What I’ve learned about Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) investing

I’ve had some queries about what I’ve been doing and learning about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and investing — how this all works, and how I pick which companies to invest in.

So here is a little min-primer based on what I’ve learned so far.


Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

First, cryptocurrencies are digitally-represented value that is recorded in a distributed, decentralized system of bookkeeping ledgers on the Internet, called Blockchain.

Blockchain ledgers are not stored “on a server” somewhere, like legacy websites or web apps.  Instead the data is stored in an encrypted form flowing around the network, in a highly redundant way, using a vast number of computers, including perhaps your own.

This redundancy, decentralization and encryption make these records of value and of transactions extremely robust against attacks or control by corporate, governmental or rogue entities.

Although this is a big motivator for some, my interest is in the strength of the record keeping and the security it has.

When to Invest – During or after Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)

Many new companies, especially those that are making use of blockchaing technologies as part of their play, are using a new way of raising substantial early capital quickly, called Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs.

Some are really interesting and worthy young businesses.   Some are vaporware.  Some are pure scams.

ICOs are not the only way, nor necessarily best way, to invest in a cryptocurrency.  It is very common for a new coin to drop in value for weeks or months after an ICO, what one might call the trough of disillusionment, and then begin climbing.  It might be the best way to invest to simply wait until the rise begins, or at least until the trough has flattened out.  Look at the history of a number of successful coins using the graphs in a site like https://coinmarketcap.com to become familiar with typical patterns after ICOs

Picking a company to invest in

Before I get into the mechanics of buying, storing, and investing with cryptocurrencies, I want to lead with how to pick companies to consider for investment.  I do this because without care, you can be throwing your money, and your good cheer, down the drain.

Here are the things I look for in a company that will do an ICO, or that has done one recetnly, and I’m considering whether to buy into their coins.

I look for companies that have nearly all of these qualities.

Avoid emotions. You should not approach investing like gambling.

Think like a venture capitalist:  find reasons to disqualify the company.

I start with one of the sites that list and analyze ICOs, like:

Qualities to  look for in the company:

