I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.
As I write this, a Bitcoin now costs over 400 USD, giving a market cap of $5billion.
I am told that Bitcoin has a limited supply, and I have to take that as fact because I do not have the skills to investigate. In the same way that buyers of gold or diamonds are told they cannot be manufactured. If tomorrow it turns out that gold can be printed out of milk and charcoal then the gold market will tank.
If we ignore that risk, then we ask what Bitcoin's market cap could feasibly be.
Bitcoin will take some chunk of the following markets -
The annual value of the drugs market was estimated at $321bn in 2003 But estimating on such an enormous scale is unlikely to be accurate, let's look locally... Scotland's drug market was valued at £1.4bn in 2009.
Now Bitcoin is suitable for some drug transactions - end-user purchases by mail-order, and also potentially for wholesale purchasing and transfer of money. £250,000 in cash takes a holdall to move so there is obviously an appetite for alternatives in wholesale transactions. The €500 note is also much harder to use now in Europe, which was the cash of choice or anything over £100k.
40% of Scotland's drug market is estimated to be heroin. I think these end users will never have access to, or use Bitcoin. Even now they don't have credit on their mobile phone (if they even have one).
Unlikely, but possible. Adultwork is transacting tens of millions of dollars of business in the credit card system. It can't be long before they are slapped with some regulation and forced into the Bitcoin system - at least for payouts. Clients and service providers may also prefer this as it keeps transactions off bank statements. Personal services will still be cash though.
There can't be any doubt that Bitcoin is already the currency of choice for child porn and other deep underground sexual business. I don't know what the value of this economy is, I don't think it can ever be known. It must be in the hundreds of millions of dollars though.
Blackmail, ransomware and extortion
Receiving ransom by Bitcoin has to be a textbook use case. Plus this sort of business is 100% profit and so BTC exchange rate fluctuations are less of an issue than in business with slimmer profit margins. This could be kidnapping, piracy, straightup blackmail, and ransomware. Analysis suggests that just one ransomware operator was clearing $5m per year, this is going to balloon as bitcoin becomes more mainstream and a higher percentage of users pay up.
Black hat economy
The black hat hacking world will be fueled by Bitcoin. What's it worth? No idea. DDOS attacks, spamming, virus creation, day-zeros , botnets, click-fraud. That has to push us into the billions.
Right now, transferring $1,000 USD to the Philippines via Western Union will cost 3% after currency spread and fees. I can see a future for Bitcoin here, but not while the exchange rate is so volatile. Bitcoin varies by 3% every hour. A more stable currency though and it becomes a real alternative.
US online gambling
Previously hundreds of millions of dollars.
The widespread use of Bitcoin for anything other than 90%+ profit businesses is going to depend entirely on its stability. No-one wants to be selling physical goods for a currency that falls by 10% in a day. This isn't so apparent in the current environment where Bitcoin is clearly trending upward.
_I think that assuming Bitcoin retains its integrity, it's market cap will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. That is to say, at least 20x what it is today. _ However, I think the likelihood of technical issues with Bitcoin to be between possible and probable.
Things don't get done because it's hard to find people to do them. This happens too often. And at the same time there are capable people who want to do things, but the two don't connect.
I want to do something about this.
When I was at school, there were Adult Education centres, or night schools, which taught much cooler stuff than I was learning. I longed for the time that I could learn welding or woodworking instead of practicing handwriting. By the time I was an adult, these education centres had mostly closed.
Those that haven't closed now focus on either soft-skills, employability, or block release apprenticeships. They aren't at all geared up to the hobbyist or dabbler.
For a time I think there was a void, but it feels like it's being filled. Just watch this beautifully produced video from Frank Howarth where he teaches how to build a lawn chair.
Online, there is a solid business model in providing freemium training videos. For programming there are screencasts, but there are also video producers for many mainstream activities now. And the quality of their productions is amazing.
Ryan Bates runs [Railscasts](http://railscasts.com/], where he has produced a couple of videos each week since early 2007. Some videos are free, the more advanced videos are only for subscribers. Subscribing is $9 a month, and my feeling is that he has at least 3,000 subscribers - a very healthy income.
