Will Bitcoin Become the new Cash?


I’ve written a number of times about mCommerce and digital wallets. Now we have loads of companies offering services for electronic payment. These include the Apple Passbook, and many apps using NFC or other means to exchange money. The key thing that joins the hundreds of apps available is that they are legitimately tied to credit cards and banks. As such they provide audit trails and of course tie the world economy together as much as that is possible.

In the future I have postulated that actual paper money will decline and potentially phase out. I could see that happening in New Zealand faster than many other countries. We only have a small number of banks and clearing houses and as such were able to be the first country to mass adopt EFTPOS in the retail environment. Many people no longer carry cash.

However there is of course the grey market and one of the challenges there, is that people who do not want their money transactions audited. There is a global economy like this. People who are paid under the table for their work, people who deal in illegal activities such as drug sales, stolen goods and others. There are also people who just want to opt out of the system or at least flip it the bird. Cash of course can work around the system easily, there is money laundering and people will accept cash for most things as I experienced a few years ago when I watched a guy buying a used Ferrari with folding money he pulled out of his denim jacket pocket.

Much of this money circulates around the system but not through it and this is a challenge if hard cash currency ceased to exist. Or is it.

Yesterday I was on my way to a Microsoft Cloud presentation (which I will blog about on one of my blogs) either SoLoMo Consulting, or Imersia). I was a little early, so I sat in my car and read the latest awesome TNW Magazine on my iPad. Its a great magazine which I recommend you read if this blog is of interest to you, because it is the Money issue. There I learned about Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is “Bitcoin is an experimental new digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world. Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority: managing transactions and issuing money are carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is also the name of the open source software which enables the use of this currency.”

Effectively here is no bank, no fees, no audit trail. There are all sorts of businesses, even retailers, who will accept payment in Bitcoins just as businesses accept payment in other forms of money, such as Bartercard Dollars. The difference again of course is that Bartercard still connects to the banks, has an audit trail and the Governments continue to collect their taxes.

Ultimately my question is, will Governments allow this sort of  “experimental currency” to continue? Can they stop it? It appears to already have a massive following. You can buy a coffee with it, you can play poker with it. There are sites where you can buy and sell Bitcoins such as Mt. Gox and there ar others too, although I noted that one of those has dissapeared and I noted a story there that Barclays had stopped allowing people to trade with them.

So what happens if the authorities stop Bitcoin? (assuming Google or someone else don’t buy them, but Bitcoin does seem to have an anti-establishment feel to it, but it could be all about the money).  Well there is also Dwolla,  LibertyReserve, and a host of other systems. I suspect that as cheap smartphones gain mass adoption in the blue collar world, there will be more interest and demand for ways to continue to do ‘cash deals’ without cash.

Futurists are talking about the Local-Global Duality with shifting borders and changing geopolitical landscapes. The one thing keeping us together as countries, or pulling us apart is money. Financial institutions and Governments  are struggling to maintain a status quo that will keep countries running. As countries grow deeper in debt after the GFC people rush to take their money out of the banks for fear of losing it altogether, which in turn intensifies the crisis.

Farmville Tractor

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I’m not saying I agree with currencies like Bitcoin. I still want my roads and infrastructure, order and safety in my community. I believe that one way or another money from illegal activity still works its way back in, like the guy I watched buying a car for over $30,000 in folding. I do suspect however that we will see a proliferation in ‘currencies’ like this in the future. I also suspect that the criminal elements in our societies could be the ones with the most to gain from them, but also that there will be many scams which will be developed to trick people in giving up real money for virtual currency which they will never be able to repatriate. Silly really, when they can legally create computer games and sell virtual stuff and pay tax on legally earned activity with much less risk.

Farmville and the new Virtual Economy


The computer gaming industry is of course massive and simulation games have been popular for a long time. Traditionally though, game makers made their money by selling games and upgrades for games. The SIMS being one of the best examples. I must admit to having enjoyed some of their games in the past, especially the classic Sim City.

