My Introduction to Bitcoin

BitcoinI have recently become interested and invested (on a small scale) in the crypto-currency known as Bitcoin.

Bitcoin was conceived of in 2008, by a mysterious individual (or, some say, a group of individuals) known as Satoshi Nakamoto, when he released this academic paper.

Irish readers might be interested to know that a post-graduate student of cryptography at Trinity College, Dublin, named Michael Clear was once identified as being the true Satoshi Nakamoto.

Many people find Bitcoin difficult to understand but there are plenty of links on the Internet which are useful when it comes to grasping the concepts involved.

Here is an enlightening video from www.weusecoins.com

As mentioned in the clip, Bitcoin can be generated in ‘blocks’ by anyone with a computer and this activity is known as ‘Bitcoin mining‘.

However, recently the CPU power required to mine Bitcoins has become prohibitive for smaller miners, meaning they are unlikely to be able to mine enough value in Bitcoins in excess of their computing and electricity costs, therefore Bitcoin mining is becoming the preserve of larger operators.

Nevertheless, by its nature, Bitcoin possesses a number of advantages when compared to traditional currencies, as issued by the central banks of sovereign nations (or federal entities like the EU, in the case of the Euro).

Bitcoin is the “first decentralized digital currency” – which means that it is not hosted on one central server, but rather it resides, and perpetuates itself, as a distributed currency on networks and nodes across the entire Internet.

Bitcoin can be used online to transfer digital cash from person to person (or ‘peer-to-peer’) without the need for a bank or clearing house, which means (for businesses and individuals) that there are no set-up costs, lower fees, no chargebacks and the ability to make instantaneous micropayments – e.g. for the equivalent of cents in value.

Nowadays, Bitcoin can be used to make purchases from many different online vendors and it is increasingly being accepted offline in more and more worldwide locations such as restaurants and pubs.

Indeed, one American couple recently set out to see whether it would be possible to “travel the world using nothing but Bitcoin” and you can read about their colourful adventures here.

Bitcoins are stored in accounts called ‘wallets’ such as provided at Blockchain and they cannot be frozen, because if a wallet provider goes offline, a user can simply restore his or her balance to another wallet by using an offline back-up of their transaction history.

To fund a Bitcoin wallet from a bank account or credit card, users may use a Bitcoin ‘exchange’. An example of a popular exchange in the United Kingdom is bitbargain, while Bitstamp has a reputation for reliability in the United States.

In Ireland, where I am located, Eircoin claims to be the country’s “only Bitcoin broker”, but this position is sure to be challenged in the near future as the use of Bitcoin spreads – and competition increases in an expanded market.

Eircoin, headed by the helpful David Fleming currently only allows its clients to buy Bitcoins and does not facilitate them to sell their coins peer-to-peer, although this may change soon.

Another very convenient option for Bitcoin users is PikaPay, which sends Bitcoins using Twitter IDs and is as “Easy as a Tweet“. PikaPay also gives away free Bitcoins to help new users get started.

In late October, Vancouver in Canada became home to the world’s first Bitcoin ATM which allows patrons to exchange cash for Bitcoin and vice-versa.

Currently, Bitcoin is trading at approximately US $200 per unit but American broadcaster Max Keiser, who visits the Kilkenomics festival in Ireland next weekend, has predicted that the price of one Bitcoin could rise as high as US $700,000 over the next few years.

Considering such guesstimates, it is not surprising that small-level speculators, and some larger ones such as the infamous Winklevoss twins have positioned themselves in Bitcoin and these investors will have had their hopes raised this week when news emerged of a Norwegian man’s remarkable enrichment to near-millionaire status from his almost forgotten purchase of 5,000 Bitcoins for a measly US $27 in 2009.

Putting speculation aside, the future viability of Bitcoin depends on it achieving widespread acceptance and adoption which might lead to less volatility in its exchange rate with the major currencies of the world.

Bitcoin has been (probably unfairly) connected with dubious and outright illegal online activity. However, when the price of Bitcoin recovered quickly from the closure of notorious contraband website, The Silk Road, in early October 2013 these associations were somewhat diminished.

Shortly after, when leading hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz recommended investing in Bitcoin and remarked that the crytpo-currency would “be worth a lot” in the future, it acquired additional credibility

From a libertarian perspective the appeal of Bitcoin is its freedom from the shackles of central bank interference – which currently includes, for example, the USA’s and UK’s fiscal policies of quantitative easing (which essentially involve a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich through inflation, as well as borrowing from future generations to pay for present excesses).

