Archive for the Economy Category

My piece about Bitcoin

Posted in Economy, Government with tags , , , on April 21, 2013 by Bradley Hall

As some of you know, Bitcoins are the new cryptocurrency currently sweeping the planet.

People are touting this as the end of government-controlled currencies, and yes, it does seem like something that’s really cool, but is it the end of money as we know it? That we have no need for government-controlled currencies?

No, I don’t think it’s the end of the Euro, Dollar, Yen, or whatever. An example of this can be found on Mt. Gox, the main Bitcoin exchange site. They list several currency exchange rates. Currently, the US Dollar is worth around $125 per bitcoin.

Sounds great, right? Well, yes, but…

The Bitcoin isn’t like the US Dollar where you have two decimal places of currency, like $0.00.

The Bitcoin goes to eight decimal places, so it’s 0.00000000.

To make this explanation easy, let’s imagine that one bitcoin (1.00000000) is worth $100 USD. So then we can say with certainty that….

0.1 BTC is ten dollars
0.01 BTC is one dollar
0.001 BTC is ten cent
0.0001 is one cent

Anything beyond that is pretty hard to communicate in terms of USD.

Okay, so, now, I have 0.00369536 BTC.

In our example, that would be $0.37 cent.

Over the past few days, I’ve been working off and on on a few “get bitcoins here” sites, most of which give 0.00000020 or less.

Oddly, even Crowdflower has programs that pay in BTC, but not a whole lot, like above. And yes, most of the BTC I’ve earned came from a few things they offered. Now, what’s odd, is that Crowdflower also offers small assignments via Amazon’s Turk program, where some things might pay 1 to 8 cent or so per task.

That eight cent would be 0.0008 BTC. So compare that to the 37 cent I’ve earned so far, and you see that by using those programs is a humongous waste of time since the ability to get up to the top three rungs of BTC will take far longer than just earning regular money.

Crowdflower also gets to pay out far smaller amounts than if the payout was in a recognized currency, such as USD.

So then, how to get BTC?

Apparently you can mine for it using computer hardware, but of course, my computer is too old and slow to be able to mine, either solo or as a group mining effort. The “mining” is essentially making your computer crunch numbers in an effort to uncover and decode new blocks of BTC data.

There was an article on Boingboing a few days ago where a guy who joined a joint mining group wrote about it. He earned more money from ads attached to his blog post about mining than he did mining for the week after he wrote it.

Another way is to do work in exchange for BTC. But of course, the problem with that is you’re paid in BTC, not USD, and 99.9999999999% of companies only accept money in USD right now. And because of that, I can’t put gas in my car with BTC or buy groceries with it either.

I liken the Bitcoin as almost a real-world version of the Darknet Credits from Daemon and Freedom (books by Daniel Suarez), or even World of Warcraft Gold. They have their uses, but so far too few people use them. Of course, as I’ve read many times over, it’s still the early days and there’s still plenty of coins to mine.

Of course, who knows where BTC will go. The price jumps around so much. At one point, 1 BTC was worth $10, then it shot up to $240, and is now around $125.

Just looking at the exchanges and stuff on blockchain.info is enough to get anyone wanting to jump on the bandwagon.

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Jobless Benfits set to expire

Posted in Commentary, Economy, Government on November 22, 2010 by Bradley Hall

http://www.aflcio.org/countdown_widget_180px.cfm

Yeah, sucks doesn’t it.

I have some scary news. Millions of America’s unemployed job-seekers will be cut off from federal jobless benefits starting Nov. 30 unless Congress takes urgent action to renew and extend those benefits through 2011.

For administrative reasons, states actually need to shut down their extended unemployment programs in advance of the federal government’s Nov. 30 cut-off—which means some people will be spending Thanksgiving without food on the table unless Congress acts soon (and they’re only in town for a few days).

I just signed an emergency petition. Can you add your name, too? Just click here:

AFL-CIO website

The Horrible Truth Behind Xerox

Posted in Commentary, Economy on August 17, 2010 by Bradley Hall

Today when I got the mail in, I noticed there was a letter from ACS Education. I dislike getting letters from them as I owe them money (somewhere around $15,000 for college).