Marc Spagnuolo has a similar format for woodworking. He publishes some videos free to Youtube, but also runs a paid-for community called the Wood Whisperer Guild where plans are provided and lengthier projects tackled.
Again with woodworking, Steve Ramsey runs a Youtube channel called Woodworking for Mere Mortals which has 140,000 subscribers. He doesn't seem to have any premium content - but recently has been experimenting with a kickstarter-style subscription platform called Subbable.
The real world
Some skills can't be learned from videos. I tried learning to plaster by watching Mastering Plastering, a well produced training DVD. Complete waste of time.
But earlier this year I did a four-day plastering course at The DIY School and since then I've got fairly good at skimming walls and ceilings. If I went to a publicly funded college to learn plastering, I'd be going through an application process, paying more and spending two evenings a week for A WHOLE YEAR.
Up the amateurs.
I've recently deleted all the content from my Facebook account, but kept the account open. This rambling post is something of an answer to the people who ask me why.
I first saw mention of TheFacebook on a photocopied piece of A4 paper stuck to a lamp post in St Andrews. This was back in 2005. St Andrews was one of the first universities outside the US that Facebook arrived at - I've no idea who put the poster up, or what else it said.
A user only had one photo back then. People mostly posted nonsense on each others' walls. Facebook was primarily a tool for messing around, and finding people's phone numbers when one lost one's phone. Posting ASCII art of snowballs or ugly trucks was as much gaming as got done. [I tried to find images of any of this early stuff and couldn't. ]
I was never very active on the site, but I did see its potential and showed it to quite a few people well before they could join. I remember people pitching me ideas for clones - one for high schools, another for Bangladesh. (At this time Facebook required a university email address, and you could only view people within your university.)
As an aside - Linkedin has barely added a single meaningful feature between 2005 and today. Facebook has Evolved.
Why it worked
There are a few key reasons why Facebook worked.
Real names. Facebook was a closed network within universities. People used their own real names from the outset. There was no need to invent a username, or to know someone else's username to find them. Sites like Myspace, Bebo and Faceparty all used alex_0161 and the like. Real names made it easy to find people and form meaningful networks. Think about how common it is to log in using an email address nowadays. Facebook is the first site that I remember doing this! - All users could find some friends.
Students. By 2005 all students had computers and were online and savvy. Virtually 100% of your student friends would be on Facebook. In the general population though, you'd only find a handful of friends on other networks. Time is another factor. In its early days, Facebook was pure and pointless procrastination. - Large (and therefore valuable) networks formed.
Me and Facebook
The Vacuum effect
I've never been a particularly active user - I'm not sure why. For a long time I didn't have a Facebook account at all. I created one because I felt I was missing out on social events, and the only other people who didn't have accounts were tinfoil hat wearing oddballs. I didn't want to be in that bracket. For the past year or so I have posted quite often but I found it quite demoralising to post something that I've made or built, only to receive no comment or feedback. I don't know if that's a criticism of what I do, my social group, my expectations, or all three. I think the honest truth is that every unliked post might as well have had 150 comments that said "Don't care." And one from my mum, obviously.
This is a big reason why I'm largely off Facebook. I'd see someone that I hadn't seen for a while:
"I got married." "Yeah, I saw on Facebook." Next topic.
I want to describe the deserted beach I was on last week. If you're interested I might show you a photo on my phone. And I'd love to hear about your trip to Las Vegas, who you went with, and that funny incident in the elevator. But it's ok... I can wait a few months for it - we don't need to both immediately pause our lives while you type it and I read it. Then never mention it again.
Facebook at its best is a beautiful photo shared, a problem solved, a party filled, or a personal and heartbreaking message shared and deluged in good wishes and sympathy. For me the signal to noise ratio is too high.
I remember a friend telling me early on that Facebook should start charging £5 a year for user accounts to make money. But from the outset Facebook did have a means by which users could pay some money to put a text advert across their university. It wasn't clear if this was making any money, but Facebook has stuck to this targeted display advertising model ever since. I believe that Facebook advertising is effective, profitable and that this is a sustainable model in the same manner as TV networks. I think Facebook has a much easier task than Twitter or Snapchat.