Zynga has taken this to a whole new level of success with Farmville, a sim game which has become incredibly popular on Facebook. People pay real money to buy virtual tractors and other items in the game. This has now gone to such an extreme that Tesco is now about to start to sell real money vouchers in their stores.

In About Us on Zynga, they emphasize that their games are free, which is totally true, but there are elements in many of their games where you pay money to buy virtual things, or for example in the poker game, to buy back in to the weekly tournament if you lose your chips.

This adds an amazing dimension to this free game business. According to industry experts, as reported on Rev2.org, Zynga could be worth as much as US$5 Billion, which they predict could double in the next 5 years. Seems the concept of free and internet based games may have some commercial merit:)



Since When Do Major Sporting Events Govern Countries?


Making my first coffee today in the office at 8AM I noticed a story on the front page of the NZ Herald. Funny I can’t seem to find it online, but there were loads of results on the web’s news pages.I’ll share the Huffington Post story here because I can’t find the NZ Herald story online for some strange reason.

Basically the story is that Dutch Brewery Bavaria has been selling orange mini skirts to soccer fans as an ambush marketing stunt.  The clothes were available for sale in the Netherlands and as a very nationalistic country, it is normal behaviour for Dutch people to wear Orange on major occasions such as sporting events and also for children on Queen’s Birthday. So many Dutch people bought these skirts and wore them to the FIFA World Cup match against Denmark. The clothing had a tiny little label that would be very difficult to see with the Bavaria brand on it.

That wasn’t the problem though. The problem was that they allegedly paid a group of 36 blondes to wear them at the match, which is against the rules of sponsorship, where Budweiser are the only official beer sponsor of the map and have exclusive marketing rights. The story in the Herald said that 2 of the 36 women were arrested and charged and if convicted could face fines from 1,000 Rand to a term in prison. Subsequently they were released on Bail and FIFA has said they will not be charging the individuals, they will be bringing charges against the Bavaria Brewery itself.

As a marketer, I appreciate that brands pay outrageously high sponsorship fees to be able to advertise at major sporting events and expect protection, but how far should they be allowed to go? If I like a brand, why shouldn’t I be allowed to wear their clothing. I play poker and have played in tournaments sponsored by Jack Daniels and have won Jack Daniels clothing. If a group of my friends who also won their branded clothing to an event, could I be in trouble? If the organisers of the poker tournament encouraged me to wear their clothing at the event, would they be in trouble? Remember that the logo on the clothing, these 36 girls were wearing was only on a tiny tag that if you wanted to read it, you would have to get so close to the garment that you might get arrested on other charges.

Next year we have the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and the International Rugby Board is running by the same rules. According to the IRB even the letters RWC in succession have been trade marked. In effect I could be breaking the law just be blogging the letters RWC. When did it become possible for a sporting body to prosecute people or businesses for using 3 letters in succession. I mean, we only have 26 letters in our alphabet! So what if they were the initials for your company? Are you breaking the law? If I worked for or supported the Roger Wright Centre in Christchurch, and they had corporate clothing, I wouldn’t be allowed to wear it to any World Cup matches in New Zealand.

So what happens to other companies or organisations that use RWC in their name? Have they lost the rights to their business names? What happens if their staff want to be proud of the company and go to a match in company clothing? RWC stands for Redwood City in California. It stands for Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester New York which has a proud sporting history.

I think this is very scary and another example of large corporations wanting to own and control everything. Some of those corporations in the drug world may now own the patents to some of my DNA!

Anyway, before you go to any of the matches in South Africa this year or in New Zealand next year, make sure you don’t have any clothing showing off any brands that haven’t paid the IRB for the use of the letters RWC or any of the other trademarked groups of letters. They probably won’t have Sky in the holding cells.

The Orcon Problem


You have to laugh, or else you would cry. The other day I was complaining about the problems I have had with Orcon for the last 3 months. Today I was going to write an email to Scott Bartlett prior to phoning him in person, but the latest episode means I may have to wait until after the weekend before I start demanding compensation and head for the media in a big way.

