Saturday, March 01, 2014

Open Letter to My Old Boss Dave Ramsey About Bitcoin

Dave,

Let me start by saying I have great respect for you. I worked for you for just under four years, and it was the best job I've ever had. You've helped millions of families, including my own, get out of debt and make sound financial decisions. You're one of the smartest, most successful people I've ever had the privilege of learning from.

I also respectfully think you've made a mistake with your stance on bitcoin.

On April 8th 2013, I sent you an email making myself available as a resource related to Bitcoin. You were kind enough to reply with "I have no idea what you are talking about. I am sadly ignorant of that world." My intention was to help you be a well informed voice in the media on this issue.

I remember when you expressed negative opinions concerning social media, you turned to those with more experience to make a case for its value. Now with over a half a million Twitter followers, you'd probably agree it was wise to change your opinion there.

I believe Bitcoin will be bigger than Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube combined. I've argued it could be more disruptive than the Internet. Investor / entrepreneurs such as Chris Dixon and Marc Andreesen (the creator of the first web browser) feel the same way. Andreesen compares Bitcoin in 2014 to personal computers in 1975 and the Internet in 1993.

The most incredible thing about Bitcoin isn't the currency (bitcoin). It's the protocol (Bitcoin), a system of rules for maintaining a decentralized public consensus network. A trust-less system controlled by math (cryptography), not central planners. It may end up being one of the most transformative inventions of my lifetime.

Someone brought this video to my attention today where you ask, Is Bitcoin a Good Investment? I also found your blog post where you say you don't like it one bit.

I agree with your assessment it's unwise and stupid to keep a life savings in the hands of a third party. MtGox is not Bitcoin. It's a poorly run centralized exchange which the Bitcoin community has been telling people to avoid for many months, if not years.

In the video you mention problems with the pre-FDIC banking system and with trust and transparency in general. You also give a great explanation as to what gives money valuethe extent someone else wants to trade for it. I applaud you for clearly saying our fiat currency paper money "never really had value" either, other than what people are willing to trade for it.

(Side note: I've purchased electronic equipment, a TV, advertising for my company, and a hotel stay using bitcoin).

You start losing me around five and a half minutes in when you start discussing bitcoin and how it's "looking like it's not going to make it." The "death" of bitcoin has been reported so many times over the last few years, it's really becoming ridiculous for the media industry. You further describe "intelligent people, while intelligent are not wise" who have purchased bitcoin. I think much of wisdom comes from experience.

Dave, you have little or no experience when it comes to open source, peer-to-peer cryptographic currencies. As you said in your email last year, you are "ignorant of that world." Your recent comments indicate you haven't yet done your research.

Calling bitcoin the "Iraqi Dinar of the Internet" communicates ignorance of what bitcoin is. You describe it as "something whacko like that" and a "made-up computer game." You're convinced people who believe in this technology (and the currency on top of it) are "stupid and will lose their money."

How can you be so sure? Have you studied how it solves the Byzantine Generals' Problem? Do you know how the Bitcoin protocol could potentially replace centralized financial and trust systems such as notaries, escrows, trust funds, stock exchanges, clearing houses, payment networks, checking and savings accounts, etc...?

Do you know how disruptive and beneficial programmable money could be to society? Have you thought about the opportunities for freedom which will be created when individuals can control their own store of value, even if they are unbanked in a third world country with nothing but a cell phone?

For me, this comment summarizes your current level of understanding: "One of these computer nerds just flips a switch, the whole freaking thing is gone." Did you know the decentralized Bitcoin network has more computing power (be it for a very specific purpose) than the major super computers of the world combined? There is no centralized "switch" to turn off. Also, unlike M0 (physical money) which makes up around 8% of the money supply, most bitcoin are stored in offline wallets also known as paper wallets. This digital currency is more physical that the money you use every day.

Just as peer-to-peer systems disrupted the music industry, this can not be stopped. Blockbuster may have disliked Netflix's approach, but that didn't prevent Blockbuster from becoming irrelevant.