For a time there were no alternatives to Facebook. It was a product of the desktop, which has managed very well to survive the rise of mobile.
But there is a risk that there are now lots of viable alternatives to Facebook. Snapchat, naysayers be damned, thrives precisely because people want to share trifling, fleeting nonsense. I actually think it'll do Facebook some good for people to share that elsewhere.
Twitter is somewhat faddish at the moment, but it is evolving into the Public Facebook. And I'm not sure, but I think another Private Facebook will launch at some point. Medium is there for long form content.
I don't think Facebook is going anywhere. I don't think they are an evil company. I don't overly worry about their disregard for privacy. Mark Zuckerberg has done an outstanding job, and I don't see him going anywhere.
Knobs and dials have been in decline for years now. And that's a pity because for me they are an almost perfect UI tool.
Knobs allow the rate of change to be chosen. You ram the volume up by quickly twisting a knob, or you can turn it slowly. Digital alternatives don't even come close to this.
A knob shows its value, permanently. A knob with an indicator shows at a glance what its current position is. We don't need on-screen indicators. Many digital up/down buttons must be pressed for us to see what they are set to.
Hands free. Once you know where a knob is, you can use it without even looking. Some buttons are like this but knobs are easier to work, and there's only one of them to find, while buttons that replace knobs have to come in pairs.
There's just something cool about a whole range of knobs to be twisted and fiddled.
Knobs do not work digitally. Sliders are the way to go on touch screen devices. And the iPhone combines a slider with up/down buttons brilliantly. Though I wish a double-tap on the volume buttons would skip tracks like my Blackberry used to do - I guess this is a patent situation.
This is just a list of the things that I've bought which have value far in excess of their cost. It's in no order.
I bought a Leatherman at the last minute before I went travelling in Egypt in 2005. I felt extravagant buying it for £85 (if I remember rightly).
It was mildly useful there, but in the eight years I've now owned it, I have used it thousands of times. I use the knife all the time to slice through packing tape, packaging, banding and anything else. I cut through a floorboard yesterday with the saw. I usually cut my fingernails with the scissors. It's as good as the day I bought it.
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500
This scanner is a beast. I load it up with 20 A4 pages at a time, it scans both sides, OCRs the text and gives me a PDF. I am virtually entirely paperless now, and I can access anything from anywhere. I have a single box with important papers in, everything else has gone. This scanner also did the scanning for my side project, How A Car Works.
ExpenseMagic on iPhone I'm hesitant to include this because it's only been a part of my life for three months or so. That said, it's financially paid for itself 10x already. I photograph all my receipts, they are then processed offshore by ExpenseMagic and imported into my accounts package. Total cost: £50 per year. Total time saved - easily 40 minutes a week and a couple of lost receipts that get written off.
My mum bought the family an Atari ST in about 1990. In 1995 I got my first PC at a cost of £500. In 2011 I bought my first Apple computer for £1,100. Since then I have massively improved my productivity and become a better programmer. This is the most expensive item on this list, but also the best tool I own.
Festool TS55 Track Saw
One for the builders here. We aren't really into tracksaws in the UK, and I'd never even heard of Festool until I watched The Wood Whisperer. This thing makes cutting sheet material an accurate joy. Festool is the Apple of the tools market. Expensive fantastically designed and engineered equipment which has a resale value of approximately 100% of its new cost.
Sometimes I toss a coin. Should I get KFC or McDonalds? Should I quit my job?
If I can't make a decision then I'll just toss a coin. Why? Three reasons:
If I'm prepared to go for a coin toss then the decision is a pretty close-run thing. Even I make a conscious choice, the result is as much chance as the flip of a coin.
As I throw that coin into the air, I often find myself hoping it comes down on one side. That moment reveals what I actually want to do. I ignore the coin result and do what I wanted anyway. The one-second window often reveals what a few hours or days of mulling has failed to uncover.
Action is better than inaction.
