The recent MtGox hilarity has kicked off all sorts of commentary about the concept of wealth and credibility. Whose pogs are more valuable; the Govt’s, or a cryptographer’s? The Govt will let you use theirs for “legal tender”, yet the zealots declare this not to matter – who’s correct? And how will you know?
Anyway, for me, the argument goes as follows.
Bitcoin is a method for secure anonymous trading and payments. It isn’t a store of wealth, except just insofar as anything is a store of wealth if you can convince someone of its non-transitory value – e.g. piglets, magic beans, or some random drawing on a sheet of A4, or a piece of paper – a dollar. So you wouldn’t “invest” in Bitcoin in the same sense that you wouldn’t “invest” in PayPal.
However, it is also, currently, rather valuable. I’m using “valuable” here in the deliberately naive sense that if you Google “bitcoin value” you will see numbers like, say, $500/BTC, rather than ones like $0.0003. Why is this significant? Well, look at it from Grandma’s point of view. Grandma likes the idea of secure anonymous transactions in an “oooh, that sounds nice, dear” sort of sense, but she doesn’t actually understand what it means. She doesn’t understand, for example, that the PayPal window she sees with numbers in is not the same as the Bitcoin-Qt client window that also has “transactions” and stuff. Nonetheless, because she senses something is different and she’s not an idiot, Grandma Googles “bitcoin value” to try and understand what her new numbers mean; and she thus, inadvertently, makes the error of confusing a transaction method with the nominal and temporary value of its particular tokens. (As an aside, the sub-error here is confusing the concept of cryptocurrencies themselves as a trading mechanism with the particular random value of just one or other of their member’s tokens).
Compounding this error, though, and making it into a problem for Bitcoin itself, is the (say) $500/BTC number that Grandma is going to see. This, looks significant to her. It’s not pennies; and furthermore, a link or two down the Google page are stories from (say) the New York Times like “Wild variations in Bitcoin again due to arrest of exchange proprietor”. This, and the $500 number, make Grandma think “feck! me Christmas will be ruined!” (she’s Irish). So Grandma holds off; she doesn’t understand what the gains might be, she’s nervous because of the numbers that appear to be involved, so she just holds off. She’s not right, obviously, but she’s also not unreasonable; she’s simply ignorant. But, critically, at this stage in the whole cryptocurrency concept, ignorant or otherwise she – the people, as it were – holds the power and the wealth. Wild speculations in the Bitcoin value are a problem not despite the nominal high $ involved but because of it. If something is pumped to an obviously absurd and arbitrary price it’s simply a credibility problem.
Because the problem for Bitcoin, especially its zealots, is that it’s not enough merely to be technically correct. Technical correctness will not entice Grandma to pass actual wealth through a new system. I follow a number of people on Twitter whose view on all this is simply “well it doesn’t matter if Gox went tits-up because the technology is sound!”. And whilst being an entirely correct view, technically, it’s simply not relevant. The real world doesn’t work on SHA-256; the real world depends on people who don’t understand things, who have worked hard for their wealth, and believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Govt is more likely to honour its paper than a Latvian script kiddie is to honour a trading contract on some strings of numbers. Even if “the technology” is indeed adequate to keep security against the kids.
I’ve also had various conversations with people on mining pools whose objective, it appears, is simply to see numbers increment on a screen. The argument is essentially “My numbers [$ per guffcoin or something] are going up! w00t! If the coins can’t be transferred easily into goods or services then it doesn’t matter at all because TECHNOLOGY!!”. I believe, and it took me a while to grasp, that the cryptocurrency community in general genuinely doesn’t understand the difference between nominal $/coin values on an online exchange and actual $ (wealth) in your pocket. There’s a good ongoing story http://buttcoin.org/easy here from Buttcoin; see also my last blog post about the ridiculous un-anonymity required to get your trading cards anywhere near any actual wealth. And this leads into the obvious piss-fight about unregulatable Bitcoin only becoming truly interoperable with the world of actual wealth via regulation. Until Bitcoin rules the world. Which it can’t until it means wealth in its own right. Which it can’t until it rules the world.
So the actual value of Bitcoin will depend on either (a) it becoming a genuine form of transaction up to and including the point of actual wealth in your pocket, not merely numbers on a screen on an online exchange, or (b) it becoming intrinsically valuable in the sense that gold is intrinsically valuable, i.e. a store of wealth in its own right. These are linked to a degree; but in any case, they’re the only things that matter. All else is merely speculation and hubris.