The good news is, you probably have a few years before you have to reevaluate your stance on bitcoin. Bitcoin is very volatile and will probably remain so for years to come. If it becomes as revolutionary as some believe, your current stance could hinder your credibility as a financial guru. As you've helped myself and so many others, I'd hate to see that happen. My hope is you'll follow the same path as other skeptics who did their own research and eventually came to the conclusion bitcoin is here to stay.

My original offer still stands. If you'd like to know more about Bitcoin, please let me know.

Respectfully,

Luke Stokes
Co-Founder and CTO, FoxyCart.com

P.S. With a small investment of time, you can understand the Bitcoin protocol and the bitcoin currency. You could also visit our Nashville Bitcoin Meetup. :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Understand Bitcoin in 30 Minutes

As more people hear about Bitcoin in the media, more people ask themselves, "What the heck is a Bitcoin?"

I think it could be one of the most important and disruptive inventions of my (and your) lifetime.

If I'm right (or maybe only partly right), maybe you should invest some time into learning about it now. How about 30 minutes? That's not too long, right? We'll start slow. Ready?

Let's start with this post from successcouncil copied and reposted by sumBTC in the Bitcoin subreddit:
I say... the Internet makes everything better right? Email is better than sending letters, Google is better than card catalogs at a library. But we didn’t have real Internet money until recently. It turns out there was a really good reason: How do I know you didn't copy your Internet money and send it to someone else before you sent it to me? Meaning, you used the same money twice. Well this long standing problem only got solved a few years back by some unknown genius and now we have real Internet money. Soon the whole world will be using it, just like Email and Google.
So... Internet money. Cool. But it's more than that... if you're a visual / audio learner, hit up this 4 minute intro video:


Here's another great read which will eat up 6 minutes: Explain Bitcoin Like I’m Five.

At this point, you have the basics. And we're only 10 minutes in!

OK, now we're moving past the kid's stuff. Time to put on your big boy pants. This is the original and best description of the entire system. The original Bitcoin Paper by Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever that is). Go ahead and give it a read. It will take about 20 minutes. If you're more of an audible learner, you can listen to Stefan Monyluex read it to you here.

I started learning about Bitcoin over a year ago and unfortunately did not read the Bitcoin Paper early on. I opened it up, saw academic looking diagrams, scary math symbols and such and quickly closed it. Please, try to give it a read. It's only 8 pages. If you can get through it, you'll understand more about Bitcoin than many of the reporters I've seen commenting on it over the last year.

30 minutes isn't too much of an investment for understanding this incredible system. The next time someone mentions Bitcoin, tell them you've read the original paper. They will be impressed.

If this post saved you some time, feel free to send a portion of that saved time to me as bitcoin. You can use your normal average hourly rate :) 1KkCSkdjsjQyxfTbrZrrnsY31XZziWzhzN

Did that do it for you? Do you get it now? Please leave a comment and let me know. Also, please share your favorite resources explaining Bitcoin.

Some other posts I've done you may enjoy:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Twitter is stealing from my blog

This blog exists as a projection of myself. It doesn't have some larger financial or career agenda. As such, I don't give it the focus it deserves. I've further noticed other outlets are stealing from my blog. Microblogging lets off the steam between my ears, usually 140 characters at a time.

Twitter is making me a terribly inconsistent blogger.

Instead of fighting that truth, I thought about embracing it and making a post about some of my favorite tweets over the last few months. Maybe I'll extend it to a full year, eventually. I mostly excluded links to great content or my favorite replies and RTs.

Cheating? Maybe. But hey, it's my content, right?

Hope you enjoy my ramblings. Follow me over at @lukestokes for more (which, admittedly, has been mostly about Bitcoin lately).

Have you ever put together a blog post of your favorite tweets? If so, link it up in the comments.

December 2013








November 2013



October 2013


Thursday, December 26, 2013

So You Got Some Bitcoin… Now What?