The relative anonymity of Bitcoin also makes its transactions difficult to tax, which is another attraction for those who wish to avoid government intrusion in their lives.

Additionally, because the amount of Bitcoins which will be mined in total is limited to 21 million, on a decreasing basis over time (approximately 12 million have been mined to date) it has a built in deflationary bias although this is not seen as a positive attribute in some quarters. In this regard a more balanced assessment of Bitcoin can be found on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, here.

Of course, no one knows what the future holds for Bitcoin, but with my small investment, I am personally hopeful that it will gain in popular acceptance and appreciate at a steady and sustainable rate.

In the meantime, I am accepting donations in Bitcoin, to help with my PhD studies which are concerned with the role of Social Media in Sustainable Business Development – I wonder can I shoehorn Bitcoin into my thesis at some point?

Please send Bitcoin donations to this address:

17mfBvRBK7KLc8E8sscumhQLvgAWwVnoms

Bitcoin QR Code

Posted in Bitcoin, Business, Economics, Marketing, Personal, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

TBEX Dublin, Day 2

The festivities continued today at the Double Tree Hotel, Dublin as the TBEX Europe conference for travel bloggers entered its second and final day.

Once again the venue was thronged with enthusiastic, good-spirited and friendly travel bloggers from all corners of the world – who all seemed to be revelling in the Irish hospitality and were perhaps nursing a few sore heads after the Expedia ‘Get Wilde‘ party the night before!

Arriving around 11.00 am I caught most of IZEA CEO Ted Murphy’s (Twitter quote: “It is wayyyy too early to give a presentation!”) ‘Bloggers, Brands & Dollars’ delivery in the Munster room. Ted’s slides were quite complex and analytical and it would be useful to review them in detail so here’s hoping that he will upload them to his profile at SlideShare (I tweeted him a request!) as they contained many useful points for travel bloggers and marketers hoping to optimize their revenue streams.

Ted Murphy - Key Takeaways

Ted Murphy – Key Takeaways

Next up was my favourite presentation of the day – ‘Best Practices to Grow & Nurture Your Community’ given by Natalie DiScala and Shane Dallas.

The lovely Natalie commenced the session with a very perceptive list of 10 points on how best to execute an engaging social network strategy. One of my favourite tips was the advice to commit to a limited (but flexible) number of social networks (e.g. 2, 3 or 4) and not to try to be ‘all things to all people across all platforms’.

Natalie DiScala

Natalie DiScala

Additionally, Natalie advised that metrics should not become an ‘ego game’ – a mistake she has seen enacted, when, for example, a business she is familiar with in Toronto, Canada became too focused on the number of Twitter followers it had – at the expense of quality content and real engagement with stakeholders.

Finally, Natalie insightfully pointed out that automatically scheduling tweets is not always the best approach (which goes against current social network canon) – because, for example, what happens if there is an international incident before a scheduled tweet is released? – could it make your business look insensitive?

Natalie’s partner-in-crime was the charistmatic Shane Dallas whose ‘The Travel Camel’ blog can be found here. Shane, reflecting on his experiences with TravelBlog poetically described a vivid analogy for the audience which compared bloggers, spammers and moderators to ‘Flowers, Weeds and Gardeners’ and offered many helpful suggestions on how to maintain a blooming relationship (free of weeds!) within the travel blogging community.

Questions and answers were expertly and humorously handled by Natalie and Shane, with Shane generously sharing his Trinity College-sourced Milk Chocolate Shamrocks with participants.

After lunch, I was delighted to meet up with my old friend Michael Connolly, owner of website design and SEO firm Marlton Media whose Dublin office is located just around the corner from the Double Tree at 31 Fitzwilliam Square.

Michael is the (as yet) uncrowned king of SEO in Dublin City (and in his picturesque home county, Wicklow) and has recently increased his Social Media presence, so as to offer his clients a fully integrated service which allows “businesses [to] create engaging content, optimise landing pages, measure campaign results and make more sales online!”.

Great to see you again Mick!

Me (on left), with Michael Connolly of Marlton Media!

Me (on left), with Michael Connolly of Marlton Media!

I’d like to thank Dublin City Council for giving me the opportunity to attend TBEX, and to especially appreciate the assistance of their gracious representative, Ms. Sarah Moloney.

Here’s looking forward to the next edition of TBEX – in whatever corner of the globe that might be!

Posted in Business, Marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

TBEX Conference at the Double Tree, Dublin

This is the first week of my 4-year PhD study program and it’s been pretty hectic.

I am affiliated to the School of Business at NUI Maynooth and am focusing on my chosen area of study, namely ‘The Role of Social Media in Sustainable Business Development’ (although the extended title of my proposal is far more officious sounding and (probably overly) wordy!).