So. We all know about Bitcoin, right? The new magic currency-beans that enable you to make seamless and anonymous transactions across borders, integrating smoothly with real-world commerce. And which has an exchange value of about $1000/BTC*, being entirely accurately & rationally matched across all different exchanges to the same rate without wild +/-25% variations for arbitrage. *Actual dollar value can, and will, randomly vary +/-50%
Anyway, let’s assume that Johnny Fiat-Currency wants in to this brave new world, and wants to buy some BTC. To, say, make an anonymised payment to a VPN provider. Because that’s what BTC should be for, right? Let’s also assume Johnny is a UK resident, doesn’t know about mining, doesn’t know what SHA-256 is, doesn’t really want to randomly lose £50, and has been well taught by teh kidz that you don’t post personal info on-line.
Basically, Johnny’s my Grandma (what? fuck the system, man) – because BTC needs to be accessible to these people, else the current “exchange values” really are just so much obscurantist hubris.
So Johnny goes to Google, and she finds the (current) most obvious way to try and buy some of these BTC with actual money in the UK. And she decides it’s this site. It kinda looks legit, because “SSL-secured” logo JPGs aren’t especially easy to just arbitrarily paste into a dumb HTML2 site, and anyway Johnny’s girl-pals down the old folks’ home tea-room just nod and say “oooh, that’s nice” when asked for an opinion.
After a bit, our heroine twigs that she’s going to have to make some sort of account on this site. Else these BTC sellers, who appear to exist, won’t be able to build up any trust. “Fine”, she says. “Anonymous web accounts are just standard practice. Obviously I’m not going to have a high trust rating first-off because I’m a n00b, but how else can I get started”.
And on we trundle.
- “I wonder what sort of payment mechanisms I can use to actually submit my hard-earned pension”
Well, Johnny, you’re kinda limited. Credit cards are an outright no-no, apparently; PayPal too; there are a few Russian “e-currency” methods; or, a regular UK bank transfer.
- “Ooooh, bank transfer. That’s probably safe, right? I mean, I’m just putting pounds into this thing, to give to these sellers, rather than giving them permission to take money out *sips tea, has a bit of a nap*”
Not quite. The seller has to receive your bank transfer into a regular account of their own. (Remember – banks are evil). And banks really don’t like fraud. And because most things with the word “Bitcoin” in might be fraud, then the act of labelling your bank transfer with “BTC” or the word “BITCOIN” or anything else will, apparently, “get the seller’s bank account closed” [sic.]. And this, then, just labelling your money transfer with a rational and correct label for your (and your bank’s) records, is an insta-ban crime which will get your ID permanently kicked off the site.
- “…. oh. And, um, wait, what? You said ‘ID’. This is all anonymous, right?”
No. No, it isn’t. Because, once you expose the imagino-value of BTC to actual currency, then all sorts of sketchy characters pop up. And this trading site, this BTC-point-man of the UK at the vanguard of free anonymous global finance, requires an awful lot of ID:
- Photo ID
- Photograph of additional ID with address verification
- Photograph of you, personally, physically holding up your photo ID
- .. with your elbows showing, else no-go-potato
.. see the image below. Basically, about as much ID as, and possibly more than, is required to get, say, a valid passport – or a bank account. And bank accounts don’t go +/-50% value in a day. (Except in the EU, but that’s another story, and Grandma’s fallen asleep again.)
So we all know about the recent Twitter authorogimptardery issues. You Will Conform Or Else You Will Be Randomly Banned – and the screeching, and the blocking, and so on. I won’t go into all that here, you can just read this.
Anyway, I for one had enough of all that guff, and wandered off Twitter onto to app.net. Others did too. As I see it, App.net is basically the same as Twitter, but without having (yet) encountered all the problems of Twitter :
- You follow / are followed, you post stuff, there are DMs, hashtags, news feeds, cat videos and so on.
- There is no automated “Report Abuse”; there is no “auto-suspend”; there is mute, and block, and a human support team. That’s it.
- There is no central interface or “product” as with Twitter. The idea is, the API is deliberately open; devs are encouraged to write apps for it, rather than in Twitter where they’re actively crippled (e.g. by the barely-operable API refresh rate).
- So there’s a default web page interface, but you’ll want to play with some apps also. There are loads; I won’t list here, there’s a big section on the app.net front page (top-right when you’re logged in). I use the web interface in Windows, because I’m odd like that, and “Dash” in Android. “Robin” is good also, but a bit crashy.
