikipedia are what the humans do.

I wonder if some of these notions about “incentvizing” publication, reviewing, and replication are a good idea or not.  I understand why there is a temptation to scramble for funding, but it is a slippery slope to put science on a market driven model.  This must inevitably distort what is done and published, rewarding trendy and politically favored topics, and starving less popular work. It may also be used to further cut public funding, on the excuse that “those scientists are raking in all that cryptocurrency”.


To me, this conference looks like a bunch of Tulip merchants trying to convince people to buy their magic CryptoTulips.

I may have to create a special CryptoTulip of the Year citation, for “type 3 CryptoTulips”. A “type 3” error is “asking the wrong question”, so a “type 3 CryptoTulip” is a confident solution based on misunderstanding of the actual problem.


  1. Zack Seward (2018) IBM Says Blockchain Can Power ‘Open Scientific Research’ in New Patent Filing. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/ibm-says-blockchain-can-power-open-scientific-research-in-new-patent-filing/
  2. James Myers, Luigi Marini, Rob Kooper, Terry McLaren, Robert E. McGrath, Joe Futrelle, Peter Bajcsy, Andrew Collier, Yong Liu, and Shawn Hampton, A Digital Synthesis Framework for Virtual Observatories, in UK e-Science All Hands Meeting. 2008: Edinburgh.


Cryptocurrency Thursday

“Shared Economy” in China: The Confusing Definitions of “Sharing”

I was intrigued by a headline about “China’s burgeoning sharing economy”[1].

For grey hairs like me, the notion of communist China developing a “sharing economy” is head spinning.  At the height of the communist era, there was no non-shared economy, at least theoretically.  Of course, China now has a burgeoning economy with a lot of private and corporate ownership.  So there is room for the reintroduction of “sharing”, as reported by Iris Wang [1].

Wang’s article examines several cases, and they reveal the ongoing confusion in the use of the term “sharing economy”.  The original concept of the sharing economy was a peer-to-peer, user owned, system.

One of the enterprises mentioned by Wang is a clone of Uber, which isn’t so much “sharing” as “share cropping” and monetization of worker owned resources.  This may be economically important, but it ain’t good for workers or poor people.

Another example is Vcomic, which is a digital comic book market.  Owned by and plugged into Weibo, this is the Amazon version of “sharing”—one giant gatekeeper lets individuals sell stuff to consumers.  Maybe it works more like Patreon (if Patreon was owned by Amazon), but  I’m not sure why this is considered part of the “sharing economy”.  (It’s part of the “monetization economy”.)

Another case is a “peer-to-peer” housekeeping app. This is basically a digitized employment agency.  In fact, it appears to be a company that trains and manages a pool of workers, using digital technology.  Again, it’s not clear to me how this is “sharing” in any meaningful sense—its an employment market.

Finally, there is the case of a home cooking “meal sharing” app.  This one offers on-line ordering, food delivery or pick up.  A third option is to eat a meal in the cook’s home.  The latter is a classic “sharing economy” feature, the other two are identical to every food joint in town.  Furthermore, the operation is run just like a franchise restaurant group, except people work out of their own home (and, by the way, branding their persona kitchen).

The enterprises discussed are interesting and may turn out to be important to the workers and consumers of China.  But I’m not sure they should be called a “sharing economy” in the original, altrusitc sense.

They all use digital technology, and they all require the workers to provide the means of production, while raking off fees for running the “market”.  These are basically a cargo cult “sharing economy”, using the digital trappings without the actual worker ownership or control.

It is also glaringly ironic that these “peer-to-peer” enterprises do not seem to be worker- or user-owned.  Even in communist China, workers do not own their own enterprises.

This is particularly unfortunate because the peer-to-peer digital technology works just fine for cooperative enterprises.  So these could be organized as coops or collectives, or whatever.  But they aren’t.

This is the biggest confusion of all:  a “sharing economy” should be about shared ownership and control, not about digital interfaces and exploitation.