I've been living on my wits since 2008, the last time I had an employer. I was on a graduate scheme at a large accountancy firm in London - working a 9-5 in an office, commuting an hour each way from Slough. I've just rediscovered a self-appraisal from early that year, a time before I decided to leave. I still thought I'd qualify as an accountant, make partner and live happily ever after.
Sometimes I feel that I haven't achieved anything much so far in terms of a career. But re-reading this appraisal has reminded me that I now work on my own terms. I can have as many post-it notes as I like. And I can leave out the trademark when I write post-it and not worry. I can have one, two or, fuck it, even three pot plants on my desk. In short, I fixed it all - and my employer wasn't part of the solution.
Here are some of my responses on the appraisal:
I look around the department and feel depressed. There is no colour, no personality and no feeling. The walls are white and bare, tall white dividers cut across every row of desks. Post-its are banned, desks are to be clear and the sun is banished by blinds the moment it breaks through. The only colour comes from four pot plants, the odd rebel post-it note and some profitability pie charts. Functional is the most apt word to describe the environment. Spending on social events is virtually non-existent.
Day-to-day work is largely administrative - my job title is administrator and this accurately reflects the work that I carry out. It is a mixture of data entry, purchase ledger, secretary, and to an extent, data analyst. There is no problem solving and very little communication; I would estimate I spend over 90% of the day in silence. The various parts of the role, when looked at broadly, are of interest and could be challenging, but the actual work involved is not. As an example I would point to the realisation of assets: One role on a job is to realise the assets in the most beneficial way possible, which should require some thinking and could be thought of as a distinct project. The tasks involved, however, are roughly as follows: instruct an agent (manager has telephone conversation, I draft a letter), receive a valuation, decide on offers (manager has telephone conversation/emails), receive cheque (fill in form), receive agent's invoice (fill in cheque req, draft covering letter). Though there may be variation, as with most areas, my activity is made up of writing letters and filling in forms.
I feel that my motivation is bipolar. I am extremely motivated by work that interests or challenges me, by the industry and by thinking creatively to solve problems. I am not motivated by much of my day-to-day work. I am an innovator by nature and I find it difficult to work in an environment where innovation and efficient practices are not really used. Our fees largely depend on time spent, so there is little incentive to streamline our processes, move towards efficiency or develop new methods of working. I am motivated to solve problems and make improvements, neither of which is an area of this role.
I am driven to be the best at what I do and to show my capability. I know I am able and that I can achieve positive results. I find this drive to be a hindrance as I want to learn quickly and progress to a role which is more suited to my ability. I do not feel pushed to succeed, in fact I feel that I am held back. I fully appreciate that there are good reasons for this and that there is a well-ordered hierarchy which is largely based on a steady progression rather than a pure meritocracy.
I do not feel that I have a problem with resilience in this role, though I often leave work demoralised. My time keeping has suffered as a result.
I was unhappy.
One day I flipped a coin. Heads - I hand in my notice. Tails - I stay. It was heads. I was gone two weeks later.
Does this sound like your day? Are you are skilled and without huge commitments? Flip a coin tomorrow morning. You'll know the answer before it even lands.
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.
Born in England to Scottish parents, Robert William Service held down a variety of jobs before emigrating to North America in 1894. He drifted from job to job for several years before finding employment in 1903 with the Canadian Bank of Commerce. In 1905 the bank transferred him to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
In less than five years, Service had gained worldwide fame as the storyteller of the Klondike gold rush. He wrote and published his first book of verse, "Songs of a Sourdough," in 1907 to almost instant acclaim. "Ballads of a Cheechacko" was published in 1909, shortly after the bank transferred him from Whitehorse to Dawson City. During this time he also began work on his novel, "The Trail of Ninety-Eight."
Although he left the Bank in 1909 to devote full time to his writing, he never again published a book about "The Land that God Forgot." He left the Yukon in 1912 to become a war correspondent and Red Cross worker. He married a French woman, settled in France after the end of World War I, and over a long and productive life published two memoirs, six novels, and more than 45 collections of verse. He died in 1958.