My family knows how consumed I am with Bitcoin. I first discovered it in February and have spent countless hours researching it. I'm glad to say they are super supportive and excited about it also.  For Christmas, I shared my passion by giving them bitcoins as gifts. Everyone was so stoked and declined my offer to manage the bitcoins for them. They all want to learn more about owning and using them. Here's my post to them and hopefully to your friends and family as well.

Bitcoins are Digital Cash

Bitcoins exist as amounts recorded in a public ledger (the blockchain) at various Bitcoin addresses. Each address has a public and private key. If you lose access to your private key, bitcoins stored at that address will be lost forever. There is no one to complain to. Keep your private key private. Your public key is fine to share. That's the address others can send bitcoins to. Coinbase makes this easy by managing all your public and private keys for you.

Security is Priority Number One

You are the bank. There is no vault door protecting your investment. That's why your computer has to be secured against hackers and thieves. My first recommendation is to have an up-to-date antivirus software running at all times. You should also use a password management program like LastPass or 1Password. These programs will protect you from phishing attacks, make key logging almost irrelevant, and equip you to create strong individual passwords for every site which needs them. Please, never reuse passwords. If you're using 1Password, you can securely store and sync your password database across multiple devices using Dropbox.

Working With Coinbase

Your bitcoins were gifted to you via Coinbase. Coinbase is an online wallet which means they manage your bitcoin addresses and your private keys. You can send bitcoin to your Coinbase account by going to Account Settings -> Bitcoin Addresses. Coinbase creates a new public address with every transaction and sending bitcoin to any of those addresses will credit your account.

Sending Bitcoin for the First Time

A great exercise for understanding how Bitcoin works is to send some from one account to another. Set up a wallet at blockchain.info. If you're using 1Password, be sure to save the Identifier string as well. Once that account is created, you can copy your Bitcoin address, head back to coinbase.com and click the Send/Request option. Click Send Money, paste the address, and send a small amount, such as 1 millibit (.001 bitcoins). It's fun to have the blockchain.info window open in another tab when you do this so you can see how quickly the system works. Say goodbye to 3-5 business days to transfer money between accounts. :) Also, if you want to keep some bitcoin online for purchasing goods and services via your smart phone, the blockchain.info app works well. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to pay a very small transaction fee, but most of the time it will be free.

Setting Up a Paper Wallet

Throughout the history of Bitcoin, there have been a series of hacks on the online exchanges. The very best way to store your bitcoins and to eliminate this risk is to store them offline. This is done via creating a paper wallet through services like bitaddress.org. There are plenty of tutorials online for booting off a CD, disconnecting your computer from the Internet, and printing out your paper wallets. Depending on the amount of bitcoin you're storing, that may be overkill. Once you create your paper wallets, you can send various amounts from Coinbase to those wallet public addresses. Later they can easily be imported back into a standalone Bitcoin client or any of the major online wallets. It's a good idea to store these in a secure, water-proof place such as a safe or safe deposit box. Some people also email or mail portions of the import keys as a backup to friends and relatives so they can be reconstructed later if needed.

Bitcoin as an Investment?

Some (including me) believe bitcoins will have a much higher value in the future. How high could they go? I've heard everything from $1,300 per coin to over $1M per coin  Sound crazy? Well, when you think about the size of the remittances market, the daily forex market, services like MoneyGram and Western Union, those who store value in gold and silver, the number of ecommerce transactions, donations, etc… even a small percentage of those activities done via bitcoin would create a big disruption (especially since there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins).

Bitcoin as Money?

The number of stores accepting bitcoin is increasing all the time with big announcements almost every month. For example, overstock.com recently said they will accept bitcoin as payment in 2014. You can also buy gyft gift cards with bitcoin which, in essence, lets you buy anything from the many vendors they support. Also, keep in mind there are 100,000,000 divisions in each bitcoin which means you can do micro transactions for fractions of a penny.