I’ll reflect back on the first class I took, on Tuesday, (Organising and Managing Doctoral Research) in a later post but right now I want to focus on the TBEX conference that I’m attending today and tomorrow at the Double Tree Hotel in central Dublin.

The TBEX conference is promoted as “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggerswriters, and new media content creators” and it is held periodically in different locations worldwide.

My supervisor, Professor Brian Donnellan advised me to attend and managed to obtain a registration pass for me through Dublin City Council (where Ms. Sarah Moloney was very helpful!), which I was glad about because the normal admittance fee for the two day event is US $997 – way out of a poor PhD student‘s price range!

I don’t know much about travel blogging, despite having travelled a fair bit over the last 25 years (and lived in 8 different countries) but Social Media is an important companion to blogging in general (in terms of promoting new (or old) blog posts) while conversely, blogging itself could be classified as Social Media activity insofar as user-generated content is the main output of both these internet-based phenomena. They are complimentary, co-dependent and synergistic (in my opinion).

The opening morning of TBEX kicked off with a keynote address by Californian ‘hotelier, author and speaker‘ Chip Conley in the large conference room. Unfortunately I only caught about the last 30 minutes of his speech (because of rain-congested Dublin city traffic delays) but he made some excellent observations related to travel blogging (and especially festival-going), spiced up with many humorous asides and genuine engagement with the audience. Many attendees found his words to be quite inspring and took to Twitter immediately to voice their approval – see here.

Afterwards, I attended two presentations in the morning session, both with a Social Media slant. I’ll describe them briefly below.

The first presentation was given by Ian Cleary of RazorSocial (who I could best physically describe as Aidan Gillen with fair hair) in the Munster Room.

21 Tools and Technology Tips to Dramatically Grow Your Following Online

21 Tools and Technology Tips to Dramatically Grow Your Following Online

Ian expertly schooled us on his “21 Tool and Technology Tips to Dramatically Grow Your Following Online” which are now available on SlideShare. His suggestions were very detailed and specific, and contained lots of useful recommendations replete with plentiful URLs to assist the intrepid travel blogger in getting his or her content ‘out there’. An example would be Triberr, a content sharing community which I overheard some of the experienced traveller audience discussing in a positive manner.

Curiously though, I thought Ian’s 21st tip should have been the 1st on the list – namely ‘Automate the sharing of content’ – a practice which I believe is the foundation of successful Social Media activity for firms and individuals alike.

After a quick cup of tea I ventured upstairs to enter (slightly tardily) a talk given by (self confessed geek) Mike Sowden (blog: Fevered Mutterings) which was entitled “All The World’s A Status Update: Using Social Media To Tell Good Stories” and focused on the story telling aspect of Social Media.

I was particularly impressed by Mike’s novel and innovative suggestions to bloggers in relation to how they should (or could) release their new content to multiple platforms. The normal procedure is to promote a new post to all those connected Social Media platforms that any given blogger might use, at the same time, so that content consumers might get an identical update on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc. synchronously.

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden’s Innovative Ideas For Blogging / Social Media Storytelling

However, Mike, being a comic book devotee has been inspired by an approach that was taken when American firm Marvel released their Civil War series in 2006.

Instead of a traditional linear story release, Marvel decide to interweave the Civil War narrative arc into a number of their stand-alone character stories (e.g. Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Ironman etc.) which had the effect of requiring the reader to familiarise himself or herself with different threads of the story across multiple publications, thereby showcasing what these existing titles had to offer while progressing the Civil War saga in itself. A very clever (and somewhat manipulative) marketing strategy it might be argued.

As applied to Social Media and blogging, Mike believes that a similar approach (see photo above) might engender greater sharing and engagement among readers as a story builds and propagates itself in a self perpetuating fashion across multiple platforms.

It’s a cute theory which in some ways reminds me of the (far more basic) ‘role playing books’ that we used to read in the 1980s (for example, the Lone Wolf series) in which we had a certain amount of automony (although leading to a limited number of conclusions – which would not be the case in blogging) in deciding which way the (our) story would progress at a number of key points (e.g. choose path A through the forest or path B to the castle, etc.)

I have a feeling that my forthcoming research into Social Media might benefit from keeping the enlightening ideas that Mike unveiled today in mind. I look forward to more stimulating presentations at the second day of the conference tomorrow.

Posted in Business, Marketing, NUI Maynooth, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Moneyball’ – Hindsight Is A Wonderful Thing

Exposing The Myth Of Billy Beane

Yesterday I watched the engrossing movie ‘Moneyball’ starring Brad Pitt which tells the story of Billy Beane, the General Manager (GM) of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.

