Daily Bits: top blockchain journalists, sublime hype and a gripe – July 25th, 2017

After an overwhelm-induced break (work obligations intensifying) punctuated by a couple of days in rainy Scotland tending to a family errand, the Daily Bits resumes.

I confess I considered shelving the format, but instead I will continue to tweak the presentation. My purpose is unclear, to be honest – do I really think I’m helping anyone, is this a learning tool, or am I just having fun? I don’t have a clear answer. So, expect less structure and more free-form (whatever that means).

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The mainstream coverage of blockchain and cryptocurrencies has shot up. The pity is, most of it is still bad. There’s just more of it.

Why is it bad? Incomplete, cursory, relying on soundbites and hype. To be fair, I probably bought into the hype a bit too much when I was starting out. But as I’ve pointed out, hype serves that purpose: it ropes people in. Maybe what grates most is that I’ve been around it now for so long that it’s getting really tiresome.

Actually, what most annoys me about mainstream coverage is the unnecessary generalities. Take, for instance, this article from the BBC: “How Bitcoin is infiltrating the $60bn global art market”. There is so much to say about the potential impact of blockchain on art, but instead they interview a gallery owner who doesn’t seem to grasp the basic tenets.

“And the fact that there is no centralised body – like a bank head office, for example – makes cryptocurrencies safer, she argues, despite their reputation for being volatile, high-risk and the favourite “store of value” for criminals and hackers.”

No explanation of why the lack of a “head office” makes cryptocurrencies safer (than what?). And there is no evidence whatsoever to show that bitcoin is the “favourite ‘store of value’ for criminals and hackers”. I mean, groan.

What frustrates me is that reputable sites are spreading misinformation, either in a misguided attempt to sound like experts, or in the hopes of generating fear-induced clicks.

However, my frustration is tempered by the comfort that not everyone needs to be interested in cryptocurrencies – the markets are not yet liquid enough to withstand full mainstream attention. Also, it’s not essential to “get” blockchain’s potential – it will reach it with popular support or without.

Not all of us are going to get involved in blockchain applications. Most will end up benefiting from improved processes without understanding why. The “misinformation” won’t derail work underway, or deter those pushing the limits of what we can imagine. In other words, the poor journalism can’t really do much harm, other than perhaps the occasional boring social encounter with someone who knows more than you do because he/she read it in the news.

It just drives me mad, that’s all.

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Who are the best blockchain journalists out there?

Needless to say, my colleagues at CoinDesk “get it”, and the professional rigour is impressive. Aaron von Wirdum of Bitcoin Magazine is usually excellent, and has published some of the most easy-to-understand explainers of the scaling debate.

Beyond the specialist sector, I will read anything written by Joon Ian Wong of Quartz and Tanaya Macheel of Tearsheet. Izabella Kaminska’s well-known scepticism, published in the Financial Times, makes entertaining reading – and, worryingly, I’m agreeing with her more and more. Kadhim Shubber, also of the FT, knows a lot and writes well. For wittily lacerating yet insightful comment, Matt Levine of Bloomberg. Jordan Pearson of Motherboard does excellent reporting. Their work is all the more impressive since they don’t just cover the blockchain sector.

This is my off-the-top-of-my-head list – I’m sure there are more that deserve inclusion, and I’ll add names as I think of or come across them.

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A flash of inspiration, humour and almost poetry from the Alphaville team at the FT, who finally got their act together enough to set up what we’ve all been waiting for – the Alphaville initial coin offering. Their white paper title gives a hint at the jargon that is to follow:

“Alphachain: a self-potentiating, decentralised crypto-spool for independent journalism.”

And the text includes such gems as:

“Alphachain empowers smart-contract bubble journalism, decentralising hack finance for a trustless news protocol with a deep commitment to verified insecurity.”

And:

“Tokens are fully fungible in a Turing-complete context, enabling subsequent resale or lease transactions with Zero-Day settlement invulnerability.”

Seriously, read, re-read and bow down in awe.

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This collection of old stock photos will no doubt come in handy to add some retro style to blog posts. (Via Mashable.)

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Or they’d be great for caption contests.

 

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But some of them are really scary.

 

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(All images via Mashable.)

 

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