Cashing Out Your Bitcoins

Since you now have an account with Coinbase, cashing out your bitcoins to old-fashioned fiat currency is really easy. You just have to set up your Coinbase account to have access to your bank account. I trust them, and if you use the method they offer which logs directly into your bank, you can be up and running in minutes. Selling your bitcoins back to Coinbase will result in a bank deposit within 3 to 5 business days.

Taxes

Though some ultra-libertarians and anarcho-capitialists want to pretend bitcoin usage can fly under the radar of the IRS, the truth is today they are not anonymous and are always taxable. That means you need to keep track of a few things:
  1. The date you obtained them.
  2. The market value at the time you obtained them.
  3. The date you sell them, give them as a gift, or use them to purchase something (any taxable event).
  4. The market value at the time of the taxable event.
The easiest way to do this is to set up a Google Drive spreadsheet which you can access from anywhere. I'm also working on a service to make this easier as well, so stay tuned. With bitcoin, you are your own bank. You won't be getting a tax document in the mail from anyone with all the info you need to do your taxes at the end of the year.

Why Bother?

Well... to fuller understand my perspective on why Bitcoin (the protocol) and bitcoins (the currency used on the Bitcoin network) are so revolutionary, feel free to explore some of my other posts on the subject. In a nutshell, Bitcoin provides a decentralized public ledger which could make many financial institutions today irrelevant. They empower individuals to store and use the value they create without any third party risk with complete control to send that value to anyone anywhere in the world in minutes for free.

I hope this post was helpful to you and your friends and relatives entering the amazing world of Bitcoin. If you'd like to support content like this, feel free to send donations here: 1BxUs1hjWzYLEYdECbrRTJJtcTmwBzNtFN

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Living Beyond the Veneer

When we interact with people, we rarely truly engage them as living human beings. We're more often interacting with our limited understanding of who they are. We're dealing with a mental representation of them which filters through our world view, life experiences, prejudices, expectations, desires, labels, judgements, insecurities, and fears. Truly seeing them and being vulnerable is difficult because it requires fresh eyes, lots of questions, and even more listening.

This game perpetuates itself by the representations we ourselves meticulously create for others to perceive. These veneers never stand the test of time nor do they allow us to communicate and understand each other effectively.

I don't claim to have answers or to even know the right questions, but I do want to do better. I want to see, listen, and love.

Expect that from me and please love me enough to tell me when I fall short.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Power Is the Ability to Create Need

Power: the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
Here's another way to think about it:

Power is the ability to create need in others.

The next time you feel powerless or you're upset about your unmet (or possibly uncommunicated) expectations, ask yourself, who has power over me? What need do I have, and who put it there?

The obvious culprit is the main stream media controlled by a very small number of corporations. As you move beyond this influence, you arrive to your family, friends, neighbors, fellow church gowers, coworkers, etc. Most of them probably form their needs based on the 4,000 or so advertisements thrown at them daily. So you're back at the mainstream media again.

Needs are most often created in your mind by outside forces.

Those in power all around us create needs. They don't even have to be real needs. As long as we believe our "want" or "desire" is a need, we'll be controlled by it. Governments and corporations do this daily.

The trick is being free of falsely created needs.

If you're reading this in the United States, chances are you're already more wealthy than most people living in the world. Stuck in debt? The house and car you "own" may be a need created by someone else. Maybe you have a need to watch your favorite nightly shows instead of something more productive. The need to eat out? The need for fine clothes? The need for latest smart phone?

Use whatever example works for you. The important point is this: the needs which often define the every day actions of our lives may not be real needs at all. We may have been convinced by others to adopt them. The things which feel out of our control might simply be readjustments in our thinking of needs.

Our parents and grandparents worked for years to obtain what many of us expect right out of college. Our expectations are powerful. If we let others create them for us, we give them power that was meant for us.

Don't blindly let others create needs in your life unless you're actively choosing them yourself. Live intentionally and evaluate the powers you're willing to give up.