This movie was based on a book of the same name by well-known American writer, Michael Lewis.

Around 2001, Billy Beane introduced a new (statistically based) method of player selection and on-field tactics entitled sabermetrics to the California-based team, despite significant resistance from inside the organization (e.g. half the scouts left in the first year).

Sabermetrics challenged traditional methods and mind-sets in baseball and was credited with improving the team’s performance, spurring them on to a record 20 game winning streak as well as higher win percentages and consistent appearances in the play-off positions since then.

Billy Beane was / is hailed as a visionary ‘change agent’ for daring to challenge the embedded practices of baseball management, and several other teams in the national league have since adopted sabermetrics, mostly with successful results.

However, having watched the movie (although I haven’t yet read Lewis’s book) and having read a number of academic articles (e.g. Wolfe, Wright & Smart, 2006) which give credit to Billy Beane for his success with change management as applied to the Oakland Athletics, I have my own (and contrary) take on the situation.

I think it’s possible that Billy Beane got lucky with his adoption of sabermetrics and subsequent hero status, and if I use the evidence of the movie (accepting that 1. there is bound to be some fictionalization, 2. no one can really know what goes on in Billy Beane’s mind, except himself), here’s why:

1. At the beginning of the movie Billy begs the Athletics owner for more money prior to the new season so as to compete with the richer teams in the league – at this point it is clear that Billy has no intention of changing his management style or the methods of the organization, should he secure the extra funding.

2. Billy is refused extra investment for players and meets with Cleveland Indians‘ boss Mark Shapiro in a desperate attempt to buy and trade for new players but makes very little progress.

3. Through a coincidental meeting with Peter Brand (a part-fictionalized character) Billy takes a massive gamble (a ‘Hail Mary pass‘) in trusting the young economics graduate to implement the sabermetrics program at Oakland. At this point he has nothing to lose as he has very little money and is struggling to procure new players. However, there doesn’t seem to be anything planned or preconceived about this new strategy. It is totally emergent. He is merely ‘taking a punt’. It strikes me as a case of Micawberism -‘something will turn up’ – for Beane – who appears to be almost at his wit’s end (indeed something does turn up, by pure coincidence – sabermetrics).

4. Beane is a strong character in the movie (and, we must assume, in real life) with lots of energy and leadership skills so he rides roughshod over the objections of the traditional selectors and scouts to push on with the sabermetrics revolution. Many leave, as mentioned above. However, this does not mean that he is correct in his new strategy – he could not know it would work without first trying it. And he tries it in desperation.

(Note: I am not doubting the validity or success to date of sabermetrics, although the jury is out on the long term sustainability of using it; especially because competitive advantage may be eroded as other teams adopt and imitate the strategy over time.)

5. At this point in proceedings Beane is totally committed to sabermetrics and even though the new season results are initially disappointing, he must push on with his plans. There is no turning back now even though success is not ‘inevitable’ (how can it be? no one can tell the future). In another meeting with the owner (who is serendipitously, and conveniently liberal in how much free reign he gives the GM), Billy assures him that results will improve. But what else is he supposed to say? That they won’t? His job and his future are at stake and his 12 year daughter is on his mind – she is worried about him. Could we really have expected him to resign from his well-paid job halfway through the season when he is already on a ‘hiding to nothing’?

6. Eventually the results improve and the afore-mentioned winning streak materializes in line with what sabermetrics would claim to predict over a longer series of games. (Again, I am not doubting the effectiveness of sabermetrics – but nor am I asserting it. Such an assertion is beyond the scope of this essay and beyond my capabilities). However, because sabermetrics has ‘done its job’ (at least in the short-term), Billy is now ‘in the clear’ – in fact, according to one academic review, he is a “strategically oriented, analytical chief people officer who is comfortable in the role of change agent” (Pace, 2006).

I dispute that Beane is anything of the sort. Although he undoubtedly possesses knowledge (especially about baseball), energy, good instincts and strong leadership skills, he did not formally study management and I sincerely doubt that he was even aware of the nature and complexities of strategic change management until after the event; notwithstanding the fact that my interpretation is based on what I have seen in the movie, read in several academic reviews and does not include a reading of Lewis’s book or a chance to interview Beane in person (unfortunately).