  • Team
    • Look for a great team with solid demonstrated experience.  
    • Research their experience claims from independent sources
    • Check LinkedIn experience, duration, endorsements links,
    • Validate site pictures of the team with other pictures of those folks
    • See evidence of their track record and involvement outside the website and social media claims that could be fiction.
    • Read their chats.
  • Form of business, now and into the future
    • Is it a non profit org?  
    • Is it incorporated?
    • Does it create a foundation?
    • What will be its governance model?
  • Business Model
    • Is there a clear and credible business plan?
    • Is the Business model published, does it makes sense and produce an “aha” for you?
      • Whitepaper is published
      • It isn’t vague, nor is it a dissertation that obscures the business model.
    • How will the business make revenue?
    • What are its challenges, objectives it must meet, to succeed?
      • Are they articulated by the company?
    • How much of its success depends on 3rd parties who might not participate or partner?
    • Are partners properly incentivized?
    • Is there a credible roadmap / timeline?
    • Are the terms of use of the eventual service are published?
    • Does the plan have a clear description of the allocation of tokens and the use of funds raised?
    • Not overly ambitious statements or vague solution statements.
  • Track record and evidence of this venture so far
    • Is there already a working prototype?
    • Has Beta testing already done? Has there been testing with the public or a community?
    • Are essential partnerships already signed?
    • Is the technology open source? If so, take a look at code, documentation, issue tracking
    • Does the roadmap have a product launch in 3 to 6 months at max.
  • Community
    • Is there a sizeable and quality community growing around the idea, not just the ICO frenzy?
      • Check their slack and news/ social media, buzz,
      • Po.et had 1600 watching announcements 4d after close
      • Decentraland Slack had 3500 4 days before ICO
      • Kin had 3600, before before announcement of ICO date.
    • Is the community participating and contributing to the business concept, and talking about how they will use the solution? Or are they only talking about getting rich quick?
    • Are they already using the existing early version?
  • If you are considering investing in their ICO
    • Do you qualify to participate?
    • Many ICOs exclude citizens of the US and of Singapore, where laws prohibit unregistered companies from selling stock to the public, and if the token is primarily about holding value in the company and secondarily about utility in the business model, they cannot allow these investors.
    • Can you get into presale or whitelist instead?  Maybe you can make contributions to the pre-ICO needs of the company and gain bonuses or invitations to the presale.
    • If you can’t get in, but love the company, buy into tokens after the initial pop instead of in the ICO.
    • Consider that unless you are in the presale or on the whitelist, or the ICO is long, you may not get into a fast ICO at all.  Some are over in seconds or minutes.  Don’t be discouraged or upset by that.   Buy awhile AFTER the ICO.  You can often get a significantly lower price then.
    • Is the amount raised in the ICO reasonable?
      • What they need for a  few years of development, probably $10-25M tops.
    • Are all the Token Sale Terms, Rules, Agreements are published on company website?
      • Token allocation is published, binding
      • Capped tokens.  Uncapped gives skewed advantages to token creators (founders and perhaps early investors) and dilutes ICO participant share later.
      • If there are going to be more tokens minted in the future, a published plan for that which doesn’t overly dilute investors.
    • If it is an early stage company, a large capital raise should be offering half or more of the company in the ICO.
      • 50% goes to public investors
      • 20% or less of the tokens go to the founders/developers
      • http://i.imgur.com/WAVLXWE.png
      • 20% goes to endowment of the future (e.g. a Foundation), if it intends to be non profit or decentralized governance, or to profit sharing for future employees, if there is going to be a significant staffing, or to bonuses for the community assisting in marketing and creating buzz.
    • If the company has been around some years, and is in solid shape, but is raising funds for a big push into a new area, they may only be selling a smaller fraction of the company.
    • How does their site handle ICO investments?  Is the investment escrowed?  What happens if they don’t raise their minimum target?

Watch out for Scams and Phishing attacks

  • There are many bad players who will try to steal people’s money
    • They may do this by creating look-alike websites with slight spelling changes in the URL.
    • They often send message into the Slack or other chat venues in which the company interacts with the public and post announcements or links that are bad.  Those announcements may look really convincing and motivating.  Watch out.
    • Avoid any announcement that asks you to send currency to some other place, or to “open your wallet” to fix something.

The Mechanics of Investing.

Here are the basic steps to investing in ICOs, or after an ICO:

  • Learn about how cryptocurrency works
    • What kinds exist
      • Bitcoin (“BTC”) is the first and most expensive.  Some ICOs accept it.
      • Ethereum is both a blockchain infrastructure used by many companies, as well as having the second strongest cryptocurrency, Ethers (“ETH”).  Most ICOs accept ETH, some only accept ETH.
      • Other coins (there are hundreds of them).  These are ‘minted’ for sale in an ICO.  They are both the means for attracting investors, and/or will play a role in the company’s business model (votes, pariticpation, exchange of value, etc.)
      • Two sites in which you can learn about existing coins (also known as Tokens) and their price history re:
    • How to buy some cryptocurrency
      • I’ve used both Coinbase.com and Coinmama.com
      • Coinbase.com is an exchange between US Dollars and a few key cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH.  You can buy and sell these  currencies here.  They store your cryptocurrencies in wallets that they control, and from which you can (and should) transfer it to your own wallet that you control.
      • Coinmama allows you to buy BTC only, with Dollars only, and send it immediately to your own wallet (they do not store it in a wallet for you)
    • Understand Accounts
      • You will need one or more cryptocurrency “accounts” (also called “public addresses” on the blockchains used by the currencies you want to use.
      • You will typically create an account when you create a wallet, such as by establishing a Coinbase account, or by getting some wallet like MetaMask or Jaxx or Trezor.
      • An account is your public address in the blockchain. Your cryptocurrency balances are stored in the blockchain associated with your accounts.  You send currency from an account to another account (yours or someone else’s)
    • How to store it securely and safely in Wallets
      • A Wallet is a tool for creating accounts on the blockchain for its supported currencies, for accessing existing accounts, and for sending payments or other kinds of transactions.
      • One kind of Wallet (such as MetaMask, Jaxx, or MyEtherWallet, of of which I use and like) is a piece of software that you install, such as a Chrome plugin or a mobile app.
      • Another kind of Wallet is a web-based wallet, like MyEtherWallet.com, which I have also used and like.  There is a new version of web MyEtherWallet that uses the MetaMask Chrome Plugin to sign transactions.
      • There are also hardware wallets, like Trezor or Ledger Nano, that can connect to your computer via USB.  They can allow you to keep the wallet in a safe deposit box, for example.
        • Although you have public addresses for your currency accounts at Coinbase or other exchanges, they are not wallets fully under your control, as the exchange has to keep the private key to excecute transactions on your behalf.  DO NOT USE EXHANGE WALLETS to particpate in ICOs, or you will lose your ICO tokens.  Transfer your purchased currency balances for storage to a wallet you have full control over like MetaMask, Jaxx, MyEtherWallet, or Trezor, and invest in the ICO from there.
  • Purchase some cryptocurrency for investing, get it into your own wallet, and have its address ready to put into the registration form and/or the ICO event.
  • Find good companies to participate in (see above)
    • Research!
    • Read their white paper, study their business plans and token sale terms, consider their team carefully.
    • Use your head at least as much as your heart
  • Connect with the company
    • Register on their website (and be sure it is really their site)
      • Get onto their official announcements email list
      • That may or may not be the same as registration for their “whitelist”
    • If they have a “whitelist” or “presale” or “registration” method, do it when it becomes available.  Whitelists and presales are ways that investors can secure some participation early.  The ICO event itself may be over in seconds, before you can get through the payment queue.
    • If they have a social chat system, join it (Slack, Discord, Rocket.chat, or similar), and get a sense of their team, and of the ‘buzz” around what they are doing.
    • AVOID BEING SCAMMED, which is especially possible by following phishing links from their social chat, or by going to look-alike websites.
  • Participate in the ICO if you believe that is a good approach, or perhaps better yet, buy their coins in an open market exchange in the lull after the ICO if the company is starting to make evidence of real progress.
  • Coin market graphs often show a brief period of volatility, price run up, and then a crash right after an ICO. You cannot probably get into purchasing it and selling it within the very high peak / pop it may have shortly after it goes live, but you can watch for it to fall from that to some level where it levels off, and then buy.
  • You can also look for good companies that are well past their ICOs and invest post-ICO.  You can find past ICOs in the sites listed above for ICOs.
  • Learn how to use one of the cryptocurrency exchanges where you can sell your investment coins back into BTC or ETH, from which you can either make further investments and/or sell them for Dollars through Coinbase
    • Exchanges that are easy to use for crypto-to-crypto exchanges are ShapeShift and Changelly.  The exchanges are not super quick, and cost a noticable fee.
    • Exchanges that have a steeper learning curve, for buying and selling (bidding and asking) but lower fees and more control, include https://Bittrex.com, https://Binance.com and https://Liqui.io

Study, learn.

Be careful, don’t go crazy, avoid frenzy, play safe.

Buy when there is a panic selloff price drop.
Sell at least some of your investment when it is high, when other people are buying in crazily.

*** Don’t invest more money that you couldn’t afford to lose entirely. ***

And… Enjoy!

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Sansar Creator’s Guide

Sansar Creator’s Guide: Building Compelling Experiences in Virtual Reality

This book is intended as an introduction to the basics of using and creating Virtual Reality experiences in Sansar.