Last month my Internet disconnected 696 times and then last weekend I lost my landline phoe altogether. I know some of you laughed at the fact that I have a landline, but as I said, elderly relatives still have landlines and can’t afford the cost of calling mobiles.

Anyway my landline is back and my internet has a few consecutive good days. But if you read my blog before, you will have read that over a 1 month period my internet disconnected 696 times. Did you think that was bad?

Well how about this. Yesterday my Orcon connection dropped 245 times and today so far it has dropped 451 times. In fact my average continuous connection time could be measured in seconds.

So I rang Orcon again this morning and got a friendly guy who asked me if I had line filters in my house. I felt like jumping from my chair, rushing into their call centre and launching a tirade, but I didn’t. I asked him if he had read the story on my account in their CRM.

He has come up with a new idea of applying interleaving which he said could increase latency by up to 10 mSeconds. I’ll have to see what the impact is on my poker tournaments, but in general that doesn’t sound too bad. he said it would take about 2 days for it to have an impact and my next tournament is tonight, but given that last night I couldn’t even check my email, it sounds like a major potential improvement.

I was giong to call Scott Bartlett at Orcon today and demand a refund, demand the 2 for one movie tickets that they promised and then start calling the media. I will wait until Monday and then decide my next step.

Several people who were thinking of joining Orcon have decided not to and my Glenfield rental tenants have just received a package from Orcon which they are going to show me tonight. There is no way they will join Orcon, having heard about my story.

I thought my problems were over, but it seems as though they are getting worse. In this day and age I can’t believe this. I’m busy working on LBS applications, proximity based marketing and all sorts of exciting mobile applications but in 3 months I can’t get a reliable internet connection at home. Just as well I don’t have a home business anymore. I wonder what my associates at the ICT Cluster tonight will think of this.

Would you put up with this?

So how about the weather in Auckand


So we survived another storm on the weekend. I was playing poker in the NPPL Regional finals on Saturday when the storm was up to its mischief. The guy sitting next to me got a phone call while he was playing to say that the chimney had been blown off his roof and had fallen through the roof of his garage. He thought he should leave and sort it out, so he went all in AND WON! Then he went all in again, determined to get out of there. I think after that he decided the roof could wait, lol.

Then when I got home I found that a third of my bottlebrush tree was lying accross the footpath, but it would have to wait till light the next day. While I was sitting down watching the abysmal performance of the All Blacks against the Wallabies, friends got home to find the fire department tying down the roof of their house. We got off lucky.

This is not typical Auckland weather, or at least it didn’t used to be, but I recall watching the news a few months ago and they were saying, get used to it. This is a symptom of global warming and although Auckland is not perceptably warmer, especially this year, we have started getting frequent subtropical downpours. We have always had four seasons in a day, but not the sort of rain that drops a swimming pool on your roof, followed by the sun, followed by another rain bomb.

So now that we are back to normal, they say the next storm is going to start at 3PM today.

I wonder what the situation is with our water levels. They have been saying that we were short of water fr the hydro electric power lakes. I hope they are closer to normal now. Also wondering about drinking water, we are still getting Waikato River water because it is cheaper to keep giving it to us, than it is to stop. I know it is only a percentage (what percentage?) but the rain will also be draining huge amounts of fertiliser and other contaminants into the river and eventually into our taps. I know they filter a certain amount of contaminants out, but it will be far from pure.

Hopefully the last comment on Orcon


Since Duncan from Orcon replied to my blog at GeekZone, I got up this morning and found my phone working again. Fantastic. If that was you Duncan, thanks so much for your help. I don’t think my internet problem is sorted yet, although I could be wrong. I’ve had 3 disconnections this morning, but that could be normal.

Maybe someone could tell me, how many disconnections is normal? Am I beling unrealistic expecting say 95% access, or otherwise 5% failure rate, or should it be pretty much on all the time? I appreciate that ADSL 2 is relatively new and it is still going out over copper which, given the age of the cables and the sheathing, is pretty old and tired. The problem is that I am a big user and there are times where disconnection could be a financial disaster.