To be clear, I'm not stating absolute truths here... just throwing out some thoughts for contemplation and discussion. Did it get you thinking differently? What needs do you have which hold power over you?

Side note: after finishing this post, I watched Zeitgeist: Moving Forward last night which was really thought provoking. A quote which stood out to me: "You have to create problems to create profit."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hackathons for Remote Teams



Last Thursday we did something unique. We did a 24 hour remote team hackathon across 7 different timezones. There's a full write-up over at the FoxyCart blog, and I'm proud of it. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Admit It. You're Insecure. We All Are.

On Monday, I sent out my first viral tweet.


By Tuesday, I was surprised to see new retweets and favorites still coming in. I struck a nerve. Over 200 retweets in less than two days!

And before you ask, no, I haven't yet received a check from Twitter. I, like many, have often wondered what it would be like to watch a 140-character idea populate the interwebs. Contrary to popular belief, it didn't change my life. I still have to go to work and do my best to build awesome.

The past few days, I've been thinking about this tweet and why it resonated with so many people. I've sent over 12k tweets and never received this response.

Why?

I'm part of a master mind group of 12 individuals who meet every Wednesday morning. At the recommendation of Jeff Goins, we recently read The Icarus Deception. Building art is hard, and whether or not we want to admit it, we're all artists in some way. The deception is we'll fly too high and endanger our wax wings. We forget how the parable also warns us of flying too low to the water.

Don't settle.

If you're read authors like Seth Godin or Steven Pressfield, you're already familiar with the concept of the Lizard Brain and the Resistance. The voices in your head telling you you're a fraud. Telling you you'll never succeed. Trying to convince you you never really grew up and you're just a kid pretending to be an adult.

You're insecure. So are those around you. Even the prideful, arrogant ones. That might not be obvious, but I believe it's true. They are often the ones trying harder than anyone to prove their worth. Man-pleasing, insecurity, and pride often work closely together. They are all trying to handcuff you.

So what can you do about it? Admit it. Understand how it works against you and work out a solution. The insecurity holding us back is, at its very core, basically a lie.
Insecurity: the state of being subject to danger or injury.
If your next project is a total failure, will you really be in physical danger? Will you really be injured? The answer (for most professions, anyway) is no. And yet, we still believe the lie.

Stop.

Admit the weakness. Understand how it prevents you from moving forward and discredit the lies it is based on. Once you can do that, you can create a path towards incredible success.

Along the way, you will fail. If you intend to be great, you will fail a lot. Use each failure to strengthen your mental and emotional muscles. Remind yourself you're not in physical danger and the fear you felt in the beginning was in fact a lie. Celebrate each small step of progress and learn from your mistakes. This is what great men in history have always done.
"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Thomas A. Edison
Start today.

As Jon Acuff would say, Punch Fear in the Face. Admit your insecurities, understand how lies limit you, and move beyond them. No one can give you permission to be great but you. When you believe it, even just a little bit, you'll start doing great things. Stay humble and hungry and there's nothing you can't accomplish.

Within your profession, what fears paralyze you?

Monday, June 24, 2013

This Bothers Me

  1. The US government goes to war or uses funds/weapons/CIA operatives to topple governments it considers a threat to US interests. It doesn't matter if those governments were democratically elected. Usually it involves countries that don't want to play by crony capitalism or global central banking rules. Oh, also, the actual people of the United States don't support these wars or government coup d'├ętats. 
  2. In the name of fighting "terrorism" and protecting American citizens, our elected officials pass police-state laws and implement liberty-crushing systems (Prism, the Patriot Act, NDAA, etc).
  3. When someone witnesses deception/crimes against humanity and tries to tell people about it (Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and others), the government considers them a threat and argues their actions risk the lives of military and intelligence personnel (see bullet point 1).
Does anyone else see the circular logic here?

When the branches of government (or, more accurately, the military industrial complex and the bankers/corporations who profit) take action the people don't want (1), put systems of control in place (i.e. tools for fascists) (2), and are discovered when someone points out the misuse of these tools, they site the danger it will create for those at war (3). We're back at (1) again, this time protecting something the people never wanted.

