Audiobook Launch – The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains

Happy news! (and some insights into the mechanics of authoring and publishing a little further down the page)

I’ve just been told that the audiobook version of my book “The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains” is now available for preorder on Audible. It’s a great use of your Audible credits! If you’re not already on Audible, you get your first listen for free when you sign up. Click it!

This means you can upskill on bitcoin, blockchains, payments, and money when you’re out and about (ha)… Or more likely, when you’re inside, trying not to go insane, and wishing you could be out and about. What a great use of lockdown time!

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KYC in Stablecoins

Summary: Issuers of today’s fiat-backed stablecoins (such as PAX, USDC and TUSD) need to identify (or KYC) only those users who convert between bank account money and stablecoin, not all holders.

Some people might be surprised that intermediate users of stablecoin may transact without needing to being identified by the issuers. Yet few people know that there are kill-switches built in that can hinder bad actors. This arrangement can be described as permissioned pseudonymity. Stablecoin issuers have permission by their regulators to have pseudonymous users in their network.

Permissioned pseudonymity is positive for innovation while the industry explores the most productive uses for stablecoins.

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Tokens – Lowering the Barriers to Innovation

I was getting my daily hit of Matt Levine’s excellent Money Stuff this morning (subscribe here!). In my favourite blockchain blockchain blockchain section he noted:

But a popular pattern in the crypto/token/blockchain world is that someone will come along and be like “finally, through tokenization, we have invented a way to slice _________ into bits and let people trade the bits.” I always find this a bit confusing. Whatever _________ is, it is safe to say that before the invention of tokenization there was already a way to slice it into bits and let people trade the bits. Slicing things into tradeable bits has been a very hot area of finance for a very long time, and people got pretty good at it. Real estate is a popular target for tokenization, for instance, and I am confused because real estate securitization—not so much mortgage-backed securities but real estate investment trusts—is a thing that has existed for a long time.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-01-30/if-you-want-to-invest-in-pot-buy-pot

I agree with this! We’ve had securitisation before blockchains and tokens. You can chop up the title to a painting and sell it to investors in 1% slices already without blockchains or tokens.

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Bitcoin Price, Gold, and Nonsense – How Not to Value Bitcoins

Important note: If you own more than $1,000 worth of cryptocurrency then you should definitely be using a hardware wallet instead of keeping coins on exchanges.  I recommend a Ledger Nano (S or Z) which you should buy directly from their website and never second hand.


Every few days I hear the argument “If x% of the money in gold (or other asset class) moved into bitcoin, a single bitcoin should be worth $y”.  This article explains why this argument is utter nonsense.

The (flawed) reasoning is as follows: the total value of gold in circulation is estimated at US$8 trillion.  If some small fraction of the people holding gold (say, 5%) sold their gold for US Dollars (releasing $400 bn), and the USD proceeds were used to buy bitcoins, the total value of bitcoins (commonly referred to as “market capitalisation”) would increase by that amount of dollars ($400bn), and because we know the total number of bitcoins in circulation, we can derive a price per bitcoin.

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Three common misconceptions about smart contracts

There is a lot of misleading commentary about smart contracts, leading to confusion about what they are and what they can do. Here are three of the most common myths that I have noticed. This builds on a previous piece, a gentle introduction to smart contracts.

Myth: Smart contracts are self-executing bits of code

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In a nutshell: Ian Grigg’s Ricardian contracts and digital assets prehistory

I enjoyed listening to Episode 151 of the podcast “Epicenter” (previously “Epicenter Bitcoin”) featuring Ian Grigg, inventor of Ricardian Contracts and blogger at Financial Cryptography. Here are my notes – part transcription, with some edits. This one is a goldmine and covers many topics: bonds, contracts, cash, Chaumian e-cash, DigiCash, financial cryptography, Ricardian contracts, digital signatures, smart contracts, dispute resolution, Ethereum, triple entry book-keeping, oh my!

Misunderstandings and paraphrasing errors are entirely mine.

This gets fairly technical; if this is hard to follow, it may be helpful to read my introduction to smart contracts first.  Hmm, if it’s still hard to follow, also read about blockchains and bitcoin and Ethereum, and digital tokens.

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A gentle introduction to Ethereum

Introduction

Ethereum builds on blockchain and cryptocurrency concepts, so if you are not familiar with these, it’s worth reading a gentle introduction to bitcoin and a gentle introduction to blockchain technology first. This article assumes the reader has a basic familiarity with how Bitcoin works.

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The emergence of blockchains as Activity Registers

This post tries to describe two very different uses for blockchain technology: Digital Token Ledgers that record ownership changes of digital tokens, and Activity Registers that record timestamped proofs of existence of data or agreements about data.  Bitcoin is used for both.

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