Online Mafioso Falls Short

A little late to the party, I scoured the net trying to get the last few Joey Bada$$ mixtapes. Three things stood out after this brief sidetracked adventure.

1- After two full successful years in the underground game this kid still doesn’t have an efficient, centralized self controlled online presence for content distribution. His Facebook and Twitter are filled with too much noise. Next best option were third party online mafiosos to get albums.

2- Online mafioso’s monetization tactics work when few other options are available. Badass Captcha 2

3- Broken, ugly, archaic user experience no longer cut it. Above options were apparently only good enough for throttled download speeds.

1% complete after 30 seconds, I cancelled. Problem solved minutes later on via torrent.

 

**Update**: Distribution channel is “kind of” there (theproera.com) but discovery blueprint is lacking. 

Bitcoins: A Currency With The Best Intentions

If you haven’t heard it’s not due to a lack of press coverage; bitcoins are a hot topic. And yet, even with its skyrocketing popularity many can’t help but wonder how this thing really works. The writing on the wall seems clear; I mean we’re talking about e-money right?

Well kinda sorta not really.

Reports infused with familiar concepts like currency, security, trading exchange, bubble and “just like cash” unfortunately lend a false understanding of this tool. To truly wrap one’s head around this new “pseudonymous” electronic medium one must contend with decades of an indoctrinated fiat money standard and its relative macro-economic principles. Welcome to my Saturday trying to sell this Kool Aid, over a few beers and bourbon, to a couple of finance veterans.

Never mind the fact that we spent a prime weekend night indoors debating the state of bitcoins in our economy and its prospects as an investment asset— those are grievances of an “older” man for a different day. The takeaways from the evening interestingly enough ended as a mish-mash of arguments based on an incomplete image of a new system characterized by labels that incorrectly set the foundation for factual debate on the subject.

Bitcoins are fucking confusing

Bitcoins come from one of two places. They are either mined by special machines connected to the bitcoin network (process + verify transactions) or are purchased on a market exchange. Like cash, ownership is singular, transactions, absent of a 3rd party, are final and transfers between parties guaranteed and secure.

These processes are the result of a tremendous computer science breakthrough in cryptography. Andreessen Horowitz summarizes it best in one of the better articles about the potential of bitcoins:

“Bitcoin is the first practical solution of the Byzantine Generals Problem that poses the question of how to establish trust between otherwise unrelated parties over an untrusted network like the Internet.
Bitcoin gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer.”

All of this sounds great except for this whole Mt. Gox thing people keep talking about.

Half A Billion Worth of Bitcoins Disappear

The jury is still out and we don’t know the root of this massive blunder that has left thousands of users (pardon my french) essentially holding their dick in their hands. Official word from Mt. Gox is that coins were stolen. Though, I’m convinced the makeup is instead rather a  strong cocktail made up of 1 part fraud, 2 parts negligence, 1 part cover-up and a splash of the alleged transaction malleability. This isn’t the first fuck up (see hereherehere…) but we are dealing with a new technology poised to endure some growing pains not-withstanding traditional macro-economic interpretations.

What’s My Money?

Unlike fiat currencies that derive their value from federal law and regulation, bitcoins are transparently self controlled and their value is the result of two notions. The present use of the system in terms of volume of transactions and  speculation of future use of the system.

Contrary to popular belief, bitcoins do not have an deflation problem. Though the traditional fundamentals make sense here. According to economists, given the coins’ finite supply (presently around 12 million BTC and poised to steadily reach around 21 million by 2140) users are incentivized to horde the currency and delay purchases until a later date when BTC value increase (deflation 101). Although this makes sense,  the BTC system, in rudimentary terms, is a tool that allows for transactions to take place relative to an actual fiat currency. [Remember? Bitcoins don’t have an arbitrary value to begin but rather volume of transactions are a key aspect where BTC derive its value allowing people to use them for trade.] In the end, national currencies remain central while the bitcoin ecosystem acts as a more efficient middleman replacing transactional functions of traditional banks.

Lets be clear that as is, the BTC system lacks may key elements (insurance, legal accountability of exchanges) for it to earn critical mass public trust and adoption. But, as more people use the system  it becomes more stable, less volatile, and its efficiencies become more apparent.

Like the many ground breaking technologies of the past decade and a half, bitcoins are simply a more efficient way of transferring value. They accomplish this feat much faster and at a fraction of what the banks costs. Certainly the lack of customer assurance, trustworthy mediators, independent audits and technical complications, that I didn’t even touch, are hurdles. Fortunately, these issues are all solvable and so long as the rate of adoption increases  the incentize is there to do so. To quit amidst the turmoil would be foolish when the upside is just too good not to fight for.

