A new hope for the blockchain?

Soaring crypto prices at the end of 2017 gave mainstream attention/interest to both crypto currency and the blockchain. The subsequent price crash separated people back into (mostly) two camps: dedicated “holders” and the mostly-disinterested public.

While I personally have my doubts about crypto as a currency (beyond simply a medium of exchange between fiat), I do think that the blockchain is an interesting piece of technology with huge potential. With it brings digital immutability, and I believe that will prove very valuable to many industries. With the blockchain also comes smart contracts, which are an intriguing concept that is still far from realizing its true potential.

But just when no one was looking, Smart Contracts and the blockchain are about to get a lot more interesting.

Tim Wagner, formerly the general manager of AWS Lambda, API Gateway and the Serverless Application Repository, has left Amazon and joined Coinbase as head of engineering. An interesting move, for sure, but even more interesting when you hear what he has to say.

In an interview with Forrest Brazeal of ACloudGuru, Tim reveals the connection between his old job and new (emphasis mine):

Blockchain offers a transparent distributed data store with a really unique trust model. But today, it lacks an easy way to connect that model to arbitrary code execution, and that limits what you can do in a smart contract, as interesting as they are.

And then on the flip side, you have something like AWS Lambda with its scalable and reliable execution of third-party code from a trusted vendor, but today it doesn’t offer a mechanism to use that code as a contractual agreement between two parties. Setting that up would require application code.

The marriage of smart contracts and serverless computing feels like it could be big. And who better to lead the charge than the person who basically created Lambda in the first place?

It’s still going to take time before we see any results here. But this space may become very interesting very soon.

All the world’s an ad, and we are merely watchers

Jennifer Faull writing for The Drum (emphasis mine):

Accenture’s R&D division has spent the last year developing breakthrough product placement technology that can seamlessly insert a brand into online video, including the ability to replace existing labelling.

And also:

[We wanted] to [be able to] monetise (sic) huge back catalogues of existing video content as well as offer content creators a way to place advertising in a non-disruptive way, open it to the marketplace and give them the benefit of a programmatic platform,” said Naressi.

The world of 30 Rock — where Jerry Seinfeld is being digitally inserted into NBC’s new programming lineup without his knowledge or consent — is becoming real.

I foresee advertising getting really…subtle. Like, when I see a Microsoft Surface in a TV series now, I know it’s a paid product placement. But soon everything will be a product placement, and it’ll change depending on whether you just searched Google for new socks or for pimple cream.

NBC’s Superstore is going to thrive.

Economics of fake news

Scott Shane for the New York Times:

Within a few days, the story, which had taken him 15 minutes to concoct, had earned him about $5,000. That was a sizable share of the $22,000 an accounting statement shows he made during the presidential campaign from ads for shoes, hair gel and web design that Google had placed on his site.

He had put in perhaps half an hour a week on the fake news site, he said, for a total of about 20 hours.

What an asshole. Seriously.

Canary in the coal mine

Christopher Glazek writing for The Outline:

“The problem is that with Gawker gone there was no one around willing to proudly play the heel and do the wrong thing.” While publishing the full dossier might have been off-brand for Vox, we should be grateful that BuzzFeed is filling some of the vacuum left by Peter Thiel’s vengeful erasure of the political left’s most influential rumor board.

The outcome of the Gawker lawsuit, and subsequent shuttering of the website, was the canary in the coal mine. We now have a president who hates the media, who now has a very recent playbook for taking publications down.

Fighting fake news with fake news is not the answer. The political left is still trying to figure out how to ethically combat those who have no problems fighting dirty. I sure hope we figure it out soon.

It’s been a long journey

  1. The launch of the 24-hour news cycle thanks to cable news
  2. The Daily Show showing the government’s spin machine and the news media’s hypocrisy
  3. The tea party/conservative radio amplifying the disdain and distrust of the media
  4. The internet/Facebook flooding users with content (both real and not) with both sides calling the other “fake”
  5. Not a single person that can appeal to both sides of this widening rift
  6. Donald Trump

Finally getting featured in Fortune Magazine

Elizabeth Dwoskin for the Wall Street Journal:

Computer programs that scan facial expressions have been used to detect whether people respond positively to commercials or whether hospital patients are in pain. Can they also read a CEO’s mind?

James Cicon thinks they can. A finance professor at University of Central Missouri, Cicon built software that analyzed video of the faces of Fortune 500 executives for signs of emotions like fear, anger, disgust, and surprise. The emotions, he found, correlated with profit margins, returns on assets, stock price moves, and other measures of performance at the associated companies.

“What do you think of my profile in Fortune Magazine?…I look what? The shares are what?…Oh.”