- If you want to follow more than 40 people, you (currently) have to pay $36/year. I paid; personally I think that a paying customer is an entirely different proposition from blue-tick-following Twitter cattle supporting ad revenue. And the response/tone of app.net to their customers would seem to support that view. Remember to use an anonymous credit card though (that’s another story…).
- There are some neat additional functions like “DM rooms” that can have more than 2 people.
- You can’t ‘protect your account’.
- Posts can be 256 characters. Soon, for the equivalent of DMs, it will be 2048 char.
- You can, astonishingly, contribute collaboratively to the actual site terms and conditions. Obviously you can’t just edit them, but it appears to be an entirely rational peer-and-lawyer-reviewed process.
- etc. Try it, for free.
So there we are. I’m there now, and separately Twitter continues to screech itself into the ground.
But that’s a shame, innit. I kept a dummy Twitter a/c open to read news feeds not (yet) on app.net; and there’s no reason, I guess, not to want to spout my foul reprehensible bile onto Twitter also until I get perma-banned *tin-foil hat face*. I just don’t want the screeching there in my face; I want a separate and calm independent uncensored forum to look at. Like Twitter used to be.
Consequently, I figured out how to post from app.net to Twitter in some sort of automated fashion. (BTW you can’t do that backwards; you used to be able to, but Twitter explicitly killed that. I do this by hand.)
Here’s how. This is not the only way, I expect, but it appears to work.
1) Use IFTTT. “If This Then That”. This is a free cross-platform message-post function; which essentially just joins up an “If This” being something like “If I Post On App.Net”, to a “Then That” e.g. “Copy The Post That I Made Onto Twitter Also”. It does all sorts of other crap too that I myself don’t care about, e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn.
It really is that simple; you click a big button with the word “If” on it and then the big “App.net” button, etc.. And there are lots of example “recipes”.
This, then, can do things like IF I make an app.net post with hashtag #ifttt THEN post it on my Twitter but without the #ifttt tag.
However – there are some limitations.
i) The syntax of cross-posts is a bit limited. You can’t do “@”s, e.g. replies or user IDs; that character just gets stripped out, and so the Twitter post in that case is a bit odd.
ii) If your app.net post is more that 140 char, which it may well be, it just gets truncated.
iii) Unless you crank the handle manually, the cross-posts are flushed every 15 minutes (so it’s a bit hard to hold a one-on-one conversation).
All of these, I assume, are due to IFTTT having some formal agreement with Twitter whereby Twitter don’t randomly dick up the posting (see below…) in exchange for IFTTT derogating some of the obvious post functionality.
2) Use http://twapp.phuu.net/. This is an “app” in the basic app.net sense; and it is one whose function simply posts onto Twitter. You have to select things like do you cross-post replies, what to do with 140+ posts, and so on, but the options are quite simple.
It’s a one-off $5 payment; then you get taken through a simple series of one or two pages to link up your Twitter and to select your choices.
There are a number of plus points to the nominal service this provides, compared to IFTTT.
i) The cross-posting, is straightaway.
ii) There are no syntax limitations (e.g. @ replies).
iii) Long posts are handled.
However – the reliability is a bit hit-and-miss. About 1/3 of posts just randomly don’t cross over. This is somewhat improved if you don’t post “often” – exact statistics tbd. My guess is that this is due to Twitter deliberately hobbling 3rd-party functions like this; Twapp is just a random 3rd-party flinging randon guff at Twitter, whereas I estimate that IFTTT isn’t.
So what do I actually do? I use both of these concurrently. Because the combination of both, works nicely. So far. Subject to any better apps turning up. (BTW there was a really nice one called Ost https://www.useost.com that would display app.net and Twitter at the same time in a browser, but it’s not maintained any more and the core posting function is borked.)
I have set them up; they simply exist, silently, doing their thang.
- I have an IFTTT function like this. .
Basically, IF app.net post with “#i” in it THEN put it on Twitter. I use this for most cross-posting; and if I can be arsed I refresh it live, but mostly I can’t be arsed so the posts just go off en-masse every 10-15 min or so. I also remember not to use this for posts with “@” and/or ones that are especially long.
- I also have a Twapp going like this.
Any post with “#tw” in it (note, different tag from the IFTTT one), goes straight to Twitter; long, and/or @’d, or otherwise. I don’t use this so often, because this appears to help the random-fail-rate, but I do use it for certain cross-posts that require the particular syntax to be complete.
I sit in app.net because it doesn’t drive me mental; I post across quite often to Twitter; sometimes I look in to Twitter to read some news feeds.