The claims above aren't baseless, but many Americans aren't familiar with them because of who owns the mainstream media. If the nightly news passes judgment on a foreign nation or leader, we often unquestionably consider it the truth. What if there's more to the story?

If even 50% of what follows in these videos and documentaries is true, shouldn't we be talking about it? Why talk about the weather or last night's reality TV show when we can talk about more significant things that impact lives around the world?

Some things I've found interesting lately:

The War On Democracy (1:34 hours)
All Wars Are Bankers' Wars (43 min)
CIA Agent Explains How Al-Qaeda Doesn't Exist (11 min)
The Road to World War 3 (13 min)
The Terrifying Future of The United States (12 min)
** Who Really Owns the Mainstream Media?? ** (11 min)
How the Media Controls Society (13 min)

I'm not saying these videos are smoking guns of proof. I'm simply saying, shouldn't we talk about this stuff? Shouldn't these be a starting point for more research and open discussion? I guarantee there are factual inaccuracies, but what about the facts? What if critical thinking could help us find some truth?

Why don't the majority of our conversations revolve around things we deeply care about?

There are things in this world that bother me. They may not bother you or you may completely disagree with me. Can't we talk about them openly?

Here goes. Here's a list I compiled on 5/30/2013 of things that bother me:
  • Loss of my worldview that our country represents the "good guys," spreading freedom and democracy
  • Drone strikes and the uncontrolled military industrial complex (see War is a Racket)
  • The war on drugs and how completely ineffective it has been (see drug prices)
  • The central banking system and global debt slavery (see Creature from Jekyll Island)
  • Abortion and eugenics
  • Monsanto and the control/poisoning of our food supply
  • The treatment of whistle blowers
  • Gitmo
  • Lies / deception related to the CIA and our involvement in funding / creating terrorist organizations to destabilize governments who don't want to play by the international banking rules (i.e. petrol dollar)
  • MK Ultra and whatever versions of it are in operation today
  • The centralization of mass media in the hands of a very few which effectively controls the masses by controlling the conversation
I don't list these things to spread fear or depress you. They are listed here so I can get them out in the open and discuss them. Are there action steps to be found? Is there something specific we can do about these issues (or others that may bother you)?

Looking at the list again, I'd like to add a few more like child trafficking and sex slavery.

What would you include?

My last post was about how many of us are often too busy to care and the system we're part of keeps us that way. Shouldn't that bother us?

I don't have the answers, but I'm just starting to look for them. I'm not alone.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

We're Too Busy to Care

Most people are working frantically to keep up with their mortgage, school loans, and credit card payments. Some are working two jobs. No time for quality family time. Weekends are filled with diversions because "we deserve it" having worked so hard all week.

Almost our entire lives are spent working for a paycheck, and yet most of us haven't spent time to understand how money actually works. Central banking, fractional reserve lending, and fiat currencies are things for the crazy "occupy" people to worry about. We're busy watching football or Americon Idol.

And yet, we know intrinsically something is wrong. We get that politicians and those in power are corrupt, but what can we do about it? We're too busy. We're clocked in. No time to read a Wikipedia page, watch a documentary, or read a book. Bills are due. Payments have to be made.

We're immersed in a system designed to keep us from asking questions. The system punishes and labels those who don't fit in. We're like frogs in a slowly heating pot of water.

What if your employer gave you the freedom to live your life on your own terms? What if you could set your own hours? What if you could spend an afternoon with your family and work later that night instead of watching TV? What if you had the freedom to research and learn things on your own schedule? What if the standard 9-5 model could be changed via creative thinking and technology?

Don't be too busy for life. Work so you have the freedom to live, learn, and act. Our world has some serious problems right now. Governments around the world are losing credibility and losing approval at an alarming rate. Difficult problems won't go away if we only make time for entertainment television, or if we're hopeless enslaved by debt.