Sansar is a social online Virtual Reality (VR) system that can be accessed by through your personal computer. A VR headset can improve the experience, but is not required.

Sansar ‘Experiences’ are ‘places’ you can visit and engage with, and where you can interact socially with other people. Why are they not simply called ‘LocatIons’ or ‘Places’? Because the emphasis is on the experience that you can have there.

You can visit Experiences designed by various people and organizations.
Or you can make new Sansar Experiences yourself using skills introduced in this book.

People who will find this book useful include:
– Anyone who wants to understand the basics of how Sansar Experiences work
– Anyone who has been inspired by visiting an Experience and is curious as to how Experiences are created
– Anyone who wants to begin building their own Sansar Experiences

This book is not an advanced guide to using all of the various tools you may eventually want to use in developing high-end experiences. But it will introduce you to the basics, and point you to where to learn more about specific tools and methodologies, and help you get into creating in Sansar smoothly.



We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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AI Apocalypse? Implications of AI, Automation and Robotics for society, education, work, and economics

The trends toward the adoption and spread of AI, automation and robotics continue to accelerate.

There are valid concerns about the impacts this will have on us.

The main concerns seem to break down into a few primary areas:

  • Robot Apocalypse
    • The fear of AI/Robots taking over mankind, harmfully.  The entertainment industry has had fun with playing on fear about this one, — think Terminator, The Matrix, etc.
    • Misuse of armed drones
    • Robot “malware” – robots and AI being used with harmful intent
  • Economic Impacts
    • Job loss and economic dislocations through the increasing automation of many existing jobs done by people
    • Big changes in how things are done, changing the definitions and needs in the workplace

We tend to think of these things as off in the future, but they have been with us already for some time

  • The effects of automation of work previously done by people (or by more people) has been true in many industries for decades.   It is just accelerating.
  • The smartphones carried by much of humanity today are more capable than the worlds best computers of a few decades ago, and are interconnected with other people, and with AI, across the planet.
  • We can already, if we choose, converse by voice with our phones, our homes, and our cars.
  • There is an explosion of increasingly-automated drones and vehicles — privately owned, commercial and military – land, air, water and in space.

On the apocalypse topic, Ray Kurzweil, author of “The Singularity is Near” and a founder of Singularity University, gave this short talk:.

  • How Do We Avoid a Robot Apocalypse?
  • My summary: we need to put controls in place, just like we did when we learned that fire can be a benefit or a disaster.
  • My observation:  I think that a key reason that Ray helped found Singularity University is to tip us toward wise use of the accelerating tech trends by educating future leaders and technologists to create benefit and to be aware of the risks.

The economic front is realistically probably the more challenging and pressing issue for most of us.

It seems that a new social contract is going to be needed as many existing jobs are automated, and as automation drives the cost of many things towards zero

  • Prosperity Sharing: How can the potential prosperity created by automation be justly shared, to create a prosperous society?
    • Part of this will be driven by the cost creating many things we use dropping toward zero
    • Many voices are now discussing the pros and cons of a guaranteed Basic Income, or “Mincome” (minimum income) or other ways of making prosperity universal.
    • Experiments in mincome have been promising – people don’t stop working, though some attention moves toward valuable but unpaid or underpaid work: raising children, eldercare, the arts, etc.
    • For-profit businesses, as structured today, are largely unable to solve this problem, so the solution will need to come from elsewhere – coops, NGOs, religions, or society in a more universal way.   Bringing about this change will be, at least initially, more about vision and belief than it is about legislation.
  • Education for the Future:  What is it that human beings are especially good at, and how do we educate for that?
    • Our existing educational paradigms are mostly training for the very things that AI and automation will obsolete:  memorization, existing particular skills.
    • More attention needs to be given to creativity, out of the box thinking, cooperative/collaborative skills, music and the arts.
    • New paradigms of how education will be delivered are emerging, many of them being based on self-directed learning and collaborative learning together with AI.
    • Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, Dec 1, 1862