The first thing I noticed about the letter was that under the name “ACS Education” was this line “A Xerox Company” – I had never noticed that before on any other letters.

The next thing I noticed made me breath a sigh of relief: It was addressed to my younger brother.

But that made me think. Xerox, the company best known for copiers and fax machines, owns a student loan company?

Further thinking yielded less information. In college, you’re told NOT to copy, as it’s plagiarism, and they could totally kick you out of school if you do it.

Yet, once I graduated, I have to pay a company that made its name on copying.

This is crazy.

Be Rented In China

Posted in Commentary, Economy on July 27, 2010 by Bradley Hall

This week has had a pile of International themed posts, and I do not look to be letting up yet!

According to CNN and other outlets, companies in China like hiring white people for a while just to add a bit of international-ness to their visibility. The white people hired know no Chinese, look like they just got off a plane because they did, and basically lie for the sake of a few hundred yuan.

I totally want to travel the world. And if Chinese companies want to pay to fly people like myself out to China to hang out, then where can I sign up?

CNN article

WoW & Philosophy

Posted in Book Reviews, Commentary, Economy, Intellectual Property on July 27, 2010 by Bradley Hall

Granted, the first thing I think about when I think of “World of Warcraft” isn’t Philosophy. It’s most likely “LEROY JENKINS!”

But I digress.

For years I have said that there is more to MMOs than partying with a group of Paladins or Orcs and smiting rabbits across the lands of Azeroth or Vana’diel, or even Eorzea.

Of course there is more to it. I never started comparing in-game actions to the work of Immanuel Kant or tried to figure out if stealing a drop from a mob was right or wrong because the item didn’t actually exist.

The people who wrote this book, did however. If you like MMOs in general, this is a book you will enjoy. The editors could have totally made a book called “MMORPGs And Philosophy” but by sticking to one game, this book creates a fuller experience. A chapter on WoW and then one on EverQuest, followed by The Matrix Online would just read like a “Oh, in this game we have x, but in this other game we have y” book.

I have always felt that MMORPGs were little micocosms of people, a small integrated unit where people and cultures who may never meet in real life come together anyway and find a way to live… and try not to let the rabbits kill them.

Many people who know me or read this site know that one of my favorite fields of study in MMOs is the economy. Eli Kosminsky has a totally awesome essay on the intricacies of the economy of World of Warcraft.

The other chapters all delve into pure philosophical territory. There are issues at play that mirror things that happen in real life such as protests and temporary suspensions (what is prison if not a temporary suspension from life?) that take place in WoW and other games.

While disguised as a book about WoW, this book can be applied to almost any MMORPG, or to real life itself. Of course, not all of it can be applied to real life, after all, how often do you go to the auction house to sell that sword you no longer need?

Official link to the book’s site

Coalition of Manga Publishers

Posted in Commentary, Economy, Intellectual Property, Piracy on June 8, 2010 by Bradley Hall

Hot on the heels of the DOJ shutting down several comic book scan sites, comes this news, also from ANN.

A coalition comic book and manga publishers is pushing for litigation against at least 30 illegal scanlation websites.

Japanese manga is originally written in Japanese. These scanlation groups somehow get a hold of the “raw” pages of different manga and have someone translate them into English and then post these pages on the Internet.

These newly translated pages are known as “scanlations,” a combination of “scan” and “translation.”

The legality of scanlations and even fansubbing is in itself of interest to me. It is of course, illegal. The problem I have seen with both of these mediums is that it creates a demand for a product, yet, if the product does come out commercially in the country that is doing the scanlating or fansubbing, no one buys the product.

Why buy it when you’ve already read it or watched it online?

“The coalition asserts that scanlation aggregator sites now host thousands of pirated titles, earning ad revenue and/or membership dues at creators’ expense while simultaneously undermining foreign licensing opportunities and unlawfully cannibalizing legitimate sales.”

Membership dues?

That right there gives everyone who ever perused these sites plausible deniability over whether or not they knew the sites were not strictly legal. The old “But I was paying for it…” defense. But it does tell me that people are willing to PAY for content.

I can see where the publishers are coming from, but, really, there has to be an easier way to get manga to people than waiting for a company to release it over here when they feel like it.