This post may not be for you. You might be hanging on by your fingernails. Instead, this post is for those who are meant to catch you if you fall.

All of us need to get informed. We need to change the conversations we have with our friends and neighbors. Let's start talking about things that matter. Let's care enough to make some changes. Downsize, change jobs, cut out some monthly expenses. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Don't sit back and let life happen to you. Take action. Many believe a huge financial collapse is coming (and is actually already taking place). What will you do if that happens? Take some steps to provide for your family.

If you have a business idea, pursue it now. Those who control their own income will be in the best position in the future, no matter what happens. It took me 5 years working long hours to build my own business. It's not easy, but it's worth it. Get rid of the stuff keeping you too busy to care.

Most likely, this post won't change your mind about much. It wouldn't have impacted me not long ago. I was so used to the stereotypes of the system, I couldn't see around them. But these thoughts just might plant a seed and help you realize sometime in the future you do have a choice.

--
Some things I've been reading/listening to/watching lately:
Work Smarter - 11 Ted Talks
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
The Icarus Deception
Predictably Irrational
Lean Analytics
The Keiser Report

Monday, June 03, 2013

Hacking for Fun and (Non)profit


This past weekend I had the privilege of participating (and sponsoring, via FoxyCart) in the National Day of Civic Hacking. Nashville joined 95 cities hosting events all over the country. Saturday and Sunday, we bunkered down at the Emma office to form #Hack4Nash (more info at http://hack4changenash.org/).

Having worked in non-profit ministry for 6 years (raising my own financial suppor to do so), I know how critical money is to the process of serving others. My idea for the weekend was to build a basic content site with detailed screenshots and instructions for non-technical, no-budget nonprofits to get online quickly and start receiving donations. At FoxyCart, we often hear from nonprofits who need to get online but don't have any resources or expertise to do so. No matter how technical something is, a detailed walk-through with screenshots can be followed by just about anyone.

163 screenshots later, DonationGandhi.com was born.


I'm proud of what was accomplished by our little team in such a short timeframe. I think this could be really helpful for those who feel overwhelmed about getting a website online and accepting donations. Even if you know nothing about website hosting, Wordpress, FoxyShop, FoxyCart, Stripe, Twitter or Facebook, we put together tutorials walking through each step.

  • Get a domain name and hosting
  • Install Wordpress
  • Customize Wordpress
  • Install an ecommerce plugin
  • Build a donation page
  • Configure a shopping cart system
  • Configure a payment gateway
  • Set up a Twitter account
  • Set up a Facebook page
You might be asking why I didn't do something more complicated involving PHP, a Hypermedia API or Bitcoin algorithm. The answer is, I wanted to learn Wordpress and FoxyShop. Both are a big part of my business, and I had never personally installed them. Also, it's often the simplest solutions that make the greatest impact.

This site could be really useful to a lot of people... but only if they know about it. Will you help spread the word?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Bitcoin Obsession

I didn't sign up to be the Nashville Bitcoin wacko. But here I am.

My journey started a couple months ago, and who knows where it will end. I've spent so much time researching Bitcoin, you'd be completely justified in calling it an obsession. It's probably safe to say that 80% of my tweets lately have been about this crypto currency. I've even taken a position with my business to support it.

So what's the big deal?

Well, if you read my last post, you'll know I have some strong opinions about our central banking system. Those opinions line up with men like Andrew Jackson. Debt, fractional reserve lending, fiat currency, and central banking create a petri dish for greed and power spun out of control.

Can Bitcoin help?

Maybe.

That's the big question. The most intelligent arguments against Bitcoin I've seen so far have more to do with Keynesian vs. Austrian economics than with the actual protocol. One argues currencies have to be controlled, deflation will never work, and debt is a good thing. The other wants to be free from central bankers, encourage savings, and invest from those savings.

But how can this be a currency? It's so volatile!