I’ll note one additional very Chinese wrinkle.  This article about the “sharing economy” in China reports that this information comes via the State Information Center.  The concept of a peer-to-peer, user owned, system is basically the opposite of the central planning of the Chinese government.


  1. Iris Wang (2018) A glimpse at China’s burgeoning sharing economy. Sharable, https://www.shareable.net/blog/a-glimpse-at-the-burgeoning-sharing-economy-in-china

 

Freelancing in America Report 2018 [repost]

[This was posted earlier here.]

The annual “Freelancing in America” report was released October 31 [2].

In past years, I have criticized this report for some sloppy and perhaps misleading claims.  Let’s have a look at this edition.

First of all, the report is base on “An online survey of 6,001 U.S. adults who have done paid work in the past 12 months” [1].  This is an impressive sample, and includes “non Freelancers”.  It’s always hard to be sure of biases in online surveys—obviously not everyone can be reached this way or will participate.  In this case, there will surely be a skew toward including younger, digitally active workers, for instance.  But still, this is a pretty big sample, so that’s good.

One of the headline numbers is that the total number of “freelance” workers held steady compared to 2017, at about 50 million.  This was reported as “3.7 million more”, but that number is growth since the first report in 2014.  There was actually a slight decrease in the number of Freelancers between 2017 and 2018.

In fact, throughout the report, there is very little change from 2017.  But to create an illusion of growth, the base of comparison was shifted to the 2014 survey.  Sigh.

As noted in earlier discussions, this report consistently uses a very expansive and debatable definition of “freelancing”.  They include pretty much anyone who did any part time work at all, from the smallest hobby up to full time a independent business. If you focus on “close to full time” freelancers, there are about half as many as the headline number.  This means that roughly 10% of the US workforce is (more or mostly less) earning a living  freelancing.  That’s quite a few, but less exciting than some of the headlines imply and not necessarily a big change from 50 years ago.

I understand why the Freelancers Union wants to spread the net widely, I’m a ‘one big union’ guy myself.  But these workers really are such a diverse lot it’s questionable whether they should be talked about as if they are one group.

Another headline number is that 61% of freelancers do so by choice, as opposed to necessity.   This percentage has risen over the last few years, suggesting that freelancing really is preferred by many workers, and that number may be growing.  This growth may also reflect better employment opportunities, which has the side effect of reducing the number of involuntary freelancers (because they have found conventional employment).

The survey found that the more freelancers reported full time employment (defined as 35 hours per week or more, I think), and reported incomes of freelancers held steady over the year.  Every survey has shown that the majority of freelancers work less than full time, and, hardly surprisingly, earn less than $75K.  (As I have said before, statistics about freelance “income” need to be taken carefully, because independent contractors have to cover overhead and benefits, so income can’t be simply be compared with wages.)

The survey also reports on the completely unshocking fact that Freelances find that upgrading skills is a good idea, though training is awfully expensive when you are paying your own way.

The survey finds that, as always, autonomy is one of the named benefits of Freelancing, including the ability to make time for family.  And, as always, Freelancing has its own challenges, including unpredictable work and income, and isolation.  Freelancers also face the same anxieties as all workers about health insurance, retirement savings, and low pay. But I guess even though work still sucks, but at least you are working for yourself in your own interest and on your own terms.

A large number of Freelancers report that they make more money Freelancing than in previous conventional employment.  This is an interesting finding, though I still wonder how earnings are being counted.  For instance, is this a higher hourly rate, or a difference in the hours worked?  And perhaps the causation runs the other way—underpaid workers are more likely to jump to Freelancing because of low pay, not because Freelancing pays well.

This study replicates the frequently reports that most Freelancers would not take a conventional job if offered.  This is a solid sign that Freelancers are satisfied, and suggests that pay and conditions must be at least competitive.  I have to point out that this also shows just how sucky US employers seem to treat workers.  I mean, with all the stress and overhead of freelancing, it shouldn’t be that hard to be a nicer alternative.  You know, treat people with respect, pay decently, take care of important needs.  Stuff like that.