You can see what happens in practice by comparing my Twitter feed – all of these posts are from this cross-post method – and by getting into my feed on app.net (actually it’s an RSS of my feed, you need to register (for free) to see it in the regular app.net interface).
.. that’s it.
Try it, see what you think. Any better ideas, let me (or the hive-mind in general) know.
UPDATE (thanks @TabithaBrowne) : Key thing is automated. From any client, feed, OS etc., seamlessly. You can, in some iPhone app.net clients (presumably other iOS ones also), post/RT manually from app.net into Twitter. Don’t know about any limitations on syntax, or reliability. TweetLanes in Android permits app.net and Twitter accounts at the same time.
So we all know about last week’s thrashing around of Liverpool vs. Old Holborn. I won’t repeat the whole history, there’s a decent summary here by the Fat Councillor.
For me, the argument goes like this.
Say what you want, to anyone, at any time. Want to walk up to the mad bloke in the pub and declare that his wife sucked worse last night than his dog? Fine. You have the absolute right to do this.
You also have the absolute responsibility to account for your own actions. If you go out of your way to behave like an absolute cunt, then sooner or later someone will, as Father Woland put it, take you out with a snooker ball in a sock. Or alternatively, if you go around wanking out bees, then you best be ready for cock stings.
Anyway, though, this particular initial point is rather obvious. If we can’t agree that there is a simple balance of absolute right and absolute responsibility, then you may as well stop reading now; the point is basic enough that it simply takes us round in circles. (“I don’t like what he said”/ “Well he’s taking responsibility for it”/ “Yes but I still don’t like it”/ “etc.”)
The real point is this. Who, ultimately, enforces the responsibility.
Old Holborn evidently goes out of his way to be a complete cunt in a variety of fashions. This, itself, is not against the law. Critically though, he does not force anyone to listen. Blogs may be left unread, Twitter has unfollow, and it also has blocks. If you choose not to listen, you would not know of his existence. Be offended if you wish, knock yourself out, but don’t expect anyone to care that you are – I’ll come to the legal boundaries in a bit. (In general though, if you would have someone, presumably the State on your behalf, prevent outright some speech simply because you personally happen to find it completely beyond the pale, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself.)
His attackers, though, apparently behaved differently. Having taken offence (as is their right), it seems they additionally chose to :
- take responsibility to act themselves;
- act with actual physical threats and violence (see Fat Councillor’s blog in the rubric above);
- take those threats to a variety of random bystanders (family, workplace, and so on);
Or put another way, those who took offence would choose, by apparent threat of violence, to force others to hold to their individual view. This is the key difference between what Old Holborn did and what appears to have been done at him.
The evidence for all this is well in the public domain; I won’t repeat here, to avoid queering the pitch for ongoing legal actions. (I qualify with “apparently” simply because it’s all sub-judice &c.). I will, though, highlight the rank idiocy of some of those involved via a minor threat I myself received, as a bystander – where the threat helpfully CC’d Essex Police into the same tweet. *insert slow hand-clap here*
(As an aside, there’s the case of Sir Olly C. Here, the end-game was (simply speaking) that the law, not the populace or Olly, decided that “cunt” was not grossly offensive. Whether or not there should be any laws at all determining anything “grossly offensive”, is a separate question. And BTW, the question of offence itself is not the same as that of, say, racial abuse or incitement to hatred.)
So the real problem here, is not any offence itself. Instead, the problem is a presumption of an absolute right not to be offended, and also that of impugnity of vigilante action in response to any perceived offence. The real position is, simply, the absolute right to speak vs the absolute responsibility to account for it under the law.
Free speech is, and must be, an absolute. Chew out the scouse? Fine, expect them to throw darts at you. Send a death threat dart? Fine also, but expect to get nicked for it. And the latter is simply and quantifiably a more serious matter in the eyes of the law.
Here are some searchable PDF versions of the unsearchable scanned-image PDFs which were provided by the BBC alongside the Pollard Report released today.
(Original PDF –> Acrobat OCR, downsample ref image to 300dpi –> searchable PDF.)
appendix_11_vol_1_OCR (UPDATE : note that the link on the BBC site to the nominal second volume of Appendix 11, just points also to the first volume)
UPDATE : all the PDFs merged, here :
I had an interesting exchange on Twitter today, with a UKIPer, about work, entitlement and immigration. It went like this (I paraphrase) :
Me : “Open all the borders, kill all the benefits. Sorted.”
Him : “You can’t do that. I haven’t had a pay rise since whenever, and can’t find work.”
