You may have noticed the blog posts stopped when we shifted gears towards expanding our thesis into a full fledged book. The idea for the book was in part spurred on by the limitations of the blogging format. Blogs are a great way to get one-off ideas out quickly, but are not the best format when trying to organize a body of information into a larger structure.
Also frankly, there wasn't a one-off topic we wanted to write enough to warrant a new blog post until today.
Control of the backend
One of the core tenants of the distributed ledger space is that it is a back end revolution, where most people will not even notice it happening. This immediately runs into the paradox that the entire ecosystem is dead in the water, unless a seamless user interface layer can be placed on top of this new back end architecture.
While buried in research, writing, and editing for the last 9 months, we completely ignored anything to do with publishing or syndicating our content onto a UI layer outside of our own control.
This changed in the last few weeks when we decided to syndicate through an exchange partner via their Medium.com blog. (More info on that coming shortly)
Sliding scale of control
The fun thing when writing about distributed ledgers, is you start to notice the places where someone else is in control of your destiny.
We knew when choosing Squarespace to host our website we were signing up for a terms of service where in theory our content could be censored.
In reality, we are paying customers when we use Squarespace, so we would have to host some pretty awful things to violate their terms of service and be taken down. As we host mostly text content of a very geeky technical nature, this likely will not happen.
The beautiful thing about paying to host your own website is you can in theory code whatever you want. These were the roots the internet grew from in the 1990s. Even today, any person can in theory turn any computer into a web server and run their own website out of their closet.
Services like Squarespace professionalize this by not only hosting the web server for you, but handling web domains, certificates, and most importantly giving users a really simple and slick user interface that makes publishing content seamless.
Firstly, we are happy with our new relationship where we syndicate our content through Medium. Of course reaching more people is preferable to staying walled off in an echo chamber, even if we give up some control to do so.
While both Squarespace and Medium are centralized intermediaries capable of censoring content, there is one important distinction between the two platforms.
- Squarespace pays for its servers and overhead by charging a monthly subscription fee to host websites.
- Medium pays for its servers and overhead by getting people to pay for content through subscriptions.
This seems like a subtle difference, but has huge implications.
Namely Squarespace does not care if we paste code with a cryptocurrency tipping function, while Medium does.
In fact, if Medium offered the ability to paste in a "tip with crypto" button, it would be undermining its business model. (Alas, we will have to settle with showing our BCH public key qp7fvjgt9zudfevlt9zw4n0tfkqfdm2dhc8flkg2rm and hope users are savvy enough to onboard themselves)
Why Distributed Ledgers are so Subversive
This gets at the heart of what makes the ledger space interesting.
Namely the dominant business model of today is to aggregate users onto a tightly controlled platform and trap them there, while the business model of distributed ledgers is to provide end users the tools of their own empowerment without centralized control determining what they can and can't do.
That said, on the sliding scale of nefariousness, Medium doesn't even register compared to the shennigans going on at Facebook and other ad centric platforms. At least Medium wants an honest pay-for-content relationship with its users, rather the sell-you-down-the-river-to-the-highest-paying-Russian-troll model Facebook employs.
However like Facebook, Medium has no "paste your own code" functionality, as centralized order is prized over decentralized chaos. Most people remember how terrible Myspace pages looked, and assume autocratic control with clean and orderly streets is a default better way of organizing the internet than messy democracy.
A serious problem thus arises when syncing the distributed ledger world with the centralized gatekeeper world. Why would centralized gatekeepers like banks, social media platforms, etc. integrate with a technology that actively seeks to replace them?
When Medium prevents users from pasting in a crypto tipping function, in effect they are preserving the status quo the same way as banks preventing transfers to and from crypto exchanges.
The counterargument is, "hey we'll integrate your widget, we just need to do it right and push it out to users through our development channels."
While this may be true, it places the onus on the centralized intermediary to affect the change, rather than the individual end user by allowing them to post a simple code snippets inside a securely encapsulated environment.
We are in no way anti-capitalist, and understand Medium needs to provide a valuable service to attract users (and ultimately entice its backers to stay around for follow on rounds of financing by showing sustainable margins)
As a content hub for the emerging cryptosphere, Medium could solidify their future by integrating with the distributed ledger world, before decentralized competitors begin to chip away at their market share.
We hope the return to short form blogging is helpful to our readers as they learn more about the distributed ledger space. When we have a one-off topic topic worth writing about we will publish a new blog post, and when we don't rest assured we are making some sort of progress on our upcoming book.
Finally, if you want to tip us with Crypto, it's now possible as we have integrated with the awesome new moneybutton.com!
Is the onboarding process still too wonky? Yes, but as early adopters you are more willing than most to put up with:
- Registering a yours.org account which makes tipping across the internet easy after a one time setup.
- Sending your favorite tokens natively via BCH (or converted using shapeshift) to our public key address. Are we BCH shills? absolutely not. Does BCH work with low fees and an awesome UI layer built on top thanks to the yours.org team? Yes.
Or don't do anything, this isn't a preachy call to support your local PBS station.
Just remember, if you use a service without paying for it, you are not the customer, you are the product.