Overall, when you look at the actual data the picture is sobering.  The number of Freelancers has held steady, which may reflect a better overall job market for all kinds of employment.  Freelancers still face uncertainty, and many work only a few hours for very little pay.

Indeed, there may be a trend emerging where Freelancing is diverging into a top tier of high paid independent workers (e.g., in-demand technical workers), and a lower tier of low paid contingent workers (e.g., the lumpen proletariat of content generators). This pattern has certainly existed for a long time int he temp economy, so it may not be a surprise if the gig economy simply replicates the gig sector of the old economy.

If this truly is a trend, then it will be very important not to lump all freelance and independent workers into one conceptual heap.  Highly skilled independent contractors with high incomes have different needs and opportunities from low skill, contingent workers.  Above all, it is a mistake to blithely claim that freelancing is a viable path to a decent living for all workers—it isn’t, any more that conventional employment is.

The Freelancers Union has a key role to play here, especially in helping less secure and lower paid workers build a decent life.  Solidarity of all independent workers is a good thing, and to date the FU has done a decent job of fighting for everyone.  (#FreelanceIsn’tFree, insurance, etc.)

However, I would like to see future reports take a closer look at the differences among Freelancers who are full time, part time, and in different pay tiers.  There are many common concerns, for sure.  But there may be some important issues lost in the aggregate.  (Just as a for example, part time working mothers will have important challenges finding affordable child care, not to mention enough hours in the day.)

Disclosure:  I am a long time member of the Freelancers Union.


  1. Freelancers Union and UpWork, Freelancing in America: 2018: An independent, annual study commissioned by Freelancers Union & Upwork Freelancers Union, 2018. https://www.slideshare.net/upwork/freelancing-in-america-2018-120288770/1
  2. Caitlin Pearce, Freelancing in America 2018, in Freelancers Union Blog. 2018. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2018/10/31/freelancing-in-america-2018/

 

For more, see the book, What is Coworking?

What is Coworking?

Yet Another Innovation: “Reversible” ICOs

One of this year’s leading contenders for the CryptoTulip of the Year is “ICO” technology.  This post-Nakamotoan technology continues to develop, even in the face of disaster after disaster, not to mention global failure of unprecedented magnitude.

Of course, and “Initial Coin Offering” was originally modelled after an “Initial Public Offering” of stock—except without the pesky regulations.  At base, it amounts to “send me money, and I’ll send you a token”.  Ideally, the token will be worth something in the future, though it is not always clear just what the token could be used for.  And roughly 50% of the time, the tokens are never worth anything.

Surprisingly enough, this opaque and immutable blockchain technology has led to serious problems for the punters. In the very possible event that the ICO takes the money and runs, there is no way to complain, let alone get your money back. (The code is the law.)  And even honest ICOs have had disastrous bugs that cause massive losses of funds, with no way to  fix things.

One of the biggest problems with ICOs has been their fundamental design. A key pillar of Nakamotoan trustless trust is that the blockchain is immutable.  Noone can change history and steal your stuff. “Smart contracts” extend this principle to immutable executable code, which is both unchangeable (and therefore, unfixable) and makes immutable actions (and therefore, accidents cannot be repaired).

In several splashy cases, these codes had bugs in them that resulted in disastrous losses.  (Indeed, Ethereum was awarded CryptoTulip of the Year for 2017, largely on the basis of these impressive failures.) These bugs and the illegitimate results could not be fixed, at least not without rewriting history in a radially anti-Nakamotoan way.  (Again, see the 2017 CyptoTulip Award.)

Responding to these entirely forseeable challenges, the “godfather” of ICOs is now proposing a new variant:  Reversible ICOs [1]. (He apparently does not see the irony in the acronym RICO, more familiar in the wider world as the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, used to bring down mobsters.)

Fabian Vogelsteller, early developer and said “godfather” of ICOs, has proposed a new executable contract that lets investors return their tokens for a refund at any time.  This is not exactly a breathtaking innovation in the real world, but it is revolutionary for cryptocurrencies.