Me : “Why are you entitled to be paid the rate you desire?”
Him : “It’s not desire! Wages are depressed by economic migrancy!”
Me : “That’s merely the free market.”
Him : “You can’t flood the country with cheap foreign labour. That’s insane.”
Me : “Who would you have pay the difference between what you can earn, and what you think you should earn?”
Him : “Ha! you’re just trolling. You can’t possibly have just anyone over here taking our jobs, and no benefits. Ha ha.”
Me : [endex]
Anyway, this started me thinking about what UKIP may actually expect or want from an exit from the EU.
Personally, I’d rather melt my own teeth than stay in the hated EU a second longer than forced. The EU will destroy whole peoples for its own vanity; it will steal your money whilst refusing to be bound by any legal or moral accounting; it will prosecute and imprison you for mocking it. The list is endless.
So I object profoundly to the EU on grounds of its Statist and Stasi principles, its dehumanising, its enforcing of the State will upon the individual. Conversely, I expect myself to be able to act as an individual; I ask nothing of the State, I take what I can from it merely as slight recompense for the tax I am forced to pay. And this means living by my own wits, with no safety net – if someone does what I do better and/or cheaper, then I lose. And I may I go down, and I’m taking me and mine, only, with me. And that’s my look-out.
But it occurred to me, this morning, that perhaps UKIPers expect a different outcome from the EU exit they too desire. They, too hate the EU – for many reasons I expect – but, apparently, and possibly especially, with the reason to pull up the drawbridge to prevent “them” taking “our” jobs.
Why? Why this particular aspect of the EU? What is to be gained by exiting the EU and the state of UK independence that would follow? It would certainly stop this cheap foreign labour coming in (at least from the EU itself); perhaps my UKIP pal from this morning would then be able to find work.
But, what of the problem of his wages – the difference between what he can earn, and what he feels he should earn. What he feels entitled to, if I might speculate. I wonder if he feels that EU exit would not only provide work, but would drive wages up. And I wonder if this is a realistic expectation.
Why should an independent UK be able to support wages for, say, carpentry, at a rate higher than if still in the EU? The work has a value; there is a market; merely having fewer people immediately willing to take the work at a low wage, does not equate directly to there being more wealth to pay for the work to be done at a higher wage. For of course, an independent UK could not be expected to print money – and a free independent state will never be able to operate its economy by social engineering on the absurd “relative poverty” measure.
Nonetheless, my pal expects EU exit to help him out. Naturally, apparently, we, on our own, could somehow support the wages of our citizens, simply because of, and at the rate of, what they think they’re worth. This, though, would simply be the EU writ large in England – as per the French farmer filling his boots from the CAP, “because he’s worth it” – except the house of cards would fall faster, as there are no spare Germanys in England to foot the bill for a few decades. Three day weeks, I expect, the 70s have a lot to teach us.
So for me, the critical economic thing prevented by the EU is a truly free movement of labour. And the EU also prevents a pitch un-queered by benefit handouts to anyone and everyone who can duct-tape themselves to a Eurostar. (Remember, it’s critical also to cull all benefits for migrant workers. Personally I’d cull all benefits full-stop, but that’s a separate matter.) To achieve this, I believe we should leave the EU – it’s so impossibly Statist that there can be no freedom without leaving – and should open our borders to truly free international trade. We will flourish, for people will come and go freely, trading their labour independently and efficiently. Those who would not respond, will be obsoleted – tough luck for them.
But perhaps some UKIPers feel differently. (As an aside, they have form for big-Statism, in supporting the NHS – the EU would kill, possibly literally, for such a tool as the NHS to control free independent action in its citizens.) Perhaps they feel that EU exit is the solution to their current problem – having their wages and work undercut by [an aspect of] a free market. But my fellow this morning didn’t want a free market, by EU exit – he merely wanted, unwittingly, State dependence and managed economics – just like he has already in the EU.
So yes. “Let them all in”. But do so in a truly free market. And if you lose, then you lose. Such is the price of true freedom.
On Monday, we discovered (read ‘applauded’) the Barclay Brothers’ Ritz Hotel paying zero corporation tax – and their company Littlewoods suing the Govt for £1Bn in compound interest.
On Wednesday, we saw what happened when the BBC tried to serve a warrant of entry to a premises without a TV licence.
On Thursday, we saw a traffic warden up his revenue by slapping a ticket on some disabled kids while they were singing in a carol concert. We also heard the tale of a man who takes benefits because he refuses to get up at 8am.