The recent loss of over 80% in value ($266 down to as low as $50) would certainly suggest it's failing in that category. That said, it would also be silly to criticize a toddler for not being able to drive a stick shift. Many disruptive technologies (email, blogging, mp3s, etc) took ten years to obtain widespread adoption.

This technology is barely 4 years old. Where will it be in 2019?

While the market cap remains below trillions of dollars, it will probably remain volatile. It might even stay volatile after that. Only time will tell. My hunch is fractions of a coin will have great value because they meet real needs not currently met by our financial tools. One of the current hurdles to overcome is the reliance on MtGox (the primary exchange) which (among many other Bitcoin sites) has been getting completely hammered by DDoS attacks. Their trade engine lags, people panic and sell, the price drops, and the hackers buy up cheap coins.

I'm constantly reading through the forums, the subreddit, and listening in IRC (#bitcoin). My friends and family are sending me every article they find about Bitcoin. Chances are I've already read them, but I do enjoy a refresher. Please, continue to send them to me (yes, the negative ones too). I really want to have intelligent discussions about this thing.

Now let me give you some advice.

If you're just interested in making a quick buck, please, leave Bitcoin alone. Your involvement will only increase volatility and delay adoption. If you understand how money works, open source technology, p2p networks, and encryption, I'd love to know why you haven't bought some already.

If you think the whole thing is interesting and you'd like to put in a little money you're willing to lose, go ahead and buy a portion of a coin for $50 or so (you don't have to buy a "whole" coin, there are 100,000,000 divisions within each coin). Percentage wise, if there's even a slight chance it gets adopted globally you could not only do well, but you could help with that adoption.

(Here's the obvious "don't take investment advice from anyone" section. Buy something because you want to, not because someone else convinces you it's a good idea.)

So how do you buy some Bitcoin?

You can start with howdoyoubuybitcoins.com. I think Coinbase (connect directly to your bank account) will be the easiest to use, once they increase their daily buy limits. I've also used Bitfloor (deposit cash at a Bank of America via LocalTill), Bitinstant (send cash via Money Gram through ZipZap) and MtGox (send from Dwolla connected directly to your bank account).

Not sure where to get started?

First set up an online wallet at blockchain.info. You now have your own Bitcoin address!

Though I started with the Dwolla -> MtGox method, their system is currently hopelessly backlogged with new account signup verifications. They are the primary exchange (they do about 80%), one of the cheapest (only 0.6% in fees plus $0.25 from Dwolla), but they are also one of the most hated due to their inability to handle DDoS attacks and API lag.

My next suggestion would be to use Bitfloor. It's really easy. You just bring cash to a Bank of America branch, ask for an out of state deposit slip, fill it out with the information you get from LocalTill, and you're good to go. The fees are between 1%-4%. UPDATE: as of 4-17-2013 6pm EST, bitfloor suspended all trading and shut down their site. Their homepage says their bank account was closed.

If you want to buy when the banks are closed, use Bitinstant. You'll pay 3.99% + 0.6% (they use the MtGox api under the hood) + $3.95 ZipZap fee. When you fill out the form, select Wallmart or CVS (they are everywhere) to make your deposit (btw, this method lets you use a debit card), and have them send the coins to your blockchain.info wallet address.

You could also try the localbitcoins.com route, but I have yet to venture into that territory.

I don't know what will happen to Bitcoin.

My hunch is it won't be ignored and won't go away. If something better comes along which is easier to adopt, Bitcoin might suffer. I see that as unlikely, given the adoption it already has. The government has a FinCEN ruling on Bitcoin, so I don't think they will outlaw it (yet). I do see the network vulnerable to denial of service attacks. Many Bitcoin related sites have been attacked lately, and it appears to be getting worse.

There are a lot of risks.

There's also a potentially huge reward. And no, I'm not talking about the price per coin. I'm talking about a system completely outside of central banking control. A system that allows individuals to control their own money. A system that promotes freedom.

That's worth taking some risk. Some might say, it's worth fighting for.