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Reflections on Healing the Ills of Our Culture

Reflections on Healing the Ills of Our Culture

As I learn more about the history of slavery in my country, I reflect on how hard it was for the people who had power in the situation and had grown up invested in sustaining it to see a way out of it, or to even see the profound need to do so.  The culture was infused with rationalizations, a sense of moral right, a distortion of reality to support the system, and an immense gap between the state of affairs and where it should get to.  Despite the goodwill and efforts of many people, the result was that the problem grew to the point of a terrible war, with a very long tail of aftermath stretching forward to our time.

So I ponder: what are the things we believe in and participate in today that a century or two from now will be viewed as reprehensible, and yet today we rehearse their rationalizations and are acculturated to believe that they are acceptable and right, or at the least habitual and little examined?  And do we have the ability to change them, starting with our own beliefs and perspectives, and with making changes in both our individual and collective behaviors and in the structural institutionalization of these ills in our civilization?

Here are some possibilities that come to mind.

  • The extreme inequality we have in how we share resources and prosperity.
  • Our dependence on and addiction to fossil fuels, and the opposition that arises to the investment in and invention of cleaner and more renewable sources of energy.
  • The School-to-Prison Pipeline, and the funding of law enforcement by subsidies from privately-operated prisons.
  • Our belief in competition, rather than cooperation, as being the best model for advancement of our endeavors.
  • The reduction of our value systems to the use of the financial bottom line as the primary and essentially only credible way of evaluating human endeavor.
  • The way we produce food having become corrupted by the centralized power systems that have come to exist as we have figured out how to produce food in the quantities needed to sustain the nutrition of a growing humanity.
  • The way we use language to criticize, tear down, focus on the negative, backbite and otherwise negatively impact our social environment.
  • The way we think of ourselves first as separate psycho-physical realities, with self-interest coming first.
  • The way we devalue the education of our children, as evidenced by the fact that we fund our cars and our vehicle services better than we fund the education of young people, and by how we fail to respect and properly compensate the great profession of teaching our children.

I don’t believe that these issues are just “out there”, something that “they” are responsible for.   These issues play out inside every one of us to some degree, as they are deeply woven into the conditioning we are immersed in culturally.

If that is so, then, notwithstanding taking appropriate social action around particular issues, we may expect that changing our minds, changing our beliefs, changing our hearts, changing our conception of what we really are as human beings, would be essential.   Key elements for bringing about such change would be public and private discourse, time taken personally to reflect on our contribution, and the way we educate our children and empower our youth.

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Scientists create the first digital ‘tree of life’ for 2.3 million species – CSMonitor.com


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SL12B: Ebbe Altberg on Second Life & Sansar – transcript and video | Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World


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Electron Microscope views of vinyl and optical audio discs

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Second Life Benefits for Those with Disabilties — The Drax Files: Episode 13: Creations for Parkinson’s

Draxtor Despres has a whole series of enlightening documentaries about the value and benefits of Second Life.   Fantastic documentary work.  This is among his best…  How experiences in Second Life benefit those with Parkinson’s Disease.   I had the pleasure of meeting Fran and her daughter in world yesterday.   This is very much worth the watch…

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UFO Documents Index- NSA/CSS

UFO Documents Index- NSA/CSS

The documents listed on this page were located in response to the numerous requests received by NSA on the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO). In 1980, NSA was involved in Civil Action No. 80-1562, “Citizens Against Unidentified Flying Objects Secrecy v. National Security Agency”. .


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FreeMind – a new, free Mind Mapping tool.


I have used MindMapper Pro from MindJet for years and really like it.

A quick look here says that FreeMind appears to have 2 obvious plusses… free, and the ability to get a denser mind map when you need a lot on the page.

But MindMapper does give me a “look” more like a whiteboard mindmap which feels more mindmappish.

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