The only manga that I’ve been reading is a series known as Loveless. Look at the release cycle on the below linked Wikipedia page. Tokyopop started releasing it at a pretty good clip in 2006. In 2006 and 2007 a good portion of the series was released. Then, in 2008, we got one volume. In 2009, nothing. In 2010, so far nothing.

Of course, if you look to the left of that page, you’ll see that there’s only one more released volume in Japan, volume 9. Odds are we’ll see that volume later this year IF we’re lucky.

Yun Kouga has gone on record stating that there will be 15 volumes of Loveless. So at volume 9, we’re more than halfway there!

But, having to wait a year, or more, between published volumes in English is plain torture. Every time a new volume comes out, I have to re-read all the volumes I have just so I’ll be able to keep up with the story.

If I wanted to, I could easily find a scanlation site that offers Loveless and read each chapter as they come available.

The demand is there, manga publishers! You just need to find a way to tap it, or someone else will, legally or not.

This is why there’s an online Anime Network, this is why Crunchyroll exists. Heck, Crunchyroll started out as a place where people could watch bootlegs of Asian titles. After awhile, they turned legit and now offer officially licensed programs. Crunchyroll now “simulcasts” new shows in Japan on its site for people to watch in the US and elsewhere.

Like I said, manga publishers, it’s up to you to find a way to satiate our demand for new manga. Why can’t there be a “Manga Channel” or “Crunchyroll for Manga”?

Heck, you could easily monetize something like that with ads or subscriptions for Premium Content (like Crunchyroll or Anime Network), or even have an exclusive shop on the site that sells bath towels or bags or whatever of people’s favorite manga.

Thank you and good night.

Original posting on this site.
Loveless Wikipedia link.

How I became the leader of a political party

Posted in Commentary, Economy, Government, Intellectual Property, Piracy, Privacy on April 5, 2010 by Bradley Hall

Short version: I randomly walked into the meeting and by the time I walked out I was the top guy of a political party boasting at least 2,000 members in the United States.

Long version:

Where to begin? Most would say “The Beginning,” and I would say, rock on. The beginning for this story starts about a year ago. That was when I first heard of the United States Pirate Party. I was sympathetic with their aims, so I contacted the leader and was added to the “Alpha Users” mailing list. The reason behind this was because I wanted to possibly write about the Party one day in the future. The mailing list was the best way to keep up with new happenings in the Party.

Right off, most people are turned off by the term “pirate party” as though this group wants nothing more than to make it legal to download Lady Gaga songs illegally from the Internet. This is far from the truth. I liken the whole “pirate party” thing to more like pirate radio, but trying to change things from the inside, not on boats broadcasting from who knows where.

You can check out the USPP’s platforms on this webpage:
USPP Platforms

I digress.

In late December 2009, I received an email from the list saying there was an emergency meeting and that all were invited. I had nothing better to do, so I clicked the link to the chat room and joined.

The fulltext of that meeting can be found Here. The reason for the meeting was because the then-current administrator of the party was being lax in his duties and had been missing in action for a month and a half. This meeting was to call a vote for a third vote of no confidence (VoNC) and as set forth in the USPP Constitution, once someone had three VoNC’s, they were removed from office. The only stipulation was that on that same night someone had to be voted into that office.

No one wanted to do it.

After a few minutes, I said I would. A vote was cast and I was instituted as the Administrator (Pro Tempore). I was to also head up the emergency election in late January, I believe the date was January 26th. I chose not to run for re-election.

With this new post, I found myself as the only officer of the USPP. Every other officer post was vacant (well, Records Officer still had someone in it, but she was soon removed as well). My time as the Admin (Pro Tem) was mostly spent answering questions people had about the party and how they could help. I also worked to keep the party united during this time of change.

Everyone involved in one aspect or another of the Party was well informed and I really enjoyed working with every one of them.

After the election and the new Admin took over, I kind of felt like I’d lost something. There was no way I could tell the new admin that I want to be admin again, so I did the next best thing. In the February election, I ran for, and won, the Records Officer position.

When I first thought about writing a post about this, it was way more epic.

USPP Website