What’s App With The Right Price?

A little over sixteen hours ago Facebook’s recent $19 billion What’s App  acquisition caused a firestorm in the media world. Hundreds of other outlets have already done you the service of dissecting the deal and speculating on on the reasons behind it. But after a nice buzz on in one of my What App chat rooms (of all places…), the valuation model chatter died down and I chimed in with:

“Yo. I got a message recently about renewing my What’s App subscription in 3 days. I don’t think I’m going to renew…”

$1 Yearly Subscription Too Much

It’s hard to believe SaaS has come to a point where a great product at a very reasonable price can have its integrity cross-examined so honestly. Well at first glance it’s hard, but once you take a few step back a different pictures stars to emerge.

What’s App is undeniably a great mobile client that efficiently solves the global & cross-device messaging problem but then again so is: Viber, Google Hangouts, FB Messenger, BBM, Skype, Wechat, Tango… Although the product has a great value proposition, it unfortunately isn’t unique.

There is a cognitive dissonance in the market place. Competing messaging clients manage to provide the same service with a (for now) $0 price tag. Users will undoubtedly line up at checkout, scratch their heads and ask themselves what’s the difference?

Troves of other SaaS companies are monitoring developments and collectively holding their breaths to see if What’s App’s huge network effect- 450 MAU’s- is enough to justify the price tag. Any success with this mobile monetization strategy will support a viable alternative to the mostly standard ad driven model. As for me, I’m not sure yet if I will pay that buck, but I now have 72 hours to figure it out.

Talk to me. A Veggie Container

While throwing out the veggie box from the fridge, I quickly glanced at the label and realized they could give a fuck about me. This led me to jot down a few of the ideas I figured must of been behind the creative process.

Spring Mix Conference Room

1.Guys don’t eat vegetables
-Call it “Organic Girl” so that it resonates with our core female audience.
-Girls love the color red. Make “girl” red.

2.People love “organic” shit. Cuz well, it’s better
-Display “organic” on label more than once.
-Convey idea that product+consumer = better “organic.”
-Emphasize statement with graphics. It’s very important!
==>BOOM! got it…  I *heart graphic* organic. + CIRCLE

3.High Quality Product
-Let them know that our shit definitely has no salmonella!
-Convey idea of “rigorous quality assurance” concisely.
==>Boom! ok… Washed (cubed) + Washed 3 times

4.Green and sustainable must be part of message
-Container is 100% recyclable
-Produce made in USA

5.It’s a vegetable!
-Put some vegetable graphics on the label. Not too many though. Message needs to be clean and clear!
-Incorporate the color green as it conveys both the idea of vegetables and sustainability.

Relax. Gaming Consoles Aren’t Dead

Well… At least not yet.

Mobile and social media are the sexy new platforms du jour. With users increasingly spending their time on these medium also playing games, the adage is that those dedicated black living room set-op boxes will become irrelevant and redundant.

Well… Hmmm. No. No. And well, at least not yet.

Context. Context. Context.

According to emaketer, users spend about 5 hours a day online, half of which is spent on mobile. Surely that’s plenty of time on competing media devices but two things stand out. First, total  amount of time spent on media has grown and second, the TV share has remained constant at around 4.5 hrs. As online activity grows television is very much still in the mix.

Over 263 million third generation consoles were sold as of Jan 2014 (see: vgchartz). A little over 2 months into the fourth, hardware sales are strong with totals of 14 million. This news is more of the same ; video games have been a living room staple for over two decades now. None of it is sexy. Mobile is the shinny new toy in the room getting all the attention.

With addictively simple mechanics mobile games have lowered the barrier to entry such that anyone from toddlers to your grandma can intuitively partake on any mobile device. As a result, the overall gaming audience has grown tremendously over the last decade having added legitimacy to the category of casual gamers, now layered on top of the already stacked hardcore set.  Bo Featherhunter playing Angry Birds on his iPhone is different than Jo Thunderclap on FPS Battlefield.  These different audiences have their own unique engagement video games.

Mobile devices offer users a fresh (accelerometer & gyroscope driven), simple (touch), no frills experience on much smaller screens. Their portability drive a contextual experience in which the user conveniently seeks escape from his environment. Whereas set-op boxes tethered to large screens TV’s in the living room offer a robust ecosystem in a more intimate setting. Users in this case seek out this gaming environment to engage. It’s a primary user choice rather than an available option.

I’ll spare you the foreplay in the form of a long dissertation and simply say that there is still huge demand for polished, more immersive form of play. In terms of the finite commodity of time consoles no longer dominate what we’ve traditionally called gaming but the demand for the experience (setting and quality) is still there. So long as people want they will get.