Actually, it is not so much revolutionary as reactionary.  One of the key goals of Bitcoin was to eliminate the cost and inconvenience (to vendors) of cancelled payments. For that matter, these refunds are essentially rewriting history, which kind of defeats the purpose of using a blockchain in the first place.

As far as I can tell, these “reversibles” make the IPO more of a credit instrument.  The “purchaser” is making an unsecured, no interest loan that might be convertible to something else in the future.  No points awarded for inventing “debt“.

Furthermore, in order to make this work, the ICO issuer will have to maintain reserves of fiat cash or other assets, to be able to redeem cash outs.  This is a good thing, if not at all Nakamotoan.

ICOs will also be subject to “bank runs”, if everybody decides to exit at once.  Say, in the event that  a catastrophic bug in the software destroys confidence in the enterprise.  In the real world, enterprises generally maintain adequate reserves only when forced to by regulation.  So it isn’t clear how prudent unregulated RICOs will actually be.

So these RICOs are essentially recreating many of the features of  conventional, “centralized”, finance, atop the inefficient, unregulated, and bug ridden “decentralized” blockchain infrastructure.

Clearly, with the RICO proposal, ICO technology has reached a new level of irrationality.  It is certainly a leading candidate for the CryptoTulip of the Year in 2018.


  1. Rachel Rose O’Leary (2018) The Godfather of Ethereum ICOs Wants to Let Investors Take Their Money Back. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/ethereums-token-standard-creator-wants-to-make-icos-reversible/

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

Coworking Community Without A Coworking Space (Repost)

A version of this post appeared earlier here.


Sensei Alex Hillman, founder and key player in the Indy Hall coworking space in Philadelphia, has been discussing the importance of creating and sustaining community in a coworking space for many years.

As is well known, the Indy Hall space faced closure, but the workers stepped up to help it stay open in another location.  This is a famous case of a community that outlived the space in which it was born.

Hillman also recounts that many of the members almost never use a desk.  They are active, but mostly through digital and other forms of interaction and contributions.

Recently, he has asked community leaders to try to “imagine what your community would look like without a space?”

Hillman cites a “virtual coworking” community as an instructive example.  Described in a guest post by leader Margo Aaron, The Arena is, basically, a digital social network, though it is very selective and deliberately exclusive [1].  Sensei Hillman makes the point that (a) the community is the primary goal and (b) it is going to have a digital aspect.

People don’t need the “stuff” and they don’t need you (the operator), they need each other.  (I think Hillman likes Aaron’s approach because he is extremely concerned with how to sustain the community—i.e., how to get people to pay for the important things, rather than the unimportant “stuff”.)


Turning this point around, let’s ask, If we can create digital communities, and they work, then what is the workspace for?

In my observation, there seems to be a desire for physical spaces, and they seem to be a lot more than just a desk and bandwidth.

My own view is that at least some workers, some of the time, crave face-to-face interactions.  Desperately. Even if most of the work and even most of the collaboration happens on-line, there is still something crucial about talking to a real human.   A “respite from our Isolation”. [2]

Not to mentions hugs.

The experience of Indy Hall and similar cases also suggests that a physical space can be a catalyst (as Senseis Angel and Beth called it [3]), bringing people together in a way that they can discover connections and get to know each other.  The result can be a community that extends beyond the four walls, and can outlive the space itself.

This is an interesting and probably useful image to keep in mind.  Think about the physical workspace as the kitchen where you want to mix and heat ingredients to create something much more than a warmer mixture. You want to make a delicious meal, that everyonw will enjoys together.  (OK, OK, cooking and eating your fellow workers is a bit cannibalistic, but you get the point.)

What is Coworking?  It’s still mainly about community, community, community.


  1. Margo Aaron, Guest Post: 3 incredibly counterintuitive lessons that every coworking operator needs to learn, in Alex Hillman – Better Communities, Better Business, and Better Coworking. 2018. https://dangerouslyawesome.com/2018/10/guest-post-3-incredibly-counterintuitive-lessons-that-every-coworking-space-needs-to-learn/
  2. Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/11486279/Coworking_Connectivity
  3. Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski, Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst. 2011, Cohere Coworking: Ft. Collins. http://coherecommunity.com/shop/coworking-building-community-as-a-space-catalyst

For more on Coworking and Coworking Communities, see the new book, What is Coworking?

 

What Is Coworking?

Another CryptoTulip Contender: StableCoins

The race for CryptoTulip of the Year certainly isn’t over.

Yet another technology may slip in at the end:  so-called StableCoins.

The idea of a “stablecoin” is to create a cryptocurrency that is pegged to the dollar or some other fiat currency at a stable rate.  The goal is to mitigate the exciting uncertainty of fluctuating exchange rates that makes cryptocurrencies difficult to use in the still dominant “fiat” economy.  If your Bitcoin is worth $10,000 today and $7,000 tomorrow and who knows what next week, it can be hard to trade for dollar denominated goods or services.  How do you buy a carton of milk, if you pay with a token that may be worth a lot more or less tomorrow?   Who would want to sell you a carton of milk for this kind of crazy pseudomoney?

Basically, a lot of people would like a cryptocurrency that is worth a set number of Tulips, no matter how the Tulip market fluctuates.  The advantages of a free market without the risks of the free market.  That sounds good!  Does that sound plausible?

Until recently, the most popular StableCoin was Tether, which was supposed to be pegged to the USD.  The thing is, guaranteeing a fixed exchange rate requires a (centralized) service that maintains liquidity in dollars and crypto.  This variant of “reserve banking” isn’t especially Nakmotoan, and there are fundamental questions about the business model.  Just where do all the dollars and coins come from?  What kind of rake-off is done to support the system?  Is it sustainable?

In the case of Tether, long standing questions about liquidity and ownership (not to mention basic honesty) were exacerbated by the failure to deliver a promised audit. These troubles have come to roost as users walk away.  (The Tether coin was trading below the pegged $1 value—kind of a problem.)

There are other “stablecoins”, with varying exchange rates to the dollar.  The news is full of recently launched GeminiCoin is backed by the Winklevosses [3].  The big names give credibility and deep pockets to this otherwise pedestrian efforts. The start power and deeply wishful thinking have GUSD trading considerably above the nominal $1 mark (which doesn’t seem either logical or sustainable to me).

As they come and go, these “stable” tulips don’t seem particularly stable [2].

But more important, they are pretty totally anti-Nakamotoan.  Pegging cryptocurrency to the hated “fiat currency” is just wrongity, wrong, wrong, and I challenge you to justify it based on the sacred text [5]. Bitcoin is supposed to disrupt and obsolete the dollar, not extend the value of the dollar into cryptoland.

(We could also note that the GeminiCoin seems to carry extra value due to the patronage of celebrities [1]. This “trustless” system relies on “trust”—trust in famous people.  This is certainly not part of the Nakamotoan vision of how economics, or “trust”, should work.)


I have to say that stablecoin technology has both the “this is surely the wrong way to go” and the “this is deeply dubious” vibe that marks a strong contender for Cryptotulip of the Year.  Plus, the very spectacle of the instability of something called a stable coin” is so very, very Tulip-y.

Stablecoins have to be in the consideration for the award this year.



  1. Michael J Casey (2018) The Delicate Psychology of Stablecoins. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/the-delicate-psychology-of-stablecoins/
  2. Nikhilesh De (2018) Stablecoins All Want to Be $1, But They’re Not Worth the Same. Condesk, https://www.coindesk.com/which-stablecoin-is-the-riskiest-the-crypto-market-is-pricing-that-in/
  3. David Floyd (2018) Gemini Stablecoin Volume Doubles on Top 10 Exchange Amid Tether Turmoil. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/gemini-stablecoin-volume-doubles-top-10-exchange-bibox-tether-turmoil/
  4. David Floyd (2018) Bitfinex Is Publishing Data for a Tether Market That Doesn’t Exist. Coindesk,  https://www.coindesk.com/bitfinex-is-publishing-data-for-a-tether-market-that-doesnt-exist/
  5. Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. 2009. http://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

CryptoTulip 2018: Bitcoin vs Ethereum

The heavyweights are battling it out for the CryptoTulip 2018 award!

Defending CryptoTulip Award winner Ethereum has thrashed all year on basic governance and scaling issues, with no resolution in sight.  Ehthereum is also the platform of choice for other notable CryptoTulip contenders, including EOS, FOAM, and the plethora of ICOs.  (Ethereum:  the Tulip that other Tulips grow on!)

But the grand patriarch of the Nakamotoan family, Bitcoin, is not to be denied.  With a stunningly non-Nakamotoan bug fix (at least we hope the bug is really fixed!), and the neverending scaling debates, Bitcoin has done its own thrashing.  (And, by the way, the bug in Bitcoin has been copied into any number of other “coins”, so it affects a whole extended family of cryptocurrencies. )  (Bitcoiin: the Tulip from which all other Tulips are descended!)

This month we see further action from both these contenders for the non-coveted CryptoTulip of the Year Award.


This month, a cunning plan was floated to help Bitcoin scale.  It is now clear that this great idea is not only not strictly Nakamotoan, it also relies on a wrinkle in the consensus protocol that many consider to be a bug [2].    Yessiree, let’s turn a bug into a feature!

Astonishing enough, many people want to fix the bug (which would kill the scaling concept), and many people want to keep the ‘bug’ (and use it to improve the network).  It also seems that the Bitcoin code has grown complex enough that it isn’t even easy to plug this hole in the protocol if you wanted to, at least not without a side effect of splitting the network.  (I don’t understand the details of these fixes, I’m relying on second hand info.)

A tough choice—valid data, or scaling up the network.  Bitcoin is certainly contending for the CryptoTulip Award this year.


Of course, Ethereum continues to thrash along on its own path.  The long awaited, much debated “Constantinople” upgrade—way overdue, still contested, and somewhat trimmed down—is entering live testing.

Or, it would be, if only people would do the tests.  At this stage, the proposed new version was booted on a test network, but “stalled”, not processing more data.  It is reported that there aren’t enough miners who are running the code.

However, the testing did succeed in revealing a serious bug “which caused two different iterations of the same software upgrade to run on testnet.  I don’t really understand this problem, but it doesn’t sound ready for release, to me. But what do I know?

This test run doesn’t bode well for the November release date.  Enthusiasm seems to be low, quality seems iffy.  So just when, if ever, will this upgrade really happen?

Update 20 October 2018:  The release has been pushed back to January 2019 or later.

With this disaster, Ethereum certainly might repeat as CryptoTulip of the Year this year.  We’ll see what happens.


Both these contenders are showing that the software is buggy and the maintenance process unworkable.  Plus, significant fractions of the “community” don’t even want the upgrades to happen at all.

This is a technical and governance horror show, and it is not the universe Nakamoto envisioned!

But we all still believe, really believe, in our CryptoTulips!

That’s the essence of CryptoTulip Mania, isn’t it?

  1. Alyssa Hertig (2018) ‘Bitcoin Bug’ Exploited on Crypto Fork as Attacker Prints 235 Million Pigeoncoins. Coinbase, https://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-bug-exploited-on-crypto-fork-as-attacker-prints-235-million-pigeoncoins/
  2. Alyssa Hertig (2018) Not Everyone Wants to Fix Bitcoin’s ‘Time Warp Attack’ – Here’s Why. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/not-everyone-wants-to-fix-bitcoins-time-warp-attack-heres-why/
  3. Christine Kim (2018) Ethereum’s Next Blockchain Upgrade Faces Delay After Testing Failure. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/ethereums-next-blockchain-upgrade-faces-delay-after-testing-failure/

 

Cryptocurrecy Thuraday