I got a comment about being old fashioned in having a home phone at all. If it was only me, I probably wouldn’t, but my wife spends a lot of the time on the phone, especially to family some of whom whom simply could not afford to call a mobile with today’s rates.

Anyway, it’s time to stop blogging, actually, I do have one more to do on my songwriting blog and then in an hour or so I am off to play in the regional final of the NPPL poker tournament, having finished in the top 5 for the season at my venue of Bar Africa, which is a good thing as it appears we are about to be hit by the worst storm in 10 years and they are saying unless you have to go out, stay inside. Good day for poker, I say.

Wash Your Hands After You Do Your Business!


This is really a story about men’s hygiene in the bathroom, but it probably applies to some women as well. I was listening to the Ante Up Podcast as I showered this morning and they were talking about men who leave the washroom without washing their hands after doing their business.

Ante Up is a great podcast about Poker and has lots of great information for amateurs like myself and even those who think they know it all. What’s more they very kindly played my new song I Tilted on their show.

Anyway, they covered an issue that really anoys me, which is guys who go to the toilet and then return to the poker table without having washed their hands. The thing is that of the guys that have been in and out of the bathroom at the same time as me in poker tournaments, as many as 50% do their business and return to the tables without using soap or water. Then they handle the cards, hand me their chips when I win them off them and share their germs with everyone on the table. How bad is that? Lots of people eat their fries or other food at the poker table while they are playing, they might lick a finger or thumb as they are dealing their cards and , well it doesn’t really bear thinking about. In this day and age you would think that grown men would have more self respect and concern for their health. I know that some women are the same, but I suspect the ratio would be far less.

I had a look at a website called 1st-in-handwashing.com and found:

The importance of handwashing can be assessed by looking at a list of germs found on human hands.  Here are a few:

  • Shigella flexneri…causes vomiting, headache, diarrhea
  • Streptococcus pyrogens…causes tonsilitis, sore throats, scarlet fever,impetigo
  • Salmonella … causes severe diarrhea, stomach pain, dizzyness, fever
  • Rhino virus…over 200 strains causing great misery in the form of colds
  • Proteus vulgaris…urinary tract infextions
  • Hepatitis A…vomiting, liver disorders, jaundice
  • Escherichia coli 0157 …kidney failure, uncontrollable fever, death
  • Rotavirus …55,000 children hopitalized with this each year
  • Echovirus…meningitis, encephalitis, neonatal sepsis, myocarditis, and chronic infection
  • Coxsackie virus…sore throat, abdominal discomfort, or nausea

Now that’s just for starters.

Some years ago a popular hotel in New Zealand conducted tests on the peppermint jar at the restaurant counter, where people paid their bills after their meals. They tested mints that were not individually sealed but were there for people to help themselves to. Amongst other things they found fecal coliforms, urine residue and even semen residue! This is new mints that people hadn’t yet enjoyed.

Now ettiquette says that you don’t confront people, you don’t tell grown adults to wash their hands, and if I did I might find myself getting smacked for my trouble. But we’re supposed to be civilised aren’t we? So what can you do?  What everyoe else does, when someone loses and leaves the table, you give them a firm handshake to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the germs that didn’t make it to the playing cards or the poker chips!

Does this make your stomach churn? Maybe if this is discussed in places like this blog, more people will be conscious of it and decide that even if they don’t care about giving their germs to other people, they might at least aim to wash the other people’s germs of their own hands.

You may think this is funny, but the amount of germs that get shared and cause serious illness, that could be avoided by a little attention to  hygiene.

Think about it. How many hands did you shake today. Have you touched any money lately> Have a sniff of that $5 note in your pocket and think about where that’s been and why does it smell? Now go and buy your lunch and watch the person handle your food with their gloves and then without taking them off, handle your money and change.

Scary isn’t it. Well, that’s my soapbox for today. Hope I made you think a little. See you at the poker table. My hands will be clean, at least when I first sit down.

Thanks for reading my soapbox, pardon the pun:)