Beane did not appear to follow any recognized model of change management (e.g. Kotter’s ‘8 Steps of Leading Change‘) when he took action. In fact, he seemed to have navigated the entire process ‘on the hoof’ reacting to whatever effect he was having on entities in the moment as events transpired (e.g. when he fired scouting director Grady Fuson, after Fuson provoked an argument, or when he eventually persuaded the team coach, Art Howe, under duress, to put out the line-up he wanted, despite the fact that Howe was able to field his own team selection for a series of games after sabermetrics was introduced!).

In conclusion, I would posit that theorists and practitioners of change management do themselves a disservice by overly crediting Billy Beane (as genuine, charismatic and interesting a man as he might be) with his visionary status as a change agent.

Instead, the father of sabermetrics (Bill James) or the man who really brought its rigorous analysis to Oakland (Peter Brand in the movie version and, apparently, Paul DePodesta in reality) might deserve the academic and sporting plaudits.

Posted in Business, Economics, Organizational Behaviour, Sport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Compass Group Ireland – sustainability policy.

I have chosen Compass Group Ireland as the company whose sustainability policy I would like to highlight during this semester’s module MN315: The Sustainable Enterprize.

Their ‘Being Responsible’ link can be found here.

Group Managing Director, Ian Sarson introduces us to the company’s commitment to ‘responsible business’, and presents ‘The Five Pillars of Corporate Responsibility‘ as their method of managing these key issues.

In brief, the ‘Five Pillars’ focus on People (employees), Sustainable SourcingWellness and Nutrition, the Environment, and the wider Community.

Posted in Business, Marketing, NUI Maynooth | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boss Metrics!

I made an appearance on video last Friday (21st Sep.) after our MN219: Social Media class with lecturer, Conor Lynch, from SocialMedia.ie

Boss Metrics is a new social media analytics tool that we will be using during this module to monitor, assess and report the impact of our social media promotion for a local company.

Looking forward to it!

Adam

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Organizations as Psychic Prisons

The Organizational Theorist Gareth Morgan first published his book ‘Images of Organizationin 1986, in which, through the prism of eight metaphors, he attempts to describe the nature and complexities of organizations. A metaphor is a “figure of speech which makes an implied comparison between things which are not literally alike” (Webster, 1961). Morgan also uses the related literary devices of allegory and analogy to illustrate his theories. One such powerful metaphor is that of ‘The Psychic Prison’.

Introducing Plato’s ‘Cave’ allegory, where confined prisoners cannot conceptualize the outside world, the author contends that people can become “imprisoned in” organizations through conscious and unconscious processes which have been created during formative phases and varied human experiences in their lives. The implications of these phenomena for organizations and the repercussions for individuals can be serious and profound; leading to negative outcomes for society as a whole and these issues require in-depth research, description and management for progressive development of both organizations and people.

For example, the phenomenon of groupthink in organizations is of crucial significance. It occurs when organizational, social and cultural traps develop in groups, fostering a sense of “assumed consensus” (even in the face of contradictory evidence), alienating dissenting opinions, retarding problem-solving, inhibiting the expression of doubts and suppressing the conception, discussion and action of alternate options. Decision-making becomes skewed in such a scenario and can lead to negative, unethical or disastrous results. A prime example of groupthink is the recent financial crisis in Ireland where banking institutions and the Department of Finance believed in the “efficiency of financial markets” (Nyberg Report, 2011) to regulate themselves which ultimately proved detrimental to the entire nation.

The origin of ‘The Psychic Prison’ phenomenon is traced to the human unconscious. Morgan describes a (non-exhaustive) list of psychological factors which contribute to the differing nature of relationships that people have with organizations, including theories of sexuality, family dynamics, mortality, anxiety and other,  more obtuse hypotheses (such as ‘artefacts’, ‘archetypes’ and ‘shadows’) which have been propounded by renowned experts including Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. He concludes his dissertation by highlighting several strengths and limitations of the metaphor and praises the window of “critical thinking and awareness” of organizational issues that it opens while acknowledging that its complexity does not make it conducive to providing any “easy answers and solutions to problems” for managers.

References

Department of Finance (2011). Commission of Investigation into the Banking Sector, Misjudging Risk: Causes of the Systemic Banking Crisis In Ireland (Nyberg Report). [online] Available at: <http://www.bankinginquiry.gov.ie/Documents/Misjuding%20Risk%20-%20Causes%20of%20the%20Systemic%20Banking%20Crisis%20in%20Ireland.pdf&gt; [Accessed 31 Mar. 2012].

Morgan, G. (1997). Images of Organization. 2nd edition. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd.

Webster’s (1966). Webster’s Dictionary. 3rd edition. Springfield, Massachusetts, USA: Merriam-Webster.

Posted in Business, Economics, Organizational Behaviour | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments